Meall Buidhe - 653m
Beinn Odhar - 901m
Beinn Chaorach - 818m
Cam Chreag - 884m
Beinn nam Fuaran - 806m
Beinn a' Chaisteil - 886m

Wednesday 25th August 2010

Weather/Conditions: Sunny day with cumulus. Low cloud in the morning burnt off to leave a sunny day with cumulus. Heavier cloud between Cam Chreag and Beinn nam Fuaran and yielded some light passing rain.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 27.7km / 2250m / 9h 25m
Accompanying: Alone

The Five 'Auch Corbetts' occupy ground squeezed between the A82, the Orchy Munros, Loch Lyon and Ben Challum. They're unique for being, perhaps, the only area where five Corbetts can be climbed in one day and it was a trip I'd been wanting to do for a while... It also marked the start of three big peak bagging trips. When I did these five Corbetts, my confidence shot up and my next thought was well what next? I hadn't climbed any of the Munros surrounding and including Ben Starav and one week later I polished off these five Munros in a 53km (all inclusive) trip. Several days later, I did six more Munros at Glenshee and then headed to the Tatra Mountains of Poland. I've been on a roll recently.

To get into a position to do the Auch Corbetts, I had to get to a suitable base first. And being such a long walk, I wanted to stay the night in Tyndrum. I took the train up and spent the night before at the By The Way hostel, my usual Tyndrum haunt. The place was busy (unusually) and most were 'West Highland Wayer's'. It was unconventional to be climbing mountains in this group. A few were from Blackburn, West Lothian and they had the place roaring...

Anyway, being on the West Highland Way for days dictates an early bed and since I took the train up and normally go to sleep 2-3am, I had to a lot of sitting around to do while everyone else slept. Then I fell asleep on the couch and woke up when WHW'ers began waking at 5am.

I didn't sleep well but I got up anyway and headed to the Green Welly Shop at 6.30am. It didn't open until 7am. It's not fun to be deprived of breakfast, especially when you have a big walk ahead... When it finally opened I bought the days supplies and sat in the cafe in the corner eating hot rolls and sausage.

Now time to start.

From Tyndrum to Beinn Odhar, #1

The first Corbett, Beinn Odhar demands a steep ascent from the A82 but first I wanted to pick off Meall Buidhe, the south Top of this hill. It was a long slog but with time I could feel the legs waking up, could feel the blood pumping and the morning groans giving way to efficiency and ease. There was some low cloud on top of Meall Buidhe but I expected it to burn off. It hadn't by the time I reached Beinn Odhar, although I thought it should soon. It was also sweet to finally been on top of this mountain I'd wanted to do in a while. Sometimes I feel there's a lot of Corbetts I miss because of the Munros, but finally I put the motivation together to finally make it happen. I'm also intrigued by the idea of clearing out the mountains in a particular geographical area, and by this approach the Corbetts are as valid a target at the Munros. (They are anyway - I just find myself always a bit Munro-centric!)

#2 - Beinn Chaorach

Any light mist hanging over Beinn Odhar was gone 50m from the top while I headed towards Beinn Chaorach. Things were looking so up that I almost felt this day would be the absolute antithesis to a trip in September '09 whereby I managed only Chaorach, then woke up late to catch a train then raced through the valleys to catch the train by a second. The weather was poor too. It seemed as if today would be better.

There's also a huge descent and reascent to do to get to Beinn Chaorach. I wondered and worried about it, but it was no problem. I'd considered it enough that when I was finally climbing, I knew it would be tough. Once down to the pass between the hills, (a secluded place) it was a long pull up the other side. In the end, that old familiar trig point came with ease and it almost felt like an easy hill. I paused for a few moments in the sun and then headed off to Cam Chreag.

#3 - Cam Chreag

Cam Chreag is the one that's usually described as the easy walk from Beinn Chaorach. Well, I'd built it up as such and then I got a kick up the arse when I realised it would not yield itself so easily! And another thing - it was on my way to this peak that I got a real feeling of what these hills are all about.

It's a hard one to explain and maybe sounds a bit ridiculous reading it. Cam Chreag surrounding hills border around an area known as Breadalbane (pronounced Bred-albyn). The hills are usually not very big in this area and even if large in height, they feel more like elevated moorland. But it is an empty place and while I never know why, I always feel the place has a dour or sombre spirit. I first visited in the winter when the hills and glens are at their bleakest - snow drifts up high and empty cold glens in the grip of frost. Actually, my first several visits were like this, so maybe that's got something to do with it. Maybe not? It's something unexplainable, a feeling that I can merely attempt to describe. It has a vast and empty core and for some reason the miles of empty land attract me. It's all a feeling.

Out of the fantasy though, I'd hate to ramble too much. Cam Chreag was picked off after a bit more effort than expected, and then I was off to Beinn nam Fuaran without a break. There also seems to be a Top at the other end of the Cam Chreag ridge running SE that sure as hell looks higher. I mean much higher. Maybe one day I'll be back with GPS and work it all out, but for now I wasn't going to add 2.5km's onto my walk based on a hunch.

