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Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk


Postby Dirk Winter » Fri Jun 19, 2009 10:13 pm

Route description: Beinn a'Bheithir

Munros included on this walk: Sgorr Dhearg (Beinn a'Bheithir), Sgorr Dhonuill (Beinn a'Bheithir)

Date walked: 19/06/2009

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Date: Tuesday 12th May 2009
Weather: Sunny, pleasantly warm, some strong gusts of wind

Nearly four weeks have gone already since we came back from our latest visit to Scotland (and since we could celebrate the promotion of Mainz 05 to the 1.Bundesliga in Germany, yeah!), so it’s time to write some reports about this year’s walks. This one’s about Beinn a’Bheithir.
We arrived in Scotland on Friday 8th May late in the afternoon. On Saturday it was raining all day long, and as it was quite cool most of the munro tops were covered with some fresh snow that day. But from Sunday on we got five days in a row where the weather was very good for walks and where we could enjoy awesome views with snow covered peaks during our walks – a totally new experience for me (not only the five days in a row, but also the snow)!
For Tuesday 12th May we had chosen to climb Beinn a’Bheithir. I had fancied that walk for some years, but there was always some other walk to be done first, or there was bad weather which kept us from climbing it. This year it was different, and the evening before I could catch a first glimpse of the snow covered peak of Sgorr Dheirg.
BeinnABheitir1.jpg
snow covered Sgorr Dheirg

When we were having breakfast the next morning in our lovely B&B in Invercoe we could see Beinn a’Bheithir through the window - and a deep blue sky with absolutely no clouds at all! So while enjoying our breakfast including creamy porridge with almonds and a hint of whisky we whet the appetite for the walk.
At 9:48 am we left the car park by the tourist information in Ballachulish to follow exactly the route which is described on walkhighlands. This means that after having crossed the field behind the school we had to climb up the steep slopes of Beinn Bhan. The first part was grassy and alright, but later it was covered with heather which was a bit awkward because the slope was steep and sometimes it was hard to see where to place one’s feet. We were glad that it was May and the heather hadn’t grown too much yet. We were even glader when we reached the path which crossed our ascent route at about 340 metres.
After the walk I noticed that this path could be seen from Invercoe (if you know that there is one). The red arrow on the next picture shows where we met the path, and you can see the thin line which is formed by the path. This line moves down the slope to the left whereas the heather starts higher up there. So I would guess that climbing the slope in a slowly rising line to the left might be the most pleasant way, although there are some streambeds to be crossed. Did somebody else gather some experiences with that? By the way, if you view the walk in Google Earth it seems as if the path ends somewhere near the trees to the left, just in the middle of nowhere, but maybe there’s also somebody else who knows more about that.
BeinnABheitir2.jpg
in this picture a path is hidden (or was hidden)

When we met the path we turned right and followed it to the end of the Bheinn Bhan ridge. On the ridge the path forked several times but we always tried to stay as close to the crest as possible. It could have been a really enjoyable walk if there hadn’t been some quite strong gusts of wind from the east. On the other hand the views were stunning:
BeinnABheitir3.jpg
white headed Ben Nevis and Loch Leven

BeinnABheitir4.jpg
from the Pap to Bidean nam Bian

BeinnABheitir5.jpg
the ridge to Sgorr Bhan

At about 830 metres there were the first snowfields to the right and to the left of the path, but the path was clear of snow all the way. We felt quite warm in the sun anyway, especially when climbing the last metres to the summit of Sgorr Bhan. The views were even more breathtaking here and surprisingly there was nearly no wind up there. So we took the time to enjoy the views back towards Ben Nevis and Glen Coe
BeinnABheitir6.jpg
blue sky everywhere - that's not my Scotland any more

and of course of the ridge to Sgorr Dheirg, the first munro peak, which was the next target to reach:
BeinnABheitir7.jpg
the cheese gets a bit runny

The walk along this curving ridge was very enjoyable
BeinnABheitir8.jpg
I wonder how this guy made it up to the top.

and at about 2 pm we arrived at the peak, again having great views in all directions. To the west we could see Sgorr Dhonuill now with the Isle of Mull in the background.
BeinnABheitir9.jpg
Isn't there a cloud to be seen?

