Beinn a’Ghlo

By Ian
11th June 2019

A friend had said he would take me on a walk on Munros near Blair Atholl. Unfortunately his ill health prevented him fulfilling his promise. I googled Blair Atholl Munros and Beinn a’Ghlo came up.

Grant and I set off from Dundee at 8am and by 9.45 we were turning into the lay-by through the 3rd cattle grid.

The first Munro

We set off through the gate and up the track looking for the first way mark of the route, a hut. After a mile we turned left crossed the style and headed towards the path. A boggy start as we picked our way through the damp ground, quickly making path which headed steeply uphill. The path is new and in good condition for at least 2/3 of the ascent. At that point construction was ongoing. We walked the rest off the ascent on the foundations. When complete this will be a steep but easy climb.

On attaining the summit the northerly wind hit us and stayed, with increasing intensity, for the remainder of the walk.

The views from the top and indeed all through this walk were, and are, exceptional. To the west we could see the Three Sisters. To the south we could see the Paps of Fife and to the south east, The Sidlaws. If I had taken my spot the summit app with me I could have listed more of the sights on view.

The second Munro

It was an easy walk across to the winding ridge and after a small descent we reached a sheltered point for lunch; some 2 and a half hours walk time had elapsed. Fed and watered, we began the ascent of the second Munro of the day. Again a steep walk but mostly over a path made of rough stones and loose gravel. The wind was now buffeting us quite badly as we rounded the top of the Corrie heading to the summit.

The weather was dry and visibility good. Clouds were coming and going on the third summit, which periodically disappeared and reappeared.

We dropped off the summit and then followed the path around the accent. Dropping down to the low point between the second and third Munros, additional clothing layers were required to counter the increasing cold.

The third Munro

The climb wasn’t too ardous though underfoot conditions were deteriorating as the path became increasingly uneven and strewn with loose stones. On reaching the summit we branched right around the cairn and approached it from the far side which was less of a climb over the rock field.

The visibility was poor at this stage as we were in cloud but this again quickly lifted.

Poles were deployed as we headed back down the way we came. We lost the path briefly I then had major fall bruising and cutting both knees and my left hand. It is a reminder not to lose concentration when walking on boulder strewn paths.

Progress was slow and careful as we looked for the route to descend. We chose the route from the Bealach, as opposed to Airgiod Bheinn. Seeing the steepness of that route and decided with tiring limbs it would not be good for our health, or indeed that of my knees.

The descent

The descent path, by a small cairn, took us to the left of our original path. It was very uneven and extremely boggy. It made the old Kilbo path look like a motorway. Grant decided it was his turn to hit the deck and he too managed to bruise his knees. Very supportive, I thought.

Halfway down, after his fall, we stopped for coffee, painkillers, the rest of our packed lunch, and to regain concentration before either of us fell over again. During the food break we were lucky enough to spot a herd of deer up on the ridge to our right.

The path disappeared and reappeared, the bogs interspersed with rock falls. We crossed the burn three times on the way down, ending on the right side where we saw the yellow brick road in the near distance. Some 40 minutes we were all skipping Wizard-of-Oz-like down the newly constructed yellow thoroughfare, eating jelly babies and wine gums in equal measure.

We continued down the path in search of the hut from which our adventure began. Some 90 minutes later the hut appeared.

The only drawback to progress was the small stream which ran across the path between us and the car. Fortunately it was easily forded and after another 20 minutes we arrived back at the car. It was 6.50pm. We were tired, hungry, had sore knees and were very pleased with ourselves.

The verdict

Our journey home was delayed in Dunkeld while we devoured the best white pudding supper ever cooked. Why has this dish never appeared on Masterchef?

Beinn a’Ghlo is a great test, the views and wilderness, outstanding.

Post script: I walked the Lairig Ghru 4 days later. My knee injury took over 12 months to heal, with loss of feeling to the touch in my knee caps and an inability to kneel down without excruciating pain.