Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

The Big Scary One at the back of the Three Sisters.

The Big Scary One at the back of the Three Sisters.

Postby johnscot55 » Tue Sep 17, 2019 6:02 pm

Route description: Bidean nam Bian

Munros included on this walk: Bidean nam Bian, Stob Coire Sgreamhach

Date walked: 15/09/2019

Time taken: 8.5 hours

Distance: 11 km

Ascent: 1316m

12 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).

Earlier on this summer I decided I would really love to climb in Glen Coe again and Bidean nam Bian was the mountain I really wanted to tackle, but, to be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about taking it on and when I had a day available for a walk, I usually found another hill to go to, rather than BNB. I used to drive through Glencoe regularly for both work and pleasure and would see people setting out or returning from their climbs and, to me, they were a different breed of person to me, with knowledge and skills that I didn't possess, and the fact that this was something I was now able to at least consider tackling was a surprise to me. However, even with the small amount of experience I've gained over the last couple of years, any glimpse of Bidean nam Bian lurking behind the protection of the Three Sisters from the A82 gave me the collywobbles. It was always the hill I was setting myself to do later on, but never doing. Plus I had Matthew to consider. If I was jittery about taking it on, was it manageable for him? And as summer slips to autumn, I thought my chance had gone for the year and, being one year older next year, wondered if I would ever get to do this walk.
However grandson Matthew just kept "banging on" about finishing this year (we aren't really winter walkers as don't have the skills and experience) with a "biggie" and for him that meant either Ben Cruachan and Stob Daimh or BNB and Stob Coire Sgreamhach!!
With the schools back, that meant any walks with Matthew have to done at the weekend, and with Saturday's forecast being absolutely miserable, it would have to be Sunday which appeared to be starting a bit iffy, but improving as the day went on. My daughter Louise then told us that a work colleague of hers, Andy, was off at the weekend and looking to get a climb in. Andy is known to Matthew and me and we had walked together once before, climbing Meall nan Tarmachan. So it was agreed that Andy would drive to my house early Sunday, 6am, and we would set off for Glen Coe where, finally, Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach would be our goal.
Matthew stayed the night with us and we were both in bed for 10pm and even though I had set a couple of alarms for 5am and 5.05am, I was awake at 3.30am and immediately knew I was not going to get back to sleep. The excitement and anticipation of what the day ahead would hold swam around in my head. Would we (me and Matthew) be up to it, especially if the weather was poor and the concern that maybe we would slow Andy down too much or somehow prevent him from completing the climb. I rose at 5am, woke Matthew, who, unlike me, still wanted some breakfast at this time in the morning.
Andy arrived on time and we transferred his gear and set off, arriving at the larger of the Three Sisters car parks at 7.45am and we were ready to go by 8am. On the drive up I had been glad to see that, despite being dull, the cloud level was quite high and most of the hills that we passed had clear summits and that proved to be that case for Stob Coire nan Lochan which is visible from the car park. The last time I had been in this car park was on the way home from a couple of days in Fort William with my wife and I had watched enviously as walkers returned to their cars after a day on the hills. Today it would be our turn :) :D.
Soon we were heading up Coire nan Lochan, turning periodically to take in the view to the ever diminishing A82.
glencoe (1).jpg
In the Coire nan Lochan.
glencoe (2).jpg
Looking down on Glen Coe and the A82.
We were going to stick to the route suggested on WH and that meant eventually crossing the stream and heading up on to a more gently sloping, grassier area of land that sits under the jagged ridge that leads up to SCnL summit.
glencoe (3).jpg
Stob Coire nan Lochan behind that rocky bluff.
Here four stags crossed in front us, but to quickly to grab a pic. When we reached the foot of the ridge that leads up to SCnL summit there was a misty view down to Glencoe village, Loch Leven and on to the Ballachulich Bridge, but it was also here that we were exposed to the wind to a much greater extent and ergo, wind chill. And that wind brought the cloud down amongst us and very quickly visibility was greatly reduced.
