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Me and my mountain
by BlackPanther » Thu Sep 24, 2020 5:26 pm
Munros included on this walk: Spidean Coire nan Clach (Beinn Eighe)
Date walked: 19/09/2020
Time taken: 8.5 hours
Distance: 18.4 km
Ascent: 1238m3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Our planned route starts from a small car park near Cromasaig Cottage (space for 4-5 cars) and follows the glen of Allt na Chuirn and climbs up the eastern slopes of Creag Dhubh, then follows the ridge over two more tops to Spidean Coire nan Clach, finally descending into Coire an Laoigh and returning to the car by following A896 in Glen Torridon:
Having been to Beinn Eighe so many times, it always feels like homecoming... I have a special spot in my heart for this mountain. It's where my hillwalking career started, where the first steps were taken...
"I've been looking all my life
Waiting for the perfect time
Never knew that I would find it
Right back where I started from
Why'd I have to go so far
When everything was where you are
How'd I know that you be waiting
Right back where I started from
Who can tell ya where the rivers flowin'
Just ride the wave - let it take ya down
All the twists and turns I navigated
It's so frustratin' you were there all the time"
Bryan Adams "Right Back Where I Started From"
And there she is... always waiting for us. This picture actually shows the ascent route and the ridge from Creag Dhubh to Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe:
There's a good network of paths, a part of Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. We walked back along the road for a short distance and started on a track which soon shrinks to a path. Past some woodland, we reached a little viewpoint (marked with a wooden sign). From here, the path enters the glen of Allt na Chuirn. Walking was easy and we passed some lovely old pines en route:
The first obstacle that some might find difficult is a burn-crossing located in a small ravine:
The best way to tackle this is just follow the faint path down the overgrown slopes. Warning: it's slippery and eroded!
When inside the ravine, Kevin smelled his first scrambling opportunity (there is an easier way out of the ravine, but he just wanted to show off!).
Kevin's way up:
Once out of the gorge, the path was obvious and following a nice ridge, with fantastic views around!
This is where we're going!
After about 150m of ascent on the path, the shoulder flattened for a short time and while walking, we studied the white quartzite face looming over us, trying to work out how to tackle it. Soon we noticed that the path continues up in zig zags, avoiding all difficulties:
One can practice scrambling even here, but we preferred to leave the four-paws experience for later and stick to the well-worn route for the time being:
Looking down the shoulder:
At some point Kevin noticed that the hills behind us were half-hidden in cloud. Fantastic partial inversion!
Strathconnon Corbetts (Sgurr a' Mhuilinn and Meallan nan Uan) emerging from the mist:
Panther studying the slopes for the best route
The path higher up is less obvious. The ground looked easy enough so we just aimed at the ridge line above us and went for it. Soon we discovered that we took the wrong line - we were on loose scree and for every two steps up, we were taking one down. As a result, 10 minutes later we didn't gain much height
It was a relief to reach more stable ground eventually:
Once back on the crest, we found the path again and from now on, it was fantastic ridge walking!
Slioch and Beinn a'Mhuinidh:
More cloud inversion:
The higher we were, the whiter the world around us. This side of Beinn Eighe is built almost exclusively of quartzite:
Once on the first summit, which is marked with a sizeable cairn, we decided to take a break and spent some time photographing the views. As it was my first time on Creag Dhubh, I was gobsmacked by the fantastic panorama of the rest of Beinn Eighe ridge:
Lucy was bewildered, too. She preferred the cloud inversion though
Looking north to Meall a'Ghiubhais, the birthday boy in the foreground
A small herd of deer in the glen:
Kevin was an eager beaver today and couldn't wait to get to the Carls. He had done this ridge before but in the mist, so paraphrasing a well known proverb, no views no glory This time he wanted the full experience!
Just amazing. Beinn Eighe is a complicated ridge but that gives walkers so many variations in routes, that no one could possibly get bored here!
Zoom to Stob Ban, the middle top of the eastern ridge:
Me and my mountain! Despite this brave pose, I was a bit reluctant to approach the Carls. I was entering an unknown territory so wasn't really sure what to expect. Despite Kevin saying "it's just a rocky ridge, I can't remember anything difficult about it!"
There's no way to hide the fact that the pinnacles are exposed. Scrambling is generally easy but very airy in places. As long as you have good head for heights, you will enjoy it.
The first "wall" can be skirted to the right hand side but we preferred to go over the pinnacle. Kevin went first and sniffed the best route
I approached the first pinnacle cautiously but soon discovered it was easy enough even for a scared cat. As long as the rock is dry (quartzite is a nightmare to even walk on when wet):
The exposure is significant especially if one sticks to the crest of the ridge. This photo was taken on the easier ground between two pinnacles:
There's more to come!
Looking down the vertical cliffs into the northern corrie, with Stob Ban in the background. When traversing on loose scree I was more concerned about losing my balance on wobbly stones than about the drop itself, which in my case is a HUGE leap forward. In the past, looking down the big drops made me feel sick. Now it makes me more careful. I might never reach a high level of scrambling abilities, but I'm coping with exposure. That's a good sign!
Heading for the next scrambling section. We climbed the middle part of the wall:
The most annoying thing about the Carls is the amount of loose scree below the rocky sections. This is actually more dangerous than the scrambling itself. Watch your feet, Panther!
