The Brocken Spectre Show on Bidean nam Bian
by Chris Mac » Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:46 am
Route description: Bidean nam Bian
Munros included on this walk: Bidean nam Bian, Stob Coire Sgreamhach
Date walked: 17/11/2018
Time taken: 6.33 hours
Distance: 15 km
Ascent: 1758m18 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).
Our previous walk a few months back involved a first proper Southern Uplands hike for Iain as we "enjoyed" a long, tough day on Hart Fell and White Coomb. I suspect this walk may have slightly broken Iain due to involving a lot of grassy slopes with no paths and little in the way of rocks to climb. When I received a text during the week showing sunshine in Glen Coe all Saturday with the suggestion of heading for Bidean nam Bian it became apparent that there was a requirement for the big rocky peaks so that Iain could find his mountain mojo again!
I couldn't agree with this choice quickly enough, it was a "hill" only in the loosest sense, it's more a mountain range, a behemoth full of nooks and crannies to explore, a varied and bulky brute of rock that just entices and entrances you. That's how I felt anyway and I was dying to get up there for the first time, perhaps it was my MacDonald blood and wanting to return to my ancient roots as if guided by some inner memory that had me buzzing about this walk but like Iain I have found myself completely hooked on Glen Coe already.
With winter walking hours now in effect it meant an early start and we left just after 7am. Our usual brekkie stop was closed so we decided it wasn't too far until the Green Welly so it made sense to stop there for a cooked breakfast ahead of a big day out and the pit stop duly delivered.
Beinn Dorain, the Black Mount and Ranoch Moor were looking glorious on the drive up as was Buachaille Etifve Mor and Curved Ridge which we loved climbing at the end of June, leading to the now usual quotes of "I still can't believe we climbed up that way" as we drove past.
As we approached the car park for Bidean nam Bian it towered above us as the excitement built and I had the luxury of being a passenger so took a first shot of the giant mountain of mountains...
DSC_0001.1 20181117_093227 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We found a space and saddled up. Iain said he wanted to go up the lost valley as he didn't fancy descending that way if we were going to end up coming off the hill in the dark. I didn't care what way we went, just let me at it!
DSC_0001.3 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0002.2 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Looking west up Glen Coe as we walk towards the Lost Valley:
DSC_0002.4 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The rays of the morning sun were coming from the Black Mount direction making it a scenic start to the walk. Lost Valley up ahead, home turf for this MacDonald, no cows in tow but i'm a Taurus so that will do!
DSC_0002.6 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We follow the good path towards the bridge that crosses the River Coe, Beinn Fhada, Gearr Aonach and Aonach Dubh making us feel insignificant on the way while also enticing me with scrambling routes to be explored another day:
DSC_0002.7 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We're soon heading uphill and into the steep sided valley:
DSC_0003.6 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
It ws like entering another world...
DSC_0003.9 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Finding our way through the maze of boulders and trees, no wonder Iain doesn't fancy this as a potential walk out in the dark but i'm more than happy with the choice to hike clockwise and start with the hidden den of my ancestors. It would also prove to be an inspired decision later on...
DSC_0004.5 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Some more hands-on action early on:
DSC_0004.9 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
On the right as you ascend the valley the massive rockfall that covers the valley floor looks immense, imagine being up on the ridge whenever that happened...
DSC_0005.0 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Stob Coire Sgreamhach comes into view again, having first been seen from the road, looking lovely in the morning light which has been illuminating the ridge tops:
DSC_0005.3 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We start heading down onto the large flat valley floor as three walkers can be seen heading our way:
DSC_0005.9 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Looking back down the Lost Valley:
DSC_0005.94 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Continuing up the valley we start to follow a path on the left then have to cross the Allt Coire Gabhail:
DSC_0009 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
This part should be fun I thought and it certainly would be... instead of taking the path higher up the valley on the right we headed along the lower path following the Allt which made for a much more scenic route and involved some hairy paths, steep gorges and mild scrambling next to ravines, exciting stuff!
DSC_0016 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Note the faint path on the right:
DSC_0031 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0034 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We have to head down and cross the water before climbing up back onto the path:
DSC_0042 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We pressed on up the rocky path, stopping for the occasional quick breather and water intake. We were romping uphill in good time even if Iain was a bit out of practice. He then started getting excited and babbling on about potential Brocken spectres on seeing some mist building higher up...