BeinnABheitir10.jpg
Sgorr Dhonuill (just about to hop out of the picture)

After a short break we continued our route towards Sgorr Dhonuill, and before reaching the bealach there was a very nice spot to have a late lunch. When we set off again two other guys caught up. I came into talk with one of them, John, a pensioner from Nairn, who was just about to climb his 274th munro. He had taken a break for 10 years and wanted to tick the last ones now (he had done the Inn Pin long before). By the way, he and his companion (I forgot his real name, but he remembered me a bit of Bernie Ecclestone) had chosen the east ridge of Sgorr Bhan as their ascent route which seems to involve some scrambling.
When I was chatting with John, the last metres were mastered in no time. There was only one spot where I had to use my hands, but that was no problem at all.
BeinnABheitir11.jpg
view back from Sgorr Dhonuill

After again enjoying … bla bla … we went back down to the bealach and turned left there to descend to Gleann a Chaolais. The path was quite boggy in places, but this improved further down. When we arrived at the wood we easily found the improved newer route (to be honest we didn’t find the cairn which marks the old path, but never mind). After a long walk through the wood we arrived at the road near St. John’s Church. The last bit along the pavement at the side of the road and the fact that we needed nearly nine and a half hours didn’t change my mind that this was a real 5-star-walk.
By the way, when we passed the Laroch Bar in Ballachulish, John and Bernie were already there. They had returned via the Gleann an Fiodh (south of Beinn a Bheitir), but they didn’t recommend that route because the descent from the bealach to the Gleann is very steep.
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Re: Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Postby mountain coward » Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:41 am

Great to see the pics of your ascent to Sgurr Ban - I wanted to do that but only managed the Munros on the day we did it - mainly due to the high winds putting me off doing the narrowish ridge to it - looked nice though. Enjoyed your report!
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Re: Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Postby Papagenos » Sat Jun 20, 2009 4:32 pm

I think this is one of the best circuits in Lochaber for the stunning views and the great ridge walk once you are up high. I have never tried the route up to Beinn Bhan preferring to continue further along the path by the school and heading up the ENE ridge of Sgorr Bhan. This provides some superb scrambling, nothing too difficult or technical; in fact this was the first scramble I ever attempted.

You certainly had great weather to enjoy the long ridge walk with some good photographs.
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Re: Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Postby Paul Webster » Sat Jun 20, 2009 4:56 pm

Great report Dirk, glad you got some more good weather days 8) I wondered where the path you meet part way up that horrible slope begins, but haven't found it yet (I suppose I should head up the steep bit then walk down the path, but that seems a bit too eccentric a way to spend a day!) Good to know you found the new descent path too -maybe it has got easier to find - as the old path is horrible! I'll delete the bit about the misleading cairn in the description as hopefully someone has knocked it down.

If we do it again will try Papagenos' route, which I've heard is a great easy scramble (though possibly not less steep to begin with)
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Re: Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Postby Wanderlust » Sun Jun 21, 2009 12:32 am

Looks like you had a good day on the hills for this one, I did this myself last year in February - but the other way round...lost the path a bit on the descent from Sgurr Bhan, but apart from that, had a great day with splendid views.

Congratulations to FSV Mainz, by the way :)
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Re: Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Postby Can 0f Airy » Sun Jun 21, 2009 12:47 am

Great mountain and an enjoyable report. It looks I missed out a good route when I climbed it some years ago. I walked around and climbed it from the south east. I remember that I avoided the scrambling route because I was carrying so much gear that even walking on the level was hard work. It paid off though as I camped near the summit of Sgurr Bhan (on that patch of green in the picture with you in it, looking back down the ridge - I think). I camped in some comfort as a temperature inversion formed and spent the next day sunning myself on the summits meeting lots of very happy people who had just climbed out of thick fog.
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Re: Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Postby Dirk Winter » Sun Jun 21, 2009 7:09 pm

Paul Webster wrote:I wondered where the path you meet part way up that horrible slope begins, but haven't found it yet (I suppose I should head up the steep bit then walk down the path, but that seems a bit too eccentric a way to spend a day!)