#4 - Beinn nam Fuaran

I ran down the slopes of Cam Chreag to the valley where I'd have to cross a river. Here was the real isolated point of the walk. Down by the river known as Abhainn Ghlas, I felt I was in a distant glen, deep into the vast silence of this land. It was very peaceful, but I was concerned by the thick clouds gathering overhead. They never did amount to anything more than a couple drops of rain. Good because they weren't forecast.

"At river between Cam Chreag + Fuaran. The seclusion is beautiful, sun has been out too although rain is spitting. I don't think it'll last long if at all. Love the wildness of this empty heart of Breadalbane + the Mamlorns. Brilliant. Now just 2 hills to go."

The pull up to Beinn nam Fuaran was long, relatively - 400m of ascent up grassy slopes. But I had my music on as I'd had for the entirety of the walk and the time shot by. It took some effort to arrive at the higher reaches of the hills and it became steep as well. Nothing more than a couple of hand-to-grass moments and all was fine. I was listening to Tubular Bells 2003 on the ascent (very stylish choice for an 18 year old) and as I came over the top of the hill I began to realise that the music was going to climax with the arrival at the summit. I walked across to the summit with bells ringing and felt my mood climax too. The music died away and I sat by the summit cairn and the last guitar chord of the piece strummed as I collapsed on the summit, tired and in a daze of ecstasy, happy to be alive. The music settled as did I and I sat among the peace of the hills.

#5 - Beinn a' Chaisteil

Harmonics on Side Two began, its melodies gentle, and served to emphasise the natural beauty around as well as lift my mood more. I stayed a small while then moved onto the last hill, Beinn a' Chaisteil, listening to Tubular Bells Side Two. Then as I descended to the pass between the hills I saw another figure, alone, also moving towards Chaisteil. The first I'd seen all day.

When I caught up on the far side of the pass, it was an older man who had come over Beinn Mhanach and Beinn nam Fuaran. I thought this route impressive, but also had to remind myself of my long route. He was content to travel slower, so I headed on past him and scooted up the last slope to the top with the Afro Celt Sound System in my ears.

And here I hit the wall - it came a very difficult task to complete the last hundred metres. I was fine on downhill's, but this last uphill wasn't giving itself up easily. With some hard work and some inspiration provided by Marillion, I got there. The finale to the Brave album saw me up, perhaps - starting with the atmospheric title track, Brave, onto the climax, The Great Escape and finally with the beautiful closing track Made Again, all exceptional songs.

I took a while on top to get my energy back. This was also a special place too, in some ways. My friend, the immensely passionate and dedicated Michael Coffield, who died in February, set out to climb every Munro, Corbett and Graham on the OS 50 map. The campaign went on for a long time but at the time of his death there was one left to climb and that was Chaisteil. I hadn't set out to climb this one for him, but in some way I wondered if it would be reasonable to feel that way. All that said, I'd sit over an OS 50 map on one of our trips away together and look for Munros hiding in the corners of the map. "Michael, have you climbed this one?" I said once, pointing to Beinn Fhionnlaidh hiding right at the top. His response went something like "Aw shit... there's another one? Now I'll have to go and climb it!" This happened a couple of times, so perhaps there was one hiding, unclimbed. However, maybe I cleared out all the stragglers.

Descent and walk back to Tyndrum

The last summit was complete, but 11kms lay between myself and Tyndrum, and interestingly on the far side of Beinn Odhar. Instead of being dispirited, I was revelling the long walk ahead, content in mood and relishing the knowledge that the most brilliant of walks wasn't over just yet.

I headed off the southeast slopes of the hill which I'd have too since Chaisteil is so steep on other aspects. Though saying that, I did spot a possible ascent route up the steep west face, but that's for another time. The guy I'd met on this hill was ten minutes ahead but I never got closer. In the glen below Chaisteil there is a lot of work being done and the diggers were in working on some disgusting track. I wondered what they were doing.

I headed down towards the railway viaduct, crossed underneath and headed down in the direction of Auch. The walker was a few hundred metres ahead. But I stopped at the West Highland Way bridge and stopped to change into sandals and after this I didn't see him again. In the warmth of the afternoon I took the walk to Tyndrum slowly and savoured the moment. I passed a lot of West Highland Wayers, but then Tyndrum came too soon and now the walk was finished...

That evening I took the train back to Glasgow.

360° Panoramas

Beinn Chaorach

Cam Chreag

Beinn nan Fuaran

Beinn a' Chaisteil
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 7.40am Tyndrum
(1.00) 8.40am Meall Buidhe
(1.40) 9.20am Beinn Odhar
(2.50) 10.30am Beinn Chaorach
(3.35) 11.15am Cam Chreag
(5.15) 12.55pm Beinn nam Fuaran
(6.20) 2.00pm Beinn a' Chaisteil
(9.25) 5.05pm Tyndrum

Written: 2010-09-18