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My First Peaky Sgorr/Sgurr! Beinn a'Bheithir

My First Peaky Sgorr/Sgurr! Beinn a'Bheithir


Postby SecretSquirrel » Tue Oct 06, 2015 1:13 pm

Route description: Beinn a'Bheithir

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

Date walked: 11/10/2015

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 15.44 km

Ascent: 1835m

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I've spent many a time reading through reports and photographs of the 'Sgurr's of the North West Highlands. The look of those mountains have amazed me. The sharp peaks, jagged ridges and the plain-to-see bands of rock. Really amazing geography and landscapes.

Many of those sharp jagged hills are just a little intimidating too! A hill named as a peak, or Sgurr, has always given me thoughts that the climbs will get tougher and demand more respect. The day I get a 'Sgurr' in my list of Munro summits climbed will be the day I think I've eventually started to gain some real hill experience :wink:

Well ... I'm almost there, I've still not climbed a Sgurr, but I have now climbed a 'Peak' ... A 'Sgorr' .. actually three of them :D

I had my usual early start and was parked up at Ballachulish Tourist Information/Co-operative car park for 0750 and booted and walking for 0800 - I don't like faffing about at the car - I don't understand people that seem to spend forever messing about with gear before getting started :crazy:

Today was looking like a perfect crisp and clear day with just some light high cloud. There were some more ominous looking clouds nearby, but thankfully they wouldn't affect my day much!

Sgorr Bhan (left) and Beinn Bhan (right) from Ballachulish
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Starting a munro walk from the centre of a village felt quite unusual. Finding the start of walk can sometimes be the most challenging part, and finding the way through village streets doesn't make that any easier! Howver, as usual its easy once you know where your going, but I'll admit to a little GPS help finding the right road out of the car park!

Once on the right route, passing the school and finding the gate, crossing a field and onto the open hillside of Beinn Bhan (above on the right), the initial climb is quite steep and pathless. Thankfully the terrain was easy going and i gained height quickly although I admit there were a few 'photo' stops on the way up :lol:

Ballachulish below and The Pap over Glencoe village
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There was an awkward fence to climb at about 250m. Possibly made more awkward as I was trying to get over it without doing any damage, but I eventually managed it ... with a bemused audience of 4 huddled sheep. After the fence, I found a vague hint at a trail and followed some muddy, foot shaped 'steps' up the steep hillside where I met a 'proper' trail heading right at about 300m.

Ballachulish Bridge spanning Loch Linnhe (left) and Loch Leven (right)
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Being on a decent path on clear day removed a lot of navigation and position checking, making the going a lot easier and quicker. The path contours round and before heading up onto the ridge of Beinn Bhan, linking a series of waymarker cairns heading for Sgorr Bhan.

Sgorr Bhan .. my first close encounter with a stripey layered Sgorr!
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The skies were still quite clear and looked nice and blue to the west out to sea, but there was a lot more cloud to my east over the hills of Glencoe. I was starting to notice the wind picking up ... blowing east to west.

Moody view down Glencoe
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While climbing up the Bhan's, although I made many a 'photo' stop for a breather, the views back down to the village, Loch Leven and beyond really were stunning.

Looking back to Loch Leven from Sgorr Bhann
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Leaving the bealach at Beinn Bhan and heading up Sgorr Bhan, I left behind the autumnal grasses and made my way up the rocky, scree and dust paths of the Sgorr. The way stays fairly obvious on dusty gravel paths and when going over stoney sections, the stones had a lighter worn/polished look of a well trodden route.

At about 740m the path begins to contour west towards the corrie, heading across a section of scree coming down the hill. Seeing this reminded of the WH description, "Just before the path crosses a scree slope, turn left off it" and sure enough, on closer inspection I had just passed a tiny cairn and path heading directly up towards the summit.

The days first munro summit comes into view - Sgorr Dhearg
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Almost two hours after leaving the car, I reached the summit of Sgorr Bhan, my first 'Sgorr' of the day :D Although 'only' a top and not a Munro, it still felt like an achievement and a great looking peak that deserves more.

Cairn on the munro-top, Sgorr Bhan
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All thoughts quickly moved onto the next 'Sgorr' of the day. Passing the cairn of Bhan the views opened up across the ridge to Sgorr Dhearg.

Ridge leading to the summit of Sgorr Dhearg
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During my planning stages for this walk, due to the shorter October days and the thought of an early rise, I had considered a slightly shorter route starting from the Forestry Commission car park in South Balachulish. ascending and descending via Glean a'Chaolais. Now I was so glad I had stuck with the horseshoe walk on the ridges. Absolutely stunning and great fun.

