Saturday 9 May 2015

Beinn a'Bheithir

Sgorr Bhan and Beinn Bhan from Ballachulish

Perfect forecast. May. Reports say that there's still snow up there. Winter kit? Mmmm.

Compromise - winter boots and axes, but leave the crampons at home!

Setting off in warm sunshine, with hardly any snow in view, the Big Boots seemed like overkill - aww well, never mind.

Sgorr Bhan and Beinn Bhan from near Ballachulish

Parked up in Ballachulish, wandered through the village and over the burn, past the school and into a field - our objective today, the two Munro's of Beinn a'Bheithir - Sgorr Dhearg and Sgorr Dhonuill, with the Munro Top of Sgorr Bhan as a starter.

Loch Leven, Ballachulish and the Pap of Glencoe from the start of the ascent of Beinn Bhan

Once across the field, it was straight into the ascent - a pathless climb through rough grass and heather up the minor top of Beinn Bhan, on the north ridge of Sgorr Bhan. It was hot work!

Looking east along Loch Leven from the ascent of Beinn Bhan

But we were soon rewarded by glorious views...

Looking north west over Loch Leven from the ascent of Beinn Bhan

...of hills climbed - but many more yet to be done.

Rafe - Beinn Bhan

Glen Coe from ascent of Beinn Bhan

Loch Leven and Morvern Hills from ascent of Beinn Bhan

Over Ballachulish to Glen Coe from ascent of Beinn Bhan

Towards the top of the ridge, we picked up an old stalkers path, which made the going a bit easier - it did a zig and zagged onto the ridge, before making a beeline for the summit.

Rafe and Jim - nearing the summit of Beinn Bhan
with Sgorr Bhan and Bheinn a'Bheithir beyond

Jim - Beinn Bhan summit with views to Sgorr Bhan and Beinn a'Bheithir

It was time for a first lunch. A few minutes to take in the views and to cool down.

But we could see that there was quite a bit of snow on the hills ahead - perhaps the Big Boots were necessary after all.

Ptarmigan on ascent of Sgorr Bhan

Loch Leven and the Mamores from ascent of Sgorr Bhan

The path wound it's way through the grass and heather and up into scree and rock - proper mountain stuff.

Views east from the ascent of Sgorr Bhan

Sgorr Dhearg from ascent of Sgorr Bhan

Jim - nearing the summit of Sgorr Bhan

And the views - clear, crisp and magnificent (I'll have to try and think of some new superlatives!)

Sgorr Dhearg from ascent of Sgorr Bhan

North east over Loch Leven from ascent of Sgorr Bhan

Jim - nearning Sgorr Bhan summit

Sgorr Bhan with a snowy Sgorr Dhearg beyond

Rafe - Sgorr Bhan

Jim - nearning the summit of Sgor Bhann with views over Loch Leven

We were soon at the top of the first hill of the day - Sgorr Bhan (Munro Top 158, 947m) - the ridge between it and Sgorr Dhearg, a perfect crescent edged with an almost unbroken cornice handing over Coire Guibhsachain - but on the southern side, there was no snow at all. Big Boots definitely not required.

Sgorr Bhan summit (Munro Top 158, 947m)

We could see other walkers on the summit of Sgorr Dhearg, tiny in the distance, giving perspective - it was further away than it looked.

Jim - Bealach Coire Giubhsachain at the start of the ascent of Sgorr Dhearg

Sgorr Dhearg (with people on the summit!)

The walking and the views were marvellous.

Looking back (east) to Sgorr Bhan from ascent of Sgorr Dhearg

I'll let the pictures do the talking.

West along Glen Duror from ascent of Sgorr Dhearg

Jim - ascent of Sgorr Dhearg

Ben Nevis, Loch Leven and Sgorr Bhan from ascent of Sgorr Dhearg

We were soon at the top of Sgorr Dhearg (Munro 107, 1024m). There were a couple of other walkers there, we exchanged hill stories whilst taking in the views - before they headed west and left us the summit.

Jim - Sgorr Dhearg summit (Munro 107, 1024m)

Jim - sescent from Sgorr Dearg with views along the Beinn a'Bheithir ridge to Sgorr Dhonuill

The rest of our route was laid out before us - still no snow - drat those heavy winter Boots! - but we hardly really noticed - what a wonderful day.

Views east from descent from Sgorr Dhearg to Glen Coe hills

We dropped off the summit and wandered towards the bealach. It was warm and pleasant - time for a second lunch. We found some suitable rock seats with a southerly view and tucked into a few sandwiches.

