Tuesday 27th December & Wednesday 28th December 2016
Weather/Conditions: The first evening had snow down to glen level, but an overnight thaw stripped all of it back to remnant snowfields (a recurring theme!). Beinn Mholach itself was done in pretty unremarkable weather; a lot of mist and peat hag.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 8.6km / 70m / 2h 27m // 7.4km / 470m / 3h 55m
Accompanying: Kev and Daniel
Owing to ease of access (compared to the alternatives) we chose to head to Duinish and the surrounding hills. On the Tuesday morning I ended up bound for Glen Lednock, to put some attention to a climbing problem I'd seen a few weeks previously. But time was ticking; I was due to meet Kev at Drumochter in the afternoon. A bit behind time, I headed to Perth, rushed around getting shopping and headed up the road to Drumochter. Pulling in at Dalnaspidal, I still waited a couple hours for Kev to arrive. So much for the rush.
Nonetheless, I hung around at Dalnaspidal as darkness fell. The Drumochter hills looked good with their covering of snow, all wild and white. We were bound for the south, via. a track by Loch Garry. When Kev and Daniel arrived, we packed our things, switched the headtorches on and started the walk into the hills.
Naturally there wasn't a lot to see, and a cold wind whipped through the glen, wild on a dark night. South of Loch Garry the track runs out, and the map shows just a path. It's hard to tell if a path really does exist here and on our return two days late, when the snow had thawed, there were traces. Tonight, in the dark and with a coating of snow there wasn't a hope of following it. That didn't stop us trying, but we wound up bog hopping our way to the bothy.
It was a demonstration of how slow night travel can become. We can use headtorches to light the way, and compass bearings and pacing to be clear about where we are. Yet I still find it frustrates me a bit, not to be able to track progress. A sense of place and day-time perspective always gets lost in the orb of a headtorch beam.
Eventually we came up against the Allt Shallainn, which is a substantial river draining the hills south of the Drumochter Munros. We headed upstream, to find a construction site relating to small-scale hydro works. It all looked a bit of a mess, but there is a new bridge in place here which made the crossing easy - once we found it in the darkness.
From there, it was a short walk down to the bothy, which arrived in good time - time for food, a fire, and heads down for a hill day in the morning.
Beinn Mholach, 28th DecemberWith morning came evidence of a large thaw through the night. Snow had receded up the hillsides, and now lay in big soggy banks with soggy peat and heather interspersed. The summits were caught under a ceiling of grey cloud. It was hardly the most dramatic of days, but it was also lovely to come to a new part of the country, however much we could or couldn't see.
The pace today was set to 'easy'. We didn't leave for the hill until lunchtime, which left precious few hours to gain the summit. But the bothy is already at and the summit 400 vertical metres above.
Beinn Mholach is a large, lumpy hill - a relatively prominent summit for the area though we weren't to see this today. And typical for the area, though little altitude was to be gained, there were still quite some kilometres to cross.
Toward the summit, there are rock ridges crossing the ridge at an angle. These provided some kind of navigational interest, and the great cairn and trig point followed soon after. Unusually for December it really wasn't that cold - just misty and gusty. What a low-key day. It would be nice to return and really see the view; feel the altitude and sense of place from this hill.
Then in the half-light of a wearing afternoon we returned to the bothy, first recrossing the little ridges, then running down long snowfields with Daniel to reach the bothy again. Another night followed; a roaring fire, food and drink.
The next morning: Creag a' Mhadaidh and Gualann Sheileach.
(0.00) 5.45pm Dalnaspidal
(2.27) 8.12pm Duinish
(0.00) 12.20pm Duinish
(2.25) 2.45pm Beinn Mholach
(3.55) 4.15pm Duinish