A rough bike ride and a stiff climb [# 89]

Beinn Mhanach (953m)

  • Pronunciation:              Bine Vannoch
  • Translation:                   Mountain of the Monks
  • Total distance:              23.0km
  • Total time:                     4hrs 15mins
  • Total ascent:                 921m
  • Weather:                        Spring-like. Bright, high cloud with sunny spells. Light winds and warm.
  • Start / end location:   Lay-by at the top of the pass between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy [OS Map Sheet 50 – Grid Ref: NN 329 331]
  • 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.

Looking down Auch Gleann from the slopes of Beinn Mhanach

Elaine cycling on the track approaching the Auch Gleann viaduct

After our long day on the Ben Lawers Five yesterday we opted to do something a little less strenuous today. However, as we’ve completed a large number of Munros in the vicinity of Loch Tay through to Crianlarich we’re running out of routes that meet the “less strenuous” category.

After consulting our various guidebooks and maps we decided to tackle Beinn Mhanach, a somewhat secretive hill tucked away from the A82 behind the dominance of Beinn Dorain.

The West Highland Railway viaduct crossing Auch Gleann with Beinn Mhanach in the background (right)

Looking from the slopes of Beinn Mhanach towards Beinn Dorain (L) and Beinn Dothaidh (R)

The approach to Beinn Mhanach involves a long 9.3km hike along a rough track through Auch Gleann followed by a stiff and unrelenting climb of the steep south aspect of the hill. The reason, however, that it appealed was that we could use our mountain bikes to take us to the start of the ascent.

The usual starting point for this route is via the access road to Auch Farm from the A82. The problem is that there are no places to park in the nearby vicinity – although that doesn’t stop many people from parking on the verge of the very busy A82! Because we needed to wrestle our bikes from the top of the car I was even more reluctant with idea of this as a starting point.

Instead, after looking at the map, we decided to park at the large lay-by at the top of the pass between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy and then use part of the West Highland Way long-distance footpath to reach the bottom end of Auch Gleann (glen).

Elaine ascending a small snowfield on Beinn Mhanach

Cameron and Elaine at the summit of Beinn Mhanach

Cameron at the summit cairn of Beinn Mhanach

Elaine fording the Allt Kinglass burn with Beinn Mhanach in the background

After shouldering our rucksacks and jumping on our bikes we free-wheeled down the long descent north from the top of the pass to intersect the land-rover track that headed NE along the Auch Gleann. We both knew that the joy of “free-wheeling” on our outward journey would translate to “hard-graft” on the return.

Once we were in the glen and heading NE we first passed beneath the grand viaduct that carries the West Highland railway line between Crianlarich (from Glasgow) and Fort William. After that, the track, which was very rough throughout weaved its way along the course of Allt Kinglass (wide burn) and then further on the Allt a’ Chùirn burn: several times fording the burns, which were quite deep in places.

When we reached Srath Tarabhan, after 9.3km of cycling, we park up the bikes to begin the direct and stiff ascent of Beinn Mhanach. It was a very straightforward ascent that required no more than a bit of stamina and determination. The steepness meant that our elevation rose quickly and above 850m the gradient eased considerably as we approached the broad summit plateau. We met a group of four chaps by the small rocky cairn that marked the summit at 953m or 3,127’.

We retraced our route back down to our locked bikes and then enjoyed free-wheeling most of the way back until it was time to turn back onto the West Highland Way and begin a long 3km and at times painful ascent up to the top of the pass to our parked car. Despite this “sting-in-the-tail” it had been a glorious day with a superb outlook towards the back (east side) of Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dòthaidh along with reconnaissance views of Beinn Achaladair and Beinn a’ Chreachain to the NW and north, respectively, being two mountains we still have to climb.

Beinn Dorain's south profile from the West Highland Way

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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