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Sun, snow, hail and rainbows
by BlackPanther » Thu Oct 09, 2014 4:59 pm
Route description: Beinn a'Bheithir
Munros included on this walk: Sgorr Dhearg (Beinn a'Bheithir), Sgorr Dhonuill (Beinn a'Bheithir)
Date walked: 04/10/2014
Time taken: 8 hours
Distance: 15.8 km
Ascent: 1358m10 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
We picked Ballachulish Munros mainly because the route is not ridiculously long and it suits shorter autumn days. Plus Kevin has done them before so he knew the area a bit - and he didn't remember anything difficult about them. Sadly, his previous visit to Beinn a'Bheithir was in thick clag so he had very few pictures to show me - a cairn in the mist, a path through the forest. So he didn't mind a repeat as long as we had a chance to actually see something from the higher levels, and we did indeed get some decent panoramas.
The whole experience could be called "Four seasons in a day" as we walked through cloud, rain, snow, hail, high winds, but in between we had some lovely sunshine and clear skies. The descent was a bogfeast, but all in all we enjoyed the climb
During his previous visit, Kevin climbed Beinn a'Bheithir up and down Gleann a'Chaolais (it was before the new path was made) in a T-shaped route, but this time we opted for the circuit up the shoulder of Beinn Bhan. We parked in Ballachulish and walked up the road. The morning was cloudy-ish but we trusted the forecast suggesting sunny spells later on:
We entered the fields through a rusty iron gate and headed for the steep climb. Low cloud was dancing around the hill slopes and the approach, initially on a vt track, was extremely boggy:
Soon we had to leave the faint track and tackle the grassy side of Beinn Bhan, which didn't look too friendly The initial stage was just wet and muddy, but quickly it became steep and slippery. We followed a tiny stream and at some point we located a sketchy path through grass and heather.
Views down to Ballachulish already getting interesting and with blue sky above we hoped for some more higher up:
It was a wet, slushy experience. We reached the fence half way up the slope, climbed over it (luckily it's not barb-wired) and pushed on through the heather. I was glad to have gaiters and good waterproof boots!
Eventually we came across a proper path. it came right in time, as we were getting fed up with the trod up the wet vegetation. Plus more views along Loch Leven appeared:
A quick shower came and went but I decided to keep my goretex jacket on, just in case:
When I saw the length of the ridge awaiting us, I jumped up for joy - that's what I like about mountains!
We reached the cairn on Beinn Bhan and took a short break to record the spectacle unfolding around us... Cloud-dancing above Loch Leven and to the east, above the peaks of Glen Coe - simply stunning. Cloudy days have their own dark secrets...
We kept on climbing, now on an obvious path. The ground became rockier and we had to slow down again, as the rocks were very slippery. Or maybe we just used that as an excuse to have a chance to look down the corries:
Behind us, another spectacle has just began - the first rainbow of the day. We counted about ten of them altogether that day plus one Brocken spectre (vanished before we managed to photograph it):
But in front of us, the summit of Sgorr Dhearg now looked gloomy, embraced by grey, unfriendly cloud. I could almost smell the heavy shower coming... Kevin stopped to dress up before we tackled the steep, tumbling climb to Sgorr Bhan. We knew we had no chance to avoid the rain:
Panther ready to face the bad front:
The last glimpse down towards Ballachulush and Pap of Glencoe, before the cloud embraced us:
The heavy shower coming - it can be seen to the left of this picture. Immediately after, cameras went into rucksacks for safety:
The rain was thick, but it didn't last long and just as we reached the summit cairn of Sgorr Bhan, it ended abruptly - we walked out of the cloud and straight into the blue-sky world of sunshine! We could see the first target summit clearly, just across a col:
By the summit cairn of Sgorr Bhan (a Munro top at the height of 947m):
The nasty weather front has now moved east and the cloud was obstructing views to Glen Coe peaks, but I was glad it was over, at least for the time being
The western front looked so much better:
Due north along the ridge - the contrast between the two "worlds":
We didn't waste time on the summit of Sgorr Bhan and carried on to the col. The short descent was rocky but no scrambling involved. No scrambling on the approach to Sgoor Dhearg, either - that pleasure had to wait till later
We were taking advantage of the sunny spell and kept stopping for snapshots. I admired the rocky shapes of the northern ridge:
Zoom to the rocky towers on the upper slopes of Coire Ghiubhsachain:
Sgorr Bhan from above, with a wall of cloud behind. Personally, I like such moments, when the cloud is sitting on one side of the mountain with the other side basking in sunshine. I witnessed such spectacle once on the Cuillin Ridge, when the white wall stood still, guarding the western slopes. Like the ridge was sliced in two. Here, it wasn't just as spectacular, but I couldn't leave without recording it
We witnessed more of this cloud-wall views as we reached the summit of Sgorr Dhearg and looked towards the second target hill, Sgorr Dhonuil:
A few minutes later:
Munro No. 152 for me
The summit of Sgorr Dhearg was very cold and windy... We wanted to take a break and eat something before embarking on the final climb to the second Munro, but the top was simply too unpleasant to sit for too long We descended a bit and found a rocky outcrop, where we hid away from the gusty wind. It was time for a nice cup of tea.
