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Beinn Dearg - Amongst giants

PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2021 9:35 pm
by Verylatestarter

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After the long day yesterday on Maol Chean-dearg and Beinn Damh we had a lay in and over breakfast considered whether this should be the day we tackled Liathach; given that you could see nothing else out of the back window of the hostel and we had put it off the previous three years it was looming large in our thoughts. However the day was cloudy and the winds were light, there seemed little chance of getting blue skies and the Munro tops were shrouded again, the forecast for tomorrow was marginally better so we gambled on missing it out for another year and went for second best. It turns out that it was a good choice and there aren’t many Scottish hills that Beinn Dearg is second best to. It might be a Corbett amongst giants but it’s a big Corbett, how many have 1164m of ascent on their own? (postscript:- of course there is at least one Baosbheinn - only 4Km away)

We parked at the Coire Nobuil car park on Loch Torridon and set off at 9;20, over the bridge and along the path to the East of the river. As you approach the parting of the ways the hill looms large, separated by the wide open glacial valleys that make this part of Torridon so distinctive. We headed East on the basis that the Carn na Feola end was further away and lower; the cloud was still low and we hoped it might rise before we got to the main summit.

Beinn Dearg South face as seen from Liathach

Beinn Dearg as seen from the Coire Mhic Nobuil path, the South and West faces both steep, we ascended almost at the right hand end towards Beinn Eighe where it looks shallower.

Walking up the Coire between Liathach and BD you can’t help but think about how ancient this landscape is; the brutally eroded valleys, the summits crumbling under the effects of time and weather. Ahead lay Sail Mhor looking impregnable and grim, more like a capsized battleship than a hill.
Carn na Feola as viewed from Liathach on 2nd August, we took the almost continuous grass gully

After two hours, at a point just short of Loch Grobaig, opposite Coire na Caime, we turned off the main path and headed across the shallow slopes, headed for a continuous shallow grassy gully that went all the way up the slope. The grass was damp but not wet, the slope steep so we zig-zagged up the gully, avoiding the small streamlets. Every now and then we stopped and took in the view behind us. More of Beinn Eighe was revealed as we got higher but the real drama was opposite in Liathach’s North coire. Mhic Fheachair gets all the plaudits, Triple buttress and all but Coire na Caime must be one of the best anywhere; backed by the Am Fasannen pinnacles and flanked by the two Munros and the Meall Dearg spur. It’s lack of ‘popularity’ must be owing to its nature as a dead end to most walkers.

Start of the ascent, from the path just short of Loch Grobaig, and up the gully to the 750m point on the Harvey map.

A little bit of scrambling on the way up, to relieve the boredom of the grass gulley.

Near the top of the gulley, the questioning look says it all.

The view of the North side of Beinn Dearg from Carn na Feola

After an hour or so of climbing we made the plateau of Carn na Feola, somewhere near the 750m point, we strolled across the flat sandstone beds to the summit cairn at the East end; this end of the hill is probably the steepest, vertical around the prow. It afforded great views of Beinn Eighe, Meall a’ Ghiubhais and Slioch. In the other direction the great bulk of BD revealed itself, down to the Coire Bearg and the wide bealach at 658m and up to the Corbett summit and around to Stuc Loch na Cabaig. The North slopes of BD are formed by a high coire with Loch a’ Choire Mhor sitting at the focal point.

Setting off over the low point of the ridge, surprisingly spacious, The Castle is the dark rock half way across the picture

We set out across the plateau, through what appeared to be a large ditch but was probably a fault line filled in with earth and down large shallow sandstone steps to the bealach. The main ridgeline rises up to the North but we cut off the 793 top, instead opting to take the long slope direct up to the Castle. This darker mass of tiered rock provided us with a scrambling opportunity, the bypass options looked tricky on the South and non-existent on the North, I did have a wander round that side but quickly returned.

The Castle end on, the ascent involves 3 chimneys in succession, there is a highly undesirable bypass on grass to the left.

The first, smallest chimney

Looking back down the first chimney

Ben tackles the second chimney

Scrambling on the Castle

Gulley on South side of the Castle

Looking back down the scramble

There are three main tiers of sandstone, each with chimneys that were straightforward; we tended towards the South side. The top was narrow but short in length with a short drop down to the grassy hillside. Just before we got to the top tier an eagle took off from the North side about 20m away, it arced around us and flew off South. I suspect that we were the only people on the hill that day and it was not expecting to be disturbed.

We disturbed this fella on the Castle North face

The narrow ridge on The castle. The Corbett summit, Stuc Loch na Cabhaig top and Baosbheinn beyond

Looking back at The Castle from Lunch Rock

Lunch rock just above the Castle

Given that it was now 2 o’clock we decided to stop for lunch and found a projecting sandstone slab in the slope above. Needless to say the views were magnificent. The eagle flew back for a quick recce but did not settle. Having finished our lunch we made our way up to the summit. This was another flattish plateau with a small cairn and a few of the sandstone outcrops which have been eroded into the thin pancakes, baguette and rope likenesses. This summit has the advantage over its near neighbors of being flattish and easy to stroll around, it’s amongst giants but not overwhelmed by them, one of the best viewpoints in Torridon.

19 The Triple Buttress and its ugly step sister.JPG
Beinn Eighe Triple buttress and is ugly step sister (maybe next year)

Looking down on the Castle, Liathach's North face

The Pinnacles, Meall Dearg and the rarely visited Coire na Caime

The ridge up to the summit

The view North from the summit, over Stuc loch na Cabhaig towards Poolewe.

Ben attempts lift off to achieve Munro status

Torridon baguettes?

The view across Loch Torridon to Sgurr na Bana Mhoraire and Loch Kishorn beyond

Having taken the obligatory photos we headed off North along the other leg of the ridge; past the stack of pancakes and down to a bealach at 810m then back up to the North top of Stuc Lock na Cabhaig at 882m. At the top the ridge splits with the path going Northwest down a spur. Lower down the path becomes indistinct and rough; we aimed for the larger of the scree fans on Beinn Alligin and plotted a way down avoiding the sandstone crags. The slope was unremittingly steep and towards the bottom turned into a boulder field that was awkward to get across.

Sgurr Mhor and the Horns of Alligin, the path along the Bealach Chomla is at the bottom of the picture

Torridon pancakes in the foreground, Carn na Feola and Beinn Eighe in the background

The decent off the towards Stuc loch na Cabhaig

Stack of pancakes and the slope back up to Stuc loch na Cabhaig

Looking back to the summit and Loch a' Coire Mhor

The NW spur, the easy bit

Stuc loch na Cabhaig and NW spur from part way down


The indistinct path down

Sandstone outcrops present some difficulty in picking a way down

The West slope of Beinn Dearg, note bands of rock

The path down off the NW spur (this was the best bit), we aimed across the Bealach a Chomla to the biggest screen fan

Fortunately the Bealach a’ Chomla was dry and straightforward to negotiate; we picked up the rough path that ran above the Allt a’ Bhealaich and picked up the path down from the Horns, where it improved considerably (this was being repaired in June 2018 when we crossed BA). Across the two bridges and along Coire Mhic Nobuil, pausing to check out the place where the river having followed a fault, turns ninety degrees and then ninety again in the space of 30m almost as if it had been man made. Down through the woods and back to the near empty car park by 17;37.

This was turning into a superb week; we noted how the cloud base had lifted up during the afternoon and had high hopes it would do the same again the next day.

Re: Beinn Dearg - Amongst giants

PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2021 10:08 am
by Tringa
Excellent description and great photos of a superb area.