Continuing up Sgorr Dhearg
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Corrie Giubhsachain
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Final climb to the top of Dhearg - reasons for the title of Sgorr becoming obvious!
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View back to the top of Sgorr Bhan - cloud cover darkening the appearance of the scree
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Twenty minutes after leaving Sgorr Bhan I was on my first Munro of the day, Sgorr Dhearg. I now had my first Sgorr/Sgurr peak to tick-off my Munro list :D The views north and west were breath taking. However, looking to the East and South it had become very dark and gloomy. Whats more, the wind was rapidly pushing it towards me.

It was strange how quickly the summit changed, with the arrival of dark cloud and wind, from a happy achievement to a foreboding unwelcome place. Clag can often feel like a snug blanket, but this was a weird feeling.

Sgorr Dhearg summit cairn burying the metal rod remains of a trig point
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Summit view down Corrie Giubhsachain to Loch Leven
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Ridge leading to Meall a'Chaolais
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I didn't hang around too long on Sgorr Dhearg. I got some snaps of the views and started my descent to the bealach of Sgorr Dhonuill. No sooner had I started my descent when the clouds passed by, continuing their journey west towards the sea, and my view cleared to my second intended Munro (and third Sgorr) of the day.

Second munro target of the day - Sgorr Dhonuill
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I had slight trepidation of the final climb to Dhonuill. Some reports I had read mentioned exposure, some mentioned scrambling, some even mentioned both and yet others said there was neither. I was unsure what to expect.

Standing at the bealach, looking up at the upper section of Sgorr Dhonuill, its vertical rock walls looked intimidating. The contours at the top also looked like the path would turn right following the edges and the drop into nothingness! I had all these thoughts while ploughing ahead regardless. If some reports didn't have any issues, then it must be a matter of finding the correct route to the summit.

Descending to the bealach, the erosion scars on Dhonuill caused by footfall are hard to ignore
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Looking back to Sgorr Dhearg
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The closer I got to the final climb, the less imposing it looked. Having now experienced the summit for myself, I suspect the reason for peoples differing opinions of the ascent are choice of route.

On ascent, I went over the rocks, following vague hints of path between them, which lead round to a path curving to the right, around the top of that vertical rocky cliff. Looking straight down into Coire Sgreamhach, I now know why some have called it exposed. I admit I opted to climb the rocks up towards the summit rather than contour around on that ledge/path.

Having since looked at photographs on other reports, I suspect a less exposed route would be, from the base of the rocky top, carry on straight, roughly West and then climb North onto the summit.

Final rocky ascent to Sgorr Dhonuill
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After the short rocky climb, and one hour after leaving the top of Sgorr Dhearg, I popped out at the summit cairn of Sgorr Dhonuill. My third and final Sgorr of the day :D The clouds had moved out over the sea and Islands, leaving the inland views clear.

Sgorr Dhonuill summit cairn with Dhearg filling the background
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The summit is quite wide and has plenty of comfy rocks to take a load off. The clouds were obscuring the view out to sea, but it was still a great spot to sit and have lunch :wink:

The Isle of Lismore in the centre with Mull vaguely visible in the murk behind
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From the summit, spying Gleann a'Chaolais and my return route curving around Meall a' Chaolais
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Leaving Sgorr Dhonuill behind, I headed back down to the bealach. It was on the descent I met the only other walker I came across. He had come up from Gleann a'Chaolais and had choosen Sgorr Dhonuill as his first Munro.

Descending back to the bealach gives more great views of Sgorr Dhearg
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Reaching the bealach, I turned left to head NNE, following a rusty old fence toward Gleann a' Chaolais. Initially, all that is left of the fence are the metal posts making a line down through the crags. There is a muddy path which follows the line down - I took great care here not too land on my pride and gain a muddy rear. Thankfully - and unusually for me - I made it all the way down without incident :D

From the coire, looking back up to the bealach
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After the crags, the ground levels out a bit making it easier to stay upright! The path then continues along the left side of a now full fence, heading for the forest plantation. I remembered the WH description saying to stay on the right of the fence. Getting through the taught rusty wire of the fence meant taking off my backpack, tossing it over while I edged between.

Safely, if inelegantly, over, I continued on a few metres only to find a large gap in the fence :roll: :wink: In my defense this would have been easier to stumble across in ascent rather than descent, M'lud :lol:

Final look back before entering the forestry
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Soon after crossing the fence, I could see a sign ahead pointing the way to the forestry car park. It lead onto a well made stepped path and then into the trees and solid standard issue forest path. The path did seem to go on a bit, but eventually crosses a forestry road before coming out on another road, turning right to curve around Meall a 'Chaolais and back to Ballachulish.