We couldn't enjoy our twelve o'clock break for too long, because the cloud over Sgorr Dhonuil was thickening and pushing towards us - we had to prepare for another shower! We packed up and started to descend:
The wind dropped as we began to climb up to Sgurr Dhonuil and we even managed to see some views, as the cloud stay put on the southern side of the ridge:
View back to Sgorr Dhearg:
The climb is on a well worn path (in places too worn for my taste) and as the angle is not too punishing, we didn't take long to reach the lower "top", from which we could now see the infamous northern face of Donald's Peak:
The pictures don't really give the impression this vertical wall makes when approached on the way up... especially in cloudy weather. Another photo, taken later on the way down:
The cloud with heavy shower was now charging onto us...
...and as soon as we started the final climb to the summit, the world disappeared in the embrace of... snow! It was too worm for the flakes to last on the ground and they were melting as the set on rocks and on our jackets, but I just smiled - wow, winter is coming!
As for the final climb, I remember it was described as exposed but easy scramble... Sorry to be so blunt, but where was the exposure, excuse me? The scramble itself was more just a steep climb on a tumbling, eroded path - one place where I had to use hands, but I felt a bit disappointed. Maybe one could make it more difficult by tackling the rocks in a straight line rather than sticking to the path - we didn't try any unnecessary bravery with rocks wet and slippery and with snow obstructing the view.
First snowflakes this autumn officially recorded
The snow shower was moving quickly from west to east and as we reached the summit of the Munro, we walked out of it...
...and into the world of glorious sunshine yet again! We dropped our rucksacks and simply stood there, gaping - what a change!
The western panorama was simply mind boggling! Wooow! Kevin was smiling - at last he saw the view from Beinn a'Bheithir:
The hills of Morvern... I haven't been to this corner of Scotland yet, but they look appetizing for a hill-loving cat Especially this group of mountains: Creach Bheinn - Beinn na Cille ridge if I read the map correctly
Looking south-west, alongside Loch Linnhe and Isle of Mull:
Zoom to Lismore, the long, narrow-shaped island:
The mountains of Ardgour:
Happy Kevin posing with the sunny view behind. Mountains never cease to amaze us...
Looking down into Coire Sgreamhach just below our feet...
A wider pano:
While the best panoramas were to the west, the east and south were still covered in patchy cloud:
...but it was "melting" in places, creating the superb spectacle of hide-and-seek:
Munro no. 153 with some gloomy-looking cloud behind me...
The Nevis range still held onto the heavier clag:
Stob Bhan just about visible:
A glimpse of Glen Coe peaks, looking towards Bidean nam Bian:
Some more mootin' p*o*r*n
We spent almost half an hour on the second summit, as conditions were much better now, warmer and the wind has dropped. I watched the fluffy cloud moving around and "breathed in" the beauty of the mountains. It has to suffice now for the rest of the month...
Eventually we started the return walk. First, down the scramble-ish ridge, then on the path to the col. Until this moment it was all plain sailing.
On the way down:
Weather on the eastern side was improving and from the col we could see Glen Coe mountains slowly shaking off the cloud:
At the col I located the start of a steep descent to Gleann a'Chaolais. Very soon we realised, it was going to take more time than the ascent Basically, we were sliding down on the boggy path... Soon the path transformed into a stream and we discovered, it was easier to descend the grass alongside, just to avoid the worst mud Kevin looked back and said - Another washout is right behind us!
