Beinn a'Bheithir on a belter !
by naepace » Tue Sep 11, 2018 8:52 am
Route description: Beinn a' Bheithir via Schoolhouse Ridge
Munros included on this walk: Sgòrr Dhearg (Beinn a' Bheithir), Sgòrr Dhònuill (Beinn a' Bheithir)
Date walked: 29/05/2018
Time taken: 6.5 hours
Distance: 17.5 km
Ascent: 1326m4 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).
Wullie & Webby had decided they were going to camp in Glencoe on the Monday night, I couldn't manage that, so had agreed that I would meet them very early on Tuesday morning so we could get round and I could get home in time to sort out the kids in time for their various evening activities. I crawled out of bed and into my 'pre-loaded' car, leaving Perth at the ridiculous time of 04:15. The huge advantage of travelling at that time is how quiet and clear the roads are, well, less the odd suicidal 'Bambi' ! It had been in the news this week that some petrol-head was claiming he had travelled non-stop between Lands End and John 'o' Groats in just over 9 hours !! I very much doubt he travelled between Perth and Glencoe on that particular journey, however, had he done so I reckon I would have been right on his bumper, arriving at the guy's camping spot at the ski centre 90 mins after setting off. If only it was always like that !
I had intimated I would be through probably nearer 06:30 so the guys were still just packing up camp and sorting themselves out with breakfast. I mucked in and the camp was soon packed away and we were good to go. That was until Webby realised that actually he was now fully awake but yet could still not see properly. He wasn't wearing his specs, nor could he find them anywhere ! After frantically searching the campsite it dawned on him that he had left them in a pocket in the tent, that'll be the tent I had rolled up tightly and 'shoe-horned' back into its stuffsack ! Tent unpacked again, and sure enough he found his glasses in the said pocket. They were intact, if a bit...err....skew-whiff, but ultimately so is his coupon so in actual fact the fitted his face better than they had ever done !
Now we were good to go. As circumstances had dictated that we had 2 cars between us, we decided to leave one car in South Ballachullish before parking the other, and starting the walk from the usual starting point in front of the local tourist information building. This should allow us to save a reasonable chunk of time by avoiding a reasonably long walk along the A82 back to the car on completion of the hills.
Decent sized car park (free) directly in front of the visitor centre
Despite my early arrival, the time camp was struck and we had made our way to the two car parks, it was already 07:00 before we began the walk. The weather was already looking fabulous, as we made ou way through the village towards the local primary school and the start of the walk proper. It was already very warm and Webby was beginning to realise that not opting for shorts was going to be a schoolboy error, how ironic ! Very quickly after passing the primary school we entered the sheep field and followed the very faint grassy path to the start of the very steep, and very pathless slope that would take us eventually to the end of the Beinn Bhan ridge.
The first glimpse of what was ahead of us, the Beinn Bhan ridge and the Munro Top of Sgorr Bhan
The climb up the grassy and then heather clad slopes would be exhausting enough at any time, but with the early morning sun on our backs, which was already heading quickly towards 'scorchio' levels, it was absolutely murder. Webby had already decided he couldn't carry on with the full length breeks, stopping to roll the trouser legs (just be thankful that was the option he chose and not to just walk in his 40 year old Y-fronts !), he exposed the kind of skinny, white appendages that make my skinny, white appendages look positively tanned and athletic ! All he was missing was the knotted hanky slapped on his napper to give us the full, half-wit foreigner in the sun, Alf Garnet stylee !
At around the 250m mark you come to a fence with no obvious gate or style that we could see so eventually, after walking backwards and forwards along the length of it for a while, we stopped wasting time looking and just jumped it, which after reading the Walkhighlands walk description on my return is exactly what you are supposed to do(h). A few more metres up through increasingly thicker clumps of heather and ferns sees you eventually reach a path, never have I been so happy to do so. Although I didn't drop to my knees to kiss the ground the thought most definitely did cross my mind and given the level of relief, seemed entirely appropriate ! As we reached the start of the Beinn Bhan ridge, we were still shy of 600m up and there was no doubt it had been bloody hard work getting there. However, like most things, the greatest rewards come after the greatest endeavours. In this case it was the views behind you over the village and Loch Leven to the unmistakeable conical profile of the Pap of glencoe. With each metre of ascent the view just got better and better and to be perefectly honest I could happily have perched myself on the rocky outcrop we crossed and just enjoyed the vista for hour after hour.
Absolutely breathtaking view....
