West of Glen Falloch

Today’s piece from our intrepid junior reporter comes from that chunk of disgusting bog between Loch Lomond and the Munros south of Tyndrum.  I know it is disgusting because I remember taking a photo from  Beinn Dubhchraig which showed nothing to the south but ‘orrible, soddin’, bog!  It looked even more ‘orrible than the soggy northerly approach to Beinn Dubhchraig which is notorious for its sogginess and bogginess at the best of times.  Mr.P was to enter an area to which I have given a wide berth over the years.  I almost felt like wishing him luck…almost.  😉

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I have added a map of the terrain covered by our intrepid correspondent.  Click on the map and it will miraculously become much clearer!

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Nightwalking West of Glen Falloch

Date: 12 – 13 November 2011

Weather: sunny then dark then claggy; some wind; dry

Participants: just the one

Distance: approx 32km

Ascent: approx 1,700m

Dog-doability: high   Yes I know FD (sigh), he mentioned doggy-dos – again!

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Ken had been sending a stream of ever more impatient emails, pointing out the conditions of my employment as a junior reporter. I could put him off no longer; it was time for another trip north.

“And remember” he emailed – I could just imagine him emphatically hammering at his keyboard “not just more of the same old tosh. My readers want something new”. Yes, ok Ken. I had a two-fer in mind. Both wild camping and night walking. Perhaps if I turned in a readable account I could broach the delicate subject of remuneration. Again.

Things did not start well. I had rather misjudged the driving time from Derby and so it was gone 2.00 when I set out from the A82 opposite Glen Falloch farm. That’s NN318197, where there is really only room for one car to park. I climbed up the high quality track, fairly steeply, even with the zig zags. Turned left at the top, where the quality was not so good, but still very walkable:

The track ends where the map suggests that it does. I carried on along Lairig Arnan, which I would give about 3 out of 10 for walkability – wet, boggy, tussocky, haggy:

(Sorry….sorry…sorry…I’ve just got to intervene at this point for a bit of a chuckle “heh…heh!”)

That said, I was not feeling quite right – my stomach muscles were reminding me that the last time I had enforced a camping trip on them, in July, they had gone on strike. Taking a leaf out of Ken’s book I adopted a policy of no negotiation and plodded on through the mirey quag. At the first Lochan I dumped my pack, had a nibble and a drink and turned to ascend Beinn Damhain. This ascent somehow manages to be both wet and rocky, but is essentially straight forward. Nevertheless my body wouldn’t stop complaining. I threatened to sack the lot of them and ignored them. To the summit for about 4.15 and some quite respectable views:

Back down to my pack, which gave a different set of muscles a chance to complain. I sat and had a second lunch, which meant that I was pulling my pack back on at well past 5.00. Which is to say, about 10 past head torch time. A compass bearing in the vague direction of somewhere east of the summit of Meall an Fhudair and it was through the heart of the quag and then grinding up the side of the valley in the dark. Here is a view of it which I had prepared earlier:

I could see from the map that there was not a defined ‘ridge’ as such and so at (what I hoped was) 630m I took another bearing and turned left. Hoping that that I was in at least the general vicinity of where I wanted to be. It was very lumpy bumpy and all of the hollows were filled with water, which meant that my course was erratic, not to mention slow. This is the ridge seen from Beinn Damhain – with the four Ben Lui Munros behind – showing its irregularity (the summit is on the left):

I couldn’t help thinking that somewhere just out of head torch range there was a distinct path which snaked its way round all the wet bits with minimum height loss. I pressed on. Several times as I passed running water I noted what would be good camp spots. But having set myself an objective I was too stubborn to give it up easily. I checked my watch. I seemed to have been on this bearing for a long time, perhaps I had passed the summit. I pressed on. The faint hint of a path, pointing towards an even fainter rocky outcrop. Yes! It was the summit. I was as pleased as a puppy with two tails. I settled down out of the stiff wind, then popped up for some photos. The summit shelter by flash:

Some cars coming over Rest and be Thankful:

Clouds hiding the moon:

And that’s your lot. I anticipate editorial complaints that they are not up to the usual standards of the blog. Hah! I am employed as a reporter! If Ken wants professional photos he can damn well send a photographer with me, as any self respecting rag would. I left the summit a bit before 7.00 heading north, descending a little more steeply than I had expected. After a few hundred metres I reached the stream shown on the map, cast around for the least soggy relatively level bit and stuck up the tent. It seemed like quite a while since I had last done the old routine, but I settled readily back into it. Shortly I was sheltered, watered, fed, tucked into a sleeping bag with a good book and contemplating my regular nightcap of cappuccino with chocolate biscuits:

“Chocolate on that sir?” “I don’t mind if I do.” One has to maintain standards. An uneventful night. Up on the morrow to visibility almost as poor as when I pitched:

Breakfasted, packed up and got off. I knew straight away that I would be lucky to get much done – my stomach muscles had withdrawn their labour. I followed the stream easily down hill:

Eventually emerging from the mist. Looking back uphill:

I arrived at a feature marked as ‘Intakes’ on the map:

The attraction was the nice level grassy track just beyond it. I followed this along to ‘Pipe Line’, which I understand to be the main transit route for malt whisky from the Highlands to the Central Belt:

Apparently it is operating beyond its design capacity and a second supply line is due to come on line soon. (Remarkably this went through the planning process with no objections and no need for a public enquiry.) Up the slope and then cast around for the difficult to find and poorer quality track leading west towards ‘Bothy’, sadly long since dismantled, and ‘Sheepfold’, a large, prominent and clearly still used feature. From here a muddy slough of a track headed north west and so I followed it. After a while it trended north and so I struck off across country. Reasonably benign, but I made heavy going of it – my supply of go juice was clearly running low. Stopped by a stream for some lunch, then headed towards Meall nan Tighearn, dumping my pack on top of a prominent rock en route.