BIG shower number three coming!
At least in front of us, a much nicer spectacle appeared - we were walking towards the rainbow!
Zoom to the rainbow:
We managed to get maybe half way down the slope at snails pace, when poor Kevin lost his balance and said close hello to the wet grass He was lucky to fall on the vegetation rather than into a muddy puddle, but he still ended up with a few scratches and bruises. I almost laughed when he said - thank Heavens the camera is intact!
I helped him up and cleaned his backside of grass and mud. At the very same moment it started raining. At least it will wash all the dirt off me - my husband added and we moved on downhill, now much less steep but much more boggy. At some point we were walking through a soaked grassy meadow - splash, gloomp - and we decided we were fed up with rain, stopped to put waterproofs on again. Funny, the rain now turned to hail, frozen grains of sharp ice, the size of rice, they were falling at an angle and hurting our faces mercilessly. By the time we zipped up our jackets, there was no point putting on waterproof trousers as our walking pants were soaked throughout At least water didn't get inside our boots. Personally, I hate walking with wet feet
Wrapped up and struggling to see anything through the curtain of frozen ice, we slowly moved downhill through the bogfeast, but for no explainable reason, the whole adventure made us giggle... Watch out - Kevin shouted - you may need your snorkel!
The hail lower down turned back to rain and the shower stopped just as we entered the forest. Here, the path was much better, mostly on solid ground, a few short boggy stretches but what an improvement from the swimming pool higher up. We were still in good mood, our clothes were drying fast and we still had plenty of time to get back to the car before dawn.
On the path down in the forest:
Looking back up into the corrie, Sgurr Dhonuil to the left:
We managed to finish the circuit in 8 hours which could be classified as painfully slow, but try doing it faster in conditions we had Especially with the muddy swimming pool in the upper corrie.
All in all, it was a fantastic day, with adventures, great views and water everywhere I hope to come back to visit the hills in November, by then it will probably be full-on winter on higher peaks...
See you soon, Scottish mountains!
I have one more report to write, from a low level walk yet still interesting (didn't have time to post it last week) so I'm not entirely gone from the forum Meow!
by Gordie12 » Thu Oct 09, 2014 5:55 pm
Don't know what it is about these two hills but I've been looking forward to them for ages yet never got there - probably waiting for the perfect day to make sure I get the views.
Enjoy your month off.
by dooterbang » Thu Oct 09, 2014 6:29 pm
The pano shot is incredible. Been years since I did these, makes me want to get up there soon.
Enjoy your holiday abroad.
by AnnieMacD » Thu Oct 09, 2014 7:03 pm
by kmai1961 » Thu Oct 09, 2014 7:20 pm
(PS I had a little giggle at your comment on our Grey Corries adventure: I was so fed up when we got to the river, I couldn't bear all the faffing around looking for a good crossing spot, which is why I just went for it, at possibly not the shallowest point. I actually remembered reading in your Grey Corries report that you'd done the same. It never occurred to me that you meant you'd taken your boots off to do it! )
Enjoy your time away -- as Annie says, the hills are no' going anywhere!
by Fife Flyer » Thu Oct 09, 2014 8:26 pm
The descent was memorable for all the wrong reasons I too slipped, Karen & Chris found deep mud/gunge, it was a relief to reach the path at the forest
by The Rodmiester » Thu Oct 09, 2014 8:41 pm
by BlackPanther » Fri Oct 10, 2014 5:12 pm
We are leaving soon but maybe, just maybe we'll manage to pop out for a shorter hillwalk tomorrow - if I can get everything well organized for the trip. Hope we will be able to come back without any problems - with the ebola panic on the airports as we are not going anywhere near Africa...
by dogplodder » Fri Oct 10, 2014 6:08 pm
by Huff_n_Puff » Fri Oct 10, 2014 8:50 pm
Have a great trip and will look forward to your next posting.
by Alteknacker » Sat Oct 11, 2014 7:29 am
by rockhopper » Sun Oct 12, 2014 9:33 pm
by Blokewithastroke » Sun Oct 19, 2014 12:58 pm
As ever BP, a marvellous report!
by Collaciotach » Sun Oct 19, 2014 11:22 pm
I see these two most days and it surprises me how often the summits are clear I reckon they are the top of the heap for clear summit days