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An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg


Postby AnnieMacD » Tue May 12, 2015 1:59 pm

Route description: Beinn Dearg, Torridon

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn Dearg (Torridon)

Date walked: 09/05/2015

Time taken: 12.7 hours

Distance: 19.2 km

Ascent: 1194m

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To prepare for an ascent of Slioch, I thought I'd have a day out on Beinn Dearg! Ha, I think I got it the wrong way around. :lol: This is one amazing but steep hill - Beinn Sgritheall hasn't got a look in. If it were a Munro it would probably be buzzing but I didn't see a living soul all day - just a couple of ptarmigan and a few deer, oh and lots of dead frogs - more later.

I knew at my pace this was a whole-day expedition so I set the alarm for 4:45 and was at the start ready to go at 7:10 am. It was a glorious morning and the walk up Coire Mhic Nobuil was lovely. Lithach looked magnificent on my right and Beinn Dearg looked formidable on my left. There is an easy ascent of Liathach (well, relatively speaking) up the back (north side) which I had considered before I knew I was capable of doing the hard way!

From the path looking back to Beinn Alligin.
ImageBeinn Dearg by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

I was doing the circuit anti-clockwise - this is looking up to the summit, which you can't see from here. The Castle is the top of the band of rocks on the right above the deep gully.
ImageBeinn Dearg-2 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Malky-c has a link in his report to a report on another webside which stated the walkers had descended near a small gully which looked a better bet than their route, so I decided to give it a try on the ascent. I get very fed-up walking long distances on low-level paths, so I could attain the ridge sooner this way.

The route up is the line up the centre. Only near the very top did I have to detour slightly to the left to bypass some rocks in the gully.
ImageBeinn Dearg-3 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Sail Mhor on Beinn Eighe as I was about to leave the path.
ImageBeinn Dearg-4 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

To say it is steep is an understatement. I soon packed my walking pole into the rucksack and it was all-fours all the way up except for two occasions where I managed to stop to take some photos. Otherwise it was pretty relentless. Near the top I followed the deer track off to the left to bypass a rock but other than that it was straight. It was quite a relief when the slope eased and I was soon on the ridge.

About a third of the way up. It's hard to appreciate how steep it is from the photo.
ImageBeinn Dearg-5 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

All of a sudden there you are on the ridge! Looking across the corrie to Liathach.
ImageBeinn Dearg-6 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

The gap between Beinn Eighe and Liathach. I was just thinking this scene has not changed for millennia.
ImageBeinn Dearg-7 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Looking west - first sight of the Beinn Dearg ridge. You can see the lump of black rock that is the Castle on the left.
ImageBeinn Dearg-8 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

And what a fantastic ridge it is. I came up at the lowest point and there are huge sandstone slabs reminiscent of Beann A'Chearcaill (where I was last week). After some photos I took a right (east) and headed for Carn na Feola.

I had a short early lunch here but I was getting more and more worried about the "Castle" which was looming in the distance. I got a bit of a shock when I first saw it as I had expected it to be smaller - it's a tall looming tower of rock the north side of which plunges down into the An Coire Mor.

Lunch view over to Liathach.
ImageBeinn Dearg-9 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

The views of Baosbheinn, Beinn an Eoin, Beinn Eighe and Beinn a'Chearcaill are fantastic from the far north-east point of Beinn Dearg.

Baosbheinn and Beinn an Eoin with Loch na h-Oidhche in between. Loch a'Bhealach is to the left. The visibility was fantastic and you can see the Isle of Lewis and the Shiant Isles.
ImageBeinn Dearg-10 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Beinn a'Chearcaill, Slioch and Meall a' Ghiubhais.
ImageBeinn Dearg-11 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Beinn Eighe is so close. Ruadh-stac Mor on the left and Sail Mhor with Coire MhicFhearchair in between.
ImageBeinn Dearg-12 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Looking west along the whole Beinn Dearg ridge. I have to get to the very north-west tip to descend!
ImageBeinn Dearg-13 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

The cairn on Carn na Feola with Spidean a'Choire Leith and the pinnacles behind.
ImageBeinn Dearg-14 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

On the return I passed a few small lochans and noticed they seemed to contain a lot of dead frogs. In fact I saw only two live frogs and probably about thirty dead - I'm assuming that the bad spell of winter weather recently cut off their oxygen supply as these shallow pools would have been frozen over and covered with snow. The frogspawn was also inert so there will not be many frogs on Beinn Dearg this summer :(

Back to the bealach of Coire Beag and then a shortish climb up to the peak between the two corries. This is where the views of the corrie below really opens up and the Loch a'Choire Mhor was quite a spectacular surprise. It had huge chinks of ice (covered with snow) floating in the dark, dark water. However, I also woke up to the fact that one of the by-pass options of the Castle was cut off - the steep northern slopes were totally covered in snow. Aaaaargh! I didn't stop long here as my nemesis was now looming and had to be faced one way or another.

