Flag-a-Munro – Beinn Dorain

Our latest trip out involved a trip up Beinn Dorain with a group from SiMY Community Development to help them complete part of the DofE Award’s Flag-a-Munro Challenge. The aim of the challenge is to get a DofE flag on the summit of every Munro in Scotland, as part of the celebrations for the Commonwealth Games.

The weather was fairly uninspiring when we met up on Saturday morning, with grey low lying cloud shrouding the Campsies to the north of Glasgow. Despite a couple of late call offs, we set off with a group of 10 DofErs and volunteers from SiMY, heading for Bridge of Orchy via the obligatory stop at the Green Welly Cafe in Tyndrum for bacon rolls.

By the time we set off from the car park at the Bridge of Orchy hotel, a steady drizzle had set in, with the craggy corrie that leads up to the bealach separating Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh just visible through the murk. We made steady progress upwards, although a couple of the young people, who had been laid low with colds earlier in the week, were clearly struggling in the damp cold conditions. One of them turned backs we entered the corrie, and the other, after struggling on a bit further, opted to head back down as well.

The drizzle now turned to rain as we arrived at the bealach, where we took the opportunity for a ‘dead sheep selfie’ before heading up the broad ridge towards Beinn Dorain. Back down the corrie, we could see Louise and Ingrid, who had escorted the two young people back down the hill, making their way steadily back up to join us just before we disappeared into the cloud that still hung low around the upper half of the hill. As we made our way up, we encountered a couple of fairly large patches of snow still lingering across the trail, which made me yearn for something heavier as I laboured to kick steps with my uber-lightweight summer boots.

Ingrid and Louise rejoined us just as we arrived at the top of the second snow patch. By now, everyone was pretty much soaked through and the wind picked up significantly as a noticeable drop in temperature indicated that the forecast cold front had arrived. We were now within touching distance of the north top of Beinn Dorain, from where it’s a short flat walk to the slightly higher summit, but one of the young people was now clearly struggling in the cold and wind, and displaying the first little warning signs of hypothermia that would have been easy to ignore this close to our main objective for the day. I had a brief mental wrestling match between the desire to help the group get their summit and the responsibility to keep everyone safe, before making the call to turn around and head back down.

As we retraced our steps, it was obvious that it was the correct decision; the smaller lighter members of the group were getting knocked about by the gusting wind, which combined with the soaking wet slabs of schist made for a treacherous descent back to the bealach. The wind was whistling through the bealach when we got there, which made the short steep path back to the corrie floor quite tricky, with the smallest of the young people having to tuck themselves in behind me and hold onto my rucksack while we made our way down – not a technique you find in the MTA manual, but one that’s surprisingly effective as long as there’s a hefty weight difference in your favour.

After a long plod through the rain and wind on easier ground, we arrived back at the cars, loaded up and retraced our steps to Tyndrum, where our support team were waiting with our two earlier casualties and a bagful of chips from the Real Food Cafe.

So, no successful Flag-a-Munro this time round, but we still have an older group heading up Buchaille Etive Mor next Saturday, and a cunning plan forming in my mind to try and complete our mission on Beinn Dorain.