Total time: 11 hrs (9:53 walk, 1:07 bike)
Total distance: 31.2km (20.6km walk, 10.6km bike)
After an early breakfast, I was away from Bunroy campsite at 6:30am, driving back to Spean Bridge then over to Gairlochy and along the tortuous single-track road on the north side of Loch Arkaig. The car park at the end of the public road was already more than half full as I got the bike out and prepared to leave. At 7:30 I was off and heading onto the forest trail on the south side of Glen Dessary.
In 35 minutes I reached the edge of the forest and locked up the bike up and set off on foot in pleasant sunshine, hoping that the clouds draped over the peaks would lift later. The path continued in the open for a short while then over a stream and into woods for a further 30 minutes until emerging at the foot of Meall na Sroine. It was now time to start the real work as I made my way up the rough grassy slopes heading to the right of the buttresses on the skyline and emerging on the craggy ridge. Weaving a line over and around rocky outcrops as the ridge gradually ascended, I made it to Peak 674, the main summit on the NE ridge of Bidean a'Chabair. I could see the true summit in the distance, the very top albeit shrouded with cloud, even though most other peaks in the area were now clear.
Continuing along the ridge, I stayed slightly to the left and eventually passed to the left of a lochan to reach the foot of the final climb. This involved ascending a steep boulder-filled gully, a grassy slope and finally a narrow path and scramble to the left of a buttress before popping out at the summit. Unfortunately, the cloud cap visible from below steadfastly refused to budge, so regretfully I didn't get any views, although I could feel the heat of the sun overhead. It was now 11am and I'd been on the go for three and a half hours - time for a well-deserved early lunch.
I had originally planned to traverse to the slightly lower west top to get the views out west, but as it was also shrouded in cloud, I dropped that idea and after a rest, started to head down. Rather than traverse all the way back along the SE ridge I wanted to see how feasible it looked to drop directly down to the glen separating this hill with Carn Mor. After a short distance back along the ridge after rounding the buttress, I could see a series of grassy sections that appeared to be linked all the way to the bottom, although appearances can be deceptive, as I discovered! The descent was fairly easy for a while until reaching a few gullies and crags. I managed to negotiate these without too much bother but then reached a fairly innocuous looking short slab section that had me scratching my head. I traversed above it but hit a dead-end so returned and with a bit of face-in slithering and scrambling, made it down - it didn't look like anything from below! After that there were numerous smaller problems to solve and some backtracking - but eventually, the slope flattened out and I reached the safety of the river, having taken two hours to get down from the summit. Of course, by now the summit had lost its cloud-cap - I was there too early!
Looking back up the way I had come down, on hindsight it would have been quicker and easier to go back along to the section of the ridge before Peak 674 and start the descent from there. After replenishing my water supplies, I started up the steeply angled NE face of Carn Mor. There were no technicalities - just a series of small crags and streams to overcome - but it seemed to take forever to climb. It wasn't until I was on the flatter summit area that I could actually see the summit cairn and a few minutes later, at 3pm, I was at the top. I stayed awhile to enjoy the good views of the hills across Glen Pean to the south and to the hills across Glen Dessary to the north, although a few annoying swirls of cloud somewhat spoiled the views.
The way back to the forest edge was mostly good walking, with a few steep grassy rakes to begin with and then a much flatter section along the broad ridge to Peak 616. The forest came into view as I followed the ridge round to the NE and then came a steeper descent on awkward bouldery terrain with bracken and reedy grass until eventually, with great relief I dropped down to the track a few hundred metres west of the forest. The ride back to the car was fast with some nice long gradual downhill sections.
This is a cracking route to gain two remote Corbetts, although I probably wouldn't recommend the direct descent from Bidean a'Chabair!
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