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Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls


Postby AnnieMacD » Tue Jun 10, 2014 4:33 pm

Munros included on this walk: Spidean Coire nan Clach (Beinn Eighe)

Date walked: 07/06/2014

Time taken: 10.33 hours

Distance: 22.7 km

Ascent: 1265m

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I'd read about the Beinn Eighe Black Carls a little but there really isn't much out there about them as most people do the classic route bagging the two Munros and never venture to the eastern ridges and tops. One book said they were a Grade 1 scramble and another classed them as Grade 2 and Ralph Storer didn't put a grade on them but said most difficulties could be bypassed. Anyway, the forecast was good for Saturday so thought I'd give them a try and go as far as Spidean Coire nan Clach.

Liathach in the morning on the way up Glen Torridon.
ImageLiathach from Glen Torridon by AnnieMacD, on Flickr

Spidean Coire nan Clach and Stuc Coire an Laoigh (left) from the road. You can see the path zig-zagging up the hill into the corrie.
ImageBeinn Eighe East by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Starting off and the eastern tops are still in cloud.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-3 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

The cloud getting closer but not rising. Lovely Scots pines all around here.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-4 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

For anyone who wants to do this route, there are paths all the way and there are many choices mostly depending on if you prefer scree or exposure! You could even totally bypass the Black Carls and before beginning the ascent of Creag Dubh you could head off south-west into Coire Domhain and gain the parallel east ridge of Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe that way. However, you would also miss Creag Dubh which is a delightful little summit (at about 920m) - it has fantastic uninterrupted views to the north and east.

I parked at the parking spot 1 km south of Kinlochewe village. There is room for about 4 cars and is marked with a blue and white "P" sign. There is a good path all the way up to Creag Dubh and you can see it all the way due to the white quartzite gleaming in the sun - except at this point the cloud was still obscuring the tops.

After going through a gate in the deer fence you come to a burn-crossing which is in a small ravine. There wasn't much water in the burn but I had real difficulty finding a place to get up the other side. There were slippery slabs and heathery rocky mini-cliffs and I couldn't get a hold to haul myself up! I got quite annoyed with myself as I was heading for the Black Carls and this did not bode well. :lol: I'm sure it took me about 20 minutes to negotiate around by crossing back over the stream and deviating from the path further up. However, when I got back on to the ridge I saw that this was most certainly not the best way to cross the burn. I could see the pattern of deer paths which take you much higher up to an easy ford. On the return one just needs to stay high and then follow the fence back down to the gate.

After emerging from the ravine, the cloud base had lifted and I got my first sight of the Black Carls.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-5 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Looking back down. Note the deer paths on the left which lead to the fence.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-6 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Then it's out to the open hill with some relief! There is a split in the path just before the steep section to gain the upper ridge of Creag Dubh. The left branch takes the straight-up-the-scree approach and the right hand one zig-zags into the corrie and takes the scree slope from there - you can't avoid the scree whichever way you go. :lol: I took the corrie option and hit the ridge a little higher up. It's quite narrow for a section and then it flattens out.

The path splits here - I took the right branch but either seems fine.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-7 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

On the ridge. Kinlochewe on the left and Fionn Bheinn straight ahead.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-8 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Looking up the ridge to Creag Dubh summit with the BCs and Sgùrr nan Fhir Duibhe on the left
ImageBeinn Eighe East-9 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Black Carls - psyching myself up!
ImageBeinn Eighe East-10 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

East view from Creag Dubh top.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-11 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Ruadh-stac Beag. You can see the caves on the right about half-way up - I believe there is a possible ascent this way. But the common route is to walk round the base to the west face and ascend from there. Ruadh-stac Mor is behind to the left.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-13 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Meall a' Ghiuthais.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-14 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Slioch, and An Teallach in the far distance
ImageBeinn Eighe East-16 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Panorama of the whole Beinn Eighe ridge from Creag Dubh. Spidean Coire nan Clach is in the centre.
ImageThe Beinn Eighe Ridge from Creag Dubh by AnnieMacD, on Flickr