On top of the second scramble with views down to Toll Ban corrie behind me:
Looking back along the eastern ridge to Creag Dhubh:
Panoramic view of Toll Ban corrie with the Corbett Ruadh-stac Beag in the middle and Stob Ban to the left. The Corbett is due a second visit - it's another fantastic hill with many opportunities for scrambling!
But back to our current position, even though we had climbed over the most exposed parts, we were still far from the end of interesting sections...
There are bypass paths further on, which can be used if one doesn't fancy the steeper scrambling sections. Kevin investigated one of them and found it very unnerving:
Eventually, the four-paws experience was over and we found ourselves near the summit of Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe, panting and sweating but very happy indeed!
Birthday boy on Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe, he admitted that "the Black Carls were actually harder than he had remembered". Just as well he didn't remember the exposure or I'd never have the courage to do them!
by BlackPanther » Thu Sep 24, 2020 6:36 pm
Panorama of Beinn Eighe ridge from Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe:
Loch Coulin and Loch Clair from above:
The descent path from Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe is annoying: lots of loose scree and wobbly stones, so we took our time to avoid a slip. After doing so well on the Carls it would be a dishonour to go A over T on much easier ground
I tried to stick to solid rock rather than taking my chances on scree...
Looking south to Sgurr Dubh (left) and Seana Mheallan (right), with the Achnashellach Munros behind:
The world of vertical drops and pinnacles...
Panoramic snap from the col between Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe and Sgurr Ban, with Loch an Thuil Bhain in the middle and Ruadh-stac Beag above it:
The way up Sgurr Ban looked much easier than our earlier experience on the ridge:
As we stopped on the col to take photos, we were passed by a young bloke with a very large rucksack. I assumed it was his overnighting kit, but later it turned out, he was carrying a paraglider
A quick glimpse back to Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe and the Carls:
And a panoramic version:
We reached the summit of Sgurr Ban without any problems and had a longer break here. It was time to catch the last moments of summer on camera, make plans for shorter autumn days (if we don't go into lockdown again and are restricted to Beauly hills). Lucy admired Ruadh-stac Beag - she hasn't done it yet...
Ruadh-stac Mor from Sgurr Ban:
Me and my mountain yet again! I have now officially climbed all Beinn Eighe's tops!
Slioch from Sgurr Ban:
From Sgurr Ban it is only a short traverse to the lower Munro on Beinn Eighe ridge, Spidean Coire nan Clach. The ground is rocky and eroded in places, but the experience is no more difficult than the CMD arete, which this part of Beinn Eighe resembles:
As we approached the summit, we noticed the paraglider taking off from the Munro summit:
There is one scramble-ish section where one can have some fun on the rocky crest but for me it was over too quickly...
After all the exposure on the Black Carls, this little rocky crest was nothing, but in wet weather any part of this ridge could be lethal. Quartzite is so slippery when wet!
Panoramic snap of the eastern ridge of Beinn Eighe: not for beginners but not too drastically technical either
On the summit of Spidean Coire nan Clach, with Ruadh-stac Beag and the Fisherfields in the background:
We didn't spent much time on the Munro, there were people everywhere. We knew, once we reach the most popular part of the ridge (the western summits traverse), it will be busy. Kevin caught a moment when I was alone in the photo frame and took this snap to "me and my mountain" album:
We noticed that some of the cloud inversion was still present to the west of us, over Isle of Skye for example:
The classic pano of Beinn Eighe ridge with Liathach behind. One more reason why I love this mountain. It never ceases to amaze me...
Birthday boy was in perfect mood today. No moaning about sore knees or no energy after secretly eating dairy. Was it Beinn Eighe's magic?...
I remember that when I climbed the classic western summits route for the first time 10 years ago, I found Spidean Coire nan Clach very airy and exposed, now it was rocky top like any other. It still looks impressive in the pictures though:
The ridge descending from Spidean Coire nan Clach has one scrambling section, very easy in dry conditions, the rest is just walking on scree:
The trig point is situated about 80m below the summit:
We didn't plan to do any more tops today though we had time, but any longer walk would leave us in an awkward spot to return to the car, so we did as planned, descended from the trig point to the large cairn marking the start of the Coire an Laoigh path. This is the only part of Beinn Eighe I don't like, the upper reaches of this path are badly eroded and it gets worse and worse every time we visit the hill. Well, it's easy to understand why - it is such a popular route.
Lower down the path is nicely made. we didn't push it too fast, just enjoying the last moments spent in Beinn Eighe's company...
Finally, we walked back along the glen to the car. The road was very busy, I have never seen it so busy before. Torridon was full of tourists, campervans, cars, motorcyclists... We were lucky to pick the less popular part of the ridge, where we didn't have to cue for the summit I think we were the only people to traverse the Carls today, which just makes it more special. Another unforgettable day on an extraordinary mountain.
by Phil the Hill » Fri Sep 25, 2020 12:57 pm
by Jaxter » Fri Sep 25, 2020 1:40 pm
Happy Birthday Kevin!
by Alteknacker » Fri Sep 25, 2020 2:56 pm
I approached the start (Creag Dhubh) in May 2014 on exactly the same route as you, and then once on the top, had one of the best ridge walks of my life. It could only have been bettered by having the weather you enjoyed!
Many happy returns to Kevin on his 21st...
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