....much better without me in the way ! Ballachulish, Loch Leven and the Pap
As stunning as the view was it was not going to get any more 'blue balloons' on my Munro progress map. After a quick guzzle of the rapidly diminishing water supplies we were back on the march along a reasonably grassy and gently undulating path which soon reaches a much steeper section of the ridge. A faint path meanders it's way up a pretty unpleasant scree slope, however, as you slip and slide your way up you are greeted with fantastic views over to today's first Munro summit of Sgorr Dhearg. Given the effort to reach this point the guys were having difficulty accepting that the peak immediately before us was not Munro number one and that the ridge we were looking over to would not be taking us to the second and final summit. Eventually we hauled ourselves up onto the summit of Sgorr Bhan, a fine summit in it's own right, again with fabulous views. However, from the stony summit there is really only one show in town, the magnificent ridge ahead which after a slight descent, curves gracefully up towards the summit of Sgorr Dhearg.
The Bheinn Bhan ridge
The view over to Sgorr Dhearg. Surely it still can't be that far away !
The stunning ridge walk to Sgorr Dhearg....and the not so stunning Wullie & Webby
As we began the start of the ascent up the ridge, disaster struck ! I somehow managed not to notice that I had jammed my walking stick in a gap between two rocks, as I continued to walk on I delivered a kick so devastating, Bruce Lee would have surrendered on the spot, splintering the carbon fibre as the bottom half of the pole was launched a fair way into the distance. Wullie's dug Indie, thought it was play time and about pulled him clean of his feet as she zoomed away to fetch the 'stick' ! Regular readers of these ramblings will recall I have a bit of a reputation for having short arms and deep pockets and to be honest the thought of having to buy a new pole was as painful to me as if I'd snapped my own bloody tibia ! What I hadn't anticipated was just how reliant on the poles I had become when climbing hills, you'd think the transition from 2 sticks to one wouldn't be overly problematic, well it probably wouldn't be for a normal person, not me though. I found myself constantly veering off to one side to the point where if the slopes had been wide enough I would likely have wandered around in a huge circle. I tried changing hands, same result. The last time I had zig-zagged so ridiculously on a walk I was following my golf ball !
After the best part of 3 hours of walking in the most extreme heat I've ever experienced on a mountain, we eventually topped out on the summit. I must admit there were times on the ascent where I thought that no views would be worth this amount of suffering. Wow was I wrong, given the exertion to get here, literally breathtaking seems the only attributable adjective for the vistas before us.
Sgorr Dhearg summit cairn (1024m)
Back along the ridge tothe Munro Top of Sgorr Bhan
The stunning views into Glencoe
Fabulous view of 'The Pap' and a pointy hill behind him
Sgorr Dhearg summit pano
After soaking up the views and faffing about taking pics on the summit we were soon on our way to the second of Bheinn a'Bheithir's two Munros, Sgorr Dhonuill. After decending down to the bealach I decided that 'one stick walking' was not for me and stuck my good pole in the rucksack. A decision my knees have yet to forgive me for. To reach the second summit we had to traverse another fabulous ridge which culminated in a rather, if briefly, exposed section of path as you 'scramble' your way up the final, conical section of the mountain. Although the summit appeared as though we would be perched on the tiny top of a sharply, tapered mountain, the reality was starkly different. The top is actually a bit of a plateau and a quick stroll along it to the far end opened up amazing views over the waters of Loch Linnhe out towards Mull. In fact the views from the summit of Sgorr Dhonuill (1001m) were fabulous in all directions. Unfortunately there was a bit of haze which prevented the scenes from being truly epic, as I'm sure they would be on a clear day. However, it was impossible to even feel the slightest tinge of disappointment with the scenes we were treated to.
Sgorr Dhonuill and the connecting ridge
The exposed and scrambly section is only at the very top of the 'cone'
Sgorr Dhonuill summit cairn (1001m)....and obligatory cupcake (1001.005m)
Summit Selfie....the factor 50+ doing a remarkable of job of keeping my skin translucent even in this fine weather !
