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You don't have to be mad... but it helps!
by BlackPanther » Thu Oct 01, 2020 8:21 pm
Route description: Beinn Dearg, Torridon
Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn Dearg (Torridon)
Date walked: 27/09/2020
Time taken: 9 hours
Distance: 17.5 km
Ascent: 1125mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
We had a moment like that last Sunday on the ridge of Beinn Dearg. Kevin just looked at me with his I-Always-Know-It-Best expression and said:
"To do what we are now doing, you don't have to be mad... but it certainly helps!"
He was referring to the technical difficulty of the route we picked (most of which can be avoided of course!) rather than the time/distance of the walk. Beinn Dearg (the Torridon one) can be comfortably traversed in a single day walk. Having now done it twice I feel a bit like a Beinn Dearg expert so bear with me please if this report sounds more like bragging than telling a story
Our first encounter with BD was in September 2014 when we spent 8.5 hours traversing this Corbett. Back then we called it "that F*** Corbett behind Liathach" where the F word could be: fantastic, fascinating or fabulous, but also frightening, frustrating or even ferocious, in the sense that it seems cruel, wild, untamed. In my head, some mountains have gender (I don't know why, some just feel like they are male or female) and Beinn Dearg is definitely MALE. And the worst kind of male: a brute. He makes you sweat and swear when you attack the traverse. It's more like He attacks You. He's a nasty piece of work, the Red Mountain. A hill born BAD.
So having done it once, why would we want to go back, you might ask. Why face the brute again if there are so many much gentler hills nearby? Beinn Alligin, despite the easy scrambling on the Horns, is a sweet gentle girl compare to Beinn Dearg. Baosbheinn and Beinn an Eun are just a bit longer walking expeditions but no scrambling required, just nice ridges with superb views. Beinn Eighe has a bunch of routes and most are easier than BD. Apart from Liathach and it's pinnacles, nothing else in Torridon area compares to this F*** Corbett!!! Yet we still went back. Why??? I don't know. Kevin is right - we ARE mad
WH route goes up the western end of the hill and then returns the same way. This is the only way to avoid the steep wall on the eastern side, traversing which involves scrambling down several chimneys, not easy in descent. I remember that Malcolm and Jackie reversed the route and went up the steep wall, which makes more sense as the vertical sections have good foot-and handholds so are much easier when tackled in ascent. But of course, we are totally bananas, so we went against the logic (my inner Mr Spock must be on quarantine, as he didn't warn me ). Ended up spending 9 hours scrambling all over the F*** Corbett but hey, it was probably the best day we had on the hills since the covid crisis started!
The car park for Beinn Alligin is not a big one and we witnessed the previous weekend, how busy Torridon is these days, so we were up early to get to the starting point early enough and find a parking spot before the Alligin climbers arrive. We were in such a hurry packing up, that Kevin forgot his camera. So today's photos were all done with my compact Canon IXUS 185 and Kevin's mobile phone - apologies if quality of some of them is not as good as in my other reports.
Facing the menace: Black Panther on the bridge over Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil:
Weather was good today: low winds and sunny, with some high cloud expected in the afternoon. We hoped for good views from higher ground. Last time, we saw very little from the ridge of Beinn Dearg due to horrendous haze, maybe the second time lucky?
Near the second bridge, with the F*** Corbett in the background. Notice my hat and gloves - the morning was very cold!
The path is very good as long as it aims for the Horns of Alligin. As soon as we took the right branch aiming between Alligin and Beinn Dearg, it deteriorated into a mixture of bog-and rock-hopping. I studied the north side of the Horns, looking for a potential alternative route up, maybe we could try something up this side:
Crossing Allt a' Bhealaich didn't prove difficult...
...but what lay beneath, only time would tell:
Actually, we knew exactly what lay in front of us as we had been here before and in similar conditions/time of year, so the rocky, brutally steep western end of Beinn Dearg didn't scare us, quite the opposite - we were ready for the challenge!
The easiest line of ascent it up the shallow gully in the middle of the photo, this avoids all difficulties, but it is very wet and slippery in places. We preferred to go up the left-hand side, where some interesting rock formations provided good opportunities for scrambling.
Initially, it's just steep with lots of small, wobbly stones:
...but after the first 100m, it gets serious!
A little pano from Kevin's phone, showing Bein Alligin, Baosbheinn and Beinn an Eun:
For the next couple of hundred meters, we picked as hard a line as possible, just trying to make it difficult for ourselves. A couple of times we had to climb back a few steps, if rocks were unstable or the ground too slippery, but generally we made good progress.
