Mam Hael (Beinn Bhreac) - 726m
Creach Bheinn - 810m
Beinn Mòlurgainn - 690m
Meall Dearg - 578m
Beinn Mheadhonach - 715m
Beinn Duirinnis - 555m
& Tops

Wednesday 27th December 2017

Weather/Conditions: Early winter conditions, limited daylight so walked from dawn until dusk. A light coating of snow on the hils and underfoot conditions sometimes quite firm through the powder.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 22.7km / 2270m / 7h 40m
Accompanying: Alone

There are a tangle of hills running between the shore of Loch Etive and the western sea. Lower than the surrounding Munros, they for the most part resemble rough moorland, breaking out into mountainous form in several impressive peaks. They are hills on the edge of the mainland Highlands, flanked only on one side by mountains. Views south and west range out to the Hebrides and the fertile lands of Argyll and Loch Awe.

December is a dark time of year and I left the house before dawn. I'd been to do these hills a few days previously, and sat in the car in darkness, drizzle and thick mist. I decided just to go home and I think I ended up on the Blackmount later that day. But I wanted good weather for this route anyway.

By the 27th December, I was well ready and I was keen for it. I left the car at the top of Gleann Salach and was immediately onto soft and deep ground. Getting the legs moving was hard work! It always is on this terrain. The hills were brushed in snow, a pink dawn was building.

Morning light out west

It really is beautiful; out to the sea by Oban, then inland to Ben Starav and Ben Cruachan. I was glad to have kept them for a good day. It's a good perspective on these Munro giants: it's one thing being on them, but to see them looming from lower hills casts them in an even more impressive light.

I had a fantastic crossing of my first hill; it's name is usually given as Beinn Bhreac or Mam Hael. The legs were moving well; I was glad to be here. I headed over to Creach Bheinn, the only Corbett of the day and the day's highest point. The moors around Glen Etive were sunbrushed and brown. Views extended up to the Buachaillean; the twin shepards overlooking the head of the glen. And what a stunning day it had turned out to be.

Top of Creach Bheinn

Crach Bheinn was my most northerly point: then the route went south to continue in a tangle of scraggy summits, each of them hardly recognisable from the others. In memory, they blend one into the other to some extent - but individual features stick out.

I passed under the flank of Beinn Bhreac to the double top of Beinn Molurgainn. Southward was the small top Meall Dearg; really very indistinct taken alone. South again, four small tops run southward, and I took each one in turn. Then some real mountain character arrives again: the northern flank of Beinn Mheadhonach grows larger and larger. This wedge-shaped mountain is another impressive upthrust of the granite: a small hill by the area's standards, but impressive taken in itself. Straight up this, I went over it's ridge crest in a strong wind and snow showers.

Beyond Beinn Mheadhonach are the little tops of Beinn Phlacaig. The south top has a very distinct summit formed by a jammed boulder suspended between two blocks. It's a unique top. Perhaps by complete chance, a glacier dropped this boulder one year to sit as a perched marker of this little summit.

Glen Etive in sunset light

The day was now drawing to a close, the winter days are short. But Beinn Duirinis, just ahead, was my last hill. The ground toward Beinn Duirinis had been nibbled bare by deer, who had obviously broken through a deer fence somewhere to find the lush growth of the saplings. Beinn Duirinis was a slog, and if anything I was a little glad to be on it's summit and now heading back to the road.

It had turned into a hard day - my legs were drained. Maybe I hadn't eaten enough. The final west top was a formality and I dropped quickly into the trees, reaching the road in last light by Loch Etive.

I wandered up the road in the half light. I didn't feel so good anymore, and the final kilometres of road walking up Gleann Salach wouldn't be enjoyed. A few kilometres separated me from my car, but as I began climbing the glen road, a single car alone in the silence turned up the glen, and moreover they responded to my outstretched thumb. A local couple living on Eilean Duirins were heading over to Barcaldine and I finished the day at last light with a lift back to the car.

Beinn Bhreac/Mam Hael

Creach Bheinn

Beinn Mòlurgainn

Meall Dearg to Beinn Mheadhonach

To Beinn Duirinis

360° Panoramas

Beinn Bhreac (Mam Hael)

Creach Bheinn

Beinn Molurgainn

Meall Dearg

Beinn Duirinnis
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 8.50am Parking, Gleann Salach
(1.40) 10.30am Beinn Bhreac (Mam Hael)
(2.20) 11.10am Creach Bheinn
(3.10) 12.00pm Beinn Molurgainn
(3.35) 12.25pm Meall Dearg
(4.50) 1.40pm Beinn Mheadhonach
(6.10) 3.00pm Beinn Duirinnis
(7.40) 4.30pm Inveresragan (pick up)
Written: 2018-09!