Today it was to be Beinn Narnain and Beinn Ime. MWIS had promised clear weather by the afternoon with only an empty threat of rain in the morning so all was looking good. We set off from the car park at 09:30 and veered immediately right off the main path into the undergrowth to trace the direct route up the hill. It may be steeper, wetter and require more attention to footing, but it beats the long-winded zig-zagging of the new path that cares more about seeing how many switchbacks it can squeeze in than gaining height. Maybe it’s because this was my third visit to these hills in a month, but I couldn’t decide if I’d die of boredom or exhaustion each ascent of the interminable zig-zags.
The ascent up the path was tough but we made decent time, and ahead of us was the more interesting, craggier, less cinderblock dot-to-dot part of the walk which looked more hands-on. Previous rain had given stone a slickness that necessitated the use of tufts of grass for hand-holds, or in my case, tufts of jaggy vegetation that gave me small cuts. “Know your Flora” should come after “Bring a Map and Compass” on safety guides. Continuing the ascent, we encountered a boggy, pathless section that required some prancing about to avoid getting our feet wet. My prancing was short-lived when I stood on a booby-trapped dome of spongy moss, and freezing water quickly engulfed my trail-shoe covered foot. Maybe I should have worn boots. The next scrambles were easy and had good rock holds. As always, I found this to be the most enjoying element of the walk. Particularly the chimney to the right of the spearhead, which looks imposing but is very straight forward.
Upon reaching the summit, I was surprised at how large it was; although I knew it was a plateau, the various cairns and trig points seemed some distance apart. We had had the whole route to ourselves so far, and the summit too, save for one odd, weathered looking chap standing among the stones at the cairn. My warm greeting elicited no response from him, and he continued to stare glassy-eyed into the distance with a smug grin on his face. I shrugged my shoulders and moved on.
The descent of Ben Narnain was straight forward, though a little strenuous on the knees owing to the lack of path. The one thing of note was a small dog-shield boulder field which required a hop and a skip. I wish it'd been larger, if only to provide stepping stones over the wet ground below. The bog at the bottom gate was pretty indicative of the whole Beinn Ime ascent. We followed the dirt scar upwards, making good pace with our mud-splattered legs and soggy shoes, and overtook two parties, our first encounters of the day. On reaching the top, we noticed the sheltered cairn with little stone seats, and one gentleman sitting enjoying the views. This man was far more responsive than the Beinn Narnain man, and regaled us with his unsuccessful Ben Donich attempt that morning. Apparently it'd been bucketing down. I nodded, passively squelching my right shoe. We didn’t hang around the summit for long as the parties we had overtaken were approaching and we didn’t want to hog the seats.
Though I’m convinced I could have slid all the way down Beinn Ime on a mud chute, I thought better of it. We considered going up the Cobbler for about a second and a half, then decided against it. I'm pretty sure I could have crowd-surfed all the way to the top and right back down to Succoth car park given the volume of human traffic, but I'd been up twice in the last month and didn't want it to think I was too needy, so I walked past it looking casually disinterested. And so it was on sore feet we walked all the way back on what felt like burning hot coals, and made a particular point of avoiding the zig-zag path and heading straight down the cinderblock route. We’d done it in 5 hours and 10 minutes and will probably try fore a more relaxed pace next time so it’ll be easier on the feet.
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