Beinn Eighe Scrambles - In Victorian Footsteps
by jmarkb » Sat Nov 02, 2019 7:07 pm
Munros included on this walk: Spidean Coire nan Clach (Beinn Eighe)
Date walked: 18/10/2019
Time taken: 6 hours
Distance: 14 km
Ascent: 1200m18 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).
I set off from the main Beinn Eighe car park where this old stag has become a regular fixture:
As I started up the path the moon was setting over the eastern end of Liathach:
The Coire Mhic Fhearchair path is always a joy to walk - a gentle ascent with fabulous views. As you round the corner towards the coire, Baosbheinn and Beinn an Eoin come into view:
As you arrive at the lip of the coire, a scree cone on the right marks the start of Lawson, Ling and Glover's:
The history of this route is quite interesting: in 1899 the SMC held its Easter meet at Kinlochewe, its first organised trip to the area. The main objective was to climb the Triple Buttresses of Coire Mhic Fhearchair, but the weather was poor and this route on Sail Mhor was something of a consolation prize:
On 2nd April, Lawson, Ling, and Glover found an easy route from the loch in Coire Mhic Fhearchair to the summit of Sail Mhor. Leaving the loch at the end where the stream issues, a steep scree fan is seen on south side. Going up this into the couloir above, the right-hand side, consisting of rock and grass, was taken to, and a ridge was reached some 600 feet above the loch; at one point a flat table of rock is reached, from which there is a magnificent look down into the couloir on the left-hand side; the last part of the couloir looking from above to be A.P. From the table, the ridge steepens a good deal, but the rock is well broken up, although firm, and therefore no rope is needed; in a few hundred feet the cairn on Sail Mhor is reached.
G. T. Glover
(SMC Journal, vol. 5, no. 5, May 1899)
This description still stacks up pretty well today: there are few signs of passage, bar a few crampon scratches on the hardest sections: certainly nothing like the well-worn paths on the more popular routes in the area. I tried to avoid most of the scree at the base by hugging the right had edge, but at one point I found myself on top of a patch of boulders that were trying their best to head downhill with me attached, and I had to skip smartly sideways to a more stable bit.
The open right hand side of the gully is steep grass with the occasional bits of greasy rock: it felt quite exposed and demanded care as everything was slightly damp. I tried not to think too much about the prospect of needing to reverse back down! I was relieved to find a way through the little outcrops, while looking nervously up at the scary looking tower at the head of the gully:
I was quite relieved to reach the ridge proper, from where the tower looks less intimidating:
The first rock band on the ridge has a couple of steep moves on good holds, then there is easier scrambling before the tower. This is climbed by a three-step groove line leading rightwards, with the last step feeling quite exposed. I could now look back down the hardest section:
and enjoy the views of Beinn Dearg and Beinn Alligin:
The top of the tower is a flat platform with a dizzying view down the gully to the bottom section of the route:
The upper section of the ridge is easier, but still has some fun scrambling, though don't expect it to be totally clean and solid!
The angle now eases off and the rock changes abruptly from sandstone to quartzite. There are a couple of two-metre high steps to climb before easier walking to the summit of Sail Mhor. I stopped briefly to admire the views of Ruadh-stac Mhor:
Liathach, attracting a few clouds:
Beinn Dearg and Beinn Alligin:
and my next objective: Coinneach Mhor above the Triple Buttresses:
This was my first visit to Sail Mhor for more than 25 years, following a winter ascent of Morrisons Gully. I now had a pleasant stroll along the ridge towards the next obstacle, the rocky step called Ceum Ghrannda which blocks the ascent of Coinneach Mhor.
I could now look back at Sail Mhor:
and see the Triple Buttresses closer up:
The East Buttress (on the left) is a great easy rock climb in a terrific situation. I need to come back and try the (harder) Central Buttress sometime.
After passing a cleft pinnacle, Ceum Ghrannda rears ahead:
There is a choice of three lines here, but I opted for the middle one, steeply up into the shadowy recess and then the stacked blocks above on big holds. Next there is a short slab to climb before an easy final ascent to the cairn on Coinneach Mhor. Oddly, I don't recall much difficulty here on our winter visit - the step must have been well banked out with snow.
With the hardest scrambling over, I had my lunch on the summit, and then headed off again. The weather looked a bit less settled now, with clouds coming and going:
I had decided not to go out to Ruadh-stac Mhor this time:
...which was just as well, because the skies rapidly darkened and a sharp shower passed by just to the north, though I only caught a few spots.