A step closer to ticking a Sgurr ... 2 Sgorr's down :D :D
Last edited by SecretSquirrel on Wed Oct 14, 2015 11:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: My First Peaky Sgorr/Sgurr! Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby SecretSquirrel » Wed Oct 14, 2015 11:30 pm

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Re: My First Peaky Sgorr/Sgurr! Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby rockhopper » Thu Oct 15, 2015 12:46 am

You picked a good couple of "sgorrs" with which to start your sgorr/sgurr quest :thumbup: Not a bad day for it too - enjoyed that - cheers :)
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Re: My First Peaky Sgorr/Sgurr! Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Oct 15, 2015 2:13 pm

Wow, fantastic "Sgorr story" :D :D Brings back memories! We did these two last year in October, encountered a couple of small snow storms, clouds and a few rainbows. We had good views from Donald's Peak, one of the best viewpoints in western Scotland, I think.

You were lucky not to land on your rear on the descent, we sadly had the pleasure :shock: but to our excuse, it was hailing on the way down.

Just out of curiosity, I checked my Munro list for my first Sgurr and it was Sgurr Mhor (Beinn Alligin) - no. 4, followed soon by Sgurr Fiona (An Teallach) - no. 7. , but my favourite "peak" is Sgurr na Lapaich in Glen Affric, which is not even a Munro, just a top :lol:
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Re: My First Peaky Sgorr/Sgurr! Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby Gordie12 » Thu Oct 15, 2015 6:21 pm

And now you've got me checking as well. Turns out I've done three, all on the same day as part of the Strathfarrar 4.

Great report on these two hills - they really do look good and probably the two I've most wanted to climb but never got to yet.
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Re: My First Peaky Sgorr/Sgurr! Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby dogplodder » Thu Oct 15, 2015 7:15 pm

Good detailed report...... making me want to go right now! 8)
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Re: My First Peaky Sgorr/Sgurr! Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby SecretSquirrel » Fri Oct 16, 2015 10:27 am

rockhopper wrote:You picked a good couple of "sgorrs" with which to start your sgorr/sgurr quest :thumbup: Not a bad day for it too - enjoyed that - cheers :)

Thanks RockHopper! They're a great couple of hills, one of my best days this year.

BlackPanther wrote:Wow, fantastic "Sgorr story" :D :D Brings back memories! We did these two last year in October, encountered a couple of small snow storms, clouds and a few rainbows. We had good views from Donald's Peak, one of the best viewpoints in western Scotland, I think.

You were lucky not to land on your rear on the descent, we sadly had the pleasure :shock: but to our excuse, it was hailing on the way down.

Just out of curiosity, I checked my Munro list for my first Sgurr and it was Sgurr Mhor (Beinn Alligin) - no. 4, followed soon by Sgurr Fiona (An Teallach) - no. 7. , but my favourite "peak" is Sgurr na Lapaich in Glen Affric, which is not even a Munro, just a top :lol:

Cheers BP! I probably ran too far with the 'Sgorr' angle on my write-up lol. My being based to the South of all the Munros, its taken me a while to work my up past all the 'Bens'. Although, maybe I should take a more random or impassioned approach to choosing which hills to do next.

Unlucky on your slippy descent :( I think had an advantage that it has been dry recently.

Gordie12 wrote:And now you've got me checking as well. Turns out I've done three, all on the same day as part of the Strathfarrar 4.

Great report on these two hills - they really do look good and probably the two I've most wanted to climb but never got to yet.

Haha! Thanks Gordie. Great couple of hills that are really worth a visit.

dogplodder wrote:Good detailed report...... making me want to go right now! 8)

Thanks dogplodder! Yeah, I did go on a bit :lol:
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Re: My First Peaky Sgorr/Sgurr! Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby Petr Dakota » Fri Oct 16, 2015 10:38 am

Nice report, views and photos :clap: :clap: :clap:
Good memories from there, I got a good day with a good weather conditions, but somehow the views were not sharp from a distance :roll: , I missed the sharp view especially of Loch Leven & The Pap of Glencoe so nice to see it now in your report :D Thanks for sharing :clap: ...and many more happy days in the mountains :wink:
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Re: My First Peaky Sgorr/Sgurr! Beinn a'Bheithir

Postby SecretSquirrel » Sun Oct 18, 2015 2:05 pm

Petr Dakota wrote:Nice report, views and photos :clap: :clap: :clap:
Good memories from there, I got a good day with a good weather conditions, but somehow the views were not sharp from a distance :roll: , I missed the sharp view especially of Loch Leven & The Pap of Glencoe so nice to see it now in your report :D Thanks for sharing :clap: ...and many more happy days in the mountains :wink:


Thanks Petr! My views varied on this walk, grey and claggy in some directions and crystal clear in others, but overall pretty good. The views across the villages, Pap etc were braw.
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