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When we battled the wind and time stood still

When we battled the wind and time stood still


Postby dogplodder » Sun Nov 22, 2020 4:06 pm

Route description: Beinn a'Bheithir

Munros included on this walk: Sgòrr Dhearg (Beinn a' Bheithir), Sgòrr Dhònuill (Beinn a' Bheithir)

Date walked: 26/09/2020

Distance: 12.5 km

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The first time I felt an urge to climb Beinn a' Bheithir was in 2013 when I saw it from Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. Being so close to Ballachulish it looked easily accessible and I liked the idea of the ridge walk between the two peaks. But when I checked the route on WH there seemed to be an issue with forestry work wiping out the normal descent.

Beinn a' Bheithir
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So it went on the back burner as "something to be done, but not yet" and stayed there for the next six years. I thought about it again in 2019 when I saw its outline from Beinn Fhionnlaidh and looked for a recent report from anyone using the forest descent. There was none.

Beinn a Bheithir from Beinn Fhionnlaidh
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The tipping point came when Donnie Campbell used the forest approach both up and down and I knew he would go for the most energy efficient route. If it was good enough for a guy in running shoes it was good enough for me! Ian and Julie were up for it too and the plan was made to meet in Fort William and drive together to the parking in Glenachulish forest (to make sure we ended up in the same place!). It being a Saturday and an excellent forecast I wondered if the parking would be busy but there was only one other car when we arrived.

We started off on a forestry track, passed a small hydro building, over a bridge and up to a junction and a path going off on the other side which we followed. At one point a sign indicated to go right for Sgorr Dhonuill but we didn't take that as we wanted to go to the bealach and turn right from there.

Well made path through forest
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When we emerged from the tree line we were met by a swathe of felled hillside and a clear sighting of our first target Sgorr Dhonuill. The reasoning behind doing it first was to do with the direction of the sun. In the morning it would be from the east so better for looking west and by the time we were on Sgorr Dhearg looking east it would be behind us again.

Coire a' Chaolais and Sgorr Dhonuill
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It wasn't as messy as it might have been as a path had been constructed through the felled area. Apart from that it could have been difficult.

Helpful path
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Once clear of sticks and stumps the path went through a gate and followed an old fence line. It was wet in places and steepened as it neared the bealach at 757m, which after a bit of a slog seemed to be reached quite suddenly. I looked at my watch and was pleased to see it was 9.50 meaning I hadn't slowed the others down as much as I thought I had!

View back to forest which now looked a long way off
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As you do when you reach a bealach after a steep climb we had a break before setting off again uphill on a path over grass. We met a couple of women coming down who were concerned they had spent too long at the top and I reassured them they were fine for time - it was only 10.15. They seemed surprised to hear that and it was only later I found out why.

Sgorr Dhonuill's summit cone
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View west from steep side of Sgorr Dhonuill
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View east
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Zoomed north to Ballachuilish bridge
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Not for vertigo sufferers
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In the forest and the corrie we had been sheltered from the wind but now we were in it's full blast. It was coming from the north, which meant it was cold but at least it was blowing away from the drop to our right. It slowed us down and a couple of times the gusts were so strong I had to plant my poles to stay upright. Not ideal for where it was exposed.

The path
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Almost there
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I knew we were looking for a 'nick' and a bit of a scramble so put the poles away to have hands free. I expected it to be more of a thing but when it came it was just a step in the rock that needed a brief hands on and heave up. I think it was only the exposure that made it worth mentioning. Once up that it wasn't far to the summit.

At the first summit
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Sgorr Dhonuill summit cairn with its hat on
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I looked at my watch and it was 11.10. I said to the others it was a bit early for lunch but this seemed the natural place to have it once we found some shelter from the wind. Julie then suggested my timing was a bit adrift. She made it about an hour later than I did and so did Ian. The strange thing was my watch has always kept perfect time but for the rest of that day it ran an hour late. I assumed the battery needed changing but the next day it was working fine and has kept correct time ever since. What that was about I've no idea except that for an hour that day time really did stand still.

We walked west from the summit and were treated to lovely if slightly cloudy views over Loch Linnhe to Mull and Morven.

SW to Mull and Morven
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The bridge and Ben Nevis
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Ben Nevis and the Mamores
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We weren't so battered by the wind here so found a place to sit. I hadn't brought Keira with me as a few days earlier she'd been limping and an energetic day didn't seem a good idea. Given the strong wind and the rockiness of the terrain I think that was a wise decision.

Good rocks to sit on
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After lunch and a wander round we headed back to the summit cairn and down towards the nick. I wondered if getting down it would be more tricky than up, but it was fine. After that I found the poles useful for steadying balance against unpredicatable wind gusts among the boulders.

Start of the descent (Ian's pic)
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Through the boulders
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Heading for Sgorr Dhearg
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In her element
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The hill was busy with folk going up who'd already done Sgorr Dhearg and lots of standing out of the way to let each other pass. A fair bit of chatting too in a socially distanced kind of way, although with such a strong wind I doubt that 2 meters would have made much difference.