We continue up the boulder field that leads to the summit of SCnL (which reminded me a little of Schiehallion), a gentle rain now also accompanying us, although, to be honest, rain never became an real issue during the entire hike. But the weather had certainly taken a turn for the worse. Matthew told me later that, at this point, he was concerned that we were only going to get to SCnL's summit, and maybe return from there, but at the time I consoled him (and me) with the forecast that it was all meant to improve around noon. However it was only mid morning.
At last the summit of munro top Stob Coire nan Lochan was reached and with it the realisation that we had done the biggest part of sustained ascent for the day. We found some shelter on the east side of the cairn and had our first snack and, for me, my first bite of food since Saturday. I know everyone is different, but eating isn't all that appealing to me during a climb and I usually have to force myself to eat a Mars Bar or cereal bar because I feel I should for energy. I usually end up with most of my food still in my rucksack when I get back to the car. That is, if I haven't given it to Matthew who is happy to eat both his and my provisions :lol:.
glencoe (7).jpg
Matthew and Andy, summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Despite SCnL being a fine hill on it's own, with little views to be seen, we soon pressed on for our main goal, Bidean nam Bian which was occasionally appearing through the mist before being covered in cloud once more.
glencoe (6).jpg
The way ahead to Bidean nam Bian.
During the fleeting moments of good visibility we could also see the ridge we hoped to take shortly that would lead us to Stob Coire Sgreamhach.
glencoe (5).jpg
Looking towards Stob Coire Sgreamhach.
We also caught a glimpse of the scree gully we would have to descend to reach the Lost Valley below and I have to admit it looked very steep, especially at the top, from where we were. We could only hope it didn't seem so bad on closer inspection. We reached the bealach and began the pull up to BnB' summit.
glencoe (7a).jpg
In the clag. BnB ahead.
It felt good to know we were shortly going to achieve the highest point in Argyll, but a bit disappointing to realise we were unlikely to get any vistas from the top. Matthew and I don't seem to have much luck in Glen Coe, as we had similar weather, and lack of views, when we did both the Buachailles last year. We would have to make do with the personal satisfaction of reaching the summit :roll:. And so it proved to be. We arrived on the misty summit (me last) and boy, despite the lack of views, did it feel good to be finally on the summit of this mountain which had had me nervous about tackling for over a year now. Me and Matthew were on The Big Scary One at the back of the Three Sisters :). And thankfully the feeling that "I hope we can do this climb" was replaced with the certainty of knowing that we could and would. There was only that descent to worry about :problem:.
Andy was delighted to hear that, as with the last few walks Matthew and I have done, I was carrying a Saltire in my rucksack and despite the high winds we endeavoured to take some pics with the flag.
glencoe (8).jpg
Matthew and Andy on summit BnB.
glencoe (9).jpg
Me and Matthew on summit of BnB.
Again, sadly, apart from the satisfaction of knowing we were on BnB's summit, there was not much reason to hang about the misty, windy summit and so it was off to Stob Coire Sgreamhach we went.
glencoe (11).jpg
Stob Coire Sgreamhach ahead.
And of course no sooner had we left the summit than most of the clag blew away and the view both forward and to where we had just left, became clear :( .
We had already had some minor scrambles and there are a few more between BnB and Bealach Dearg.
glencoe (12).jpg
It's quite windy up here!
Between these two points we all got our first ever looks down into the famous Lost (Hidden) Valley and, from our viewpoint, very impressive it was too.
glencoe (13).jpg
Our first good look at The Lost Valley.
When we reached Bealach Dearg we were able to get our first real look at the descent path down to the Lost Valley which, although steep and which would require some care did look at least doable. It was here that the first signs of the promised improvements in the weather appeared. The sun began to break through and, in the bealach, we were sheltered from the wind. The outer jackets came off and the final real ascent of the day began. I stopped to take a couple of pictures of where we had just been.
glencoe (14).jpg
Looking back at Bidean nam Bian.
glencoe (15).jpg
Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Andy and Matthew reached the summit of SCS first, with me tail-end charlie again. We had done it. This was Munro No. 27 for Matthew, No. 41 for me and I think (should have checked) around 35 for Andy, although he recently did a charity climb of Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete, so deserves extra brownie points for that. Very impressed and more than a little bit jealous :lol:.
glencoe (17).jpg
Me and Matthew SCS.
glencoe (18).jpg
Matthew, me and Andy, summit of SCS.

