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Beinn Eighe: Panthers in the mist
by BlackPanther » Fri Sep 02, 2016 5:40 pm
Route description: Beinn Eighe (western summits)
Munros included on this walk: Ruadh-stac Mor (Beinn Eighe), Spidean Coire nan Clach (Beinn Eighe)
Date walked: 21/08/2016
Time taken: 7.5 hours
Distance: 19.5 km
Ascent: 1205m3 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).
Details of the early stages of this weird relationship are described in my 2012 report Beinn Eighe - when fortune favours the brave, but even after a snowy traverse, I still felt it wasn't enough. So I went on to climbing all surrounding hills, taking photos of Eighe from every possible angle - now I'm a proud owner of a full-blown collection called "Beinn Eighe from 100 different angles"
Kevin once said my BE madness could be diagnosed as OCBEP - obsessive-compulsive Beinn Eighe photographing bui it's more that just photo snapping. Every time I return to this hill, there are so many tiny details that pop up in my mind. That oddly shaped boulder on the way up to Coire Mhic Fhearchair. The dark slopes of Sail Mhor, cut in two like by some giant axe. The majestic Triple Buttress. The steep stone chute, always a challenge, but such fun at the same time. Breathtaking views from the summit. That little outcrop I always pose on. The familiar shiver down my spine when I gaze down into Coire Ruadh-staca. The way Beinn Eighe curves around Ruadh-Stac Beag, "the Baby Eighe", holding the Corbett in almost motherly embrace. Even the eroded path into Coire nan Laoigh, where I once slipped on the snow and slid down on my bottom. Every visit to Beinn Eighe feels like homecoming.
For our 9th wedding anniversary we wanted to do something special, hoped for Sgurr Dubh and Sgurr nan Lochan Uaine, the last two Torridon Corbetts yet unclimbed, but when we arrived at the usual car park (by the bridge over the Allt a Choire Dhuibh Mhoir), cloud was down to 300m and very thick, and no wind whatsoever. We looked at each other and agreed that with visibility down to a few meters we didn't really fancy tackling the tricky navigation on the ridge which, as we had been told, had no paths and was quite bouldery. On Sgurr Dubh and Sgurr nan Lochan Uaine traverse, you need to be able to see where you're going. So we decided to leave the Corbetts for a better day and went on to do a Munro instead Funny as it sounds!!!
The reason we picked Beinn Eighe was simple, the route started from the very same car park and we both know the mountain well (especially Kevin, some 8 or 9 times he climbed it) so we were confident we could navigate on that ridge in thick cloud. Plus, it was BEINN EIGHE for heaven's sake, how can I say no to my beloved?
The route we picked was the standard traverse over both Munro tops, we prefer to do it clockwise, into Corrie Mhic Fhearchair first, up the stone chute rather than down it.
Before we even started walking, we fought a short but very painful battle with a giant army of midges. I think the National Midge Assembly gathered in that car park!
As soon as we set off and began to move, midges became less annoying. Skipping up the path in a happy mood, I didn't care about low cloud...
Beinn Eighe should be seen in this photo, but it's hiding today:
I couldn't resist posing in the mouth of my favourite monster!
As we reached the crossroads, where one path goes behind Liathach, the other climbs up to Coire Mhic Fhearchair, we saw two other groups of walkers just behind us. And now to the embarrassing subject of going to the toilet on the hills I felt I needed to find a rock to hide behind, but first I wanted to be sure nobody popped out of the mist and caught me red-handed So I told Kevin, we needed a "tactical break". We stopped for a few minutes and allowed the other groups to overtake us. I wonder what they were thinking - tired already? I hope they didn't guess what the true plan was
The path to CMF is well made, pleasant walking, shame views were non existent, but I was so happy to be on my fav hill!
There was a short moment when the cloud thinned and we saw a glimpse of views above us. My heart skipped a beat - maybe, maybe we will see something...
Not this time, or at least not yet today
Loch Corrie Mhic Fhearchair misty... Like a screenshot from John Carpenter's "The Fog" - maybe there are some ghostly sailors hidden in the mist?
It was a creepy feeling, when we walked around the loch, seeing next to nothing, but knowing that the vertical slopes of the corrie were looming just above us! A different kind of experience... But Beinn Eighe didn't disappoint us!
We could hear voices in front of us, the two groups that passed us earlier, but we couldn't see them, which made the experience even more creepy The mist lingered just above the surface of the loch, and when we reached the opposite end of the corrie, we could still see zilch... Again, being aware that there should be open space with great views there...
