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A' Chioch - but not Beinn Bhan

A' Chioch - but not Beinn Bhan


Postby Alteknacker » Mon Apr 29, 2019 3:21 pm

Date walked: 06/04/2019

Time taken: 5.75 hours

Distance: 8.5 km

Ascent: 775m

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After yesterday's superb afternoon it was bound to be less than ideal today; and so it was. The forecast is for the tops to be in cloud all day, so I decide to go for the a Chioch route to Beinn Bhan.


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I am in no hurry to get off, so a leisurely breakfast and pack-up for the day sees me arrive at Drochard Mhor shortly before midday. The ridge top is in cloud, but it still looks pretty inviting.
Image

A' Chioch is clearly visible, not that far away. Notwithstanding the low cloud it looks pretty tasty!
Image20190406-115808-2. There's an obvious path heading up into the-apparently-unnamed-glen-in-which-Loch-Gaineamhaich-sits, which I follow for about 1.5km until reaching a modern footbridge;
Image20190406-121018-2. ...at which point I turn off left, approximately north west, on to a pretty minimal sheep track that soon disappears, and head directly for a' Chioch.

Image20190406-123708-2. The pulse definitely quickens as I approach the start of the ascent :D .

Image20190406-124346-2. The cloud suddenly clears, and I get a view - albeit brief - of the entire ridge, and the sensational Coire na Feola. This is looking good!

Image20190406-124413-2.

Image20190406-125959-2. Nearly there...

Image20190406-130852-2. The first bit of scrambling. Not necessary - it could be circumvented; but it's a good warm up for what's to come.

Image20190406-132007. But most of this first part of the ascent is just rough bouldery ground, rather than scrambling...

Image20190406-132045-2. ...though up nearer the top there are some tasty bits :D .

Image20190406-133938-3. And generally this mix of rough and scrambling options continues to the top of the first section:

Image20190406-135257-2. Rough, and...

Image20190406-140724. ...Scrambling.

Image20190406-140816. The view back as I approach the summit of the first peak merits a look back for five minutes to absorb the views, Lochan Coire na Poite (lower level version) in the foreground, and Loch Gaineamhach in the background.

It's a fine ridge walk/scramble from here, with superb views in all directions.

Image20190406-145548. Near the actual a' Chioch summit, looking approximately NNW: A'Phoit in the foreground, Sron Coire an Fhamair in the background.

Image20190406-150027-2. And ahead the final pull up to the Beinn Bhan ridge (the pic is slightly misleading because the bottom third of the pic is the ridge I'm on - the ascent to Beinn Bhan is in the background behind). It doesn't look too problematic from here, with plenty of apparent lines for the ascent, albeit probably necessitating some traversing, and route-finding perhaps a challenge.

This zoomed shot gives a clearer idea of the complexity of the terrain - which is, of course, much harder to orientate oneself in when once on the face.
Image

And this pic (not mine) gives an even clearer impression.
Image

First the descent into the bealach - no problems.
Image20190406-150302.

Image0190406-150404-2. Inspiring views of the dark and brooding waters of the higher level Lochan(s?) Coire na Poite, and A' Phoit itself on the way down.

Image20190406-151443. Typical terrain on the ridge.

Then it's down to the bealach, and up on to the final ascent to the Beinn Bhan. Initially conditions don't seem too bad: true, the snow is soft and wet, and the turf extremely soggy, and not feeling very stable. But I manage to ascend 100m or so (up to the level of the a' Chioch summit) without too much difficulty. However, after this the slope becomes very steep, making - in combination with the extremely slippery conditions - for a distinct feeling of insecurity :shock: . I proceed VERY carefully and slowly, getting a really strong plant with my axe prior to every step. I weigh up more than once whether to don my crampons, but am a bit concerned that this might give a false sense of security on the turf, which more than once gives way under my feet. In order to try to find a route up, I try a few traverses, eventually ending up at the bottom of the jammed boulder gulley. Looking up, it's not clear whether there'll be a route around the boulder, and the climb up to it looks like more very slippery terrain. I stop and ponder the alternatives. One of which seems like it could be an uncontrolled slide down a very slippery and almost vertical slope :shock: .

And decide to be sure of living to scramble another day :roll: .

I return the way I've come, applying the same very slow and careful technique I used on the way up, until I get to the point where the slope eases off a fraction, and where I can think of something else other than survival. And can relax sufficiently to take this pic looking back at A' Chioch.
Image20190406-155359.

