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"Ooh, you are Awful...but I like you!" Sgreamhach and Bidean

"Ooh, you are Awful...but I like you!" Sgreamhach and Bidean


Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Mon Jul 09, 2012 11:12 pm

Munros included on this walk: Bidean nam Bian, Stob Coire Sgreamhach

Date walked: 08/07/2012

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 11 km

Ascent: 1300m

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Yes, I know ... on Sunday 8th July 2012, I should have been doing the patriotic thing and watching Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final :-| . However, I’d have to confess that I didn’t entirely fancy his chances against Roger Federer - sadly, my premonitions turned out to be right enough; poor Andy :( . Also, due to a combination of work and family commitments, this would probably be my only chance of a walk for a few weeks. The mwis.org weather forecast wasn’t spectacular, but by the very low standards of our Scottish summer so far, probably better than average. I thought I’d head for Glen Coe and have a look at Stob Coire Sgreamhach (“Peak of the Awful Corrie”) and Bidean nam Bian (“Peak of the Mountains”). Although the Route Summary for these hills on the website (and the majority of the Walk Reports) take an anti-clockwise route up Coire nan Lochan to Stob Coire nan Lochan, on to Bidean and Sgreamhach, and then descending via the Lost Valley, I opted to do this route clockwise. This was firstly because I’d read that the wee Exit Gulley from the Bidean / Sgreamhach bealach was a bit steep on descent; and secondly because I’d never seen the Lost Valley, and wanted to experience that famous Moment of Revelation when walking UP into it from the northeast.
I parked in the first of two car parks on the south of the A82, just west of Allt-na-Reigh cottage. Although I was a bit later arriving than I’d planned, the car park was still surprisingly quiet: presumably the Wimbledon Final Effect right enough :shock: . This car park is a grand viewpoint, in prime position for views over the Three Sisters of Glen Coe. First, my planned ascent route, between Sister 1 (Beinn Fhada) and Sister 2 (Gearr Aonach):
Bidean & Sgreamhach 004.jpg

And then the way I was hoping to come back down, between Sister 2 and Sister 3 (Aonach Dubh):
Bidean & Sgreamhach 003.jpg

But hang on a bit – what’s that sign all about?
Bidean & Sgreamhach 001.jpg

I went over for a closer look. It reads:
“The bridge over the River Coe at NN173564 into Coire Gabhail (Hidden Valley) is CLOSED for repair work.
“We apologise for the inconvenience but this work is essential.
“An alternative bridge can be found at NN167566.”
Fairy nuff; the Lost Valley is currently just that bit more Lost than usual! I headed for the Alternative Bridge at NN167566, which is the one that heads for Coire nan Lochan, between Sisters 2 and 3. Here is the Alternative Bridge (it looked fairly conventional to me, though :lol: ):
Bidean & Sgreamhach 005.jpg

It’s probably a testament to the popularity of this pair of Munros that a grassy bypass path is already developing, being fairly obvious to the left of the main path immediately after crossing the bridge. This path cuts along east in front of Gearr Aonach, on the south bank of the River Coe, giving great views of Gearr Aonach which looked decidedly oriental from this angle:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 007.jpg

Sister Two definitely seems like the show-off of these three siblings.
Eventually the bypass path goes through a wooden gate in a high fence, after which it fragments and disappears. However, by now the way ahead is obvious, with the main NTS path up Coire Gabhail to the Hidden Valley coming into view to the east.
On reaching the “official” Coire Gabhail path, this turns out to be an impressive bit of construction, as usual for NTS paths:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 009.jpg

Shortly after this point, the path goes through another gate, where there is a more detailed NTS sign warning of the bridge closure. This one, which looks as though it is mainly intended for walkers on the way DOWN from the Lost Valley, warns that “there is no path [from the Lost Valley path to the Alternative Bridge]!” – which is not quite true now; if doing this route in the opposite direction (i.e. anti-clockwise), the trick would be to find the gate in the fence WNW of this point, from the west of which there IS now a well-developed bypass path, as discussed ... However, while the bridge remains closed, it’s probably easier in terms of route-finding to do the route in the clockwise direction, as I was doing. Sheer luck on my part :D .
I was less lucky on the next section. The path up to the Lost Valley is great fun, intermittently rocky with some straightforward scrambly bits, but never too steep. As it climbs higher, a lot of big boulders appear: presumably glacial moraine (i.e. Glacier Droppings, basically :lol: ). These look ideal for a bit of bouldering, if that’s what floats your boat ... however, I had the scent of Munro in my nostrils, and was keen to press on. That was the idea, anyway ... but I completely missed the (obvious in retrospect) point at which the path crosses the burn (the Allt Coire Gabhail) from right to left :oops: . Having missed this crossing, the bouldering quickly became non-optional! I did eventually work out that this surely couldn’t possibly be the “official” way up, but by that time I was fairly commited so I just pressed on over the big boulders. This was great fun actually, but did take quite a long time (excuses, excuses)... Eventually, though, the ground very abruptly opened out and I got to experience that famous Moment of Revelation as the Lost Valley appeared:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 013.jpg

