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Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!


Postby BlackPanther » Wed Oct 20, 2021 8:11 pm

Route description: Ruadh-stac Beag

Corbetts included on this walk: Ruadh-stac Beag

Date walked: 18/09/2021

Time taken: 7.75 hours

Distance: 16.7 km

Ascent: 927m

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A week after our re-visit to Arkle we still felt like doing something steep, rocky and ridgy. Weather for the weekend was going to be good in the north-west again (a rare occurrence in Scotland!) so we picked another Corbett to re-climb, this time in Torridon. The choice was between Ruadh-stac Beag and Meall a Ghiuthais and of course, we went for the more difficult of the two. In theory, it is possible to climb them both in one visit (it has been done by other Walkhighlanders) but we were not in a hurry. Here comes the advantage of living in Inverness-shire: Torridon is just an hour drive away and can be visited at any time, even on short winter days.

But it was mid-September and our main criterion for picking routes around this time is stalking. The usual approach to Ruadh-stac Beag (from the Beinn Eighe visitor centre) is on Scottish Natural Heritage land, so no problems with disturbing the local stalkers.

Originally, we just intended to follow the WH route, as we had done during our previous visit to this hill, but... what a surprise! We ended up tackling a stupidly steep slope instead...

Track_RUADH STAC BEAG 16.7KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


The morning in the visitor centre car park was rather cold and cloudy, with the air filled with drizzle and countless midges. Not a perfect start but forecast was for sunny spells later on so we didn't waste time and set off through the lovely pine forest:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 002.JPG

The path follows the Allt Sguabaidh and is part of a longer mountain trail:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 009.JPG

Cloudy conditions across the glen on Slioch:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 017.JPG

The first stage was easy on a good path, we walked through a 10min shower, waiting patiently for the mist to lift. By the time we reached the group of three small lochans just south of the main path, conditions were already improving:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 035.JPG
Ruadh-stac Beag (right) and Creag Dhubh, the SE end of Beinn Eighe, reflected in one of the lochans

The very same peaks seen from the spot where we left the path:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 051.JPG

After a short, pathless hike on the mixture of rock and heather, we reached the wide stream bed of Allt Toll a'Ghiubhais. Here, a faint path can be followed:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 062.JPG

Looking back at Meall a'Ghiubhais, possibly our next target to revisit:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 066.JPG

The eastern slopes of Ruadh-stac Beag, despite looking very steep and rocky, might have good scrambling routes for advanced scramblers:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 195.JPG

We started talking about a possible diversion from the main path, maybe a direttissima to the summit? Not up the north-eastern crags but somewhere in the middle of the eastern slope? The lower half of the E side of the mountain is covered in scree, the upper end is crowned with some interesting rocks, where we could scramble to the summit. We thought it was a good idea and an interesting variation of the original route, so decided to give it a go... Didn't realize what was yet to come :lol: :lol: :lol:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 084.JPG
Let's do something different, pleeeease!

First, we had to cross the stream. Kevin started off well...
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 199.JPG

...but only a few seconds after I took this photo, he slipped on a loose stone and went A over T. Thankfully, he didn't fall into the water, but his ribcage hit a large rock. Ouch!
Initially, he brushed the accident off, laughing that he nearly managed to smash his ribs even before we started the direttissima :lol: He paid for that sarcasm later... When the bruising came out in following days!
What we were about to tackle:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 089.JPG

Someone once told me that most slopes look steeper than they are, but this one turned out to be the other way around. What we expected to be an easy rocky ground, was in reality a neverending battle with loose scree:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 206.JPG
Two steps up, one down!

The picture below shows the real angle of the slope we climbed. Had it been solid, we'd have no problem whatsoever, but the scree just made things unstable:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 096.JPG

It took an awful amount of time (and patience) to work our way up the scree section; Kevin first discovered that it was a bit easier to climb up larger boulders, they didn't move as much:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 098.JPG
Show a little... patience...

Getting closer... I was so fed up with the loose scree, couldn't wait to reach the rocks above!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 103.JPG

Believe me or not, it was actually getting STEEPER higher up!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 104.JPG
Please, no more...

