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Beinn Mhanach at the head of Auch Gleann
Beinn Mhanach at the head of Auch Gleann
Country: Scotland.
Location: Auch Gleann near Bridge of Orchy.
Accommodation: The Bridge of Orchy Hotel has a bunkhouse. Camping is allowed just across the bridge (ask at reception).
Transport: Railway station at the Bridge of Orchy. The A82 runs from Tyndrum past Auch and Bridge of Orchy on its way to Fort William.
Maps: Landranger Map 0050: Glen Orchy & Loch Etive
Trip Date: 13 June 1993
Introduction

Beinn Mhanach ("monk hill", 954m) is the higher of the twin summits of the hill at the head of Auch Gleann (sometimes glimpsed from trains on the West Highland Railway as it sweeps across the glen on an impressive viaduct). Hidden away by its more impressive neighbours, it provides a central viewpoint for their lesser-seen slopes. It is slightly remote needing either a pleasant 7 kilometre walk along Auch Gleann or a more strenuous approach over saddles from Bridge of Orchy or Achallader Farm. The last 2 routes almost demand detours to bag Beinn Dorain, Beinn an Dòthaidh or Beinn Achaladair.

This route is a loop walk from Bridge of Orchy encircling Beinn Dorain using the West Highland Way for part of the journey.

Route

Starting from the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, cross the A82 and head up to the railway station. Just before the station, an underpass takes you off the tarmac and onto the West Highland Way proper. This is the Old Military Road providing quick and easy walking all the way to Auch for 5 kilometres. Let your feet do the walking and your head can look around at the pretty scenery passing you. At the halfway point there is a mountaineering bothy just before a bridge takes you over the railway line.

The Allt Kinglass is crossed by a bridge above the Auch farmhouse and the route immediately turns left (eastwards) along a right of way up a farm track. Up ahead is the grand horseshoe of the railway line as it sweeps around the glen and the first view of Beinn Mhanach. About a kilometre up the track there is a good view south-east along Glen Coralan. Keep an eye on the fields around here - when I passed there was a small herd of Highland cattle in a field just before the railway viaduct.

Highland cattle
Highland cattle

Pass under the viaduct and continue up the glen. 1.5 kilometres gets you to the first crossing of the stream just past a patch of trees on the other side of the stream (the south-east slopes of Beinn Dorain). The track sticks to the north side of the stream for the next kilometre before 3 more crossings as the ruins of Ais-an t-Sidhean are reached. If the stream is in spate the south-eastern shore is easily followed. Another 750 metres further on a fork is reached and there is a choice of routes.

You can continue along the track until it reaches the watershed and then march straight up a climb of 600m on steep grassy slopes up to the summit. I found an alternative route by taking the left fork for 500 metres intending to climb the south slopes up to the twin Top of Beinn a'Chuirn. However I did not like the look of the crags under the summit so I took a track that contoured back eastwards. When this vanished I continued along climbing gently until I reached a gully that rose from just before the watershed. This left me with 300m of steep climbing to the col between the two summits. From the col the summit was an easy 100m climb up broad slopes along a bit of a path.

In good weather the summit of Beinn Mhanach must have good views - I cannot vouch for this since I climbed into low clouds. A circle of Munros surrounds Beinn Mhanach with the further ones being across Loch Lyon.

The descent can be via the approach route, however it is better to vary the return by exploring a couple of the hidden valleys near the hill. Return down the broad stony slopes to the col with a detour possible beyond the col to Beinn a'Chuirn. Head a little bit north until you have dropped enough to clear the small crags under Beinn a'Chuirn and then take a NW course down the slopes. In the next kilometre you should descend about 200m and then meet a fenceline. Follow the fence down to a boggy col between Gleann Cailliche and Auch Gleann. There is a well-established track that drops westwards from the col until it meets the left fork of the farm track up the glen.

Abandon the farm track where it makes a sharp right turn to cross the Allt Kinglass (near where the alternative route leaves it on the way up) and drop down and west to cross the Allt Coire Ghabhalach. A narrow and sometimes indistinct path on the south side of the stream is followed steeply at first and then levels off a bit. The corrie opens up a bit after less than a kilometre into a narrow, flat amphitheatre with the crags imprisoning Beinn an Dòthaidh above your head to the north and the crags of Beinn Dorain to the south. At the head of the corrie a final steepish section gets you to the col between the two mountains where there is a large cairn.

A detour to either Beinn Dorain or Beinn an Dòthaidh (or both) is possible from the col. A good path takes a quick 50m drop into the Coire an Dòthaidh traversing left below some crags. This part of the path is rocky and dry but as you descend further some quite boggy patches have to be crossed. Beyond the bog the path becomes better established and forms a nice walk along the south side of the Allt Coire an Dòthaidh down to the Bridge of Orchy.


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