And here, at last, there was something to be seen. Misty and cloudy in the distance, but at least we could see off the summit. Matthew was delighted to be able to have a good view of his previously done Glen Coe/Etive hills Buachaille Etive Beag with Buachaille Etive Mor.
glencoe (19).jpg
Matthew with the two Buachailles, Beag in front.
There was also a fine view along the length of Beinn Fhada.
glencoe (21a).jpg
Looking along Beinn Fhada.
It was still pretty breezy up here so the jackets went back on as we ate some and generally had a bit of a rest before beginning the long descent. Matthew continued to celebrate.
glencoe (21).jpg
Matthew celebrates Munro No.27.

We reached the bealach and began the tricky descent. About half way down we came out of the shadow and, protected from the breeze, the sun out, for the first time it became quite warm and Matthew even went down to a t-shirt.
glencoe (22a).jpg
Andy descending into the lost Valley.
There is a lot of loose scree here and care has to taken but eventually it becomes a more gentler path which makes it's way to the valley floor.
glencoe (22c).jpg
Making our way to the Valley floor.
For the three of us, our first visit to the famous Lost Valley :D.
glencoe (23).jpg
Me and Andy in the Lost Valley.
Glencoe (24a).jpg
The Lost Valley.
glencoe (25).jpg
Matthew, The Lost Valley.
We traversed along the valley, taking in the impressive flanks of Gear Aonach and Beinn Fhada, before exiting on a path that leaves on the Beinn Fhada side. Although we had met and talked to several people during our walk, it was busiest here with people hiking only to The Lost Valley.
We came to a stream, and unless we got it wrong there only seemed to be one viable place to cross it, and although not exactly in spate, the middle was knee deep. As we arrived a young boy had somehow lost a boot/shoe and was in the process of heading down stream to try and find it :roll:. Well at least his girl friend was there to give him a piggy-back back to the car park if necessary :lol:. After a few minutes deliberating how best to cross I told Matthew to roll up his trouser legs, I did the same, and we just walked through it with our boots on. Both pairs of boots are still drying out in our boiler cupboard as I write :).
glencoe (28).jpg
Wading through the stream.

After this it was a straightforward, if squelchy, walk towards the River Coe, although special care has to be taken on some steep slabs that lead down to the bridge, but there are some steel ropes at the side to assist if necessary. A further short walk and we were back in the now busy car park.
During our walk, Andy had jokingly mentioned that when he arrived on the summit of Ben Nevis from the CMD Arete he had been expecting cheers and a round of applause from the summiters by the mountain path and I think we all had a little bit of the same feeling at the car park. Matthew entered with his walking pole above his head shouting "YES, YES. DONE IT" to, not so casually, let all the watching Japanese, Chinese, Europeans Etc. gazing and having their picture taken with the Three Sisters, that we weren't just looking at it, we had been there and done it. And to be honest, I knew how he felt. Only age stopped me from doing it myself :lol:.
As we readied ourselves by the car for the journey home, we all agreed it had been an awesome, epic day. I had even remembered to stick a couple of Becks Blue (non alcoholic) in the coolbag so gave Andy his first ever taste of 0% beer. Not quite a quenching pint of lager but it hit the spot. :) :) :) .It was 4.30pm when we arrived back at the car, so it had taken us 8.5 hrs which just falls into the 7-9hrs estimate on WH, however we hadn't rushed and I know Andy on his own would have knocked a large chunk off of this time. FANTASTIC DAY :) :) :) !!!
On a less happy note, when beginning the journey home, we noticed a Mountain Rescue vehicle (lights flashing) in the small car park at the foot of the AE ridge descent path and also when driving past Buachaille Etive Mor, the Rescue Helicopter hovering around the rock climbing/scrambling face and emergency vehicles parked at the head of the Glen Etive road. Yesterday a post came up on my FB feed from Glencoe Mountain Rescue refering to these incidents. There were injuries, but hopefully none too serious. Best wishes and a speedy recovery to the injured and thanks and well done to GMR and the helicopter guys. :clap: :clap: :clap:.
User avatar
Mountain Walker
Posts: 107
Munros:66   Corbetts:6
Grahams:5   Donalds:9
Sub 2000:7   
Joined: Aug 15, 2017