Views south from descent from Sgorr Dhearg - good place for a spot of lunch

Views west from descent from Sgorr Dhearg

There were a few more people about now - walking up from Gleann a'Chaolais, taking the classic T shaped route for the hill.

Looking back (east) to Sgorr Dhearg summit

Views west to Sgorr Dhonuill

We continued west, ascending our second Munro, Sgorr Dhonuill. Initially gentle and grassy, but soon the ridge narrowed and rocks peered out from the green.

Jim - ascent of Sgorr Dhonuill

Ben Nevis and the Mamores from ascent of Sgorr Dhonuill

Rafe - ascent of Sgorr Dhonuill - views over Lismore to Mull

Sgorr Dhonuill

Views back along Sgorr Dhonuill ridge to Sgorr Dhearg

Soon the ridge narrowed further and the rocks took over - there was a touch of exposure at times and there was a bit of hands on.

It was good.

Views north from ascent of Sgorr Dhonuill

Jim - the slightly scrambly exposed bit - Sgorr Dhonuill

Looking back along the Beinn a'Bheithir ridge from neat Sgorr Dhonuill summit

Jim - ascent of Sgorr Dhonuill

All too soon, we were on the summit - Sgorr Dhonuill (Munro 137, 1001m).

Sgorr Dhonuill summit (Munro 137, 1001m) - views east

It really was a Wow. What a glorious view - and a bit of snow for our Big Boots.

Sgorr Dhonuill summit - views west

We had a third lunch - we really didn't want to go down.

Ben Nevis from Sgorr Dhonuill

We hung about for a while longer - crunching about in the snow, identifying summits, taking photo's - we really didn't want to go down.

Descent from Sgorr Dhonuill
Views east along Bheinn a'Bheithir ridge

But all good things, and all that.

Jim - descent from Sgorr Dhonuill - views east

We descended back, east to the bealach, enjoying the scrambly bit again.

Gleann a'Chaolais from bealach between Sgorr Dhonuill and Sgorr Dhearg

Before dropping down into Gleann a'Chaolais, across the moor, through a deer gate and into the woods.

Descent into Coire a'Chaolais

It was quite a way, and really quite warm - summer on its way.

Looking back to bealach from Gleann a'Chaolais

Descent into Gleann a'Chaolais

Jim - the woods of Gleann a'Chaolais

North west over Loch Leven from the woods of Gleann a'Chaolais

The path meandered through the woods - until we came out onto a forestry track to take us east, around the hills to Ballachulish.

The Mamores and the Pap of Glencoe from Gleann a'Chaolais

A sheep family were partaking of a spot of afternoon tea on the verge - they trotted off along the track in front of us for some time, meaning Rafie had to practice his "heel"ing skills - but eventually they took themselves off down a side track.

Rafe gets some sheep herding practise - forestry track above Loch Leven

Our feet were starting to feel the effects of the Big Boots by this time, and we were looking forward to taking them off - but not far now. We were soon on the pavement of the A82.

Coire Guibhsachain from forestry track, west of Ballachulish

We stopped at St. John's Church, just west of Ballachulish - Jim for a rest, and me for an explore. It's one of those places that we've passed so many times in the car - I just had to have a mooch about. Although it was beside the main road, it was strangely quiet and atmospheric.

It wasn't far along the road to Ballachulish now - and it wasn't long before we were back at the car, looking up at Beinn a'Bheithir, reminiscing about our great day - and taking off the Big Boots.


By St. John's Church, Ballachulish

Route:  Car park by visitors centre in Ballachulish (NN084584), SW along road to cross the bridge over River Laroch (NN081579) then take first lane on left, past the school then right through an iron gate into a field, follow indistinct grassy path right across the field and through a gap in a stone wall, W up steep pathless slopes of Beinn Bhan, at NN070575 approx, turn right (N) and follow a path which climbs gently to the shoulder and then ascends the ridge of Beinn Bhan, continue SSW along ridge to Sgorr Bhan (Munro Top 158, 947m), WSW along ridge to Sgorr Dhearg (Munro 107, 1024m), W to bealach at 760m, W to Sgorr Dhonuill (Munro 137, 1001m), return E to bealach, N into Gleann a'Chaolais (initially steep and boggy) E of fence posts, at corner of forest (NN049563) follow path along edge of forest to NN051564 where a new path sp to parking (P) heads into the wood, follow P signs on good paths through the wood to NN047582 (watch for dam on river), take right fork and follow forestry track N then contouring easterly to St John's Church (NN067585), return to Ballachlish along pavement of A82 and through village to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 15.5km  Ascent: 1325m  Time: 8 hours

Sgorr Dhearg

Sgorr Dhonuill

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