The unnamed top between Coire Beag and An Coire Mor.
ImageBeinn Dearg-15 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Loch a'Choire Mor with the summit behind.
ImageBeinn Dearg-17 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

The main reason I took the anti-clockwise route was so that I could assess the up-climb rather than the down-climb and this turned out to be a wise decision. At the base of the tower it looked huge and it also appeared that it got more complicated the higher up the terraces went (there are three). I'm not too frightened by exposure but what does worry me is that I might become cragfast. There wasn't another soul on the hill and I fairly quickly made the decision to take the by-pass path on the left. I actually like a bit of scrambling but what worried me was that my legs might not have enough reach to get to all the steps/holds - I'm 5ft 2in. So by-pass it was.

The Castle up close. I decided on the by-pass to the left.
ImageBeinn Dearg-18 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Well, I did remember seeing in BP's report that the by-pass does not mean that the towers don't need to be descended (in the other direction). Well, this turned out to be true, as the path I took does not seem to be evident from the west side and involved quite a bit of very steep re-ascent. As for the 'path' itself, what to say? It's most definitely a deer trod on a terrace which itself slopes at a steepish angle towards the abyss below. So, one has to take one step at a time on a very narrow (4 - 5 inches maybe) path on a sloping ledge - it took a tremendous amount of concentration and nerve!

However, there was one small shelf where I stopped and got the camera out. I think it's the only time I looked down! Here are the photos.

I found a small spot where I could stop and take photos. Looking back the way I had come ...
ImageBeinn Dearg-19 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

... and the way ahead.
ImageBeinn Dearg-20 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

... and looking down into the gully.
ImageBeinn Dearg-21 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

I carefully carried on around the shelf and then joined a gully which was opening out to a fan shape towards the bealach on the west side of the Castle. I still had the very steep ascent but it was no steeper that the main ascent so I was on more familiar territory. Boy, was I happy when I got to the bealach, but I didn't stop until I got up to the next spot where I could put my back-pack down and thank my lucky stars that all was well.

Looking back to the bealach where I surfaced (so to speak!). I'll post some extra photos in a comment to mark my route - for anyone else who wants to try it!
ImageBeinn Dearg-22 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

There's a little promontory which affords some more amazing views of the west end of Liathach and the summit ahead to the north.

My car is somewhere down there in the woods. Beinn Bhan is behind Beinn Shieldaig and the Cuillin in the distance
ImageBeinn Dearg-23 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

So just a wee walk and clamber over some rocks and there's the summit cairn. The top itself is broad and grassy with plenty rocks behind which to shelter from the wind (it wasn't very windy - just a bit cold in the breeze) so I picked a spot across from Beinn Alligin and had lunch proper. By now it was 3pm and I had been on the go for almost 8 hours! I really enjoyed my lunch as I believed it was plain sailing from now on and called my sister to tell her I was past all the difficulties and not to worry about me. :roll:

Looking back.
ImageBeinn Dearg-24 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Liathach from the summit.
ImageBeinn Dearg-25 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Over the west end of Liathch are Maol Chean-dearg, An Ruadh Stac, Beinn na h-Eaglise and Beinn Damh.
ImageBeinn Dearg-26 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

The cairn and Liathach.
ImageBeinn Dearg-27 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

I set off refreshed down from the summit plateau towards Stuc Loch na Cabhaig and clambered down some rocks when the path bore right to get round a pillar (this part is quite steep) to the north side which, of course gets no sun and a very exposed part sloping down to the right was covered in snow. No footprints and an enormous drop down to An Coire Mhor on my right. The snow was wet and very slippery and I had no idea if there was ice underneath. I don't know why I didn't think of going back a few metres and look for an alternative way on the left side which was in full sun, but no, I spent some time with my lone walking pole trying to make 'steps' for my boots that had a semblance of being flat. This I did and sheepishly took the three or four steps which got me safely across - otherwise I would not be here to tell the tale. I don't know if I 've described it for a proper visualization, but that was the only time I was truly frightened throughout the day. In retrospect, I see that I should have paused and looked for an alternate way to get past this section.

Yet another bealach on the ridge - looking up to the last climb - Stuc Loch na Cabhaig.
ImageBeinn Dearg-28 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

And looking back. The snowy bypass was to skirt the nobbly bit to the right of centre on the skyline.
ImageBeinn Dearg-29 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

From then on it was plain sailing up to the Stuc. This really is the most northerly point of Beinn Dearg but there is a small rib out to the north-east which I decided to leave be as I was needing to get down and I knew it would be quite a steep descent. I could see the Beinn Alligin path tantalizingly close but a long way down.

The northern tip of Beinn Dearg looking towards Baosbheinn and Beinn an Eoin.
ImageBeinn Dearg-30 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Beinn Alligin with the lengthening shadows.
ImageBeinn Dearg-31 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Looking back to Stuc Loch na Cabhaig.
ImageBeinn Dearg-32 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

The first part of the descent was on a pretty well-defined path which zig-zagged down on an unstable, sandy surface. Yuck. So I decided to abandon that and go for the steeper but deer-friendly option in a west-south-west direction. The going was slow and steep but fairly safe and simple compared with what I had confronted earlier in the day. Once down into the corrie there was no wind and it was a beautiful warm evening. A few deer grazed where a shieling had evidently been (no photo) and I easily progressed down the Beinn Alligin path back to the car park. I had a wee chat to a German/ Dutch couple who were camping in the woods near the road - what an evening they had - warm, sunny, no midges and in the foothills of Beinn Alligin/Liathach with an abundance of cool Allt a' Bhealach water. They were the first people I had seen all day.