DSC_0062 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
At last the summit of Bidean nam Bian comes into view as Iain is getting flights of fancy, saying that if we get a cloud inversion and golden eagle sighting too then it might turn out to be the best walk ever...
DSC_0065 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
I can just picture the Spaniard (Sean) having a sword fight on these steps...
DSC_0082 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The final section is quite steep and rocky with more scrambling so we were in our element:
DSC_0091 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Looking back down the Lost Valley, quite a way we've come so far. Mountain peak shadows and sunlight are already making the scenery memorable with Stob Coire nan Lochan on one side and Beinn Fhada on the other:
DSC_0122 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Almost there... in the red jacket a Polish sounding guy came down towards us and we chatted briefly. He was absolutely loving his day out so far and was on his way to meet a friend and do Ben Nevis tomorrow, very excited about the promise of a view from the top as it owed him... that sounded familiar!
DSC_0138 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Funnily enough we'd meet two older gentlemen later on who had compleated and were now bagging hills that owed them a view, turns out i'm not the only one that has a list of them!
We scramble up some loose scree on the final section before turning left and heading up the eroded cleft/gulley/path onto the top of Bealach Dearg. The view takes our breath away, or maybe it was the climb, so we stop and gawp while chatting to another walker who is sitting having a break.
The views will be even better from further up so it's a quick ascent up the rocky path to Stob Coire Sgreamhach, a bonus shot of Beinn Sgulaird, Beinn Fhionnlaidh and Sgorr na h-Ulaidh on the way:
DSC_0209 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Stob Coire nan Lochan, Aonach Eagach and Ben Nevis to the north:
DSC_0218 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Stob Coire Sgreamhach summit looking north east:
DSC_0234 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Iain catching up, Fraochaidh, Beinn a' Bheithir and Bidean nam Bian to the west:
DSC_0242 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Glen Etive, Lochan ure, Beinn Starav, Ben Cruachan, Loch Etive, Beinn Trilleachan and the view south, absolutely stunning!
DSC_0251 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The view east isn't bad either, looking down Beinn Fhada with the two Buachaille's:
DSC_0258 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The Black Mount Munros with the Great Wall of Rannoch and Crianlarich Munros in the background:
DSC_0263 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Anyone walking in this area today is bound to have had a cracking day out although further south and east is shrouded in clouds...
DSC_0266 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Stob Gabhar looks a fine mountain, Beinn an Dothaidh, Beinn Dorain, Stob Binnein and Cruach Ardrain amongst the peaks visible in the background:
DSC_0268 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0275 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Time for a summit video from Stob Coire Sgreamhach.
Looking south west:
DSC_0289 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Our route ahead:
DSC_0299 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The summit was quite busy now as other walkers appeared from the three ridges that terminate at the summit:
DSC_0301 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We dropped a bit lower down and sat to enjoy a well earned lunch break:
DSC_0308 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
As we finished then walked over and looked down to the Lost Valley Iain suddenly took off down the hillside...
DSC_0346 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
That's not mist it's dust as he speeds downhill!
DSC_0358 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
He said conditions were ripe for a Brocken spectre and sure enough as we went further down it happened!
DSC_0361 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Fantastic and a first for me:
DSC_0366 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
I watched and waved at my shadow projected across onto Stob Coire nan Lochan, observing how more mist made it and my rainbow halo stronger:
DSC_0371 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
This isn't Iain's spectre it's mine, Iain was seeing one of himself but it looks good:
DSC_0377 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
It did also occur to us that we had a mini cloud inversion to the north..."just a Golden Eagle next and we've got the set!"
DSC_0385 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Waving at my spectre:
DSC_0394 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We kept on down the hillside and the spectres followed across in the shadow world...
DSC_0399 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
It's a shame people down in the valley can't see this projected from where they are:
DSC_0400 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
I took a video of the Brocken spectre and it would be a constant companion all the way along from one Munro to the other, common as muck.