The next two pics give an idea of the conditions in the less steep area: nothing too problematic if conditions are reasonably dry or well frozen, but rather anxiety-inducing when the turf and snow are both wet and sloppy (at least for this wimp! :oops:-) ).
Image20190406-161747-2.

Image20190406-162007-2.

Not sure how easy it would be to self-arrest if one once got sliding down these slopes... :roll:
Image

Once safely down at the bealach, I see that a descent direct down into Coire na Feola looks reasonably straightforward, and this is the route I take.

There are some rather fine views of the ridge on the way down...
Image20190406-165005.

Image20190406-171122. And back up into Coire na Feola.

Image20190406-171140.

Image20190406-172302-2. A final farewell before I drop down off the terminal morain and back down to the car.

On the drive back to the WH meet I wonder whether I've been a bit of a wuss in backing off. And I still wonder. However, each of us has his/her own risk level tolerance, and I was close to mine on the Beinn Bhan face, so on balance I think it was right to call a halt.

But I do hope to be back in better conditions!

Image
Last edited by Alteknacker on Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A'Choich - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby xslawekx » Mon Apr 29, 2019 3:44 pm

An interesting attempt. I must admit I wouldn’t chance it in similar conditions, so kudos for bravery.

I was up Beinn Bhan yesterday in glorious weather and had a proper look at the Cioch ridge as I would like to do it. Looks straightforward enough lower down but I could not see how difficult it’d be to scale up the main buttress leading to the corrie rim. Looks more broken up from up close than it did from the distance though. I think I’ll definitely give it a go sometime :)

Also,had a good look at Ciochan buttress and was thoroughly intimidated by its bottom half :lol:
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Re: A'Choich - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby Sick Kid » Mon Apr 29, 2019 7:41 pm

Think I’ll be waiting for a nice dry day with no snow for that one! :shock: :shock: :shock:
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Re: A'Choich - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby prog99 » Mon Apr 29, 2019 8:25 pm

Hi, the way you've linked your pictures means its trying to show the full size image for each picture in the report. I gave up waiting for the pictures to download.
I've done the route a few times and its not clear in the photos where you got stuck but I'm fairly certain the jammed boulder chimney is the correct way.
Bit too much vegetation to be a 3* route in summer but its a classic in proper winter conditions.
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Re: A'Choich - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby Chris Mac » Mon Apr 29, 2019 11:38 pm

Wow, stunning! 8) Some cracking photos Alteknacker, those hills looked superb when we saw them coming down into Attadale on Saturday morning, wait until Iain sees some of the scrambling on them! :shock: Maybe not one for winter conditions though as Sick Kid says, I reckon you definitely made the right choice turning back! :clap:

At the end of June last summer we ended up overshooting the gulley to the right slightly before the start of Curved Ridge on similar slippy scree/grassy slopes in summer conditions and had to turn back and find a better route... :crazy: so I know that feeling of unease well, all three of us felt it and when you do, retreat!
ImageDSC_1889 20180630_112720 by Chris Mac, on Flickr

You lived to scramble another day and were able to return to show me some stunning mountains close up that I now can't wait to visit. In summer. When it's dry. :lol: Cheers!
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Re: A'Choich - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby malky_c » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:18 am

I was hoping you'd write this up. Seems like we were talking cross purposes though - I thought you'd had a go on the other Cioch round the corner :shock: .

Interesting food for thought there though. I doubt I could do this entire route, but I fancy having a go at the lower bit just for the scenery. Funny how much difference a couple of days makes - we were up Beinn Bhan on the Tuesday after the meet and pretty much all of the snow had gone. Even most of the stuff hidden away from the sun! You would probably have had no bother with it then (report to come shortly).

Good effort regardless 8)
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Re: A'Choich - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:38 am

Love that first view of Coire na Feola. No wuss - your description of turf falling away etc was a great example of why it was good to turn back in those conditions on that day. Great report, as ever! :D
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Re: A'Choich - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby Alteknacker » Wed May 01, 2019 10:08 pm

xslawekx wrote:.... I think I’ll definitely give it a go sometime :) ....


Yes, lots of very interesting looking stuff hereabouts; but for reasonable weather methinks :roll:

Sick Kid wrote:Think I’ll be waiting for a nice dry day with no snow for that one! :shock: :shock: :shock:
.

For sure the last bit of the ascent up to the ridge; but up to the summit of A' Chioch itself is not too bad at all.

prog99 wrote:Hi, the way you've linked your pictures means its trying to show the full size image for each picture in the report. I gave up waiting for the pictures to download.
I've done the route a few times and its not clear in the photos where you got stuck but I'm fairly certain the jammed boulder chimney is the correct way.
Bit too much vegetation to be a 3* route in summer but its a classic in proper winter conditions.