My route down was left of centre. Steep but with no problems.
ImageBeinn Dearg-33 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Almost at the path - the steep, steep sides of Beinn Dearg on the left.
ImageBeinn Dearg-35 by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

This has to be one of the most exciting hills in the Highlands and I'll probably be back one day - yes, honestly :crazy:

I was pretty tired when I got home - as much from the prolonged periods of concentration as from the physical exertion!

(Note: Flickr has had some major changes and it appears that the GPS data is not included in the EXIF data - sorry about that - it's definitely there in Lightroom.)
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby AnnieMacD » Tue May 12, 2015 2:16 pm

ImageBeinn Dearg-18-route by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

ImageBeinn Dearg-19-route by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr

Looking down. Red was my route and yellow is the bypass path from the west side. It just seems to bypass the airy top.
ImageBeinn Dearg-22-route by Annie MacDonald, on Flickr
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby oslaallen » Tue May 12, 2015 2:19 pm

I love reading your reports and seeing your wonderful photos, but this one has to be your best! I'm definitely putting this route on my to do list :D
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby Mal Grey » Tue May 12, 2015 2:31 pm

Fantastic, excellent photos again, and a gripping tale to be told.
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby BlackPanther » Tue May 12, 2015 2:50 pm

Now I know why I didn't take the bypass :lol: :lol: Looks much scarier than the scramble on the "Castle" (gulp!).

I remember descending the way you came up and it was very steep and slippery, small streams coming down the slope everywhere and a lot of wet grass. Actually, going down took more time than going up. It's a killer of a hill but well worth it.

At least you saw the views properly unlike us! :D
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby weaselmaster » Tue May 12, 2015 4:32 pm

That's a great and very helpful report, Annie
Have this one still to do and have been looking forward to it for a while- thinking of combining it with the Northern Pinnacles on Liathach for a scary weekend :lol:
A
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby gaffr » Tue May 12, 2015 4:35 pm

Yes, Beinn Dearg is a interesting hill from what ever way you approach. We went clockwise but then we didn't know much about the hill prior. I think that, looking at the traversing route, the descent of the rocky bit was preferred and the rock seemed to be sound. All in all it was found to be a grand day out. :D Didn't have a camera at the time so images are appreciated.
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby AnnieMacD » Tue May 12, 2015 6:43 pm

weaselmaster wrote:That's a great and very helpful report, Annie
Have this one still to do and have been looking forward to it for a while- thinking of combining it with the Northern Pinnacles on Liathach for a scary weekend :lol:
A


You won't have any problems with it. I would have tried the tower if I was not alone - I just had visions of getting stuck with no-one to push/pull me up. :lol:
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby AnnieMacD » Tue May 12, 2015 6:45 pm

oslaallen wrote:I love reading your reports and seeing your wonderful photos, but this one has to be your best! I'm definitely putting this route on my to do list :D


Thanks so much. This is a 'must-do' hill in my opinion. It's just as good as the three other Torridon greats.
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby AnnieMacD » Tue May 12, 2015 6:45 pm

Mal Grey wrote:Fantastic, excellent photos again, and a gripping tale to be told.

Thanks, Mal!
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby AnnieMacD » Tue May 12, 2015 6:47 pm

BlackPanther wrote:Now I know why I didn't take the bypass :lol: :lol: Looks much scarier than the scramble on the "Castle" (gulp!).

I remember descending the way you came up and it was very steep and slippery, small streams coming down the slope everywhere and a lot of wet grass. Actually, going down took more time than going up. It's a killer of a hill but well worth it.

At least you saw the views properly unlike us! :D

I was lucky in that the grass was dry and fortunately not at all slippery. And now you have seen the views too!
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby past my sell by date » Tue May 12, 2015 7:38 pm

Great report and photos - reminds me why Torridon is my favourite area. Did this ages ago - thought it might become a Munro : remember it being very steep and the heavens opened on the way down :lol:
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby dogplodder » Tue May 12, 2015 8:54 pm

Another Annie special with nail-biting moments and photos to match! :clap:
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Tue May 12, 2015 10:00 pm

Wonderful tale and brilliant pics, you make an expert temptress :lol: :lol:
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Re: An Excess of Excitement on Beinn Dearg

Postby Fife Flyer » Tue May 12, 2015 10:01 pm

Great stuff Annie, enjoyed that :clap: :clap:
Another one to go on my long 'to-do' list :lol:

Agree with you in regard to Flickr, I was getting quite good at managing my photo's - that is probably why they changed the site :lol: :lol:
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