Archive for May 7th, 2012

May 7, 2012

Beinn Mheadhoin and the wilds of Glen Orrin

by backpackingbongos

As I pulled behind a vehicle parked at the entrance track to Inverchoran I spotted the only hillwalker that I would see all week.  He was just setting off with his dog towards the farm.  I decided to sit and give him a ten minute head start, I still wanted the illusion of being the only person on the hill that day!

11.6 miles with 825 metres ascent

A couple of young estate workers were painting the bridge across the River Meig.  They were smartly dressed in tweeds and hiking boots and gave a cheery greeting as I passed.  The bridge itself has a cattle grid across it and I was glad that Reuben was wearing his harness so I could carry him across.  A second bridge near the farm also had a cattle grid.  Therefore this approach to the hill is not very dog friendly if you are unable to carry your canine companion.

We followed the track along the Allt Gleann Chorainn before taking a track to the left that zig zags up the hillside.  Across the glen was Meall na Faochaig, the cloud just touching its summit.  The hill we were climbing was roughly the same height so I crossed my fingers that it would be clag free.

With a bit of height gained I got a view back up Strathconon, Loch Beannacharain just visible.

The track gave rapid progress and we left it at the 410 metre contour to join a narrow stalkers path ascending rough boggy slopes.  Although the weather was grey the views were still good.  I was able to see Bac an Eich which towers above the cottage we were staying in from another perspective.

The path continues much further than the map suggests, ending at a prominent cairn.  I made a note of its position for the return journey back down the hill.

Beinn Mheadhoin is a rough little hill covered in small rocky knolls.  It would be tricky navigating up there in mist and I was glad that the cloud was just above the summit.  During breaks in the cloud I could make out the Strathfarrar Munros with their summits still covered in snow.

The summit was a small outcrop of rock sporting a scruffy cairn.  I had intended to sit and eat lunch here but the wind made it far too cold and Reuben was shivering.  My planned route had been to return the way I had come and then follow the track down into Glen Orrin.  However the view to the west looked wild and inviting and I suddenly fancied extending my route to peek into the wild interior.

We headed off in a south-west direction towards a tongue of land in between two streams.  With a lochan hidden amongst the rocky knolls it reminded me a little bit of parts of the Moelwyns.

Just before the ground steepened considerably there were cracking views down into the remote heart of Glen Orrin.  It was a spectacularly empty scene.  I almost wished that I had my backpacking sack and some provisions.  A couple of days walking would take us to the west coast.

I had not anticipated how steep the slopes were when we were at the summit cairn and my knees were now complaining as I picked a way down.  I was dismayed to see a new deer fence that looked like it would intercept our route.  It did but I was able to follow it for a while before it branched off at a right angle.  Thankfully the builders had put in a few gates anyway.

Passing Am Fiar-Loch I found a large boulder to sit and eat my lunch whilst Reuben looked on just in case I dropped a crumb.  Out of the wind it was a pleasant spot and I eyed up a large flat grassy area next to Allt Loch a Ghormlaich.  It would make a good base camp for tackling the Strathfarrar Munros.

The boggy landrover track gave quick progress down the glen until we came to a rather fine bridge over the River Orrin.  I’m not too sure that Reuben would be happy to cross this!

The landrover track peeled off uphill en-route back to Inverchoran.  I ignored it and continued along the pathless river bank, the cliffs of Creag a Ghlastail towering above the pine trees.

A huge grassy swath of cropped green grass here would provide a perfect camping spot.  There is a feeling of being in ‘big’ country here, the glen long and wide and surrounded by large snowy peaks.  Highland perfection.

We stuck to the grassy river bank up to the point where the river cuts into a steep bank.  A short-haul up rough slopes and a narrow path was found.  The view back up the glen was stunning, especially with the first hint of brightness of the day.

The path climbed and moved away from the river, the going becoming harder with the path becoming patchy in places.  Dark clouds were rolling in from the south bringing a threat of rain.

I had planned to return via the path marked on the map alongside Allt Gleannan Mall-luirge.  At its junction with the River Orrin was another large area of short springy turf.  It is evident that Glen Orrin is not short of places to camp.

I failed to locate the start of the path so instead we followed the stream uphill into a small boggy side glen.

This soon became a bit of a gorge and my way was blocked by a small waterfall not marked on the map.  It was a slippery clamber up wet slopes to contour above the river.  The going was rough especially as I could now see the path clearly on the other side!  The path soon crossed to my side and this gave quick progress to the watershed.  The surrounding terrain was bleak and boggy.

I fancied a sit down at the high point on the path but the ground was soggy so we pushed on, eventually picking up a track descending into the forest.  Turning a corner I found myself face to face with a stag no more than ten metres in front of me.  Initially I thought that it was a statue as it did not move an inch.  Then suddenly it was gone, causing hidden deer to crash through the trees.

After hauling Reuben back across the cattle grids we were soon back at the car.  I was glad that I had put in the extra effort to visit the upper reaches of Glen Orrin.  It is a lovely wild and lonely place.