The last time we climbed up the path to the stone chute, it was in winter conditions, snow and ice, so I didn't remember it as badly eroded. Obviously, this is a very popular route and thousands of feet traversing Beinn Eighe did the job - the path is now very tumbly, in one place requires mild scrambling, which I enjoyed, as a good warm up before the chute climb:
We caught up with the two other groups, overtook them and charged up the chute with so called "smartass attitude" - been here, done it Quickly it turned out that the bottom half of the chute suffered from the same problem as the lower reaches of the path - very eroded. Lots of loose scree and unstable rocks, so going was hard. Two steps up, one down, but we were making progress:
The cloud was lifting behind us and we caught a quick glimpse of the loch below:
Higher up, the chute narrows to a steep gully, most of the loose scree is gone form here, climbing a bit easier. Still requires care and it's better to stay on the left hand side of the gully (as you face up), as there are some handy rocky steps there:
A pair of walkers with a dog were right behind us, I was fascinated how easily the dog hopped up the final part of the chute! Panther was a bit slower, carefully placing her paws, but she reached the top of the gully successfully!
Ooops, I did it again!
As we chatted to the other pair of climbers at the top of the chute, suddenly, the cloud parted and I almost fell down the gully again, such impressive was the view below us. I've seen it many times before, but it's always amazing.
As with a touch of magic wand, we were treated to a wonderful spectacle of dancing clouds, blue loch, green grass and grey rocks, the Beinn Eighe Rhapsody:
We started climbing towards the summit of Ruadh-stac Mor, which is still further 150m of ascent from the top of the chute, but the ground is much easier. We kept stopping for photos and videos, or to simply admire the spectacle - as long as it lasted.
Sail Mhor in its full glory:
The Triple Buttress from the ridge:
Back towards Coinneach Mhor:
Spidean Coire nan Clach:
At some point I saw a something moving on the grassy part of the ridge in front of us. People? Nah, just a herd of deer.
They were all female, I was looking for the stag but couldn't spot one, maybe he was in hiding
Before we reached the summit, the cloud rolled in again and the spectacle was over...
We took a longer break on the summit, but the clag stay put. Lucy was glad to bag her 28th Munro:
Kevin lost the count on his Beinn Eighe ascents
I was hoping, maybe if visibility improved, we could take a detour to Sail Mhor, but the clag thickened and it looked like our luck has run out, so we decided to stick to the classic route. We traversed from Ruadh-stac Mor to Coinneach Mhor, enjoying the scramble-ish path in the mist, then continued along the ridge towards the second Munro. Funny, how the lack of more distant views makes you pay more attention to the details of what you actually can see. All those little rocky outcrops and bits of cliff - fascinating.
Of course, I couldn't resist posing on my favourite plinth:
More rock formations:
This one I called "two blokes in flat hats":
The ridge drops to about 800m and at some point we walked out of the cloud - only to admire the sheer drops below our feet:
The ridge in front of us disappearing in the clag...
I was having so much fun, for the first time I was up my favourite hill in the cloud and it was a whole different experience Looking back, again half of the ridge gone:
Watch out for a Panther in the mist!
We entered the cloud again as we gained height, got to the trig point without any problems. I remembered that this is not the summit of Spidean Coire nan Clach, so we continued over more scrambly terrain to the true top of the second Munro. We skipped the bypass just before the summit for a short scramble up larger boulders, and then the final, easier ridgewalk brought us to the top.
The summit of Spidean is tiny and could be a cause of serious vertigo (if you could see anything ha ha ha). 29th Munro for Lucy:
Again, we waited for quite a while for the clag to disperse, and again no luck The couple with the doggie caught up with us again, we chatted some more, but the cloud was stubbornly holding on. We admitted defeat - no views for us this time. Only as we returned to the trig point, we had a gap in the cloud:
The path down to Coire an Laoigh was a nightmare, badly eroded and slippery, my bum encountered the ground a couple of times as I lost my balance, but I was ready to forgive my fav hill for that one mishap
Half way down, and the clag lifting - how typical, it's always clear when we have already left the summit!!!
Lower down the path is still tumbly, but it's possible to descend on the grass alongside:
The two Corbetts across the glen, our primary targets. Did I regret swapping them for Beinn Eighe??? NO!
by BlackPanther » Wed Dec 11, 2019 5:48 pm
Back to the ridge from below:
We walked back along the road at a lazy pace. Midges were obviously taking an afternoon nap so we could enjoy the final moments in Torridon without getting bitten all over. When we returned to the car park, we heard a loud noise - the Coastguard helicopter was hovering just above the pinnacles of Liathach. Were they trying to recover an injured person or simply doing an exercise, I don't know.
It was a wonderful day even with limited views. Beinn Eighe made me smile one more time. No more left to say.
I'm finally catching up with the backlog of reports. My next story will involve angels, demons and loads of midges Watch this space.
***This TR was affected by Google bug. This is the repaired version ***
by Border Reiver » Wed Dec 11, 2019 10:31 pm