Re: The Big Scary One at the back of the Three Sisters.

Postby Graeme D » Tue Sep 17, 2019 10:25 pm

You got a damn sight better day for this pair than I did! :lol:

Good to see a youngster flying the Saltire at the summit of a Munro! 8) :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
User avatar
Graeme D
Posts: 3716
Munros:230   Corbetts:115
Grahams:68   Donalds:22
Sub 2000:57   Hewitts:36
Wainwrights:27   Islands:6
Joined: Oct 17, 2008
Location: Perth

Re: The Big Scary One at the back of the Three Sisters.

Postby johnscot55 » Tue Sep 17, 2019 11:27 pm

Graeme D wrote:You got a damn sight better day for this pair than I did! :lol:

Good to see a youngster flying the Saltire at the summit of a Munro! 8) :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

Hi Graeme D. I'm sure you will remember we chatted on Ben Vorlich last year. Matthew has added a few more hills since then, but is still eager to chat with anyone we meet on the hills :lol:.
User avatar
Mountain Walker
Posts: 107
Munros:66   Corbetts:6
Grahams:5   Donalds:9
Sub 2000:7   
Joined: Aug 15, 2017

Re: The Big Scary One at the back of the Three Sisters.

Postby Gordie12 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:26 pm

Congrats - that looked good fun.

Still to do these two, maybe next year.............
User avatar
Posts: 2021
Munros:114   Corbetts:64
Grahams:27   Donalds:38
Sub 2000:35   Hewitts:30
Joined: Sep 6, 2012
Location: Nr Forfar

Re: The Big Scary One at the back of the Three Sisters.

Postby GeorgeGavin » Tue Sep 22, 2020 3:31 pm

Great pics and report, I am thinking of doing these this week like you I have been putting them off after looking at maps and route descriptions they have sounded quite tricky plus looking very steep and formidable from the road and even when scrambling along the ridge across the road
User avatar
Mountain Walker
Posts: 4
Munros:221   Corbetts:11
Wainwrights:1   Islands:14
Joined: May 3, 2015

Re: The Big Scary One at the back of the Three Sisters.

Postby Sunset tripper » Wed Sep 23, 2020 2:47 pm

Great stuff John, another cracking day. Had one of my best days ever up there. You need to go back again on a clear day because the views are unbelievable.
It is possible to avoid the river crossing by crossing further upstream where it is underground or beneath the stones. I did this completely by mistake one time but can't remember the route or how easy it is to find. :roll:
User avatar
Sunset tripper
Posts: 2515
Joined: Nov 3, 2013
Location: Inverness

Re: The Big Scary One at the back of the Three Sisters.

Postby Anne McNaughton » Mon Nov 30, 2020 1:41 pm

Planning this walk for next year , great report and love seeing youngsters out in the hills. We took our 5 year old granddaughter up Carn Aosda in October her 1st Munro...
Anne McNaughton
Posts: 8
Munros:120   Corbetts:10
Grahams:4   Donalds:4
Sub 2000:14   
Joined: Apr 21, 2014

12 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).

Walkhighlands community forum is advert free

Your generosity keeps this site running.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by donating by direct debit?

Return to Walk reports - Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: hcukl, jmh04, Jord23, jossker and 123 guests