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Sun, sweat, pain and Buidhe Bheinn
by BlackPanther » Mon Jun 09, 2014 1:28 pm
Route description: Sgurr a' Bhac Chaolais
Corbetts included on this walk: Buidhe Bheinn
Date walked: 31/05/2014
Time taken: 9 hours
Distance: 15.5 km
Ascent: 1250m5 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).
Buidhe Bheinn is one of the confusing hills that change status ever so often The hill is an outlier of South Glen Shiel Ridge, situated at the end of a long ridge hiding behind Sgurr na Sgine. Sometimes it's a Corbett, sometimes a Twin-Corbett, sometimes just a top... At the moment, after last careful measurement by OS, it is established as a CORBETT SUMMIT. The neighbouring Twin-top, Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais, proved to be some 29 cm lower therefore if you want a C' mountain ticked, you only need to visit Buidhe Bheinn. Full stop.
And our original intention was to climb Buidhe Bheinn from Kinlochhourn - this approach offers a quick if steep ascent straight to the summit and can be done on a shorter day. For us, the problem was always the long drive along Loch Quoich (not that we don't like the area, just the nuisance of the twisty, narrow track). So doing this hill from Glen Shiel was a welcome option especially that we wanted to make it a full-day summer trip. The route we took is an extended version of WH walk for Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais. You may be surprised to see the time (9hrs) and it can be done in less than that, we just took our time for reasons that will be explained later. No regrets though, this is a true cracker, a high-level magic wander, a mountain porn classic Shows that sometimes taking the more difficult approach is well worth the effort.
Sadly, a few days before the trip I had a slight health issue and still didn't feel fully recovered on Friday evening. Kevin even wanted to cancel the planned walk and take me for an easy beach stroll instead, but I was desperate to get back in shape and ignore the pain. OK, it wasn't disastrous, just annoying, but any hopes for full traverse of South Glen Shiel Ridge had to be abandoned. We picked Buidhe Bheinn route thinking, if I can't manage it, we'll just do Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais and leave the Corbett summit for another day.
Good news is, I did it. Took an awful lot of time and plenty of ibuprofen washed down with stream water, but given the circumstances I must call this an epic traverse!
The morning woke up bright and warm, it was going to be a "scorchio" day so we packed lots of water, knowing that high on the ridge there are probably no streams to refill (lesson learned from the Sisters traverse in similar baking conditions).
Those of you who did the South Glen Shiel Ridge starting from the western end, know the route up Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais as it follows the well-trodden path up to the Bealach Duibh Leac.
The early hours in Glen Shiel:
Ready to go! We parked at the nearest layby:
The pointy top is the summit of Sgurr na Sgine:
We found the track crossing the boggy meadow and followed it towards the steep, looming slopes of South Shiel. The track soon turns into a path, easy walking though a we bit muddy here and there (the nature of most paths in Scotland ):
The route follows Allt Mhalagain and soon we were away from the road and surrounded by the majestic mountains:
Higher up, the ascent steepens (to be expected ):
Looking back down the glen, the main feature is the massive bulk of Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe across the road:
The climb was steep and very tiring, we stopped a few times to hydrate and reapply sunscreen, but I kept saying - once we're on the ridge, it will be easy going. Or so I assumed at the moment
Sgurr na Sgine soon showed up again, and I couldn't wait to see its less known eastern face... full-face on:
We got to about 400m where the path crosses Allt Coire Toiteil and discovered that we have already used a large chunk of our water so I went to look for a supply
I popped up another couple of pills, added some stream water, poured some more on my head and dunked my hat in the river. Woah! Now we're talking climbing!
The crossing point - no problem getting across:
We turned east (left) and pushed up steeply, sweating and baking alive. Thank Heavens for the refill from Allt Coire Toiteil, otherwise we would soon run out of the life-giving liquid!
Am Faochagach across the glen, I remember descending this back to the road after bagging the Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine last year, I twisted my ankle and gave my knees a painful experience. Aaah. Glen Shiel. All hills here are notorious for the steepness!
We took another break just below the bealach, I needed more painkillers and Kevin spotted a ptarmigan on the nest (photos in Wildlife section). Views back were breathtaking, and we haven't seen the other side of the ridge just yet!
Almost there! Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais and Sgurr na Sgine to the right:
One more panorama across the glen - the Sisters Ridge looming:
We emerged on the ridge... oooaah, at last! Baked and sweaty, but happy. I made a note in my mind, that the point where the ascent/descent path joins the ridge is marked by a small cairn. Would be useful on the way back:
I was surprised that we haven't seen anybody on the hills so far. There were a few cars parked in the layby when we arrived, but I guess their owners were doing the South Ridge and started much earlier than us - and we were not exactly the fastest walkers that day. One way or another, we were completely alone, which felt a bit weird in Kintail, as it's always a busy area, especially on Saturdays/Sundays.
That's the way you'd take if doing the South Ridge:
Gleouriach and Spidean Mialach:
...and here is the route for us - a straightforward ridge walk to the summit of the demoted Corbett. Just follow the fence:
Don't forget to look back as the view to the western end of south Ridge is phenomenal:
The Brothers Ridge:
So now the pleasant part of the traverse begins. After all the pain and sweat of the trudge up to Bealach Duibh Leac, much less punishing angle gives an ascent to Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais:
We caught a glimpse of the Forcan Ridge...
The path is indistinct in places but even in cloudy conditions this part would present no challenge in navigation - just stick to the old stone dyke. Mind you, I was glad we had a good day, without the views this walk wouldn't be such an exciting adventure!
