Auch Glen & Beinn Mhanach
Bridge of OrchyMhanach, Manic, Maniac. All three apply for today!
Well, I set off from Bridge of Orchy with the intention of cycling along the West Highland Way and then up the Auch Glen to Loch Lyon. Then I would probably return to the WHW, head south to Tyndrum and maybe even Crianlarich before returning to the car. So what went wrong? What indeed.
I set off along the path, remarking to myself how good the surface was 60 or 70 years after it was last a public road. Of course, the thousands of walkers, hundreds of cyclists and occasional estate vehicle still use it, but surely that would cause damage. The surface very definitely looked old, as the repairs were easy to see, and unless the road experienced a wholesale upgrade about 20 years ago, this is still the 1930 A82.
Auch GlenAfter crossing one of Telford's distinctive bridges over the River Kinglass (don't get confused, this isn't Glen Kinglass, and no, I don't know why it isn't the River Auch), I turned left up the track through the Auch Glen. Ahead was the northern of the two distinctive viaducts that carry the railway across in a great horseshoe. It was even more impressive up close, but set me wondering why this viaduct used steel trusses when the Glenfinnan Viaduct of a dozen years later reverted to arches.
Anyway, I continued on, blindly following the track through a minor ford, up a steepish hill, and round many bends until the track dropped down to the river at a ford. I dimly remembered reading that the track forded the river 7 times, but hadn't really expected such a big river. As the first ford had been paved (with old concrete railway sleepers), I assumed that this one would be too. Half way across, and well aware that I was trying to cycle through a strong current on a rocky riverbed, the front wheel jammed between boulders and my foot went in to stop the rest of me following. The river was knee deep, and the only way on was to get off and push. Bbbrrrrrrrr.
This happened another three times before the fords could be cycled across with ease, meaning that my boots were full of water. Icy cold water. Eventually I reached the point that the map marked as the end of the track, and was already eyeing up the mountain. I padlocked my bike, as I was at the watershed and the track dropped down a sharp slope that I didn't want to cycle back up! Since the map was printed, the track has been completed through to the shores of Loch Lyon, and so to the Loch's new circular track.
Loch LyonFrom the watershed (where some impressive engineering has diverted the streams into Loch Lyon for the Hydro Power), I headed east down to the shores of Loch Lyon, and followed the track a little way in each direction. The southern arm hit another knee-deep ford, which I wasn't prepared to wade across, while the northern arm just kept going along the loch shore.
I have decided, having looked at a map, that I can park at the dam and cycle round the loch with out too much effort. The Ford I found can be easily bypassed (there is a bridge where I left my bike), and the only other ford shown on Google Earth is over a much smaller stream... I think!
But that is for another day. You want to know about the mountain!
Beinn MhanachAs I mentioned above, I had started to eye up the mountain as I approached. In truth, it seemed to be the only sensible thing to do - having forded that #*?!~# river so many times, I didn't fancy ever having to do it again. It is the shortest and easiest route after all. There is no discernable path up the mountain - I suspect only the complete maniacs keep going after the first ford - so I just picked a spot and started climbing. The slope is pretty steep, so there was a lot of zig-zagging to do, but slowly I seemed to be getting to the top. I knew from a view earlier that the summit was hidden behind a slight change in gradient, but I was prepared for that. The featureless hill made it very difficult to gauge how far up I was from the map, and my usual trick of judging from the height of surrounding hills let me down too. Every time I thought the summit was in view, another bit of hill would appear beyond (until the last time, obviously).
At long last, I founmd myself on what appeared to be the summit plateau - there was a cairn at least. The feeling of Euphoria as the view across to Ben Achallader slowly emerged was a wonderful feeling - I had made it! I'm not as fit as I was back in July when I did the Three Peaks You see, mainly thanks to all of the Rain we've had since then, but here I was four months later in October at the top of a Munro once more. That's 19 this year and 52 in total!