Beinn Bhreac(Loch Lomond) (577m)

Sunday 1st September 2019

Distance: 17kms - Duration: 8hrs 15mins - Group Size: 11

Walk Leader - Alan

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The initial 3kms of this walk up through Cashel Forest is on good forestry tracks, and the final 3kms along the West Highland Way up and over Conic Hill to Balmaha is on a good, if somewhat steep and stoney path; as for the other 10kms or so of open hillside between these two tracks, well that was a completely different story.

Immediately we left the dry forest track we encountered a very wet and watery hillside, the result of the heavy rains we had been having over the previous week. Long grassy reeds and areas of soggy sphagnum moss covered our boots to ankle depth and often above, The one redeeming factor was that this was not a particularly steep climb and so, apart from dodging the deepest parts of the water course, we made steady progress towards the un-named top which sits between Binnean nan Gobhar and Beinn Bhreac, with the final climb lifting us above the waterlogged bealach and onto the rocky top. A short descent, a few weaves in and out of some peat hags and a short climb and we were soon standing at the summit of Beinn Bhreac, with its Trig Point, looking rather the worse for wear, in its unkept condition, but, nevertheless still offering that reassurance that Trig Points seem to do to those who venture to the summits.

In unexpectedly fine weather, we settled onto the grassy summit for a short break, enjoying the views, and slight breeze which was keeping us cool, and the midges at bay. The skies were looking very promising of a fine day, despite an early morning forecast of heavy showers, and a slight chance of thunder in the afternoon.

From the summit of Beinn Bhreac our route ahead to the distant Gualann was clearly visible, as was the fact that, apart from the intervening minor tops of Stob a'Choin Duibh and The Vine the terrain looked rather un-inviting, with deep heather, waterlogged mossy areas and peat hags throughout the route; however, the sun was still shining so we were happy, just so long as the rain held off.

As we crossed this terrain, I missed an opportunity for two telling photographs, the first one, of a high style, completely intact but with no fencing around it, the only signs being some old broken fence posts lying in the peat and waterlogged ground nearby, and the second, when some few hundred metres further on, we came across a relatively new deer fence in excess of 2 metres in height, with not a style to be seen in any direction, and with no means for us to cross. Until, that is, the fence crossed a peat hag which for once, actually worked in out favour. As the fence stretched across the deep hag, the builders has obviously tried to fill the gap below with a makeshift piece of fencing, which some animal, sheep, deer, or maybe even human, had broken apart, and which offered us a means to scramble under, albeit through the soggy peat, and reach the other side.; small mercies make the day!

It was a long haul to Gualann, but, as with the other tops earlier in the day, it offered a dry sanctuary under foot, and more importantly, the views were wonderful, offering aspects of Conic Hill, Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond and the flatlands stretching east to Stirling, aspects not usually seen from the more frequented hills in the area.

Gazing across at Conic Hill from Gualann, I was steeling myself for the final 3 kms of wet ground and peat hags on the descent towards the West Highland Way. However, there were no watery sections, or even peat hags - it was worse! We had long sections of extremely high, and by high I mean up to my head height in places, of thick ferns. At times they were like Triffids, wrapping themselves around our feet and body as we literally pushed our way through them. It was with some relief when some 90mins later we emerged onto the solid pathway of The West Highland Way. A final effort, up and over Conic Hill and into Balmaha brought us to the end of quite a challenging day - but we should not complain, we escaped the rain, although at times showers passed by only a few kilometres away, but we had sunshine all the way.

A fine, if exhausting day, in the hills - Thanks Alan.


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