Maybe not too eccentric if you continue down to the start of the ENE rigde and tackle that afterwards. :lol: Well, there could be more sensible things to do, indeed. But maybe the path goes much further down than it seems on Google Earth. Maybe the satellite image is some years old. By the way when do they start to explore all the walking routes with Google Sheep Vie*16tons*

Paul Webster wrote:If we do it again will try Papagenos' route, which I've heard is a great easy scramble (though possibly not less steep to begin with)

Yes, that sounds really interesting. I'd be interested in pictures of that route.
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Re: Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Postby Dirk Winter » Sun Jun 21, 2009 7:21 pm

Wanderlust wrote:Looks like you had a good day on the hills for this one, I did this myself last year in February - but the other way round...lost the path a bit on the descent from Sgurr Bhan, but apart from that, had a great day with splendid views.

Hi Wanderlust! Yes, it was a phantastic day, but it was topped by another day this year. I'll write about that soon, but it takes a bit of time for me to write these English reports.
By the way, I lost the path a bit on the descent down Gleann a Chaolais, so I think we're even.

Wanderlust wrote:Congratulations to FSV Mainz, by the way :)

Thank you! You seem to be well versed in German football (or know at least where to find more information about it ;) ). Maybe you also know that we had a very tearful history in 2002 and 2003, just before our first promotion in 2004? But that's a loooong story...
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Re: Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Postby Dirk Winter » Sun Jun 21, 2009 7:25 pm

Can 0f Airy wrote:It paid off though as I camped near the summit of Sgurr Bhan (on that patch of green in the picture with you in it, looking back down the ridge - I think). I camped in some comfort as a temperature inversion formed and spent the next day sunning myself on the summits meeting lots of very happy people who had just climbed out of thick fog.


Hey, how did you know it's me? ;)
You must have had a marvellous day out there. I never had the chance till now to be on a sunny peak looking out of deep clouds. Did you take any pictures?
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Re: Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Postby neilmci » Wed Apr 21, 2010 4:25 pm

Took in this route on Sunday and had fantastic weather with some fantastic views. there were still patches of snow, but nothing to worry about on the route (although it looked bad from the north side of the ridge)

The missing path at the start appears to follow the tree line/stream several hundred yards south of the route through the field as described on this site.

We found the steep ascent hard going and upon reaching the fence line at the top of the field, a near mutinee had to be stiffled. Upon reaching the path there was a bit of name calling and a few suggestions as to where the navigator (me) could stuff my map and GPS etc, however the going got a lot easier from this point on and the day became a lot more enjoyable. The path ios very well worn and must be relatively easy to locate lower down.

If some one else is doing this route, I would suggest that they continue up the road past the school. It is signed as private (but walkers welcome) (This may be a clue here in hindsight!) and try to locate a path on the right hand side towars the end of the roadway around the tree /fence line about 2-300 yards up the road.

There is a route through the field that is just about visible, but once on the heather slopes this disappears to nothing.

Hope this helps and I have not just sent loads of people up some ones driveway!
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Re: Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Postby nathan79 » Fri Jun 04, 2010 8:53 pm

I'm up in the area for 4 days from this coming Thursday, doing Sgoor Dhearg on the Saturday with a group of work colleagues, some of whom have little to no experience. Hoping for a clear, calm day (that may be asking way too much of the weather gods, but you never know). I'll probably be somewhere in the middle in terms of experience, hoping to do both Sgorr Dhonuill as well but i'm not sure how feasible that'll be given the group situation.
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