It really is a very special space, and all the prettier in the summer, with the grass spectacularly green (our lovely dry Scottish summer has no doubt helped!) and a lot of alpine flora in bloom.
The Lost Valley is just as pancake-flat as it looks, and makes for rapid progress until the stream temporarily disappears under rocks at the end of the flat bit, after which the path starts to climb to its right. Those good NTS volunteers have done a sterling job, however, and it actually isn’t nearly as intimidating a clamber as it looks from a distance. In fact, it’s only on the very last short wee section (up the Exit Gulley itself) that the use of hands becomes necessary at all.
Unfortunately the Munros themselves had their heads firmly in the Clag (and were going to stay that way all day):
Bidean & Sgreamhach 022.jpg

However, there was a cracking view back down the Lost Valley towards the easternmost end of the Aonach Eagach ridge, on the other side of Glen Coe:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 020.jpg

The Allt Coire Gabhail soon reappeared, with a rather impressive waterfall in a deep, narrow gorge:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 019.jpg

And soon the Exit Gulley itself came into view: not nearly as bad as I’d feared, seen close-up.
Bidean & Sgreamhach 028.jpg
A quick scrabble up this, and I was at the cairned bealach between Sgreamhach and Bidean.
Bidean & Sgreamhach 032.jpg

I turned left for Stob Coire Sgreamhach. The Peak of the Awful Corrie only got promoted to Munro status in 1997. I’m not clear on what exactly is so Awful about its Corrie :? – I think this probably refers to the steep-sided corrie to its east, which was sadly completely invisible in the Clag today :( . However, even in the Clag it proved to be a fine hill, being much more of a separate pointy thing from its parent peak of Bidean than some other Munros I could mention (Beinn a’Chleibh, anyone :o ??). The ascent from the bealach is just a steady plod up a broad and shapely ridge. The rock underfoot alternated strangely between bright red, rubbly stuff (partially metamorphosed sandstone :? ??) and more conventional grey rock (not nearly as pretty but much easier to walk on). A geologist would possibly have found this fascinating, but I just found the red stuff a bit of a pain. However, it was a fairly straightforward walk up to Sgreamhach’s summit cairn.
Bidean & Sgreamhach 030.jpg

Back down to the cairned bealach, and time to tackle Bidean. This is a good bit higher than Sgreamhach, being the highest point in the county of Argyll and Number 23 on the Munros list by height. Although the route up from the bealach is really just a long but steady plod, there are two levellings (with small cairns) and a false summit (also cairned) that might have been quite confusing had the Clag been a bit thicker. Here is Levelling Number 2:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 034.jpg

And the False Summit:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 038.jpg

As it was, however, I could always just about make out something higher lurking in the distance, and pressed onwards to the True Summit. As it gets higher up, the ridge narrows pleasingly, with a rocky drop to the right:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 035.jpg

When I got to the True Summit, it was fairly unmistakeable even in the Clag, being very obviously the meeting point of three ridges.
Bidean & Sgreamhach 040.jpg
One obvious path heads off left (northwest), towards the Munro Top of Stob Coire nan Beith, and another path heads off right (northeast), towards the Munro Top of Stob Coire nan Lochan.
After a stop for lunch, I headed off on the Stob Coire nan Lochan path. This was the bit of the route I’d been most nervous about, as I’d read it was fairly steep and had big crags to both sides of the path (the Diamond Buttress and the Church Door Buttress). I wasn’t relishing coming down it in the Clag. However, it actually turned out to be relatively straightforward, with a very obvious Path all the way down to the bealach.
Bidean & Sgreamhach 046.jpg

