Beinn Dronaig - 797m
Monday 20th March 2017

Weather/Conditions: Wild morning on Beinn Dronaig (the river crossing had a lot to do with that), clearing through intermittent hail showers to sun down Glen Ling. Nice.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 19.4km / 700m / 7h 05m
Accompanying: Struan

Our second day on the trip would take us across Beinn Dronaig followed by a long walk the length of Glen Ling, a little known place which I was eager to see.

We left Maol Bhuidhe in the morning. The skies were heavy with sleet, and our first obstacle was a river crossing. We’d known it was going to be a big one; I didn’t quite imagine how big it would be. We plodded down sodden ground to the river bank. I wanted to chance dry feet, so the boots came off and I rolled up my trousers. The river wasn’t that wide, but it was impossible to tell how deep. Each step in the water took us lower, and lower, until we were knee height, then approaching hip height. I still had my phone in my pocket! I pulled back a little to stop it getting wet, and Struan instead kept going. He disappeared into the water beyond his stomach, and clawed back up the far bank. It had rained all night and it river was fast flowing. It was going to be a horrible one! So I dove in and emerged at the far side with numb feet and drenched below the stomach. The river was so deep the boots slung around my neck still got wet. I pulled wet socks on over toes that couldn’t feel.

Struan and I headed on up the sleet-covered moor toward Beinn Dronaig. I needed to keep moving to stay warm, but I still couldn’t feel my toes. Behind us, the range of hills we’d crossed the previous day looked stunning. Sgurr na Lapaich and An Riabhachan were out and crossed by sparking hail and sleet showers. It was a cold, wild place and I revelled in being here. So slowly, sensation came back to my toes though my legs and trousers never dried.

In some ways crossing the river relieved the tension of staying on the wrong side in the bothy, but it still felt like we were in an alternative universe. At the top of Beinn Dronaig, my wet legs started to feel really cold; it was imperative to get down soon. But we also gained views to the north: ghostly views glimpsed through the mist of snow-covered Coulin peaks.

Coming to the north side of the mountain was a shock to the system. Extensive hydro works are taking place in this glen, construction vehicles rolling by, stacked tubing for the hydro. This was a different world. I was glad the glen of Maol Bhuidhe was sheltered from all this.

Bendronaig Lodge is a brilliant bothy, and Struan and I stayed about an hour as an opportunity to get kit dried out. The sun shone through the windows, the promise of a nice afternoon was ahead. Every so often a jeep rumbled by.

It was also strange to leave the bothy and see a glistening white Lurg Mhor just above with the stacked up detritus of the hydro works around. Seems like a shame, really, but I’m sure it works for the estate.

A new hydro track disappears down Glen Ling. Some folk were working shortly below, at which point the track stopped. The glen bends to the right to trend toward the west coast, and narrows too. Landrover tracks haven’t left their scar in here (yet…). Only a faint path connects ruined settlements. The place seemed suspended since the last folk left here. It was obviously once lived in, and since they left for the last time nothing has come along to erase or supersede their presence. It makes you think. Otherwise we had only the bright spring skies, the river and odd buzzard for company.

The glen exits its upper narrows, then reaches a point of confluence with Gleann a’ Choire Dhomhain. A modern track exists on the far side of the river, but by now the river was fully mature and would not be crossed. I entertained the idea for a moment, and Struan told me not to be so daft.

But I didn’t mind this at all. I preferred the follow the rougher banks on this side and revel in the wildness as long as I could. It was a persistent theme of the trip. In the lower glen there are ruins at Poul an Tarie, also the location of a 15th century battle; the Mackays having come over from Strathcarron would likely have closely followed our same route down the glen. Some showers moved back in, and path periodically disappeared in thick grass. Beyond the crossing of Allt Loch Innis nan Seangan a path appeared. The last miles to the road were simply enjoyable, and we arrived back at houses and a tarmac road with knowledge of hard miles behind us. What an area; the trip was profoundly enjoyable.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 8.30am Maol Bhuidhe
(1.30) 10.00am Beinn Dronaig
(2.23) 10.53pm Bendronaig Lodge
(3.15) 11.45pm Left Bendronaig Lodge
(7.05) 3.35pm Killilan