Grim weather for mountaineering [# 78 & 79]

Beinn Dubhchraig (978m); Ben Oss (1029m)

  • Pronunciation:              Bine Doochreck; Ben Oss
  • Translation:                   Mountain of the Dark Crag; Elk Mountain
  • Total distance:              19.2km
  • Total time:                     7hrs 7mins
  • Total ascent:                 1285m
  • Weather:                        Misty with drizzle to start with, turning to heavier rain and driving wind on the higher slopes. A little brighter in the afternoon: but always misty and overcast with a mixture of showers and short periods of drier conditions. Much milder than of late with a thaw definitely in evidence.
  • Start / end location:   Car-park by Dalrigh just off the A82, 2km south of Tyndrum. [OS Map Sheet 50 – Grid Ref: NN 343 292]
  • Map:                              A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

    Indiana Jones style bridge crossing en route ot Beinn Dubhchraig and Ben Oss

I couldn’t quite decide what we should climb today, but made the mistake last night of suggesting to Elaine that it would probably be a single Munro. I even went as far as naming the Munro in question! A HUGE error in judgement on my part because …

… As we were eating our cereal this morning there were two scenarios being played out on either side of the breakfast table:

  • Elaine: playing over the in her mind: getting away this morning bright and early – climb the easy Munro by lunchtime – buy the Sunday Times en route back to the ‘van – spend the afternoon relaxing and reading the paper.
  • Cameron: thinking that the weather isn’t too brilliant at the moment, but it might just improve – should try and get another two nearby Munros climbed to bring the tally closer to 80 – can I sell this plan to Elaine?

“Elaine, I think that we ought to make the most of the weather and bag Beinn DubhChraig and Ben Oss just up the road”. Elaine neither agreed nor disagreed. [Note to self – in future a non-committal demands further investigation – it does not automatically assume that the wife is “on-board”. :-)]

So, my last minute route change from climbing a very short single Munro to a much longer outing in order to bag two was proposed and passed without any verbally opposition – there might have been some hints that this wasn’t necessarily the favoured option, but they must have been too subtle for me.

As we drove the few miles along Glen Dothart to the start of the route, spits of rain on the windscreen became gradually more persistent as they dropped from the low grey clouds. I looked across at Elaine and I knew that I’d made a mistake in mentioning the possibility of an easier day today – her mind was anchored at the foot of that other single Munro and not focused on completing a harder two.

We passed through Crianlarich and just a mile or so before we reached Tyndrum we turned off left at Dalrigh and parked up at the large off-road parking area near the road end. And, with all of the enthusiasm Elaine could muster we set off, crossing a bridge over the River Cononish before taking to a land-rover track that crossed the Oban to Glasgow railway line. We continued on this track for a further few hundred metres until it began to run parallel with the Allt Coire Dubhchraig burn. At this point we crossed over the burn via a very rickety bridge that Indian Jones would have been happier on than us. Once safely across we entered a grove of beautiful ancient Scots Pines, which we wandered along on an extremely boggy path in a WSW direction before popping out the top of the grove and onto the open hillside.

Once out of the forest the hillside was thick with deep, thawing, wet snow that stuck fast to our boots and gaiters. We gradually drifted to a SW direction and aimed, in the thick damp mist towards the NE ridge of Beinn Dubhchraig. As we climbed higher the damp mist turned to rain and before long we were pretty wet. Undeterred, well me at least – Elaine was wishing she was just coming out of the newsagents, we reached the broad ascending ridge and plodded our way upwards through the snow. There were absolutely no views in the poor visibility.

Cameron on the summit of Beinn Dubhchraig

As we climbed the final stages of the ridge it swung southward where it soon reached a broad col between Dubhchraig and its neighbour Oss. The final part was a stiff climb southeastwards from the col to the summit of Beinn Dubhchraig at 978m or 3,209’ to be greeted, in the wind and mist, by a small pile of rocks for a cairn.

We retraced our steps back down to the col and then continued WNW descending to another much lower col before veering to the west until we began to climb steeply to the 941m top marked on the map just to the NE of Ben Oss. From this top it was another short climb to reach the summit of Ben Oss at 1029m or 3,376’. Once again, all that was there was a small nondescript rocky cairn covered in snow and shrouded in thick mist.

Elaine on the summit of Ben Oss

We retraced our steps back to a col in the connecting ridge midway between the two aforementioned cols and dropped steeply off the ridge in a northerly direction into Coire Buidhe. From here we dropped right down to the River Cononish, which we followed downwards until a bridge at Cononish (farm or lodge) allowed us to cross the river. On north side of the river we picked up a land-rover track that took us all the way back to our parked car at Dalrigh.

It had not been ideal weather for our climb with poor visibility in the mist all day coupled with interludes of rain. It had also been very wet underfoot and both of us had wet feet by the end of the day. Elaine, on more than one occasion, “suggested” that perhaps her mind wasn’t in it today … in case I hadn’t noticed the subtlety of it this time! That said, it had been a tough outing, and Elaine did a cracking job to have climbed these two Munros: two more to add to our tally.

The cloud that had been hanging around ominously all day miraculously lifted late in the afternoon about the same time as Elaine came out the newsagents in Tyndrum clutching her Sunday newspapers. Purely coincidental I’m sure! 😉

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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