Looking down (gulp!) with the northern side of the Horns in the background:
We were close to the easier section in the middle of the slope and I was scrambling up a small obstacle, when I felt the rock under my foot giving away. My other foot was in the air and the only foothold I could spot was at the height of my knee, so to save myself, I wedged my knee into that hold before my other leg lost its footing entirely. Thankfully, I had good handholds for both hands so I stayed in place, kneeling in a strange position for a few seconds, before I found a stable step with my other foot. I clambered up the rest of the wall and little did I realize, that the next day I'd have a nice, purple bruise on my knee. Funny, it didn't even hurt, just the pressure put on the soft tissue caused it to bruise.
Puffing out the adrenaline on the upper slopes of Beinn Dearg:
The upper half of the steep slope is slightly easier and yes, there is a path! Not many people face the F*** Corbett, but it must be more popular now, if a path has appeared. We didn't follow it exactly, because we spotted more scrambling opportunities:
The path is very eroded anyway and would be a huge knee-jerker in descent - one reason why Kevin prefers to go up this side!
The final bit of rock-hopping before getting to a flatter section:
At about 750m, the ridge evens out, before the final 100m of ascent to the western top, Stuc Loch na Cabhaig. But before the last effort to reach the western top, we stopped for a short breather - and a photo session!
"You don't have to be mad to climb Beinn Dearg - but it certainly helps!"
The last 100m to Stuc Loch na Cabhaig now looked benign, but one can make it as easy or as hard as they wish:
The Cuillin ridge:
Baosbheinn and the two lochs: Loch a'Bhealaich and Loch na h-Oidhche:
The Horns of Alligin:
A couple of panoramas:
I was so glad we got better views this time, as they are sensational, especially back to Beinn Alligin. And we knew the best was yet to come in the shape of the eastern vistas including Liathach and Beinn Eighe.
But before that, Panther smelled another chance for easy scrambling!
An obvious path traverses below the crest but I didn't use it at all, just wanted more fun with giant lego blocks!
Arriving on the summit of Stuc Loch na Cabhaig was like a revelation... So much more to see and photograph! The top was cold but we were so pumped up with adrenaline that we didn't notice it first.
Posing with Beinn Eighe behind me:
Lucy - the only debutante on Beinn Dearg:
360 degrees pano:
The rest of the ridge to walk plus Liathach:
The high cloud combined with a slight haze created a strange "misty" effect on more distant hills:
A small outlying top if you fancy posing in an awkward spot:
We are mad, mad people...On a bad, bad mountain...
After a quick refreshment break (we noticed the cold breeze eventually!) we carried on to the main summit of Beinn Dearg. This requires dropping about 70m to a bealach, then re-ascending up a rocky slope to the 914m top. There is an obvious path all the way, a few rocky steps en route but nothing too technical:
On the way up to the summit I had more fun with giant lego block, trying to avoid the path all and pick a more ambitious line of approach:
This is the kind of terrain you will encounter everywhere on Beinn Dearg: lots of red sandstone, very grippy for scrambling but also knee-bruising if you're not careful. I was far from careful
Looking back at the western top:
View south with the Cuillin ridge to the right and Beinn Damph to the left:
Just below the summit, the path skirts around a small rocky tower, we went straight up the rocks (easy scramble) which felt safer than an exposed bypass. On the summit plateau, we found several pancake-like structures, so similar to those we had seen on Ben More Coigach:
Summit cairn in sight!
by BlackPanther » Thu Oct 01, 2020 9:21 pm
Beinn Eighe and the secretive Loch Choire a'Mhoir:
Liathach in its full glory:
Kevin doesn't want to go home...
The "fake sunset" effect over the Cuillin:
We spent some time on the summit as it was only 2pm, we had plenty of time to enjoy the views, at least we had seen them this time!
It's such a weird feeling every time we reach the top of a less popular Corbett/Graham and we are the only walkers on the mountain, whereas a Munro next to it is buzzing with people. Our second visit to Beinn Dearg - and the second time NOBODY on the ridge but us. At the same time, we spotted countless moving tiny figures on the ridges of Alligin, Liathach and Eighe. Want some solitude? Come to the F***Corbett! You might bruise your knees but you will most likely have the mountain to yourself!
Of course, we knew that the traverse was not over just yet. We still had to tackle the most difficult part of it, the eastern tower. From above, it doesn't look too bad but this is misleading:
On closer inspection, the western side of the tower has some scrambling potential, but it's all avoidable if necessary:
...not that we wanted to avoid anything to be honest
Looking back at the summit from the top of the tower:
I remembered that the descent on the other side included three tricky chimneys so rushed forward to assess the first one from above...
