Beinn Dorain - 1076m
Tuesday 22nd December 2011

Weather/Conditions: Cold, wet and cloudy! And not much else...
Distance/Ascent/Time: 9.9km / 900m / 4h 30m
Accompanying: Mackenzie

Originally our plan had been to climb the Buachaille Etive Mor. Mackenzie had never done it and I'd done it in winter, so he asked me. But on the day, the SAIS avalanche forecast was moderate. I don't take chances with a mountain like the Buachaille, so we decided to change plans and hit Beinn Dorain instead. The weather, in a word, was bleak; not that the change of mountain would have changed much: we barely saw a thing start to finish.

Mackenzie lives in Wales these days, although he spent New Year in Scotland. He travelled through to Glasgow and I picked him up from where we drove to Bridge of Orchy. At the time was the furthest north I had driven. and we parked at the train station.

The weather was grim which is great except for when you are climbing a mountain and want to see a view. Mackenzie had brought the luck with him: he's had awful weather on every Southern Highland Munro he's ever done, and Beinn Dorain is a mountain you don't want to do in bad weather. It's such stunning mountain to stand on top of on a clear day.

Today, the place was in melt. The snow was patchy and disappearing quick, and everything was damp. I guessed the moderate avalanche risk originated from wet snow slides. We walked into Coire an Dothaidh hoping the weather would improve, knowing it probably wouldn't. But we were dry for now and chatted the time away. There wasn't much to see but chat with Mackenzie is always good.

We got to the 744m bealach and turned right; we were in mist from here onward. I knew the navigation on this hill to be a bit tricky. From the summit, the northern slopes fan out and with a path buried under snow, it's easy to walk straight off course. So I started making snowballs and placed them on rocks along the way to mark our descent. Theoretically - follow the line of snow balls, one leading on from another, and we would get back down without bother.

Then half way up the ridge to the summit, the first spits of rain began. Within minutes, it had turned to a full-blown front. Conditions got gnarly very fast and the final section to the top wasn't even fun. Head down, plod on. It wasn't cold enough to be snow - which at least has some novelty value. Just cold, grim, wind-driven rain. These are the things we enjoy, apparently - twisted though it can be.

Not surprisingly, we didn't spend long on top. The snowballs had partially (sometimes almost completely) melted, but they made the descent easy. It was great to follow a little line of snowballs all the way down the hillside. Wet and cold, we just desired the warmth of the car. Things had been quite good until the front came in, but after that we'd gone into hibernate-and-plod-on mode.

Back at the car, warm dry clothes were well received. We headed back to Glasgow. If the day hadn't been grim enough already, I had to drop Mackenzie in the city centre. I ploughed straight into heavy Christmas-shopping traffic and spent tedious time sitting in traffic before I was finally home.

Conditions dictate so much on mountains. They inextricably influence our mood and our feelings. It was a shame the weather was rotten but hell, it was good to see Mackenzie again.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 10.00am Bridge of Orchy
(2.55) 12.55pm Beinn Dorain
(4.30) 2.30pm Bridge of Orchy

Written: 2012-05-08