Sorry about the pics - I need to find an automatic way of reducing the size from the original :roll:

I knew folk had done the route, and that via the jammed boulder route, but I just felt it was too slimy. I didn't get stuck so much as decide it was too hairy to continue; and this was at the bottom of the jammed boulder gully - I could look up and see the boulder. Had conditions been full-on winter, I think I'd probably have continued. Maybe I'll get another go at it in better conditions....

Chris Mac wrote:Wow, stunning! 8) Some cracking photos Alteknacker, those hills looked superb when we saw them coming down into Attadale on Saturday morning, wait until Iain sees some of the scrambling on them! :shock: Maybe not one for winter conditions though as Sick Kid says, I reckon you definitely made the right choice turning back! :clap:

At the end of June last summer we ended up overshooting the gulley to the right slightly before the start of Curved Ridge on similar slippy scree/grassy slopes in summer conditions and had to turn back and find a better route... :crazy: so I know that feeling of unease well, all three of us felt it and when you do, retreat!

You lived to scramble another day and were able to return to show me some stunning mountains close up that I now can't wait to visit. In summer. When it's dry. :lol: Cheers!


Thanks Chris. I had a very sobering experience with soggy turf in February last year on Dduallt, when I traversed around a corner to find a huge lump of turf (several tons!) that had slid a few metres down the slope and was perched there precariously, blocking my way. Probably why I'm a bit nervous about soggy turf!!!

malky_c wrote:I was hoping you'd write this up. Seems like we were talking cross purposes though - I thought you'd had a go on the other Cioch round the corner :shock: .

Interesting food for thought there though. I doubt I could do this entire route, but I fancy having a go at the lower bit just for the scenery. Funny how much difference a couple of days makes - we were up Beinn Bhan on the Tuesday after the meet and pretty much all of the snow had gone. Even most of the stuff hidden away from the sun! You would probably have had no bother with it then (report to come shortly).

Good effort regardless 8)


As per our email exchange, I'd thought originally of the nose, but on reading it up it seemed a bit beyond my capabilities to do solo. So I looked at the links you sent me, and decided on the Beinn Bhan Chioch.

I've subsequently read your report on your Tuesday wander, and I can't get over how little snow there was. Mind you, the snow on Saturday was very slushy indeed, so a bit more warmth did for it entirely, I guess!

EmmaKTunskeen wrote:Love that first view of Coire na Feola. No wuss - your description of turf falling away etc was a great example of why it was good to turn back in those conditions on that day. Great report, as ever! :D


Thanks Emma. As I note above in reply to Chris Mac, I had one very hairy experience with soggy turf last year, so am probably more spooked by it than many folk :shock: . Also I gave the CEO some undertakings about not taking risks.... :)
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Re: A' Chioch - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby mrssanta » Wed May 01, 2019 10:38 pm

ooh, to me that looks seriously bonkers, but some amazing pictures!
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Re: A' Chioch - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby Mal Grey » Thu May 02, 2019 2:07 pm

Definitely not a wuss. Can't really imagine more scary conditions, neither dry and summery or nice compact snow and ice. That inbetween stuff is, indeed, the stuff of nightmares where no gear is perfect for the job.

Amazing place to have visited though, I've only gazed from above and to the sides. Pondered this route in the past, but all looked a bit intimidating at about the point you turned around. You've not changed my opinion, and I get more wussy as the years go by!
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Re: A' Chioch - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby litljortindan » Thu May 02, 2019 7:43 pm

I've been on Ben Bhan a couple of times and was bowled over by the views into the corries but those three quarters way up views are amazing. At least three photo of the month contenders in there.
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Re: A' Chioch - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby dav2930 » Fri May 03, 2019 7:50 pm

Looks a spectacular route in a very impressive environment. The ridge as seen in your photo looking back looks outrageous! I've been meaning to explore the Applecross hills for many years but just never seem to get round to it. If the forecast is promising we might be up that way in a couple of weeks time, hoping to check out Patey's classic on the Cioch Nose (with a rope, I hasten to add).