The ridge to the unnamed top and the the Black Carls.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-17 by anniesmountains, on Flickr
It was windy and cold so too a few photos and went on my way to the unnamed top between Creag Dubh and SCnC. BTW I think the north-east ridge of Creag Dubh would make a good ascent/descent route too. It was much warmer and sheltered on the unnamed top so stopped for a bite but realized I was a bit nervous of my impending challenge. From here you are looking at the Carls head-on so they don't look as intimidating but looking at the pillars and drops on the north side they look terrifying.

Looking back to Creag Dubh from the Unnamed.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-18 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Sgùrr Bàn is on the right and is a great peak in its own right. Between Sgùrr nan Fhir Duibhe and Sgùrr Bàn are Maol Chean Dearg, Beinn Damh and Beinn Bhan behind.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-19 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Ruadh-stac Mòr.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-20 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Slioch and An Teallach.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-21 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

In summary, for me the Carls were no problem but quite exciting. I went over some of them, went round some of them, and with one I even took off my pack, scrambled to the top, scrambled back down to pick up my pack and walked around. I think they would be great fun if one wasn't carrying anything. I always feel so restricted by weight - but that's the cost of walking the hills I suppose. The main thing here is you need a head for heights and not mind a bit of exposure. Some of the bypass paths are pretty exposed and some of the Carls have tiny tops. I had read about the 10m rock next to the summit so I didn't attempt that one and just took the bypass. As well as the rocks there are a couple of very narrow patches of ridge with sheer drops on both sides. It was so exhilarating to get to the summit. I didn't take many photos as I had to concentrate, there aren't many places where you can stop and the rock is so in-your-face that you can't get a decent picture when you are amongst them. You do wind in and out a bit as well and it's hard to know how far along you are. Actually it wouldn't take long to traverse them if you took all the bypasses and didn't stop! Highly recommended.

Let the fun begin!
ImageBeinn Eighe East-22 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Down, down, down to Loch an Thuill Bhain
ImageBeinn Eighe East-23 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

On an airy top. First sight of Liathach behind Stuc Coire an Laoigh. It appears from here that SCanL is connected to Sgùrr Bàn, but Spidean Coire nan Clach is hidden behind SB.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-24 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Looking back when part-way across.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-25 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

The bypass path of the final 10m wall. I did take this and bits of it are quite airy (or hairy?)
ImageBeinn Eighe East-26 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

I met a couple at the top of Sgùrr nan Fhir Duibhe who had climbed straight up from the road - scree most of the way. They were looking for a path but couldn't find one - it was pretty tough. And to make it worse the woman's shoe had come apart so I gave her my spare laces (Elizabeth take note, I was carrying spare laces!) to attempt to hold her boot together. They headed off for Sgùrr Bàn down the very steep rocky west slope and I followed shortly after. Great views from this top and a shower of rain passed through when I was up there eating my second lunch.

The couple I met at the top.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-27 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

The way ahead towards Sgùrr Bàn and Spidean Coire nan Clach.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-28 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Looking back up to the Carls from the bealach.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-29 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

There are still many scrambling opportunites and steep, airy precipices!
ImageBeinn Eighe East-31 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

ImageBeinn Eighe East-32 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

The ridge so far.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-33 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Ruadh-stac Beag and Meall a' Ghiuthais. This is the usual ascent route for R-sB.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-34 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Some scrambling required coming off Sgùrr Bàn.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-35 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Next stop was Spidean Coire nan Clach. The ascent from this side has no scrambling although the descent from Sgùrr Bàn does and has a very rocky ridge of sheets of angled rock which isn't the easiest to walk on. The summit cairn of SCnC is tiny considering the number of people who visit and most of them didn't stop for long. It was very busy and I took a photo of a group from Birmingham - hi guys! Everyone I saw I said to them, "If you see me walking along the road would you please give me a lift to Kinlochewe?", as I knew the 4 mile walk back along the road would be a killer! Of course I never saw any of them again as they were all down before me - I had one more top to visit - Stuc Coire an Laoigh.