Kevin was way ahead me, and surprisingly cheerful despite having bashed his ribs earlier on. He even had time to take a break and fiddle with his camera!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 106.JPG
Panoramic snap from the "direttissima", looking south to the S end of Beinn Eighe (Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe, the Carls and Sgurr Ban). Not to mention a tiny Panther buried in scree...

What a relief it was to reach the rocks in the upper section of the slope! It was still very steep and the mixture of loose rock and grass under our feet was only marginally more stable than the scree nightmare below, but we preferred the hard rock under our boots:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 111.JPG
Now up the rocks...gulp...

I was close to p***ing my pants but He Who Always Knows It All Best said he could see a nice'n'easy line of scrambling above us. Up we go!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 211.JPG
He was in such a hurry that he didn't even bother to put his camera and walking pole away!

After a few steps I realized that the ground was stable enough and the angle was not as bad as it looked like:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 214.JPG

The final section was nearly vertical but we found a shallow chimney, looking doable. Kevin went up first and scrambled up to a large flat shelf. I passed our walking poles and cameras to him then clambered myself up as well, not without effort... He grabbed my hand and helped me get onto the shelf. Of course, my knees were all battered and bruised by now, but I didn't care :lol:
From the shelf, we went up a few more meters of easy scrambling and then up some loose ground above the crags, before the ground suddenly flattened out and bang! We were on the summit plateau. I couldn't resist a big, triumphant meow!
Looking down the crags:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 113.JPG

From the time perspective, I don't want to do it again. The bottom half in particular, it was much worse than the Great Stone Chute (too many small, loose stones). Also, I wouldn't dare to recommend the "direttissima" to anybody, especially to those with no experience in scrambling. If you decide to do it, do it at your own responsibility.
We strolled casually to the summit cairn, where Lucy behaved like Mr Hickey again!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 220.JPG
My 133rd Corbett!

Views from the summit of Ruadh-stac Beag are somehow dominated by Beinn Eighe, the ridge of the latter surrounding the smaller "baby" hill like in a love-embrace. The only way to fit the whole line of BE ridge in one photo is the extra-long panorama:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 126.JPG

Coinneach Mhor and Liathach behind:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 121.JPG

Slioch and the Fisherfields:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 132.JPG

Baosbheinn, Beinn an Eoin and Beinn a'Chearcaill:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 234.JPG

Meall a' Ghiubhais and Loch Maree:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 129.JPG

For the descent, there is only one plausible option, the south side of the Corbett. All sane people (=not us!) use this side as the ascent approach as well. It is still very unstable but several scree-filled paths have been worn in the loose rock...
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 142.JPG

...and Spidean Coire nan Clach looks spectacular from this side:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 147.JPG

Panoramic snap of the eastern part of BE ridge from the bottom of the scree slope:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 149.JPG

To vary the descent, we didn't drop down to the river bed but crossed to the other side and followed the higher ground below the steep slopes of Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 257.JPG

Zoom to the notorious Black Carls of Beinn Eighe:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 251.JPG

From this side, we had a good opportunity to see and photograph the "direttissima" and...oh dear me... it looked impossible from this angle!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 260.JPG
Gulp!

Kevin couldn't believe his own eyes...
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 265.JPG
I climbed THAT???

Our line of descent took us over some rocky yet almost flat terrain to the group of lochans close to the main path:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 177.JPG
Descent route

Beinn Eighe's NE tops reflected in a small, unnamed lochan:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 182.JPG

It was another day of "hillwalking bordering on madness". Kevin paid for it with a damaged rib (most likely cracked). It kept him off the hills for three weeks. The funny thing is, he slipped and fell on relatively easy ground below the "direttissima", not during the scrambling part (I'm afraid had he slipped on the steep part, it would be more than one badly bruised rib!). He's now recovered enough to enjoy the outdoors again if in limited doses (no scrambling!). Hence my next two stories will be more benign, but hopefully, still interesting!