On the summit, another pill popped and my smile was back Behind me, the guiding fence and above me - the hot Scottish sun
We took a long break on the top of Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais, and there was a lot to see. Even though this top is no longer a Corbett, it would be good to do even on its own for the sake of the views (winter conditions, maybe, if not too much snow and no overhangs?). I couldn't decide what was more interesting - Ladhar Bheinn to the south?...
Sgurr na Ciche, maybe?...
Perhaps Loch Quoich Twins, seen from an unusual angle?...
...or, more likely, the one and only Sgurr na Sgine's east face?
Forcan Ridge seen from the best angle, one can appreciate its length:
And I almost forgot about the Sisters!!!
Summit pose, but no Corbett just yet!
Sgurr a'Mhaoraich and in front, the ridge that we intended to follow to Buidhe Bheinn:
Here is our "culprit" - waiting for us! From this angle, it looked friendly enough:
Kevin was reluctant to go - too many nice views around - but we couldn't wait forever...
The ridge linking the two tops looks very easy on the map, but in reality it's a long succession of minor lumps and bumps and some of them quite steep. So if you think that the hard work ends on the summit of Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais... well, you're wrong!
South Ridge again:
The way to BB - again, a stone dyke can be followed until the last col:
What is this thing about Ladhar Bheinn, I keep looking at it, time to climb it I guess?
One surprising thing about this ridge, it is dotted with tiny lochs, lochans and puddles, some giving an interesting perspective to surrounding views:
Up and down the first lump (790m on the 1-25k map), we stopped for another portion of pictures and videos... and pills
Doesn't exactly look wild with that fence always in sight, but this ridge is not very popular - we didn't meet a single soul all day!
View from another lump:
The descent from the next top (815m) proved to be very steep - there is actually a gully-shaped cut through the ridge that cannot be seen from Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais. Climbing out of this gully to the next lump on the ridge could be tricky in winter conditions and even on a dry summer day we had to be careful. Kevin took a vague path to the left of the stone dyke, I tackled the stony slopes on the right side - both versions just as steep and slippery. No real scrambling though and soon we were gazing back down to the gully, which doesn't really look that back in photos:
Sgurr na Sgine:
The rest of the ridge now looked straightforward, the true summit of Buidhe Bheinn being the one to the left:
We crossed one more dip, this one not so steep, had another rehydration break and gazed up the final climb:
Back to Sgur na Sgine and Forcan Ridge again:
The last push is steep-ish and there is some optional easy scrambling if one wishes to exercise (we went over the scrambling bits on the way up, just to add some more fun to the traverse). The rocky crest can be skirted just below, where there is a path - we used this on the way down. The final ridge is narrow enough to make the climbing interesting, but wide enough to stay safe:
View back to Glen Shiel hills, the notorious ridge to the left:
Five minutes later I was cuddling the summit cairn - not a very impressive one, but situated on the highest spot of the narrow, grassy ridge - a perfect place for a picnic!
From the summit of Buidhe Bheinn, the best panoramas are to the north and west, the eastern views obstructed by the nearest Munro, Sgurr a'Mhaoraich:
The ridge continues to another top (879m) and this one is traversed when doing this Corbett from Kinlochhourn, but we didn't push ourselves to much on this hot day. We have done enough hard work and we still had to return along all the lumps, bumps and across dips and gulleys, so we saved energy It would be nice to return to BB via the southern approach though and maybe one day we will do it.
Knoydart Hills to the south:
Zoom to Sgurr na Sgine:
The notorious ridge again, with Kintail Sisters in the background:
Very distant Torridon:
Just a perfect day! At last the pills were working and I felt better, or maybe it was the magic of the mountains working on me?
If doing BB from the south, one can use this ridge with the small lochan as an approach route:
Eventually, having sunk enough views for the whole day, we started the long return traverse. I spent a few minutes exploring different rocky features, like this "cut":
All the way back, Ladhar Bheinn was always in sight...
Still a long way to go...
We took our time, patiently climbing over the lumps and bumps back to Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais - we didn't go to the summit this time, just turned alongside the fence and onto the main ridge, then found the start of Bealach Duibh Leac path (the little cairn proved useful) and descended back to the road. On the way back we saw the first fellow walkers that day - some folks returning from the South Ridge traverse. We were back in the car after almost 9 hours, which may raise a few brows, but as I had said, I wasn't at my best and took much longer than usual, especially on steep ascents. On the other hand, this walk is fantastic and I don't regret a single minute spent on BB-SBC ridge. Really worth doing on a good day, views are great and the ridge itself gives a bit of a challenge - I expected it to be much easier than it was, all the ups and down add to the ascent... Just to sum it up, we climbed 1250m, which is only 100m less than the traverse of The Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine. If I can tackle such walks when I'm not up to my full "power" than what could I possibly do on my best day? Hmmm.... I wonder...
I managed to recover since then and last Saturday we faced a certain Munro, infamous for remoteness. Detailed story will come soon
by SAVAGEALICE » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:14 pm
by madasa mongoose » Mon Jun 09, 2014 6:08 pm
by AnnieMacD » Tue Jun 10, 2014 5:19 pm
I need to get a couple of Corbetts in now too and as for the Grahams - I'm way behind! But Marsco is calling.... Oh, and the Caillichs, etc, etc, etc.
by scottishkennyg » Tue Jun 10, 2014 6:51 pm
by Fife Flyer » Tue Jun 10, 2014 9:03 pm
by rockhopper » Tue Jun 10, 2014 10:42 pm
Previously had Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais in my count before it got demoted - didn't have the energy that day to go out to Buidhe Bheinn - still, a good reason to return - cheers