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The magnificence of Beinn Eighe

The magnificence of Beinn Eighe


Postby Walk cycle » Tue Jul 11, 2017 11:53 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: 03/07/2017

Time taken: 8.21 hours

Distance: 19 km

Ascent: 1392m

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Day three: Beinn Eighe

To give me an understanding of the terrain of Beinn Eighe’s western summits, I had broken the route down into legs. I had written a route card with the height gained and (optimistic) leg timings. The circular route starting at NG 957 568, was one I had familiarised myself with from WH reports and various guide books; even so I wanted to practise route cards/navigation on what seemed a straightforward route in clear conditions, in preparation for future, more navigationally taxing walks.

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The path through Coire Dubh Mor

The forecast on MWIS had been for 80% cloud free Munros but the initial walk in was wet. I had full waterproofs on when I had started at 09:14:06. The track was well made and it followed the Allt a’ Choire Dhuibh Mhoir through the Coire Dubh Mor with the Beinn Eighe southern bulk on my right and the eastern buttress of Liathach to my left.

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Liathach's eastern buttress

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Liathach coire

As I gained height at 410m the path split with the north path to Eighe contouring around the base of Sail Mhor. A huge vista of lochans and flat green land opened up with all those mountains I had read about so much: Beinn Dearg and Beinn Alligin bursting into prominence.

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Beinn Dearg

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Beinn an Eoin and Baosbheinn

Particularly visible was Beinn a’ Chearcaill, a mountain I had been unfamiliar with, imposing itself as the path swung east below Sail Mhor’s massive buttresses. The scree slope between split the buttresses into a mirror image of each other.

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Beinn a' Chearcaill

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Buttress symmetry

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Cascading from Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair

The sky was leaden and Ruadh-stac Mor was in cloud. The cascades were vigorous over the rock step out of Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair and after I had climbed up to the corrie to cross the outflow I encountered a problem. I couldn’t cross the outflow. There were obvious large boulders that I imagined were used to ford the stream but as some of these were one to two metres apart I would undoubtedly have had to wade...and get wet. Perhaps there were other places to cross but I couldn’t locate them. Alteknacker had wisely suggested in a forum posting that rubble bags were a good solution to crossing streams but I had forgotten to buy them. The only option was to take the route on the west side of the loch under the buttresses of Sail Mhor.

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West side

The initial section was bouldery but easily passable. One section where the slope seemed to form a wall against the loch showed evidence of a path. After the unease at finding myself unable to cross I actually enjoyed the walk round the west side of the loch. However, with my concerns I didn’t fully appreciate the massive splendour of the corrie until I was under the triple buttresses and I didn’t take many photos. There were a number of sections in all of the walks this week when I really had to concentrate and taking photographs became a bit of a distraction.

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The triple buttresses

I stopped for a bite to eat and it is only now, writing this report I feel sadness when I realise it is at the Far West Gulley known as 'Fuselage Gulley' that the Lancaster crashed with the loss of eight crewmen. I think I recall reading about this in one of the WH reports but it wasn’t until reading the report by BP on the Fairy Lochs yesterday that this incident was brought home to me. I had been walking through the corrie as part of a holiday, when many decades before men had lost their lives in awful conditions. It’s very sobering.

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Buttresses and boulders


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Quartzite scree and sandstone boulders

The next challenge was the ascent of the scree chute onto the col below Ruadh-stac Mor. The quartzite and sandstone divisions are impressive as are the scree channels cascading between the buttresses... but to climb up one! Actually, I found this steady going – more satisfying than An Cabar on Ben Wyvis. If you keep to the left near to the solid ( though sometimes not very solid) pre-scree the ascent was straightforward. Then suddenly it's all over. You are on to the col and Torridon’s magnificent panoramas are laid before you.