Having had our fun it was time to continue along to Bidean nam Bian:
DSC_0407 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We reach Bealach Dearg again and begin the ascent:
DSC_0430 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The mist was still coming and going below us as the sun warmed one side of the hillside while making the other mysterious, dark and foreboding down below in the Lost Valley. If you want one mountain walk that has enough scenery and variety to make you think you are in a Lord of the Rings film or Highlander then this is it:
DSC_0437 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Cairns on the way:
DSC_0448 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Iain walking in the clouds. the mist that had been slowly building on Stob Dearg in the background developed into a full blown cloud hat and would remain there for the rest of the walk, not good for anyone heading up Curved Ridge today!
DSC_0452 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We were treated to more Brocken spectre's en route, Bidean seems well suited to them if conditions are right around this time of year, we might have to make this an annual pilgrimmage:
DSC_0459 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We've lost count now and there would be more to come!
DSC_0466 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0467 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Summit up ahead as some walkers ascend from the northern ridge and the view north west opens up:
DSC_0489 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Bidean nam Bian summit ridge in shadow against Stob Coire nan Lochan, our way back down but not until we've had a well earned break and taken more photos and videos:
DSC_0492 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0498 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Both the sun and ourselves had moved further west so now the reflections were lighting up Loch Etive, it was beautiful and everyone seemed to be enjoying it:
DSC_0512 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We chatted to a few people about seeing Brocken spectres all the way along the ridge and they replied that a few other people had excitedly said the same thing to them and I said the chances are they will see them too if they head down that way.
Bidean nam Bian also owed Iain a view, he'd been up it twice before in limited visiblity, he couldn't have picked a better day for the hill to make amends:
DSC_0513 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The summit was fairly small and rocky with a few people already snacking around the cairn so we decide to head along to the neighbouring mound further west for a better view:
DSC_0530 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0561 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Most of the west coast of Scotland, what a viewpoint...
DSC_0569 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Mull bathed in later afternoon light to the south west:
DSC_0572 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
To the north west we can make out Skye, superb!
DSC_0574 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
This was only our second break other than lunch on Stob Coire Sgreamhach so we soaked in the view and discussed options. Iain was also on a summit camp recce and really wanted to stay for sunset but was being realistic.
We got chatting to the two older gents who were heading further along to bag Stob Coire nam Beith. We thought about it and decided we'd be cutting it a bit fine, the gut said we were more than satisfied with our walk so far and it might be time to start thinking about heading home even if we did want to just move in permanently and become pals with the ravens.
Our route out back to Bidean's summit then down the ridge to the Munro top Stob Coire nan Lochan:
DSC_0587 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The two gents heading along the ridge:
DSC_0592 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0598 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Back at Bidean nam Bian summit, one final shot south, Ben Lui far left, Mull far right and a whole load of hiking inbetween:
DSC_0612 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The ridge down to Stob Coire nan Lochan was steep and rocky so progress was rapid and we were soon ascending again:
DSC_0645 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0647 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
It looks worse from this angle but presents no problems:
DSC_0656 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Summit shots from the Munro top, mini-sort-of-cloud-inversion closing in from the east:
DSC_0662 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Stob Coire Sgreamhach in shadow:
DSC_0664 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
A couple of walkers heading up the ridge between the two Munros with the Munros to the south east showing off in the late afternoon light, wow!
DSC_0675 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We could see some of the route down but were in no hurry to leave the summit as an approaching sunset was improving visibility and conditions with every passing moment:
DSC_0677 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Talk about an airy perch... looking down on the car park from Stob Coire nan Lochan, maybe not a summit for vertigo sufferers!
DSC_0680 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Ben Nevis, the Mamores and Aonach Eagach are now a lot clearer than earlier and continuing to impress and dominate the view north:
DSC_0684 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
It was silhouette time looking south:
DSC_0689 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Is that the same two guys on the other Munro top?!
DSC_0710 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We decide to head off again only to be met with another wall of mist escaping from Coire nan Lochan this time, there goes even more visibility for the section with the least path, curse our timing...
DSC_0732 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
It quickly dawned on us though... "hmmm looking at the angles and where both the sun and ourselves have moved to... we're in a prime Brocken spectre position again!"
DSC_0733 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0735 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The scenery was very dramatic as crags and cliffs dropped away below us with mist rising up and shadows projecting in front of us:
DSC_0736 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0738 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Sunset was continuing to dance across the hillsides to the west:
DSC_0739 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Getting ready to meet our spectres...
