Working a 9-5 job in a lab this summer I’ve been trying to get out into the countryside each weekend be it walking, kayaking or cycling. Without a car, catching a variety of buses, trains and trams often turns into half of the adventure, as was the case with this trip on the 20-21st June 2015.
After admitting to Craig and Andrew over a pint at the pub that I had never actually climbed a Munro we decided that a trip was in order. Extensive researching of bus and train timetables by Andrew led to a plan to climb Beinn Dearg, an 1008m Munro , from Blair Atholl in a 30km trip. Saturday morning arrived and after packing my bag I was just about to head into town to get some supplies but before I could leave the house a Craig appeared at the window. He had managed to lock himself out of his house whilst emptying his fuel bottle and despite attempting to get back in by jumping from the hill onto the first floor windowsill he quickly realised it wasn’t really going to work. Along with this Andrew had missed his bus so wouldn’t get to St Andrew’s right until the last minute. To make use of our time off we headed to tesco’s to get some mighty fine scran for our epic voyage into the wilderness consisting of pasta, cheese, fake Tesco Mars bars, flatbread and homous.
Back from shopping and Andrew had only just arrived, our train was set to leave in around half an hour leaving Craig and Andrew the grand total of ten minutes to get back into the house, pack and run across town to the bus station. Somehow they managed it and we hopped on the 99 bus to Leuchars train station and just managed to catch the train to Dundee, our train route meant changing at Dundee and Perth to get onto the line that would take us to Blair Atholl station. Upon arriving at Perth we accidentally ended up on a platform full of people with cameras and various families of children. Wondering what on earth was going on we asked the conductor who told us that the steam train Tornado (a Peppercorn class A1 train) was about to arrive at the platform on its journey up north which it did 4 times a year. A cloud of billowing white smoke appeared down the line and the pristine green steam engine arrived, complete with original railway carriages, a very impressive sight especially as all we were looking for was the train to Blair!
A couple of hours later we arrived in Blair and started our walk heading through the estate owned woodland alongside Banvie burn out into the open moorland. Following the track around Carn Dearg Beag we headed north glimpsing peaks of snow topped mountains in the distance glinting in the early evening sun. After around two hours of hiking we dropped into a small glen where we found Allt Sheicheachan bothy and a group of walkers who were staying the night after cycling to the bothy with the aim of climbing some Munros the next day. Heading further along the burn we found a suitable camping spot right next to the water’s edge, set up our tents and used Andrew’s camping stove to cook our pasta in rapid time as it only did maximum heat. Right on cue the midges arrived so we donned ‘smidge’ and headnets in order to cook in some sort of peace, thankfully after half an hour or so a breeze appeared which kept them at bay for most of the night. We played cards in Craig’s new tent (testing it for Kyrgyzstan) until around midnight which involved me losing very badly, and even though it still wasn’t actually dark we headed to bed to make sure we were fresh and ready for the Munro tomorrow.
Sunday dawned at around 5am but we lay in until nine making the most of our midge free and warm tents until hunger took over and we emerged in the morning sunlight. Well fed and watered we embarked on our quest heading up out of the glen over the cairned summit of Meall-Dubh nan Dearcag with Beinn Dearg visible in the distance. I happened to glance behind me and was surprised to see that I couldn’t see anything at all, a wall of mist was heading towards us very rapidly so the walk became a race to see if we could reach the Munro summit before the cloud surrounded us and everything else. Alas we were beaten and reached the top in a flurry of rain, cloud and hail so hid in the cairn hoping that the cloud would pass revealing the view over the mountains beyond. After around ten minutes we started to see the faint glow of sunlight and the cloud thinned, eventually disappearing completely, revealing the beautiful mountains to the north and glens to the south. Many photos later we began our decent the way we came back down in to the glen for lunch by the burn and to pack up our tents so that we could catch the half five train to Perth.
Walking back along the path we were passed by our bothy bikers who had climbed the Munro and were headed back to the car park at Old Bridge of Tilt. We arrived back in Blair Atholl in good time walking along the lower Glen Tilt, which was more rocks than water with the lack of rain that we’ve had recently, and to the famed fish and chip shop to enjoy a well earned pie and chips. Three trains and a bus later St Andrews appeared and with a cup of tea in my hand I headed straight to bed ready for work at 9am the next day.