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Beinn a' Bheithir and Gleann a' Chaolais

Beinn a' Bheithir and Gleann a' Chaolais


Postby Bonzo » Tue Oct 12, 2010 2:21 pm

Date walked: 09/10/2010

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I've just returned from an excellent long weekend in Glencoe where an excellent walk over the two Munros of Beinn a' Bheithir ended in infuriating fashion thanks to a lack of clear marking\signposting in Gleann a' Chaolais.

I've walked for many years and have never relied on signposting to get to any destination but this was a particularly troublesome descent that at times bordered on dangerous.

We descended north from the col and walked along what was the only obvious path descending towards the trees. On reaching the fence which borders the top of the forest (East-West direction) the path became less obvious but someone had kindly built what appeared to be stile from a couple of large boulders. Footprints and worn grass again pointed to this being the obvious route so we climbed over the fence and headed into the forest.

We soon came across a horribly steep peaty drop which appeared to fall towards a stream. Again, the odd footprint appeared to suggest this was a known route down, but the awful conditions underfoot, the threat of a fall into a ravine of unknown depth and concern over having to retrace our steps resulted in us backtracking into the forest and looking for the route marked on the OS map.

After a good search through very dense forest and steep ground we decided to check the GPS\map and discovered that we had been over the supposed marked OS route but every attempt to descend to the forest road was thwarted by steep slimy rocky drops with the sound of running water below. We gave up, scrambled back uphill until we reached the fence and followed this over atrocious ground until we reached a cleared area of forest. Another dreadful descent over tumbled trunks, logs, holes and branches followed until we eventually reached the forest road. After a short while we came across a signpost pointing the way off the road for anyone on the ascent but something similar needs to be provided to assist walkers on the descent.

Earlier in the day we commented on the lack of cairns\post pointing the way up Sgorr Ban's NE ridge where a narrow band of grass was the only clue to gain a decent start without reverting to stomping over knee deep heather.

In bad weather the confusion surrounding the descent into the forest could easily result in an accident as there appears to be no obvious route through the forest. We may have found the 'official' route by descending the first tricky step but many others, like ourselves, wouldn't take that risk and look elsewhere.
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Re: Beinn a' Bheithir and Gleann a' Chaolais

Postby houdi » Tue Oct 12, 2010 7:06 pm

Sorry to hear of your route problems. When I descended from Sgorr Dhonuill I didn't go back to the previous bealach. I went straight on over the summit and down to a small lochan marked at spot height 779 metres on OS maps. There is a clear path all the way down into the valley which goes past a series of fine waterfalls and joins up with the main track skirting below Creag Ghorm. It eventually leads down to the road at Ballachulish House golf course just opposite the bridge over Loch Leven. This wide track is clearly visible from the bealach and Sgorr Dhonuill and there is no problem in following this route down from the lochan to the road. However, it is the the furthest away path out of all the descent routes and, therefore, furthest away from your start point.
If you are talking about the ascent of the north-east ridge of Beinn Bahn from the school, there is an intermittent path through the field from behind the school which disappears in boggy sections and appears to contour round the bottom to the front of the ridge at Bac Odhar. Most people tend to go straight across the field (no path) to tackle the ridge from a side ascent. There is a fence to cross halfway up and, there are clear marks on the slopes of many boots which have gone this way. Basically, there is no path across the field because it is boggy and everyone takes a different line.
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Re: Beinn a' Bheithir and Gleann a' Chaolais

Postby Paul Webster » Tue Oct 12, 2010 7:49 pm

If you do go down from the bealach, there is a decent new(ish) path through the forestry which is fairly easy to find in ascent but easy to miss on descent. Check out the Walkhighlands route description for details of how to find it!
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Re: Beinn a' Bheithir and Gleann a' Chaolais

Postby Scotjamie » Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:27 pm

Bonzo wrote:We soon came across a horribly steep peaty drop which appeared to fall towards a stream. Again, the odd footprint appeared to suggest this was a known route down, but the awful conditions underfoot, the threat of a fall into a ravine of unknown depth and concern over having to retrace our steps resulted in us backtracking into the forest and looking for the route marked on the OS map.


I was there many years previously bonzo - exact mirror of your experience and comments - the ravine looked deadly.
Suzi (dog) and I had to circle the forestry to find a 'cleared area' to struggle through and down into the glen again. That was long before I found Walkhighlands of course :)
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Re: Beinn a' Bheithir and Gleann a' Chaolais

Postby LeithySuburbs » Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:38 pm

Ditto the above comments. I followed the stream from the col but encountered the ravine/waterfall and backtracked to the edge of the forest before I found the new path.
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Re: Beinn a' Bheithir and Gleann a' Chaolais

Postby mountain coward » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:35 pm

We went up and down via the col so knew the route - don't remember any difficulties. But forests are notorious for finding the correct route through and getting into difficulties - I had a similar experience (described in my walk report) for A' Glas Bheinn in Kintail - thought we were staying the night! :(
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Re: Beinn a' Bheithir and Gleann a' Chaolais

Postby houdi » Wed Oct 13, 2010 10:47 pm

The Scottish Land Reform Act allows everyone access to the hills, but as far as I know it does not compel land owners (apparently, most Scottish hills are privately owned) to construct access paths or signposts. Most paths are constructed to prevent erosion caused by a combination of bad weather and heavy traffic and, whilst many of the more popular hills have good ascent and descent paths, others are less endowed. Similarly, some walkers stick religiously to paths whilst others seek a more rugged approach. Cairns are a help, but its not always possible to construct these. And then there's the other side of it where some people absolutely hate cairns and think they should be banished completely. Hill paths have become progressively better over the years thanks to the increasing popularity of hillwalking, but this isn't always the case. I've encountered problems myself with many popular ascent or descent routes (or my interpretation of them at least) so I tend not to rely on them one hundred percent. I usually descend anywhere I think is viable and not worry about paths too much.
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Re: Beinn a' Bheithir and Gleann a' Chaolais

Postby GillC » Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:35 pm

houdi wrote: I usually descend anywhere I think is viable and not worry about paths too much.


Yep,, safety issues aside,,no such thing as the wrong route,,just a different route lol
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Re: Beinn a' Bheithir and Gleann a' Chaolais

Postby Collaciotach » Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:46 pm

Aye know these paths well as I inspect them as part of my work .

The terrain off route here is as steep as you'll find and deadly slippy as you say , best to take compass bearing to keep out of harms way

The descents are fairly clear at Bealach Bheinn a Bheither and to the seaward (west) ridge of Sgurr Dhonuill ,drops you back onto the horseshoe road.

Another more difficult route is off in the coire between Meall a Caolais and Bheinn Bhan which drops you down a faint path to St Johns.

If you do end up in the wood , a working commercial forest .... aye can be a nightmare :shock:
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