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The scree chute

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Looking down the chute

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Sail Mhor

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Beinn Eighe ridge

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Torridon panorama

I stopped again for a chocolate bar at the 868m height and chatted to a couple who had ascended before me. Ruadh-stac Mor was the first Munro and it looked misty. The route to the summit was initially straightforward, becoming more rough with quartize chunks littering the summit. Beinn Dearg, Baosbheinn and Beinn an Eoin are all visible and the triple buttresses look particularly impressive.

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Ruadh-stac Mor - Munro 15

I headed up to the cairn on the top leading to Coinneach Mhor (other walkers took a bypass path).

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Ruadh-stac Mor to Coinneach Mhor

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Coming back from Ruadh-stac Mor


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Triple buttresses and Liathach

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Southern panorama

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Coire Mhic Fhearchair

Liathach loomed out of the mist like a sleeping monster.

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Liathach

From the ridge to the second Munro, Ruad-stac Beag's shining scree slopes were reminiscent of Arkle in the Far North.

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Ruadh-stac Beag

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Eighe Ridge

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Cross bedding?

The ridge was fantastic with the jagged rock formations to the left like ancient jagged teeth.

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Jagged rock


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Beinn Eighe's magnificent ridge

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Liathach

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Imposing Liathach

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Celestial scree

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Flatbread selfie (I did eat it - the bread not the trig point)

After another snack I headed up to the conical summit of Spidean Coire nan Clach. I had propped my walking poles against a rocky outcrop before summiting and descending a different route I couldn’t then find them. Incredulous that I had ‘lost’ my walking poles I walked up and down and up and down the summit trying to find them. Eventually they turned up but a lesson was learnt – don’t put your gear down.

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Spidean Coire nan Clach

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From Munro 16 (minus walking poles)

A cairn indicated the descent path and although loose in places it didn’t present many problems. The walk back to the car was actually pleasant in such epic surroundings.

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From the descent path

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The descent path

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Glen Torridon

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Loch Clair


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Sandstone boulders

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Tree formation

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Liathach from the A896

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Beinn Eighe ridge

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Back to the car

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Nature reserve board

So, Torridon was living up to its monumental status. This had been a big walk in an ancient timeless landscape eventhough the mountains are being slowly worn away. It may sound odd but I found this walk 'easier' than Ben Wyvis. I had mentally prepared myself expecting it to be a significant adventure. Beinn Eighe, like Foinaven has various approaches and plenty to come back to and discover. The Lancaster crash, adds a sad layer to the day, something only really present to me as I write.

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Evening from the Torridon SYHA
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Re: The magnificence of Beinn Eighe

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:37 am

You caught the spirit of Torridon in your photos :D
Beinn Eighe is my favourite mountain. It's like a chameleon, so many colours, so many aspects. I've been up in different conditions: winter, blazing summer sun, last year we climbed it in similar conditions to yours - just the cloud was a bit lower and walking the white rocky ridge in thick mist was a spooky experience, even though we know the mountain well so we knew where we were going.

We are planning a separate trip to the crash site. The fuselage gully itself is only for rock climbers, but many parts of the wreckage are scattered on lower slopes. We've seen some of them before, but never took any photos. I'm tempted to do "the circuit of Corrie Mhic Fhearchair", climbing the slopes to the right of the buttresses, visiting Sail Mhor and then traversing along the ridge to Ruadh Stac Mhor. Just need a nice day for it!

I found an interesting site with loads of photos of the crashed Lancaster here. Quite shocking.
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Re: The magnificence of Beinn Eighe

Postby Halo » Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:36 pm

As BP says, you've really caught the spirit of Torridon with this sequence of pics. Some very fine pics of the triple buttress and Coire Mhic Fhearchair (reminds me that the buttresses looks like there might be a scrambling route somewhere there), and - although we all take the same photo - I still love that stunning pic of the east end of Liathach taken from the A896 - it's just such an amazing experience as you come round the corner and see THAT!

The rubble bags are not my idea - I got it from BP - but it seems it may have a longer provenance tree...