As for this route... Don't try it at home! Don't try in on any mountain unless you're just as mad as we are :crazy: :crazy:
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BlackPanther
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Re: Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Postby weaselmaster » Wed Oct 20, 2021 8:16 pm

Oh BP - that reminds me of the first time I went up Foinaven, also by a direct and crazy route. Having done it once, I'm happy to adhere to your advice :lol:
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Re: Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Oct 20, 2021 8:27 pm

weaselmaster wrote:Oh BP - that reminds me of the first time I went up Foinaven, also by a direct and crazy route. Having done it once, I'm happy to adhere to your advice


And you'll be wise to! :wink:
This was one of the most ridiculous ascents we have done in our career... especially that it is just a few hundred metres away from the actual path to the summit :lol: :lol:
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Re: Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Postby gld73 » Thu Oct 21, 2021 2:55 am

You've done many reports which I've used or will use as good routes to try. But though I quite like a steep ascent, I don't think I'll be replicating this route up Ruadh stac Beag :lol:
Hats off to you for doing it though!
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Re: Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Postby Mal Grey » Thu Oct 21, 2021 12:43 pm

We looked at this when we did R-s B many years back. We decided against it as looking a bit silly, even though we didn't even have canoes to carry up it :lol:

A rising diagonal to meet the normal route was bad enough!

The views of Beinn Eighe are truly spectacular from the summit.
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Re: Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Postby jmarkb » Thu Oct 21, 2021 5:04 pm

Enjoyed that! I have a feeling I did something similar the first time I was up there - maybe went up a bit further right and followed a deer track across left above the worst of the scree. The second time I stuck to the standard route!

There are a couple of good looking scrambles up the slabs on the NE nose, but I haven't tried them.

If you want an alternative route for Meall a' Ghiubhais (no scree or dodgy scrambling, I promise!), you can go the "wrong" way up the Mountain Trail to about the 520m contour, then head past Loch Bhanabhiag and keep spiralling round to approach the summit from the north - less of a grind than the normal way.

Hope Kevin's rib gets better soon - sounds sore!
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Re: Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Postby rockhopper » Fri Oct 22, 2021 12:04 am

Interesting way up right enough BP. Got me thinking back to some of my more "direct" routes - often seem to involve dropping back down a bit when things got just too steep, traversing then going up again. Perhaps unsurprisingly somewhat more frequently on the Corbetts - cheers :)
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Re: Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Postby gaffr » Fri Oct 22, 2021 8:58 am

I went by roughly this route many years back....before that I had the SMC book and before WH.
Ghiuthais first and then passing a bird watchers howff thing to start a diagonal traverse to get to onto a reasonable way onto the flat summit area of Ruadh-stac Beag through a wee slot....left a few stones heaped up so that I would find the way for descent :) A not too infrequent interesting Corbett day out. :) Not sure if I went back here that I would take the same route. :)
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Re: Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Postby BlackPanther » Sat Oct 23, 2021 5:26 pm

Many thanks for all your nice comments! :D :D :D Glad to provide some entertaining reading :wink: especially when it is so wet and windy outside! I think we all have a few stories like that, trying the direct route which proved to be a real pain in the (***) :lol:

Kevin is recovering well. Last weekend, before weather broke, we returned to the same area to climb Meall a'Ghiubhais (no fancy scrambling routes but a nice variation of the Visitor Centre approach) and he was all right, managed to carry his rucksack without complaining. He should be back to his full health for the winter season (hopefully we have one this year!!!).
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Re: Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Postby dogplodder » Tue Oct 26, 2021 8:14 pm

An enjoyable read.... but to walk it that way? Too much scree for the likes of me! :lol:
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Re: Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Oct 26, 2021 8:50 pm

dogplodder wrote:An enjoyable read.... but to walk it that way? Too much scree for the likes of me! :lol:


My sentiments entirely!! Good to read! But fun to do (apart from the scrambling at the top, of course)??

I think the route I took - from Beinn Eighe - was a bit easier :D
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Re: Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Oct 28, 2021 5:21 pm

dogplodder wrote:An enjoyable read.... but to walk it that way? Too much scree for the likes of me!


The scree was the worst of it. The upper crags were not too bad, mostly good hand- and footholds. Loose rock is what I hate most, I'm not the best "balanced" person in the world. I can trip over my own feet :sick:

This route was a bit silly, I must admit, but at least I gained much confidence in myself. If I can do this, I can surely do AE or Liathach pinnacles.

Alteknacker wrote:My sentiments entirely!! Good to read! But fun to do (apart from the scrambling at the top, of course)??

I think the route I took - from Beinn Eighe - was a bit easier


I bet you'd love the scrambling on this one, it's not technically hard, just a small matter of getting to the rocky part :lol: :lol:
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