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Beinn Eighe: Panthers in the mist

Beinn Eighe: Panthers in the mist

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Sep 02, 2016 5:40 pm

Route description: Beinn Eighe (western summits)

Munros included on this walk: Ruadh-stac Mòr (Beinn Eighe), Spidean Coire nan Clach (Beinn Eighe)

Date walked: 21/08/2016

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 19.5 km

Ascent: 1205m

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As constant readers of WH forum know well, Beinn Eighe has always been my favourite mountain. I enjoyed both summer and winter traverses of this magnificent ridge. It always acted like a magnet, always cast some weird kind of magic spell on me. I don't know why this particular hill. Was it location, shape, steepness or simply love at first sight? :D
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" :lol:
Kevin once said my BE madness could be diagnosed as OCBEP - obsessive-compulsive Beinn Eighe photographing :lol: :lol: 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 :lol: :lol: :lol: 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? :lol:

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.

Track_BEINN EIGHE 21-08-16.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

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:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 001.JPG

I couldn't resist posing in the mouth of my favourite monster!
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 008.JPG

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 :oops: :oops: 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 :lol: 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? :wink: I hope they didn't guess what the true plan was :lol: :lol: :lol:
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!
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 011.JPG

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...
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 012.JPG

Not this time, or at least not yet today :(
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 019.JPG

Loch Corrie Mhic Fhearchair misty... Like a screenshot from John Carpenter's "The Fog" - maybe there are some ghostly sailors hidden in the mist? :shock:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 022.JPG

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!
Creepy, creepy :shock: :shock:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 029.JPG

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 :shock: 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...
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 034.JPG

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:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 042.JPG

We caught up with the two other groups, overtook them and charged up the chute with so called "smartass attitude" - been here, done it :lol: 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:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 052.JPG

The cloud was lifting behind us and we caught a quick glimpse of the loch below:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 054.JPG

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:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 056.JPG

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! :lol: Panther was a bit slower, carefully placing her paws, but she reached the top of the gully successfully!
Ooops, I did it again!
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 058.JPG

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.
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 062.JPG

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:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 065.JPG

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:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 069.JPG

The Triple Buttress from the ridge:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 072.JPG

Back towards Coinneach Mhor:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 076.JPG

Spidean Coire nan Clach:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 077.JPG

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.
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 089.JPG

They were all female, I was looking for the stag but couldn't spot one, maybe he was in hiding :lol:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 094.JPG

Before we reached the summit, the cloud rolled in again and the spectacle was over...
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 092.JPG

We took a longer break on the summit, but the clag stay put. Lucy was glad to bag her 28th Munro:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 097.JPG

Kevin lost the count on his Beinn Eighe ascents :lol:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 098.JPG

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.
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 117.JPG

Of course, I couldn't resist posing on my favourite plinth:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 109.JPG

More rock formations:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 122.JPG

This one I called "two blokes in flat hats":
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 124.JPG

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:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 131.JPG

The ridge in front of us disappearing in the clag...
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 139.JPG

Ruadh-stac Beag:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 145.JPG

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 :D Looking back, again half of the ridge gone:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 151.JPG

Watch out for a Panther in the mist!
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 157.JPG

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:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 171.JPG

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:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 172.JPG

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 :lol:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 179.JPG

Half way down, and the clag lifting - how typical, it's always clear when we have already left the summit!!!
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 188.JPG

Lower down the path is still tumbly, but it's possible to descend on the grass alongside:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 194.JPG

The two Corbetts across the glen, our primary targets. Did I regret swapping them for Beinn Eighe??? NO!
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 195.JPG
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Mountain Walker
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Re: Beinn Eighe: Panthers in the mist

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Dec 11, 2019 5:48 pm

The western Torridons, Beinn Damph and Maol Chean-dearg the most prominent:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 205.JPG

Back to the ridge from below:
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 209.JPG

We walked back along the road at a lazy pace. Midges were obviously taking an afternoon nap :lol: 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.
2016-08-21 beinn eighe 217.JPG

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 :D Watch this space.

***This TR was affected by Google bug. This is the repaired version :D ***
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Munros:260   Corbetts:172
Sub 2000:56   
Joined: Nov 2, 2010
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

Re: Beinn Eighe: Panthers in the mist

Postby Border Reiver » Wed Dec 11, 2019 10:31 pm

Fab atmospheric photos and report. I love Coire MicFhearchair and any path that leads to it. The first time in 1987 it was dull and misty,but I was so taken in by the place that I went there again the following day after climbing Beinn Alligin and it was a perfect clear summer day. Been back twice since, the last time was in 1997, with a group led by the late Martin Moran. His knowledge and enthusiasm for the area was inspiring. He led us first up Spidean Coire Nan Clach, only him knowing that it was about to be listed as a Munro later that year. Some day I'll be back again, it has that effect.
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