As an aside, for nervous types it's possible to totally avoid the last scramble up to the top of Spidean Coire nan Clach (on the tourist route) as there is a scree path that branches off the Coire an Laoigh path to the east (right as you are ascending) which joins the east ridge of the hill at a small bealach. I saw people go up and down that path but it wouldn't be my choice as it's straight down scree!

Liathach and the continuation of the west ridge of Beinn Eighe from Spidean Coire nan Clach.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-36 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Còinneach Mhòr, Sail Mhòr and Ruadh-stac Mòr
ImageBeinn Eighe East-37 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

The happy chappies from Birmingham!
ImageBeinn Eighe East-38 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

After a stop at the trig point and soaking in the views of Liathach and the west end of Beinn Eighe I headed down to the Suc. It's not far at all and worth a visit. It has a tiny cairn on top of a tiny summit and it's covered in moss - what heaven after all the quartzite! I sat down for a while there before heading down the horrible (my view) path into the lovely Coire an Laoighe. It deserves better! However, on exiting the corrie, the path improves and you can skip and hop all the way down to the road. (Just kidding, I was pretty tired by this time.)

Looking back to the summit from the Spidean Coire nan Clach trig point.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-39 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Spidean Coire nan Clach from Stuc Coire an Laoigh. You can see the scree run down on the right which avoids the scrambling.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-40 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

Best view of Liathach from here.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-41 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

There is lots of parking on the north side of the road near the copse. Many people try to park by the road as this spot is not advertised or documented. The south side area is blocked off with huge boulders.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-42 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

I just had to add a photo of little Seana Mheallan which I traversed a few weeks ago. Surrounded by its huge neighbours it looks tiny from here.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-43 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

I then had the prospect of a four mile (6.4km) walk back to the car. There was hardly any traffic and most of it was going in the opposite direction. I plodded along wishing I had had the presence of mind to leave a bag with comfy sneakers and clean socks at the path-head. I had also thought of dumping my backpack but it was almost certainly going to start raining and I would need some of my gear, and some water, camera etc and it just seemed too complicated. After 4 km a van came along and a lovely couple from Yorkshire gave me a lift back to the start. They had been up Beinn Eighe as well and had a bit of a walk themselves. Thanks guys!

Looking back.
ImageBeinn Eighe East-44 by anniesmountains, on Flickr

A fond farewell to the Black Carls on my way home (view from the road).
ImageBeinn Eighe East-45 by anniesmountains, on Flickr
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby scottishkennyg » Tue Jun 10, 2014 7:05 pm

Well done Annie, glad to see the camera back in safe hands, some stunning images, liked the pano, looks great when enlarged. :clap:
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby portinscale » Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:45 pm

Iinteresting to see close ups of the Black Carls. I'll put them on my to do list. Great report and pics
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby Sarah86 » Wed Jun 11, 2014 2:25 pm

You photos are beautiful, not an area I know but your shots make me want to jump in an be there.
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Jun 11, 2014 3:46 pm

Ahhhh.... My hill :wink: Looks so white! Glad you enjoyed mr Eighe, are you aiming for Liathach next?

This is the only bit of the ridge I haven't done yet and I'm saving it for the full traverse... Great to see the scrambling parts, definitely some fun for me!

We were on Seana Bhraigh the very same day, it was windy and the blue sky disappeared before we reached the summit, but still a good outing.
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby dogplodder » Wed Jun 11, 2014 4:01 pm

Most enjoyable report and nice to see parts of the ridge from angles not so often photographed. :D
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby Fife Flyer » Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:30 pm

Enjoyed reading your report Annie & your photo's are fantastic, some of them are stunning :clap: :clap:
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby AnnieMacD » Wed Jun 11, 2014 8:46 pm

scottishkennyg wrote:Well done Annie, glad to see the camera back in safe hands, some stunning images, liked the pano, looks great when enlarged. :clap:
Thanks, Kenny. My lens was a write-off but the camera was hardly affected so I should be getting it back this week. This was the stand-in I was using!

portinscale wrote:Iinteresting to see close ups of the Black Carls. I'll put them on my to do list. Great report and pics
Definitely recommend the Carls - they provide a lot of entertainment!

