Dusting off the Lockdown Cobwebs: Beinn Udlaidh & Beinn Bhreac-liath

After a long and rather boring few months of lockdown in Scotland, Sarah and I finally got the chance to get out in the hills and opted for something we thought would be a little quieter than the more popular Munros and Corbetts of the South West Highlands. We decided on Beinn Udlaidh & Beinn Bhreac-liath, a pair of Corbetts near Bridge of Orchy. What a great feeling it was to be in a different postcode for the first time since March!

[July 2020]

I’m sure the majority of outdoor enthusiasts would have been in the same boat from March until July 2020, but having had some absolutely brilliant weather in April and May that could have meant many hill walking and camping trips, it was almost soul destroying to not make use of at least some of the good weather. It was a huge relief when we were finally allowed to travel outside of our local area for recreation and the first thing on my mind was to get up a new mountain!

As it was one of the first weekends post-lockdown, we knew that the more popular spots were going to be busy whatever the weather, so we opted for a pair of Corbetts near Bridge of Orchy for something a little quieter and more wild feeling. It was a 2-or-so hour drive from home, filled with plenty of ‘oooohs’ and ‘ahhhhs’ at seeing places we hadn’t seen for months on end, but it felt great to be driving into the mountains again. After an obligatory toilet pitstop at the Green Welly in Tyndrum, it was a short drive to the start of our walk in the very pretty Glen Orchy.

Our walk started by following the B8074 for a very short distance before turning off and following a fairly new track past some buildings at Invergaunan. Shortly after the buildings, it was simply a case of blazing our own trail up the grassy northern slopes of Beinn Bhreac-liath.

A pathless start to the day
Glen Orchy

We made pretty good progress uphill with the only major obstacle being some recent tree planting which had left rows of small ditches to avoid, but the terrain wasn’t particular boggy and the ditches petered out above around 400m. From here the view towards Loch Tulla, Ben Cruachan and the Black Mount began to open up too. What a great feeling to be out and about again!

Loch Tulla behind the trees
A distant Ben Cruachan and its neighbours
The Black Mount Munros

We continued making steady progress, stopping a couple of times to add and remove layers in the changing conditions – it really couldn’t make its mind up whether to rain or not. We really weren’t too bothered though as it was worth getting wet for the change of scenery!

A bit chilly!

At around 770m the gradient eased and we reached the summit plateau, but there was still a good kilometre or so of effort along this to reach the summit of our first Corbett of the day (and year!)

The summit plateau presented no real difficulties other than a brand new 6ft high fence a few hundred metres from the summit with no stile or gate – brilliant! I jogged along the fence line for a couple of hundred metres in either direction to be doubly sure, but there certainly wasn’t anything obvious, so we carefully climbed the fence taking care not to damage it on our way over. It was very new looking so perhaps a stile or gate is on the plans – I certainly hope so!

Annoying obstacle

Another few minutes of walking saw us at the summit of Beinn Bhreac-liath and it was a great feeling indeed to be back in the mountains. The views were excellent south towards the Crianlarich Munros, although the tallest peaks were just touching the somewhat threatening looking clouds.

Summit views
The Crianlarich Munros

Our next hill – Beinn Bhreac – was also capped in cloud and the wind had started to pick up a bit too, so we had a quick drink and got moving again, heading for the bealach between the two Corbetts where we would try and stop for a lunch break somewhere a little more sheltered.

The next objective

The rain started not long after we left the summit and, combined with the rather chilly wind, left us feeling like we were out in March or April rather than July. Thankfully it didn’t last too long and we were soon at the low point between the two hills, where we enjoyed a lunch stop before crossing through another fence (this time with a gate) before striking off uphill towards the summit of Beinn Bhreac.

The cloud came and went and offered us good views down Glen Lochy towards Tyndrum, but as we climbed higher the cloud thickened and we were completely enveloped around 700m – no views for us up this hill then!

Tyndrum hiding in the trees

The ascent of Beinn Bhreac wasn’t hugely difficult and although there were only hints of a path, we made quick work of the remaining climb and soon reached the summit. There used to be a large mast at the summit, but this has been removed and all that remains is a large metal spike sticking out from the top of the huge cairn.

A cloudy summit

We didn’t hang about for too long with no views to speak off and headed off initially north towards a couple of lochans before following the line of a prominent dyke downhill towards some forestry. The descent was pretty monotonous and a bit tricky in the large tussocks the lower we got, but we were in good spirits after bagging two Corbetts.

A good point of reference in the clag

After we reached the forestry, the final obstacle was a slightly steeper section of descent following a fence where we joined on to a forestry track that wound its way through the trees and back to where we had parked the car.

A steep descent
Cloud-capped Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh

The 8.5 mile route had taken us exactly 6 hours – we were pretty pleased with this having not been able to do any sort of hills for months beforehand.

A quick change of footwear later, we decided to drive the length of Glen Orchy on the way home, where we stopped off a couple of times to admire the stunning waterfalls after another great day in the hills.

River Orchy

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