Again a straight forward ascent. Which again I found rather punishing. Into thick clag at about 600m. I had my map and compass out, but to be frank I wasn’t really paying much attention. By eye: ascend approximately north west for 300 metres to a summit; then descend north 400 metres; then ascend 50m on about 330° for 250 metres. Ignore all other ups and downs and minor summits. Simples. I bimbled on. Some 30 minutes later my navigational sense went “ching, we’re there”. I looked around in about 50 metre visibility. No sign of a cairn. I wandered around, checking all of the locally highest points. No joy. I back tracked thinking that I might have overshot, but that was clearly downhill. Bugger. Not for the first time I wished that I processed one of those new fangled GPS navigational whatsits. And a small child to teach me how to use it.

OK I decided, I must have been walking even more slowly than I had thought. Let’s continue on 330°, even though it means going downhill. After a while I ascended again and then more or less tripped over a scrappy cairn:

The mist thinned for a bit so I snapped a couple of pics of a fairly typical Scottish summit view:

I then re-zeroed my internal navigational sense and headed back. Now those of you who know this hill are probably waaay ahead of me here. [b]The true summit of Meall nan Gabhar doesn’t have a cairn.[/b] The NW top does. I had just re-zeroed myself 250 metres out! (And I had been spot on when I had first thought that I had summitted.) So I gaily turned south east 250 metres early. This picture of Meall nan Tighearn (the clag had lifted quite a bit by the time I took it) will give you some idea of the consequences:

By the time I reached the valley I was shaken enough to have some difficulty establishing which ‘prominent’ rock I had left my rucksack on. Eventually reunited with it I paused for some comfort eating. And cast a jaundiced eye towards the sun dappled Beinn a Chleibh and Ben Lui:

It was 2.00. I could be on top of Beinn a Chleibh in less than two hours and then there was a good path towards Ben Lui.  I was very, very tempted. Reality won. I headed squelchily towards ‘Bothy’, the rough track, the whisky pipe line, the good track above Gleann nan Caorann and finally down in the dark to the A82. By which time I was convinced that I had made the right decision. Which is not to say that I was very happy about it.

So. That’s the two boxes I wanted ticked, plus a bonus ‘lost in the mist’. Ken should be happy. (Fat chance.) He can’t even complain about me skipping the Munros as he got one of those in the previous report. (Fatter chance.) Time to compose a tactful email delicately alluding to the ‘remuneration’ clause in my terms and conditions.

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Well ladies and gentlemen…there you have it.  I think we can all agree that that was a most excellent report from our most junior member of staff.  His apprenticeship here at the Fatdog Broadcasting Corporation is progressing much better than anticipated and I would think than in another 10 years or so he will be at that stage of professionalism which will allow us to bring him in for a wee chat about rennumeration.  Isn’t that exciting folks!  I bet he can hardly wait! 

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In the meantime…

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“My office NOW, P!”

“What in God’s name is that black photo with the two white dots all about?!”  

“Some cars coming over Rest and be Thankful?  Why not say it was a bloody UFO, a Yeti, or something!?” 

” The Corporation has readers and viewers P – they demand headlines – not feckin’ car headlights…aaargghhh!”

“Any more slip-ups and you’ll be taking Cap’n Jack with you on the next trip…and you wouldn’t like that, would you?

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8 thoughts on “West of Glen Falloch”

  1. Ooh – I know that area well. Delightfully squidgy! Wonderfully splodgy! That ol’ pipe is a bit of a blot, but there have been times when I have found it and felt like kissing the thing, so swirled about in the mist I had been!

    I liked the head-light shots – very artistic – better than some of the guff I Have seen in some of London’s Galleries, I can tell you!

    Give the boy a raise!

    1. I see you know it well, Alan 😆 . I have looked down upon it – and have erased it from memory!

      Re the head-light shots – I believe it came from a London Gallery!

      This is my view of “the bog”

    1. Hi Chrissie…oh yes it’s a slick operation is The Fatdog Broadcasting Corporation 😀

      I see the bloomin’ headlight thing is going to be a thorn in my side. He’ll be incredibly smug now claiming his decision to include it has been completely vindicated. 😦

  2. I would have preferred ufo’s in the sky myself… 🙂

    not an area I know at all… must have been a bit sickening realising you’ve come off the hill at the wrong point, although Im sure we’ve all done it – I know I have.

    Surely the real renumeration is in the joy of being in the hills 😀

    1. See! That’s me vindicated now – UFOs…that’s what we want! 😉

      A very good point about renumeration David…feel free to comment on those lines anytime. 😀

  3. I too remember sitting on Ben Oss looking south at glittering i.e. wet hillsides. Great trip report there, eventful and entertaining. I liked the headlight photo as well – very……. minimalist 🙂

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