Sarah86 wrote:You photos are beautiful, not an area I know but your shots make me want to jump in an be there.
Thanks, Sarah, Torridon is a fantastic area with lots of variety. I'm sure you'll get hooked once you try it.

BlackPanther wrote:Ahhhh.... My hill :wink: Looks so white! Glad you enjoyed mr Eighe, are you aiming for Liathach next?

This is the only bit of the ridge I haven't done yet and I'm saving it for the full traverse... Great to see the scrambling parts, definitely some fun for me!

We were on Seana Bhraigh the very same day, it was windy and the blue sky disappeared before we reached the summit, but still a good outing.
BP, thanks for letting me have a day out on your hill! I was thinking of you when I was on the Carls - just up your street, methinks! I was very tempted to continue along the ridge when I got down to the trig point as I was feeling surprisingly fresh, but I was always conscious of the long walk back and I would have been very late getting down to the road. Also I really want to appreciate Coire MhicFearachar so will make that a separate outing.

Liathach is on the list for this year but I'll probably not try the Pinnacles! I read your report and some others and think they may be beyond me. May take a wander to Kintail next as I haven't done anything there yet and, remember, I'm in training for Sgritheall!

dogplodder wrote:Most enjoyable report and nice to see parts of the ridge from angles not so often photographed. :D
Thanks, dogplodder. I've been studying your Beinn Sgritheall report - steep of the steepness and now the jungle will have returned!

Fife Flyer wrote:Enjoyed reading your report Annie & your photo's are fantastic, some of them are stunning :clap: :clap:
Thanks, Fife Flyer, you can't go wrong on these beautiful hills!
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby The Rodmiester » Wed Jun 11, 2014 9:13 pm

Hi AnnieMacD, some cracking good photographs you took, love the cloud formation on the first one. I've not done the Black Carls either, looks interesting, but I guess all Torridon hills are wonderful. Maybe that's what I should do the next time I'm up in Torridon along with some of the Corbetts in the area. Thanks for posting, great stuff! :D
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby Johnny Corbett » Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:54 pm

I did this route a few years ago after taking a wrong turn when attempting the two Corbetts. As you say its a great route that not many know about. :D
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=15205
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby clivegrif » Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:01 pm

Great report, and what a cracking set of pictures! Absolutely outstanding! :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:28 pm

I found something interesting in Kevin's old album and I thought I could share it :D It's a photo of Black Carls, taken from the very same place as you black-and white picture. This one dates back to 1992. It seems that the rocks have eroded a bit since, but after over 20 years - no wonder...

Image
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:41 pm

Great report and amazing photos :clap: :clap:
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Re: Spidean Coire nan Clach via the Black Carls

Postby AnnieMacD » Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:17 pm

Johnny Corbett wrote:I did this route a few years ago after taking a wrong turn when attempting the two Corbetts. As you say its a great route that not many know about. :D
<SPAN class=skimlinks-unlinked>http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=15205</SPAN>

I read your report before I tried them. The thing about scrambling is that it's such a subjective thing and what you may find easy, could be horrendous for me (not the other way round though :lol: ). I had the biggest problem at the ravine and nobody else mentioned it or maybe just in the passing whereas I found the Carls exciting and fun. Looking forward to the two Corbetts soon!

BP, that photo is almost exactly the same. I'm sure there is some erosion and I'm sure there has been some rockfall too in 20 years. Looking forward to your report when you do the full traverse. I'm hoping to go up the Spidean again and do the second half without missing a centimetre of this amazing hill!

Thanks Huff-n-Puff.
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