The final buttress leading up to Beinn Bhan on your route does look quite intimidating, especially with that smattering of slushy snow. I really think turning back was the wise decision; I hope I would have done the same. I see it's given a grade of Moderate (climbing) in Highland Scrambles North , which means it's almost certainly grade 3 in scrambling terms. It seems the gully with the chockstone is the crux, described as 'awkward'. Dan Bailey includes this route in Scotland's Mountain Ridges , but says it's 'best saved for winter' when, apparently, it 'becomes one of the finest trips of it's grade in the country'. As a winter route, though, it sounds quite technical; Bailey gives it the unusual grade of II,3 and assumes the use of rope and wires for protection. It does sound superb, though. 8)

Great report and pics :clap:
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Re: A' Chioch - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby rockhopper » Tue May 07, 2019 1:29 pm

That did look very challenging. Can remember walking past this way last year on the return from the summit thinking how steep the cliffs looked - am now sure I'd never want to try it ! Thanks :)
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Re: A' Chioch - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby Klaasloopt » Tue May 07, 2019 1:49 pm

Alteknacker wrote:... It doesn't look too problematic from here, with plenty of apparent lines for the ascent, albeit probably necessitating some traversing, and route-finding perhaps a challenge.
... However, after this the slope becomes very steep, making - in combination with the extremely slippery conditions - for a distinct feeling of insecurity :shock: .


Very interesting. Useful info & insights too, thanks!

I second Mal Grey
Mal Grey wrote:Definitely not a wuss. Can't really imagine more scary conditions!


Looking at the pictures of steep wet turf and wet snow, I've got the sweat in my palms. Apparently, my animal brain recollects being on that kind of terrain...
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Re: A' Chioch - but not Beinn Bhan

Postby Alteknacker » Fri May 17, 2019 2:30 pm

mrssanta wrote:ooh, to me that looks seriously bonkers, but some amazing pictures!


I think in decent conditions it wouldn't be so bonkers; but when it's insecure underfoot.... :roll: It was anyway a good day!

Mal Grey wrote:Definitely not a wuss. Can't really imagine more scary conditions, neither dry and summery or nice compact snow and ice. That inbetween stuff is, indeed, the stuff of nightmares where no gear is perfect for the job.

Amazing place to have visited though, I've only gazed from above and to the sides. Pondered this route in the past, but all looked a bit intimidating at about the point you turned around. You've not changed my opinion, and I get more wussy as the years go by!


Others have said similar things about getting more wussy as the years go by, too. Seems illogical though, doesn't it: one has much more to lose in one's youth if things go pear-shaped....

litljortindan wrote:I've been on Ben Bhan a couple of times and was bowled over by the views into the corries but those three quarters way up views are amazing. At least three photo of the month contenders in there.


Thanks LTJ :D .

dav2930 wrote:Looks a spectacular route in a very impressive environment. The ridge as seen in your photo looking back looks outrageous! ....


It does, doesn't it, but actually it's very straightforward. Which doesn't detract from the fun, though :D .

dav2930 wrote:I've been meaning to explore the Applecross hills for many years but just never seem to get round to it. If the forecast is promising we might be up that way in a couple of weeks time, hoping to check out Patey's classic on the Cioch Nose (with a rope, I hasten to add).


As per my response to Malky_c above, my original tentative plan had been to take a look at the Chioch Nose. Well, I did, and after also reading a description of it, decided it was likely to be a bit technically difficult for me to attempt solo. Hence going for a' Chioch instead.

Did you get the weather for an ascent of the Nose???? If so, I hope you write it up.

dav2930 wrote:The final buttress leading up to Beinn Bhan on your route does look quite intimidating, especially with that smattering of slushy snow. I really think turning back was the wise decision; I hope I would have done the same. I see it's given a grade of Moderate (climbing) in Highland Scrambles North , which means it's almost certainly grade 3 in scrambling terms. It seems the gully with the chockstone is the crux, described as 'awkward'. Dan Bailey includes this route in Scotland's Mountain Ridges , but says it's 'best saved for winter' when, apparently, it 'becomes one of the finest trips of it's grade in the country'. As a winter route, though, it sounds quite technical; Bailey gives it the unusual grade of II,3 and assumes the use of rope and wires for protection. It does sound superb, though. 8)


My feeling was that the rocky bits would be no worse that some of the Bla Bhein scrambles, or Pinnacle Ridge; but I got quite spooked by the slushy ground (sods giving way under my boots, etc.) and I'm not really one for pushing on if my head isn't in the right place. I trust I'll get another go though, in either good winter or good summer conditions.

Even better if I can find someone to partner with on the Nose... :D .

dav2930 wrote:Great report and pics :clap:


Thanks for the kind words.

Klaasloopt wrote:.... Looking at the pictures of steep wet turf and wet snow, I've got the sweat in my palms. Apparently, my animal brain recollects being on that kind of terrain...


I think my brain will remember being on that terrain for a while also...

(Nice to hear from you back on WH again :thumbup:)
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