DSC_0741 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
I was alerted to movement to my left, we had disturbed a Ptarmigan, unfortunately without any snow at all on the hill. At least I finally got to see the transition stage between summer and winter coat as the grey speckles on the top help it to blend in with the rocks, impressive:
DSC_0745 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
A panorama of Iain in his element:
DSC_0750 20181117_145841 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Then it happened again, we reached the optimum position on the ridge and our Brocken spectres returned to say cheerio!
DSC_0754 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Both our shadows in this one:
DSC_0755 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
This is probably the clearest shot I got, brilliant, although if i'm being perfectly honest and having had them for most of the high level ridge walk we were taking it for granted a bit now... apologies to those that haven't experienced one yet!
DSC_0762 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
What a way to finish the ridge!
DSC_0769 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Ok excitement over again, now the fun part, some mist navigation down in Coire nan Lochan...
DSC_0772 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
That was just one side though, sunset was still working its magic to the west on our left hand side:
DSC_0776 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Mull and Fraochaidh in sunset:
DSC_0781 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
By now we felt as if we were onto the third and final Lord of the Rings film...
DSC_0788 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Route navigation on the phone would soon be required:
DSC_0791 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
But not before Iain raced off again!
DSC_0792 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Still chasing that final final Brocken spectre, or the cursed Golden Eagle that we were now jesting had ruined this perfect walk due to being a no-show!
DSC_0795 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We was now misty, murky and boggy, why on earth did we leave the ridge for this?!
As we followed my route, luckily my phone still had loads of battery power due to staying in flight mode while track recording, we found and followed faint traces of path through the mini-lochans and large puddles. Iain then did an expert "skiter" slipping on an easy stretch of grass but managed to hold himself up on all fours like he was playing twister, saving a wet behind from ruining the return of his mountain mojo! well saved!
I chanced a look up at the mist and it started to clear.... revealing the jagged peaks and crags of Stob Coire nan Lochan and Pinnacle Ridge... I pointed up and gasped as Iain did the same and said wow!
DSC_0801 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
It's like Mordor said Iain, a phrase i've used myself on more than one occasion:
DSC_0802 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We were soon lower down and the mist was starting to clear:
DSC_0804 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
It's an easy direct line back to the finish now... just the small matter of 2000 feet to descend in just 2.5km! Well it shouldn't take these two auld mountain goats long.
DSC_0808 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Gearr Aonach on our right as we make our way down the path, glad to be out of the bogs of Mordor:
DSC_0813 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The walk down is also stunning on the walk that just keeps on giving as we pass more waterfalls, this massif has plenty in every nook and cranny:
DSC_0818 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The last of the sunlight now hitting Am Bodach on Aonach Eagach:
DSC_0823 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0832 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
Munro top peeking through, it wasn't that long ago that we were all the way up there:
DSC_0848 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
On the way down we agree that this has easily been one of the best walks of the year, just pipped by Curved Ridge and Buachaille Etive Mor at the end of June, easily more enjoyable than our memorable blizzard adventure on Ben Ledi in February and definitely not half as scary as being chased of Meall an t-Seallaidh by lightning!
DSC_0855 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
A final video heading down Coire nan Lochan.
Sunset on Aonach Eagach:
DSC_0860 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
The ridge turning red:
DSC_0867 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
DSC_0880 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
It looked like our timing had been impeccable as we approached the car park with twilight now in full effect as Bidean nam Bian grew more dark and foreboding behind us:
DSC_0889 by Chris Mac, on Flickr
We made it back to the van in 6 and a half hours which was pretty good going although at the end of the final descent my legs wobbled like jelly for a short while due to the steep descent at our usual pace. As the last light faded Iain drove to Ballachulish where we had coffee with a friend before heading back home. As we passed through Glen Coe again in the pitch black the silhouettes of Bidean nam Bian, Stob Coire Raineach and Stob Dearg all stood out, just, in the faint moonlight and it was a fitting end to one of the most spectacular days we've had on the mountains.
Still, no fecking Golden Eagle...!
by yokehead » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:45 am
It is a place I have been to a few times and will always draw me back, one of those places that is just so special.
by Sgurr » Wed Nov 28, 2018 6:10 pm
by Chris Mac » Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:53 pm
yokehead wrote:It is a fabulous place and your report is quite outstanding, thanks! The light quality, and of course the brockens, are magic.
