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Bidean nam Bian & Buachallie Etive Berg via Beinn Fhada
by Verylatestarter » Sat Dec 12, 2020 8:53 pm
Route description: Bidean nam Bian
Munros included on this walk: Bidean nam Bian, Stob Coire Sgreamhach
Date walked: 31/08/2020
Time taken: 12 hours
Distance: 13 km
Ascent: 1916m4 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).
We arrived in Glencoe Saturday afternoon, having driven up from Norfolk, and immediately headed towards Glen Etive as a reconnaissance for the walk the next day. The Glen was packed with tents, a lot more than last year, clearly a reaction to the lack of accommodation. We parked and walked up from Dalness to the end of the Little Bookle to view three of the ridges we would be walking on next day. We passed a group of lads playing in the Lairig Eilde a somewhat hazardous activity given the steps in the stream bed. I then mistakenly misdirected a couple of walkers who had just come off the South end of the Big Bookle, up the wrong path back to the A82 car parks, only later realising I had done so when we tried the same path they should have gone on; luckily we never saw them again, maybe they are still out there. My apologies if they read this.
The Sunday morning was almost windless, with high cloud cover. We parked at the layby on the Coe bridge and set off across pathless soggy country towards the Lairig Eilde path, which we picked up after about 10 minutes, thinking the path split and re-joined we took the left-hand path that turned out to be the route up the Little Bookle. Once high enough to realise our mistake, we set off across the bog to the correct stream crossing; we probably lost about half an hour. The intended route was to pick up the East slope of the Beinn Fhada ridge, and then South along to Stob Coire Sgreamhach. The East slope of the BFR is alternating bands of rock and steep grass with no discernible footpaths, having read enough walk reports and the Circconne guide we knew there was a way up, albeit with effort. After zig zagging through the rock bands we made the ridge next to the small prominence indicated as height 811 on the OS maps.
The ridge was a welcome sight after the ascent, broad, grassy and relatively level with a nice taper and rise up to SCS. A little bit of scrambling over Beinn Fhada at 931m bought us to the bealach at 876m between it and SNS and the ‘bad step’, a wall that was unclimbable by me. There is an obvious by-pass to the East side and the guides say go for about 30m then up back on yourself. We must have gone too far as we ended up scrambling up a muddy/grassy chute; I never have confidence in relying on soil and grass instead of rock, but we made it onto the solid platform at the top. Looking round, there we no obviously marked alternate routes, so maybe we took the correct one. I would not recommend the route we took going the other way as the steep slope would be unstable and there were few holds.
I am reliably informed that we went too far along the bypass path and should have turned up a rocky groove with good holds (see Circerone guide pg 199 & 200). Thanks to jmarkb for the correction.
The route up to SNS was rocky with some scrambling and we were alerted to what was to come by a drone buzzing around. Having seen no-one else (I wonder why?) on our route there seemed to be crowds on the peak; the highest point being occupied by a group of Poles, waving their national flag and taking group photos; having been to The High Tatras I had previously noted the poles tendency to form a human pyramid on high peaks. Not wanting to disrupt their fun we carried on through heading down the West slope towards Bidean nam Bian. There was a fair amount of cloud clinging to the South face of the East-West ridge obscuring any views Southward.
The route down was (unsurprisingly) rocky and fairly busy; at the Bealach Dearg was the red chute, the exit off the ridge for WH route, there were a number of people dithering about the best way to get down it. Fortunately, we did not have to worry about it as we were heading for the second Munro of the day, BnB. A series of false summits lead to the rocky Munro summit, which was in cloud; there were walkers all over the nearby hills. Lunch on BnB, which was more spacious than SCS, took about ½ hour and we then set off East again, retracing our steps up to SCS and our fourth summit of the day. By this time the cloud was rolling over the ridge from the South and visibility reduced. It was surprisingly quiet on the summit and from there to the end of the day we only encountered two more walkers.
We headed off the summit South eastwards keeping away from the precipices (Sron na Lairig) that face Lairig Eilde for some way down; the slope was fairly easy being patches of grass and rubble. Ahead of us we could see the wide bealach, with a red band of rock, at 750m and a rise to point 778m (on the OS map), which we were headed for. The plan was to come off the hill at the bealach and angle Northwards through the rocky bands and gullies and pick up the valley path as high as possible. There was no clear route, but we aimed for a ford over one of the streams. Noting the area between that and the main path as obviously marshy we swung Eastwards along the 500m contour and picked up the path close to where it crossed the stream. After about 150m along the path we crossed the steam at an accessible point where the banks were less steep and proceeded along the 400m contour on the South slope of theLittle Bookle aiming for just below a rocky outcrop.
The contour traverse was somewhat gruelling, and I split my right boot with the constant pressure on my right side. We started to ease up the slope past the outcrop and turned up the hip of the hill where there was a vague path. Feeling very tired and with the glass slope seeming going on forever we stopped at a large flat rock about ½ way up. The grass gradually gave way to boulder scree and after that the summit came up surprisingly quickly, having to work through the unstable scree must have kept us distracted. The low cloud had cleared and the views from Stob Dubh at 958m were wonderful, especially down into Glen Etive. We proceeded along the ridge NE debating whether to tackle the second Munro. The ridge seemed to go on for a long way (so much for the Little Bookle) and by the time we got to the Bealach at 750m we surmised that we had insufficient time to complete Stob Coire Raineach and have dinner at the Clacaig. Not for the first time did we sacrifice achievement for a good meal and not until the last day of our visit, did we get back on plan.
The path down to and along the Lairig Eilde was superb, brought us out on the A82 just up from the layby. The whole walk took just over 12 hours. If we hadn’t lost time early on and dithered a bit on the first two peaks we would have made the last one but we were well pleased with having achieved our hardest day in the hills so far, unscathed (except for the boot that is). On the other hand, I am unlikely to return to these peaks so a bit of dithering, and lots of photos, can be justified.
- BF ridge from the bealach
by jmarkb » Sun Dec 13, 2020 10:30 am
I have made the same mistake on the Beinn Fhada scramble - the guidebooks are correct, though, you do need to cut hard back on yourself a short way beyond the wall, up a sort of chimney/groove, but it is not marked or obvious! Unusually, it's easier to find the right line in descent. And, yes, those are footpaths on Gearr Aonach, it's the line of The Zigzags (another good scrambly route).
by Verylatestarter » Sun Dec 13, 2020 6:40 pm
So we went too far along the path. I might add a comment in my report; i'd rather not direct people the wrong way.
It looks like the Gearr Aonach route might be added to my to do list, we missed out on Stob Coire nan Lochan and Aonach Dubh, combining the three looks good and brings us down nearer the pub.
by Sunset tripper » Tue Dec 15, 2020 9:19 am
All the best.
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- Location: Inverness
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