I reached the top of Spidean Coire nan Clach in the cloud, but after a few minutes it cleared again. I returned to the trig point and then, instead of the taking the steep eroded path, headed over to Stob Coire and Laoigh, and down its east ridge. There is a bit more scrambling here - just a couple of easy moves really - before the angle eases and you can traverse across to the path in the base of the coire. Here there was a lone stag, who didn't seem much bothered by my presence:
Another shower passed by to the south, giving some great lighting effects:
All that remained was a quick descent down to the car park, where my lift was waiting for me.
by Fiona Reid » Sat Nov 02, 2019 10:02 pm
I've always fancied doing a full traverse ending up near Kinlochewe. This route looks like a brilliant way to go up.
One for next spring perhaps.
by dav2930 » Sun Nov 03, 2019 2:40 pm
I've never done any of the scrambles or climbs in this area but the ones on the Triple Buttress look very enticing!
by Silverhill » Sun Nov 03, 2019 9:06 pm
by Alteknacker » Mon Nov 04, 2019 12:02 am
by gaffr » Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:07 am
Folks have indicated intentions to ascend one of the Triple Buttress routes...a couple of poor-ish images are included of the East Buttress route from a visit in the early seventies.
- The fine grey rock on east Buttress ...plenty of holds.
- Further up the route.
by past my sell by date » Mon Nov 04, 2019 12:55 pm
by LeithySuburbs » Mon Nov 04, 2019 1:00 pm
by kmai1961 » Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:40 pm
by jmarkb » Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:15 am
The East Buttress is indeed very good. I thought it was at the upper end of the grade (Diff), so it's a good grade harder than most "scrambles". The rock is very clean and sound, though (apart from some big and obvious perched blocks), so it would not be an unreasonable prospect as a solo for the confident in good conditions (Atleknacker - you will be fine, given some of the reports you've posted! And thanks for the old photos, gaffr: reminds me of the sort of gear I started climbing in...)
past my sell by date wrote:All I can remember is what hard work it was walking over the angular quartzite scree
The west end of the ridge is fine: it gets worse as you head east from Spidean Coire nan Clach. The scree gully out of the coire is quite badly eroded these days: it is possible to avoid this by picking a line up almost continuous grass a few hundred metres to the left (looking up), though it pretty steep and not that easy to locate in descent.
by BlackPanther » Wed Nov 06, 2019 4:03 pm
Beinn Eighe is indeed a mountain of 1000 possibilities. So many ways up different parts of the ridge and you could never get bored with it!
One option we would like to try at some point is going up Fuaran Mhor straight to Stuc Coire an Laoigh (crossing Allt Choire Dhuibh Mhoir and following one of the streams). It looks steep but I recall it being mentioned as an alternative descent route, so would also be a good way to gain the ridge.
Now it's just the matter of waiting patiently for the next summer. Crazy as I am sometimes, I'm not going to attempt the serious scrambling in winter conditions
by jmarkb » Wed Nov 06, 2019 8:22 pm
BlackPanther wrote:Thanks for that route
You are very welcome!
BlackPanther wrote:One option we would like to try at some point is going up Fuaran Mhor straight to Stuc Coire an Laoigh (crossing Allt Choire Dhuibh Mhoir and following one of the streams). It looks steep but I recall it being mentioned as an alternative descent route, so would also be a good way to gain the ridge.
I've come down that way a couple of times: there are scree-free routes into Coire nan Clach from the cairn at the top of the Coire an Laoigh path, and from the "step" on the W ridge of Spidean Coire nan Clach, and the rest is just steepish grass and heather. I'm not sure I would choose it as a way up: it might feel like a bit of a long slog, but I guess it depends what the rest of your plan would be!
I also fancy trying the NE ridge of Spidean Coire nan Clach (another Grade 2 scramble) sometime, using the same approach as for Ruadh Stac Beag and returning via the Black Carls.
BlackPanther wrote:Now it's just the matter of waiting patiently for the next summer. Crazy as I am sometimes, I'm not going to attempt the serious scrambling in winter conditions
Very wise: Lawson, Ling and Glover's is supposed to be very good in proper winter conditions, but it's a hardish Grade II, so requires the appropriate respect!
by gaffr » Thu Nov 07, 2019 9:03 am
I have always found it interesting to find where the Victorian mountain folks got to....nailed boots, heavy tweeds and all the rest. East Buttress was first trod just outside the V age....and we all find that the Tower Ridge is a fine day out but that was first done in descent by the pioneering old folks.
by jmarkb » Thu Nov 07, 2019 10:20 am
gaffr wrote:yes the gentleman who I was out with on that day I think was using one of the Whillans harnesses?
Yes looks like it. I used one for several years after upgrading from a belt. The knee breeches and red woolly socks are emblematic of the era too!
It is indeed pretty amazing what the early pioneers got up to with the gear that they had.
by past my sell by date » Thu Nov 07, 2019 11:48 am
Yes that's how I remember it - the western end was a mass of low heaths - dwarf azalea in particular
Tower ridge -Yes descended by the ill-fated Hopkinsons - wiped out on the Petit dent de Veisivi