...and decided to go for it, not waiting for Kevin, which turned out to be a small mistake. I started down the chimney, but about half way down I felt that I couldn't move further down. My rucksack got stuck!
Kevin appeared above me and asked what was wrong. I spat out a few F words (very appropriate on the F*** Corbett ) and tried to turn around to face the rock. I couldn't do that, either. I had to wriggle my body back up the chimney, frustrated and angry.
"Why the hell can't I do it? I did it previously and had no issue with this chimney!"
"It's the rucksack, it just doesn't fit. Take it off, you'll see the difference."
He Who Always Knows Best was right (as he always is! ) and I ended up removing the sack and attacking the chimney again, this time without the extra weight on my back, I had no problem turning around to face the rock. The scramble is nearly vertical below the chimney, but good foot- and handholds help a lot.
For the rest of the day, Kevin kept joking, that I wouldn't make a good Santa - I had no idea how to come down the chimney with my sack on
Not a Santa:
After the first hard pitch, the second chimney was a big disappointment, I hardly noticed it at all:
The third one was a bit more technical but less vertical that the top one. No need to remove my rucksack here:
The bottom chimney from below, from this perspective it looks more like a tower:
This photo, taken at the bottom of the tower, shows the position of all three chimneys. They would indeed be easier when tackled in ascent. The top one is the toughest and is definitely easier without the rucksack (which may be a problem for a solo walker as there's nobody to pass the rucksack to):
The previous time, we headed down straight after descending the tower, but today we had more time and weather was better, so we decided to prolong the walk by heading for the outlying top, Carn na Feola. But first, I had to pose for that "veni, vidi, vici, meow!" photo, this time saying "Look what I just climbed!"
Carn na Feola requires 100m of extra ascent, but it's all on relatively easy ground compare to what we had just experienced:
It didn't take us long to reach the extra top. Kevin was angry he didn't take his better camera so he used his phone:
The main ridge of Beinn Dearg looks monstrous from this angle:
A few panoramic snaps from the top of Carn na Feola:
The outlying top is situated close to Coire Mhic Fhearchair, but from this angle, The Triple Buttress is hidden behind Sail Mhor:
Liathach from Carn na Feola:
After a lengthy break on the last of the tops and enjoying the views once more, we headed down to Coire Mhic Nobuil. We had a vague memory of descending some very tricky, steep and overgrown ground the previous time, so after consulting the map, we took a large zig-zag, eventually picking easier, grassy (if a bit wet) ground on the slopes directly below Carn na Feola. Liathach loomed above us:
The final stage was on a good path, we could now relax and have a chat (mostly about what's for dinner ) on the way back to the car park. We also noticed that this side of Liathach was not as steep as we had originally thought. I think an idea for another Torridon route was born!
Back on the path:
I'm not sure if what we did last Sunday was true mountain madness or just "a bit extravagant" hillwalking, but one I can say for sure. Beinn Dearg is not a hill for the weak hearted. He will make you sweat and swear. But despite all the roughness, there is hidden beauty behind this brutal facade. To come here and discover this hidden charm was a true privilege. Thank you, Red Mountain, for an unforgettable adventure.
by Sgurr » Thu Oct 01, 2020 9:56 pm
Lovely views and great trip.
by BlackPanther » Sun Oct 04, 2020 11:35 am
Sgurr wrote:We went up and back down the easier route that you noticed at the end (I think). It's in the Cicerone Guide for Torridon whose author, Peter Barton, always comes up with an easy way as well as a more challenging one. Husband had a cutting in his pocket which outlined a route up from Cameron McNeish claiming that his is "the only safe way" up the front, which husband managed to loose, which may account for the eroded path if C. McN has distributed it more widely than a newspaper article.
I had done some research about the "backdoor" route to Mullach an Rathan. I found 3 reports on WH describing this way - up and down from the Alligin car park. Also, the western route is mentioned in "The High Mountains of Britain and Ireland" by Irvine Butterfield. My final idea for this route:
New_Route(1).gpx Open full screen NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts
6.5 miles, 1000m of ascent, naismith is 3.5 hours.
We are definitely going for it, just hoping for good weather later in October! (as if Beinn Dearg wasn't enough )
by dogplodder » Sun Oct 04, 2020 11:38 am
by weaselmaster » Mon Oct 05, 2020 7:04 pm
by Huff_n_Puff » Thu Oct 08, 2020 5:42 pm
I'm up for it if I can do it Lucy's way