I've often wondered whether there was a doable route along the west shore of the Loch - viewed from the other side, it looks like it might be pretty challenging. Good to know that it's OK.

Ref putting down your poles: while doing the Cuillin Ridge once, my nephew and I left our sacs on the main route in a place that looked eminently identifiable while we went out to Sgurr Dubh Mor; only to have to spend nearly an hour looking for them when we returned. Indeed, one typically learns such lessons the hard way!

Finally: given you're a bike and hike man, did you not consider doing the ridge starting at the NE end, starting from Creag Dhubh? That way you get to traverse the full ridge...
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Re: The magnificence of Beinn Eighe

Postby Walk cycle » Thu Jul 13, 2017 9:32 am

BP/Halo - Thanks for comments about capturing the spirit of Torridon. Corrie Mhic Fhearchair does have a really distinctive atmosphere and the whole of Beinn Eighe is a complex mountain with many possible future walks.

BP - I followed the link to the website and was astounded to see how much wreckage there is in the gulley. On one of my photos of the buttresses there is white oblong shape - could that be a piece of wreckage or is it just quartzite? I looked at the Uk Climbing website ( obviously this is out of the remit of WH) I was amazed by the number of climbs and the inventiveness of the climb names:

https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crag.php?id=774

Claustrophobic Corner sounds interesting.

Halo- Yes that Liathach view from the road is memorable. I used to cycle before I got into walking and then I combined both. However when I cycled to Ben Klibreck from Lairg/climbed hill/cycled back in 2013 I didn't get back to the campsite till after 9pm and trying to walk/cycle became impractical. However, I would consider bringing the bike again and I definitely want to do that walk from Kinlochewe. The west side is definitely ok - I was just a little surprised to find my intended route 'impassable'.
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Re: The magnificence of Beinn Eighe

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Jul 13, 2017 10:08 am

Halo wrote:The rubble bags are not my idea - I got it from BP - but it seems it may have a longer provenance tree...


It wasn't my idea :lol: :lol: :lol: Someone else mentioned it under my report on Am Faochaig (which has a notorious river crossing) and now the legend has a life on its own on WH :wink: Personally, I never used the bags, I remember somebody suggesting taking plastic flip flops or green wellies to river crossings... I just pole-vault over rivers and if they are too wide, I cross barefoot.

My husband did the full Beinn Eighe ridge traverse once, he was camping in Kinlochewe (the old campsite that doesn't exist any more) so he had the whole day to walk the mountain. He didn't use a bike, this is the route he took:

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So the only top he didn't visit was Sail Mhor, maybe that's why he's eager to do the circuit of the corrie to include this omission :D
The full ridge traverse gives about 1800m of ascent, 20miles of walking, a big day but doable. Another dream for me, maybe, but with my two dodgy knees seems more like a dream sadly :(
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Re: The magnificence of Beinn Eighe

Postby Mal Grey » Thu Jul 13, 2017 12:34 pm

Such a good hill, thanks for reminding me. We once spent most of a day ploughing through deep snow to get to the loch outflow before abandoning any hope of summitting and returning the way we'd come in the dark. We never saw the coire in the clag/snow, so good to see your photos.

The link to the aircrash website walk report and info was fascinating.

BP, I've not seen that particular route used to do the complete circuit, fair play to Kevin for that! When we did this, we put a car at each end, started from near Cromasaig, included the excellent Black Carls, went back and out to RSM, round and down the scramble to Sail Mhor, then with the light failing dropped back to the bealach, decided to drop straight down to Coire Dubh Mor down "interesting" steep terrain. Not a recommended descent, but we were young and fit and chose that to get off the hill before dark, whereas we should probably have dropped more safely in to Coire Mhic Fhearchair and walked back out on the path in the dark. It wasn't desperate, but if we'd misjudged the time remaining before full dark, we could have had some difficulties zig-zagging between the small crags down steep ground.
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