The view over to the Mamores and the Ben
Arty summit shot, looking towards Sgorr Dhearg
It was baking hot on the summit with next to no breeze to provide any relief from the incredible temperatures. However, it was 'almost' a joy wandering/lounging about on the summit in such brilliant conditions. Unfortunately, we were not the only 'life' loving the weather. The summit was literally plagued with bugs, the likes of which I had never encountered before, I still have no idea what they were. They were like a cross between a Daddy Long Legs and a Dung Beetle, great big ugly looking things with wings. Now I'm not sure what we had done to warrant their undivided attention but they were treating us as if we'd 'p*ssed on their chips' ! Undoubtedly stretching the laws of physics as flying in squadrons, they 'dive-bombed' from all directions, let me tell you, a direct hit gave you a decent dunt. In the beginning it was quite amusing, especially watching my companions desperately trying to fight them off armed with nothing more than a half eaten cheese roll and a styrofoam seat mat. It was the equivalent of turning up for the Battle of Bannockburn, 'tooled up' with a rolled up copy of the Beano !
It was much sooner than we'd have liked that we had to admit defeat and get the hell away from the marauding hordes. After taking in the stunning views for the last time we reluctantly hauled ourselves away and began our descent from the mountain.
Sgorr Dhonuill summit pano 1
Sgorr Dhonuill summit pano 2
Sgorr Dhonuill summit pano 3
Retracing our steps, we carefully made our way back down to the bealach and followed an intermittent and boggy trail alongside a line of rusting old fence posts, towards the sanctuary of the forest. It was such a relief to finally reach the trees and enjoy the shade they provided. We had only been walking for about 5 and a half hours however, at this point but it would be fair to say it felt more like 15 and a half. I didn't know it was possible to sweat as much as I had done. I had taken in 3 litres of fluids and must have lost at least twice that. Julian Assange leaks less when he talks in his sleep for Christ's sake !!
The exertions had obviously taken their toll on the oldest member of the party. Webby is a fairly spritely 62 year old but he had not done much walking in the previous weeks and was starting to get pains in his legs, he thought he had strained something but I was pretty sure it was the early signs of cramp. Suddenly there was an almighty howl behind me, Webby had gone down clutching the back of his leg and was rolling around on the ground like a certain Brazilian footballer. One second he was trudging along behind us at a reasonable pace, the next he had disappeared amongst the ferns. I couldn't get the Proclaimers classic out my head...Lochaber no more, Sutherland no more, Lewis no more, Webby Neymar !! We immediately responded exactly how you'd expect from such good friends, yep, we bent double, creasing ourselves with laughter before carrying on walking !
"stretch it" I shouted back, "it'll be fine".
" I can't get up" came the reply.
Wullie then delivered the best motivational words never to be published in any self-help manual, "get up ye auld $*#!, we are no waiting on ye and it's about £300 for a taxi back to Dundee". And with that Webby was back on his feet quicker than that same Brazilian. Muttering under his breath, he soon reappeared back in view, hobbling down the track with an expression similar to those on the coupons of those pesky beasts on the summit. Do not feel sorry for him, I guarantee he would've responded in exactly the same way if it had happened to either of us !
We continued down the waymarked forrest trails until we reached the Glenachulish forest car park where we'd left the 'second' car earlier this morning. What a great feeling it was to reach the car knowing that we had avoided the significant walk back along the A82. Such a walk would be unpleasant enough after a hard day in the hills in any weather, but today even the prospect of it was horrifying. Munros 92 & 93 in the bag, a pair of belters that will live long in the memory. All that remained now was to drop the 2 wallopers back at their car in Ballachulish and head back East up the road.
by Alteknacker » Tue Sep 11, 2018 11:59 am
I also had a pretty fine winter day on these, with sensational views.
by DizzyVizion » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:13 am
Fantastic camerawork too. Well done!
by naepace » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:41 am
by wilkiemurray » Thu Sep 13, 2018 5:52 pm
- Posts: 1333
- Joined: Jan 26, 2012
- Location: Perthshire
by naepace » Thu Sep 13, 2018 9:14 pm
wilkiemurray wrote:cracking - what a summer we had !! brilliant photos sir... love these hills
Cheers Murray, we stole the 2 car plan from one of your videos....the one where you may have taken the....err....more 'scenic route to the car park
by yokehead » Fri Sep 14, 2018 4:14 pm
The Beinn Bhan ridge is such a compelling sight and makes a great way to gain the circuit. Mine was a winter ascent and I had weather like yours until near the summit of Sgorr Dhearg. That curving ridge in snow is perhaps one of the best winter sights in the Highlands. Although cloud quickly appeared and was decending, just before it enveloped me the light quality and view down to Loch Leven were outstanding.
A day I vividly remember and one of my best ever. A few photos as a reminder!
by naepace » Tue Sep 18, 2018 5:47 am
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