It is a place I have been to a few times and will always draw me back, one of those places that is just so special.
Don't thank me thank the mountain, I couldn't have taken them without it.
Cheers, it turned into an "on the perfect Mountain at the perfect time of year on the perfect day" walk. I think next year i'll be watching the Glen Coe forecast in November like a hawk to try and get back for more of the same conditions, it is indeed a special place.
Sgurr wrote:Looks a great day out, and lovely pics, especially the Brocken Spectre. How come everyone else gets a fine upstanding Spectre and I am issued with a stooped pensioner with a wobbly halo? Not fair.
Thanks Sgurr, yeah I was well chuffed with some of the Brocken spectre photos. Hahaha you must be standing too close to your husband, any time i've seen pics of you you've hardly been a stooped pensioner as you've stomped up and down every single hill in the country!
by 2manyYorkies » Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:02 pm
by iainwatson » Fri Nov 30, 2018 12:20 pm
Glencoe is such a special place.....
by Phil the Hill » Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:01 pm
by Chris Mac » Fri Nov 30, 2018 9:12 pm
2manyYorkies wrote:Amazing photos. And great Brocken Spectres. I had some on Ben Damh in Torridon, along with a fogbow, AND another golden eagle (admittedly they’re pretty common up there!)
Hahaha rub it in why don't you! It may not owe us a view but Bidean owes us a golden eagle!
Thanks we were so lucky we kept being in the right place at the right time and i'm well chuffed with some of the photos I got of the Brocken spectres.
iainwatson wrote:Fantastic walk which the brilliant pictures show
Glencoe is such a special place.....
You keep on picking the right hill for our walks on the right day, keep it up!
Phil the Hill wrote:Brilliant! I like the idea of having a list of mountains that owe you a view when you've completed. Bidean is now top of my (long) list! I did it in a whiteout in winter, which was great navigational practice but no views. It's difficult to be 100% sure that bumps you visited by compass bearings and counting paces were indeed the true summits.
I know, I laughed when the two guys said they did the same, my list is fairly small though I admit but I imagine some Munro or Corbett compleaters could easily do another half round or more in order to try and get a view from hills that owed them!
Bidean is an amazing viewpoint being one of the tallest in the area so the 360 panorama around you is superb, well worth returning for again and again, I hope you get the weather for it when you return.
by dogplodder » Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:23 pm
by Chris Mac » Sun Dec 02, 2018 5:19 pm
dogplodder wrote:As a fellow MacDonald descendant did you get a sombre feeling in the Lost Valley? What got me was thinking about the infamous betrayal when as many died of exposure as were killed by the sword and this being a likely place they would run to. And on that cheery note.... Fabulous photos of a fabulous mountain!
Thanks very much fellow clan member!
Yes it was definitely a place for reflection and casting your mind back to days of old and I also thought about the events on that terrible day (and the build up to it) several times during the walk. It is certainly a fabulous mountain though and is already a firm favourite, I can't wait to explore more of it.
by Colin1951 » Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:19 pm
by Christo1979 » Wed Dec 19, 2018 1:42 pm
by desmondo1 » Fri Dec 21, 2018 5:55 pm
by Chris Mac » Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:54 pm
Colin1951 wrote:Great report. You had a great day for them - made me want get back there.
Thanks Colin, I hope you get back there soon. Not only was it the perfect day but our timing was continually spot on throughout the walk, Iain even commented on it!
Christo1979 wrote:Thanks for an inspiring report, and some fantastic images! I’ve so much to learn, and hope that with experience I’ll be able to read conditions for Brocken spectres as well as you could! Once I’ve got a few more hills under my belt I’ll be heading that bit further north, and reports like this show me just how many amazing adventures await
Cheers Christo, it helped having Iain spotting the developing conditions early on and he got quite excited about being in the right place for the Brocken spectre to appear, now I know why. I never expected it on any walks but now I know what to look for I might start chasing them too!
Enjoy your continuing adventures, that's what it's all about and i'm sure you'll experience similar or better when the time is right.
desmondo1 wrote:Well done on both a fantastic walk and great pics. Seen plenty of goldies on my travels but never the spectre, great stuff.
Thanks Des, haha yeah that was the one thing missing, Iain wanted the Golden Eagle appearance to make it a hattrick of visual treats but it eluded us, we can still chase the dream...