From here, the climb up to Stob Coire nan Lochan was just another steady plod, again on a good path. Stob Coire nan Lochan feels almost as much of a hill in its own right as Sgreamhach, being impressively pointy. It has a surprisingly big summit cairn:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 047.jpg

Again this is the meeting point of three ridges, although this was not nearly so obvious in the Clag as on Bidean’s summit, and I had to check my compass to make sure that I headed off down the NW ridge (the easier one) rather than the steeper NE ridge.
I definitely found this next bit (i.e. descent of S.C. nan Lochan’s NW ridge) the most challenging section of the route, which took me by surprise :? . It was actually much harder than the descent from Bidean to the bealach with S.C. nan Lochan :shock: . Although it wasn’t as steep as that earlier descent, the path frequently disappeared across boulderfields. And these boulders were very slippery in the Clag. And soon there were some Very Big Drops to the right. In fact, it was altogether more Serious a route than I’d anticipated, and after a minor slip on a particularly manky boulder, I slowed right down to avoid any worse slips. Ah, well, at least this gave plenty of time to take photos of the hazy views down to the right into the Abyssal Depths of Coire nan Lochan:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 052.jpg
Bidean & Sgreamhach 053.jpg
Bidean & Sgreamhach 054.jpg

Eventually the ridge descended past the craggy section, however, and Coire nan Lochan itself came into hazy view through the Clag.
Strangely enough, there is not just one Lochan in this corrie, but three bigger lochans and a whole lot of wee ones. I also finally got a bit of a view up the west end of Glen Coe to Loch Leven in the distance:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 058.jpg

Once I was sure I was definitely past the crags, I headed down south-east into the corrie. Great views opened up of the west side of Gearr Aonach, the flamboyant Middle Sister:
Bidean & Sgreamhach 062.jpg

On descent towards the lochans, the corrie appears to end very abruptly at the top of the steep valley between Sisters 2 and 3, and it’s difficult to see how there is going to be an easy way down. This is deceptive, however: those NTS volunteers have been busy again, and an obvious and excellent path (pretty much a continuous stone staircase in its upper sections) runs down from the northernmost (lowest) of the three bigger lochans.
Coire nan Lochan is reminiscent of the Lost Valley in some ways, being another secret, flat mountain hideaway in what is otherwise a very vertical landscape. The Lost Corrie, maybe? It also has a wonderfully craggy and pinnacled headwall, particularly on its SW rim.
Bidean & Sgreamhach 070.jpg

I didn’t really want to leave, but I was well behind schedule by now and it was time to press on. The excellent stone-staircase path back down between Sisters 2 and 3 made surprisingly light work of the steep descent. It was also very scenic, with yet another impressive waterfall at the head of the valley, and good views lower down of the steep eastern side of Sister Three, Aonach Dubh. Nae photos though, because my camera chose this moment to run out of batteries ... :-x Memo to Self: keep a couple of spare batteries sealed in a plastic bag at the bottom of my rucksack in the future.
Despite not getting any summit views, this was an excellent walk :D – these two are great hills in some very exciting landscape. It did take me much, much longer than it should have, though – eight hours in total :oops: (don’t laugh now!). Apart from the Clag, the bridge closure, the unscheduled bouldering activities at the entrance to the Lost Valley and the unanticipated slipperiness of the NW ridge of S.C. nan Lochan, I also had the tail end of a right snottery summer cold which definitely slowed me down more than I’d expected. Yes, I know: excuses, excuses... :lol: It’s a learning point for the future, though: worth adding quite a bit of extra time on for a walk if you are at all physically under par. All the same though, a Grand Day Out!
Last edited by bobble_hat_kenny on Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Ooh, you are Awful...but I like you!" Sgreamhach and Bi

Postby rockhopper » Mon Jul 09, 2012 11:40 pm

bobble_hat_kenny wrote:Despite not getting any summit views, this was an excellent walk
:thumbup: yup, I'd agree with on that one - pity you didn't get the views as they're great but a good reason to return if one was needed. This walk ranks as one of my favourites - looks like you also ended up going over the boulders/rocks in the lost valley as did I...couldn't find the path at all. cheers :D
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Re: "Ooh, you are Awful...but I like you!" Sgreamhach and Bi

