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One man and his Collie take on Beinn a'Bheithir

One man and his Collie take on Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby J888ohn » Fri Jul 11, 2014 11:40 am

Route description: Beinn a' Bheithir via Schoolhouse Ridge

Munros included on this walk: Sgòrr Dhearg (Beinn a' Bheithir), Sgòrr Dhònuill (Beinn a' Bheithir)

Date walked: 10/07/2014

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 16.67 km

Ascent: 1244m

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Sgorr_Dhearg_and_Sgorr_Dhonuill.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

I'd been eyeing up this route for a while but was waiting for the perfect weather so the views weren't spoiled. This day was forecast to be perfect in the west so the dog and I loaded up the car and set off. By the time we got to Ballachulish it was already a baking 22c but very clear skies. Parked in the car park shared by the Tourist Info place and the Coop and walked into the village a short distance before turning left at the slight right hand turn in the road at the pub (just as the Walk Highlands route describes) and walking towards the hills.

Sgorr Ban from Ballachulish

The view was already impressive but be prepared for the brutal walk in. One you cross the river, turn left and follow the road past the Primary School. Almost immediately on your right there is a farm gate secured by a bit of orange rope. Go through this gate and follow the path through this field to the right (you'll go through a gap in the wall) then it's pretty much turn left and head straight up the hill. No path or guide but that's the way (apparently) you have to go. This is absolutely BRUTAL. I'm not going to sugar coat it. It is about 400m of climbing taking a route 1 approach right up the slope. Unfortunately there was also sheep in the fields so I had to keep Bauer (the Collie) on the lead. This provided another problem. He has two speeds; fast as he can go or nothing, and getting dragged up this hill by the mental Collie really took it out of me. The good thing is he is very good at sniffing out trails so in some bits of it there was a narrow path which was easier than fighting through the ferns and heather.

The initial climb is on the right of this photo, pretty much where you see the barren part on the right and the gully coming down from it. It doesn't look too bad in this photo, trust me it is!

You will also come across a wire fence that you have to cross. There is no style so you have to climb over it. It's only a 4ft sheep fence but would the idiot dog jump it? No. He jumps 6ft walls but won't jump 4ft fences. Cue a few minutes of wrestling with the dog who now was lying as flat as he could cause he knew I was about to hurl all 25kg of him over the fence. Eventually I won and the good thing was there were no sheep on this side of the fence so he could get off lead.

You still have to fight uphill through the ferns and heather and eventually we found a path that cut across the hillside. This slopes gently off to your left. I'd love to know where it goes cause if it adds a couple more km but takes out that horrendous climb through the fields I'm all up for that. On the plus side the view back down to Ballachulish was amazing.

Ballachullish with the Pap of Glencoe in the background

Now it was just a case of following the path as it went north then turned south to take you over Beinn Bhan towards Sgorr Bhan. It's very easy to follow and is a bit boggy in places even after the summer we've had. The views just kept getting better with Glencoe emerging in the distance and great views of Ben Nevis and Loch Leven.

Bauer enjoying the view

Ballachulish Bridge out to Loch Linnhe

Glencoe cutting through the mountains

It was getting really hot now with no wind to cool us. There weren't many pools of water to keep Bauer hydrated in and he was fairly going through the supply I'd brought for him. The view ahead was promising as my legs were still in tatters after the initial climb. Do not be fooled as I was, the summit you can see is Sgorr Bhan, not Sgorr Dhearg so you can imagine the sweary words I let out when I got there and thought "Oh look that summit over there is much higher" (expletives deleted......)

Sgorr Bhan with one of Sgorr Dhearg's ridges behind it

Sgorr Dhearg from Sgorr Bhan

We had a quick break here to recover then followed the obvious path you can see in the picture to the summit of Sgorr Dhearg. The views from here were amazing. Ben Nevis loomed large in the north and you could see Sgorr Dhonuill with Loch Linnhe and the inner islands behind it.

Sgorr Dhonuill, Loch Linnhe and beyond

Looking over Sgorr Bhan to Loch Leven and Ben Nevis

Tried to have some lunch here but there was all manner of flying beastie trying to get in the way so packed up and headed downhill to the Bealach between the two munros. The path is now typically West Coast mountains, loose stones and gravel and with sheep looming on the grassy slopes below Bauer had to go back on the lead which meant I made really good time going downhill being towed by the sheep crazed Collie. The path is easy to follow down and up Sgorr Dhonuill and I'm not ashamed to say I was pretty knackered by now so manufactured a waist harness out of the dog lead to get a tow up. I call in ingenuity, most will call it cheating :wink:

It does get narrow and a bit exposed maybe 100m or so from the summit so I let him back off the lead and just watched my step. There is still a path but it is only a couple of feet wide and right next to a substantial drop so care is required. The summit is a surprise as it is a big flat plateau. Perfect for an extended lunch break and to enjoy the views.

Panorama out to the west from the summit of Sgorr Dhonuill




One man and his Collie

Now refreshed (and knowing it was all downhill from here!) we set off retracing our steps to the Bealach between the two munros. There is an old fence here so you turn north and follow this into Gleann a'Chaolais. Again sheep were present so he was constantly on and off the lead. At least there was a good stream all the way so he was able to cool down in that. The Walk Highlands guide says to stay on the right hand side of the fence but the best path is on the left so I followed that. Again it is muddy and slippy in places but eventually that path heads towards the fence and crosses it before you reach the forest. You have to cross the fence otherwise you'll end up in the forest which looked pretty impassable. The path now runs along the base of the fence and is very boggy and wet. I'd hate to try this after rainfall. The view back to Sgorr Dhonuill is impressive.


The fence to follow.

Eventually you will come to a forestry commission sign at a gap in the fence directing you to a car park. Follow this and it undulates into the forest and develops into a lovely shady walk through the pine trees. The car park signs continue all the way down the path. I think I took a detour through the forest as the GPS waypoints want you to turn left onto a forest road but since it was a nice walk and I had him off the lead again I continued on the trail. When I came out onto a forest road again I had the choice to turn left, cross a bridge or turn right and head up hill (booo) to rejoin the GPS. I turned right and this road eventually leads you out of the forest onto the footpath on the A82 to the east of South Ballachulish. Just a case of walking along the A82 back to Ballachulish and to the Coop car park.

Have to say this is one of the toughest walks I've done. I think a combination of going from sea level to 1000 odd metres in a short distance (combined with that brutal first section), the baking heat and the hard stone paths made it worse. My feet were aching by the time I got to the car and still are today. Hence the reason I'm sitting with my feet up typing this :D

Definitely worth it for the views so save it for a clear day like I did.
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Re: One man and his Collie take on Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby rockhopper » Fri Jul 11, 2014 9:49 pm

great report, John, and an equally great day for it :thumbup: these hills do make for such a good walk - cheers :)
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Re: One man and his Collie take on Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby metafor » Sat Jul 12, 2014 7:28 pm

Yes I too uttered those same expletives, and have done numerous times. Isn't it amazing how often we get " caught out " no matter how many walk reports we read and how many books/guides we peruse and how many photos we pour over!
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Re: One man and his Collie take on Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby spiderwebb » Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:35 pm

Great pics, these are a beautiful pair of mountains, which I saw many times on crossing the bridge before i actually set foot on them, aborted first attempt, but the reurn was stunning. went further up the track befoe ascending via the ridge thats is the skyline on your first pic, but its not any easier :D
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Re: One man and his Collie take on Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby Beaner001 » Tue Jul 15, 2014 6:58 am

Super pics :clap: My two are terrible on the hill when I have to lead them up, pull like trains :shock: look forward to doing these two now as views look great. Cheers
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