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Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightning

Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightning


Postby Graeme D » Mon Jul 13, 2015 4:40 pm

Munros included on this walk: Sgorr Dhearg (Beinn a'Bheithir), Sgorr Dhonuill (Beinn a'Bheithir)

Date walked: 09/07/2015

Time taken: 6.7 hours

Distance: 14.5 km

Ascent: 1530m

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My mum worries when I go walking in the hills. In the winter she worries about me being caught up in an avalanche and year round she worries generally about me being involved in some unspecified mishap. After the recent tragic events in the Brecon Beacons, she now has lightning strike to add to her list of concerns, and as she and my dad were looking after Ailsa for the day while I headed north, I couldn't get away undetected or without a comment.

MWIS were giving a largely positive outlook for the West Highlands so I set my sights on the Ballachullish Horseshoe, otherwise known as the twin Munros of Beinn a'Bheithir. I had admired this mountain from a number of vantage points over the years but never quite managed to tick it off despite one or two close calls.

Today would be the day though and I was away from Perth by just after 5am heading along the mercifully quiet A85. I was parked by the Tourist Information building in Ballachuillish and up the road towards the school by 7.10 in slightly more promising conditions than the previous time I had walked this way back in April en route to the Grahams of Sgorr a'Choise and Meall Mor.

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Sgorr Bhan and Beinn Bhan from Ballachullish

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Leaving the Right of Way to Glen Creran track and heading for the foot of the Schoolhouse Ridge

The last time I had considered this hill was back in March this year with snow still lying and I suggested it to my colleague and good friend Robin, who had somehow contrived to do Sgorr Dhonuill but not Sgorr Dhearg. When I showed him the proposed route via Schoolhouse Ridge (never having liked the idea of the up and down through the forestry in the Gleann a'Chaolais) he took fright and sputtered something about it having been at least 5 years since he had worn crampons or wielded an ice axe in anger. He was out, and in the end I spent the designated day walking solo with the dog in Glen Angus.

So, Schoolhouse Ridge it was and it certainly did not disappoint. The views from the ridge increasingly open up to reveal the entirety of the fabled OS sheet 41 - the Glencoe hills, the Mamores, the Nevis range and the Grey Corries - and beyond, out past Beinn Sgulaird and down Loch Linnhe towards Lismore and Mull, with the Grahams of Meall Mor and Sgorr a'Choise looking ever more insignificant with every metre of ascent.

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A slow start to the ridge

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Sgorr a'Choise with Bidean back left

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Sgulaird

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Woo hoo - we're in business! Back down from the start of the scrambly!

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Meall Mor and Sgorr a'Choise foreground, Bidean, Sgorr na h-Ulaidh and Meall Ligiche background

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Quality scrambling!

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North across the Beinn Bhan ridge - the peripheries of Lochs Linnhe and Leven just visible

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Down Schoolhouse Ridge to Ballachulish and Loch Leven - Nevis and the Mamores behind Mam na Gualainn on the far shore, Sgorr na Ciche and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh to the right

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Even after only ever having lived in Aberdeen for one year, old habits die hard!

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Lochs Linnhe and Leven across the Beinn Bhan and Sgorr Dhearg ridges

After some excellent hands on scrambling, the ascent eases and the summit of Sgorr Bhan comes into view, with the graceful arc of the ridge climbing round behind it to the first of the two Munros, Sgorr Dhearg.

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A veritable eyeful from the top of the Schoolhouse Ridge - the Aonach Eagach now visible far right

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Where to start?

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The northern spur and ridge of Sgorr Dhearg descending to Loch Leven

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Thursday morning at work, or Thursday morning up here?

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Sgorr Dhearg from Sgorr Bhan

Poles stowed, hands in pockets, light day pack on my back, the walk from Sgorr Bhan to Sgorr Dhearg was an absolute delight!

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Looking east to the Glencoe hills from just below the summit of Sgorr Dhearg

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And south west to Fraochaidh, Lismore and Mull

It was surprisingly nippy for July at the summit, my first Munro in over two months and so I donned an extra layer and after a quick bite to eat and a few photos, it was off down to the bealach between the two Munros.

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East through Glencoe from the summit of Sgorr Dhearg

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And west to Sgorr Dhonuill and Loch Linnhe emptying out into the Firth of Lorne and the Sound of Mull

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:D :D :D :D :D :D

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Descending to the bealach

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Sgorr Dhonuill from the bealach

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North east face of Dhonuill

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Back to Sgorr Dhearg

I appeared to have the mountain to myself but a short distance below the summit of Sgorr Dhonuill, I met a young guy coming towards me. He looked a bit "puggled" as my Papa would have said. He said he was going to give Sgorr Dhearg a bodyswerve and head back down as he was having issues with his boot laces. I looked at his feet and right enough there were issues there. One boot looked like it had very little lace left attached to it while the other one had laces wrapped around under the sole in an attempt to provide some sort of security. I wished him good luck and continued on my way!