Sgorr Dhonuill from foot of Sgorr Dhearg
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Sgorr Dhonuill's north ridge
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Sgorr Dhearg water feature
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The path up Sgorr Dhearg starts over grassy ground and then on to boulders and scree. It's not difficult, just a steady plod. But I found it more tiring than I would have done in pre-covid days, making me wonder if the covid type illness I had in March had affected me more than I thought. After a long battle with ME I'm pretty familiar with the after effects of viral illness. Of course it may just be the creeping effects of old age!

NW to Ardgour
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Zoomed to Lochs Linnhe and Leven and the Corran ferry
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Julie and me at the slightly odd Sgorr Dhearg summit cairn
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Julie and Ian at same
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I've seen photos of this summit with a normal conical shaped cairn of stones. That now seems to have been dismantled and all that is left is a rock that looks more like a lump of concrete.

Sgorr Bhan ridge with Loch Leven and Mamores beyond
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Pap of Glencoe and village of Glencoe
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Sgorr Dhearg's north ridge
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Peaks of Glencoe
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Zoomed to Bidean nam Bian
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Zoomed to Aonach Eagach
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Sgorr Dhonuill and distant Mull from start of descent off Sgorr Dhearg
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Sgorr Dhonuill and bealach (Ian's pic)
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The path through the corrie seemed wetter than it had in the morning but that's possibly down to us being more likely to slip on the descent. I think we all got wet backsides at least once. As we approached the felled area we met a young woman who asked if she could tag along. She had just climbed Sgorr Dhonuill without meaning to! She was a local who had come out for a walk and had followed the forest path to see where it would take her.... and had somehow ended up climbing her first Munro. She didn't have a map or waterproofs or food (so not to be recommended) but had enjoyed her day and hoped it wouldn't be her last. We told her about a useful hillwalking site (no prizes for guessing which) and when we parted wished her well.

Path through felled area
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We also met a couple who had climbed Sgorr Dhearg directly from the village and said that path was easier than the one through the corrie, so were glad they hadn't had to do it twice as we had. Not having done the climb straight up from the village I can't comment on that, but at least we didn't have a road walk back to our cars.

Path through forest
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We discussed going for food in Fort William but the thought of driving home in daylight was a stronger pull, although we did need sun glasses and visor to drive into the low sun and west coast sunset we encountered on the way. What a day it had been and so satisfying to have climbed this beautiful duo that had for so long eluded me.

These are sensitive times so I should add that two of the three of us are in a household bubble so we were okay with the 2 households rule for meeting up (although that has just changed to 3 households in tier 1). It's hard to keep up!
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dogplodder
 
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Re: When we battled the wind and time stood still

Postby dogplodder » Thu Nov 26, 2020 3:22 pm

Sunset over Ardgour
Sunset over Ardgour.JPG


Just realised this is my 300th WH report. :shock:

How many hours did that take? Reckon I need to get out more. :lol:
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Re: When we battled the wind and time stood still

Postby Anne C » Fri Nov 27, 2020 5:13 pm

Well I'm delighted you've written so many dogplodder as I always read your reports on a hill before doing it! They are excellent and detailed and always enjoyable to read.Keep it up - please! :clap: Time very well spent IMO :D
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Anne C
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Re: When we battled the wind and time stood still

Postby dogplodder » Mon Nov 30, 2020 6:59 pm

Anne C wrote:Well I'm delighted you've written so many dogplodder as I always read your reports on a hill before doing it! They are excellent and detailed and always enjoyable to read.Keep it up - please! :clap: Time very well spent IMO :D


You're too kind Anne.... but thanks for the encouragement. :D
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Re: When we battled the wind and time stood still

Postby Hills4dogs » Thu Dec 17, 2020 2:51 pm

Anne C wrote:Well I'm delighted you've written so many dogplodder as I always read your reports on a hill before doing it! They are excellent and detailed and always enjoyable to read.Keep it up - please! :clap: Time very well spent IMO :D



Me too - I always look out for yours, especially to see if the dogs have gone with you and are therefore "dog approved/suitable hills"
Hills4dogs
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Re: When we battled the wind and time stood still

Postby dogplodder » Tue Dec 22, 2020 10:47 am

Hills4dogs wrote:
Me too - I always look out for yours, especially to see if the dogs have gone with you and are therefore "dog approved/suitable hills"


I didn't have Keira with me the day we did this as she'd been limping but we did meet a few dogs - all on leads which I imagine was a precaution against the strong wind and exposure. 8)
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Re: When we battled the wind and time stood still

Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Wed Dec 23, 2020 2:17 pm

Anne C wrote:Well I'm delighted you've written so many dogplodder as I always read your reports on a hill before doing it! They are excellent and detailed and always enjoyable to read.Keep it up - please! :clap: Time very well spent IMO :D


Me too! Please keep 'em coming. I was particularly interested in this, because it's on my radar too. And ooh yes, I did feel vertiginous and admiring :D ! Great pictures, thank you.
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Location: was West Sussex, now Ayrshire

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