Postby Steve B » Tue Jul 10, 2012 8:45 am

Hi bhk,
This is a great report giving a good impression of your day. The detail regarding the bridge being out of use will come in handy for many I am sure.
I have not yet done these having bailed out a few winters ago on SCnL after ascending the NE ridge up to it in deep snow and the ridge to BNB was not looking good. I look and muse over the day to come whenever I drive through Glencoe. Hope that will not be too long away.
Thanks for posting.
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Re: "Ooh, you are Awful...but I like you!" Sgreamhach and Bi

Postby Fudgie » Tue Jul 10, 2012 9:19 am

I would have followed the route as suggested on this site but now you've got me thinking if I'm maybe better going the same way you did. That was an enjoyable read but also very informative so thanks for that.

I was very close to doing this on Sunday as well but through a combination of the weather and some lethargy on my part, I opted for Buachaille Etive Beag which I scooted round in 3hrs 45 minutes. You'll be relived to know that even on those two lower summits there was still no hint of a view.
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Re: "Ooh, you are Awful...but I like you!" Sgreamhach and Bi

Postby GillC » Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:30 am

Great to see the alternative,,,we started off on the anticlockwise route but changed at the top and headed west to nam Beith instead.... so covered Aonach Dubh, Stob Coire nam Lochan, Bidean, Stob Coire nam Beith, An t-Sron then down the Chasm of Doom lol :crazy:
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Re: "Ooh, you are Awful...but I like you!" Sgreamhach and Bi

Postby ciderpeter » Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:23 pm

Nice report and good pictures :) Shame about the weather - if it is any consolation I have a report to write up of this walk (the usual way around) in glorious weather. :lol: I doubt it is any consolation.

It is amazing how scary it looks in clag though, I had Todd off his lead all day around the tops of them cliffs, but I reckon a day like yours I would have had him (and me?!) on a lead!!

Interestingly I thought the same in the second valley "This reminds me of the lost valley", but without the big plateau... you can tell they are in the same area!
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Re: "Ooh, you are Awful...but I like you!" Sgreamhach and Bi

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:46 pm

ciderpeter wrote:Nice report and good pictures :) Shame about the weather - if it is any consolation I have a report to write up of this walk (the usual way around) in glorious weather. :lol: I doubt it is any consolation.

It is amazing how scary it looks in clag though, I had Todd off his lead all day around the tops of them cliffs, but I reckon a day like yours I would have had him (and me?!) on a lead!!

Interestingly I thought the same in the second valley "This reminds me of the lost valley", but without the big plateau... you can tell they are in the same area!


Ah weel - I suppose "you get the weather you get", as they say... Glad you got better views than this, though :) . All the same, the presence of the Clag did arguably add a certain frisson to the views down into Coire an Lochan while descending the NW ridge of the Stob ... they looked bottomless :wtf: !
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Re: "Ooh, you are Awful...but I like you!" Sgreamhach and Bi

Postby robertphillips » Wed Jul 11, 2012 3:26 pm

Well done bidean is a great hill and the lost valley is a good walk. :)
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Re: "Ooh, you are Awful...but I like you!" Sgreamhach and Bi

Postby Gandal » Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:21 am

Followed your route today glad I read your report before hand regrading the bridge closer and finding the path across the burn up to the hidden valley avoiding the boulders, really helped.
I had great weather and descended down the south ridge into the "hidden Corrie" also took 8 hours [with no cold] and reckon that this is a far better and easier walk than the anti clock wise route.
on the way I Found a walking pole a dogs lead a fisherman's bonnet and a new walking boot yes one boot!!!!
cant explain????????????Hee hee
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Re: "Ooh, you are Awful...but I like you!" Sgreamhach and Bi

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:46 am

Gandal wrote:Followed your route today glad I read your report before hand regrading the bridge closer and finding the path across the burn up to the hidden valley avoiding the boulders, really helped.
I had great weather and descended down the south ridge into the "hidden Corrie" also took 8 hours [with no cold] and reckon that this is a far better and easier walk than the anti clock wise route.
on the way I Found a walking pole a dogs lead a fisherman's bonnet and a new walking boot yes one boot!!!!
cant explain????????????Hee hee

Glad you got better weather :D - yesterday was probably the best of a bad lot weather-wise this week. One boot?? Mysteriouser and mysteriouser... future walkers, keep an eye out for the legendary spectre of the One-Legged Walker of Coire nan Lochan :wtf: !
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