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Down through Gleann a'Chaolais to the Ballachulish Bridge

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An airy section of path just below the summit of Dhonuill

The summit of Dhonuill was a bit less nippy and generally more pleasant for hanging out on so I spent a bit more time there, including wandering over to the far western point on the broad summit ridge, where the views south west down Loch Linnhe were even more expansive.

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Sgorr Dhearg and Bidean from Sgorr Dhonuill - Sgorr a'Choise barely noticeable in the middle ground

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Dhonuill conquered!

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Sgulaird and Fraochaidh

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Ardgour and Loch Linnhe across the western arm of Sgorr Dhonuill

From here the onwards walk round the western arm of the horseshoe looked superb but I suspected the drop down from Creag Ghorm into Gleann a'Chaolais might be fraught with issues and so played it safe and elected to return to the bealach and take the more recognised descent route from there.

I met an older bloke just before the bealach who had come up the Schoolhouse Ridge behind me and was now on his way to Dhonuill and he said he had spent a few minutes watching the laceless bloke descending, trying to pick up hints from his chosen descent line. He seemed to have taken a very high line above the trees onto the slopes of the northern spur of Sgorr Dhearg but had by now vanished into the trees.

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Start of the descent from the bealach

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Picking up the line of old fenceposts

I had studied and memorised the WH notes on this section of the route and they were spot on, leading me easily and without mishap through the trees and out onto the forestry track that runs north and then east above the Ballachulish Bridge and the western end of Loch Leven before dropping back down to the A82 for the short walk back along to Ballachulish.

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Back to the bealach from where the path enters the forestry

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Dhonuill looking rather Alpine from the forest track

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The Ballachulish Bridge

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East up Loch Leven


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Graeme D
 
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby simon-b » Mon Jul 13, 2015 7:19 pm

A lovely couple of Munros, Graeme, with some excellent views.
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby The Rodmiester » Mon Jul 13, 2015 7:27 pm

Makes me want to return after seeing that, nice one Graeme :D
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby tina bonar » Mon Jul 13, 2015 7:37 pm

Nice to see the Horseshoe in summer Graeme, a very different prospect to our trip there in February. We did a bumslide on the snow on the way back to Balla and Colleen went right through that rusty fence :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby Gordie12 » Mon Jul 13, 2015 9:29 pm

Funny how you were only in Aberdeen for a year yet that sheep with some form of sixth sense appreciated that and headed for a difficult area of ground in the hope you couldn't get to him - did you??? :lol:

Every time I see a report on these two I think they look bloomin brilliant and I tell myself I must go there soon, then they seem to slip down the list until I see another report and away I go again.

Looked really good.
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Jul 13, 2015 9:41 pm

Some nice pics there, Graeme. :clap:

I've got these 2 on my list, even with a planned route. But the look of the forest at the bottom has put me off slightly to date (also the necessary-for-wimps good absence of more than a day or 2 of good weather); so it was good to read that the WH route description is spot on.
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby Meatball » Mon Jul 13, 2015 10:08 pm

Nice report.
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jul 13, 2015 10:57 pm

Ah you got a grand day for it Graeme - full clag when I did them. Looking forward to a return and doing the whole horseshoe coming down on Creag Ghorm. Nice pics really whet the appetite :D
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby jamesb63 » Tue Jul 14, 2015 8:01 am

Nice report, it was a bit nippy at points that day I was down in Glen Etive
doing the 5 from Startav
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby ancancha » Tue Jul 14, 2015 11:45 am

Nice report :clap:
Liked the photo of the exposed parth 8)
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby Graeme D » Tue Jul 14, 2015 11:51 am

Thanks folks. Was a nice day out.

Gordie12 wrote:Funny how you were only in Aberdeen for a year yet that sheep with some form of sixth sense appreciated that and headed for a difficult area of ground in the hope you couldn't get to him - did you??? :lol:

Every time I see a report on these two I think they look bloomin brilliant and I tell myself I must go there soon, then they seem to slip down the list until I see another report and away I go again.

Looked really good.


Sadly the sheep managed to evade my clutches Gordie! :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby IanEzzi » Tue Jul 14, 2015 3:40 pm

Great wee report, my sister and I did this exact route a few days earlier, her first scramble and my first for a while.

I sort of enjoyed the descent through the forest, if you follow the path through the trees it's very steep, muddy and slippy, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

However, I thought a far better route would be descending off the south of the bealach and dropping back into the glen above the primary school. There's a very good path there and it leads you back to your car without a trudge along the road.

I wished we had tried this route but my sister is a little dubious of my 'off-piste' excursions on the hills so didn't fancy it.


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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby past my sell by date » Tue Jul 14, 2015 4:35 pm

Nice report Graeme.
I did this circuit in the late 80's and we carried on round beyond the second Munro: Can't remember where we got down but there was a bit of bush-whacking involved I think :lol: I didn't know it was called Schoolhouse ridge - people get stranded there quite regularly - between the scrambly bits.
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Re: Ballachulish Rhapsody - two Thunderbolts but no Lightnin

Postby Collaciotach » Thu Jul 16, 2015 11:17 pm

Glad the weather was kind . :wink:

I pass or see these two most days and they seem to have a high % of clear summit days .
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