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Beinn Dearg and friends - an ultimate test!
by BlackPanther » Tue May 17, 2016 2:38 pm
Route description: Beinn Dearg - the Four Munros circuit
Munros included on this walk: Beinn Dearg (Ullapool), Cona' Mheall, Eididh nan Clach Geala, Meall nan Ceapraichean
Date walked: 14/05/2016
Time taken: 11 hours
Distance: 28 km
Ascent: 1596m2 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).
So this walk is going to be a story of four parts, as each of the four Munros has its own, unique character. We followed the usual route, doing it clockwise, traversing Eididh nan Clach Geala and Meall nan Ceapraichean first, then Cona Meall and leaving "the Monster" Beinn Dearg for last. A long day, but we started early and didn't really care about time. My dodgy knees wouldn't let me run up the hills anyway. I think, my days of fast walking are over, but I can still do long routes with lots of ascent, just no record breaking any more.
I wasn't 100% sure how my injured leg would behave on its first "biggie". We've done long walks since my fall, but nothing near as demanding as this (over 1500m of ascent and quite a lot of steep terrain) so this would be the ultimate test for me, showing if the Storr encounter left any permanent damage on my hillwalking career.
Early in the morning we arrived at the car park by Inverlael bridge, which was half-empty but just after us, other walkers began to arrive, too. I wasn't surprised this route was busy, it's an iconic walk Weather forecast for Saturday was very good, too.
We got ready and had a quick debate whether we should take/leave crampons and axes. There was very little snow on the higher slopes as we could see so we took the risk and left the winter gear in the car. It was going to be a long day and we didn't fancy carrying additional kilograms. It turned out to be the right decision, we encountered hardy any snow on the ridge (a couple of easy to cross snow patches).
We walked through the forest at a good pace, as soon as we emerged on the path into Gleann na Sguaib, we were NOT happy to see Beinn Dearg engulfed in grey cloud... But it was still early and we hoped the cloud would burn later on, when the sun gets stronger:
Because Mr Red Hill didn't show much improvement as we walked into the glen, we decided to do the circuit clockwise, starting from Eididh nan Clach Geala, leave the giant some time to clear. It turned out to be the second right decision we took that day
So just past Eas Fionn waterfall we located the path branching off to the left and started the climb towards Eididh nan Clach Geala. Behind us, blue sky appeared and the weather was definitely improving!
Beinn Dearg clear for a moment, but the cloud returned again for another hour or so, before the day turned very sunny:
Walking was easy on an obvious path and behind us, An Teallach announced its presence:
It's hard to judge exactly where the final climb up Eididh should start, we left the path at 251838 and aimed at an angle, climbing towards the ridge line. The slope is steep-ish and in wet weather could be slippery, but mostly grassy with scattered rocks and boulders. Piece of cake so far:
View into the corrie, with Lochan a' Chnapaich and blue sky above the summit of our first Munro - yey, it's going to be a good day!
This is the final climb to the summit (which has two cairns on two rocky lumps), as you see, easy-poesy stuff at the moment:
Meall nan Ceapraichean and cloudy Beinn Dearg behind:
It didn't take us long to touch the summit cairn, or should I say, both cairns, as we were not sure which one was higher. Our GPS said the southern one was marginally higher, so this was where I posed for pictures. My first Munro in 2016 (can you believe that???!) and also the first new one since August 2015. We have done a few repeats since last summer, but nothing new, all due to bad luck and injuries... Also because we have run out of shorter routes for winter time and we mostly do Corbetts and Grahams on short days now.
I was delighted to eventually reach the elusive number of 180!
Munro no. 11 for Lucy the Lamb:
We intended to take a tea break on the summit of Eididh, but the wind was unpleasantly cold, hats and gloves had to be dug up and the cairn didn't provide any good shelter. We spent 10 minutes walking around and taking photos/videos, then decided to quickly descend to the next col and have our tea in more sheltered spot.
As I mentioned earlier, each of the four BD group Munros has its own character. If I could describe the dominant theme of Eididh nan Clach Geala, it would be unobstructed views to the north. Of course, the nearest neighbour, Seana Bhraigh, draws a lot of attention. I stood there, looking at the vastness of plateau between Eididh and Seana, remembering our SB trip a couple of years ago...
...but the real cracker is the view of Assynt weirdos, lined up like on a parade :
Distant Torridon - Beinn Eighe:
The Fannichs peeking out from behind the cliffs of Beinn Dearg:
Weather was improving now and we were glad we went for the easier Munros first. We avoided walking in the cloud... Now it was time to spread the wings. Beinn Dearg, here I come!
But before reaching BD, we still had one obstacle in the way, or should i say on the way? The descent from Eididh was easy, to a high col with multiple lochans:
We stopped for tea break about half way down, but it was still quite cold and windy so we didn't linger for too long. From the col, we worked our way up the rocky slopes of Meall nan Ceapraichean. At some point we came across a path which we followed (more or less) to the summit ridge. The slopes are quite steep but no technical stuff:
Eididh nan Clach Geala from the upper slopes of Meall nan Ceapraichean:
There was a large patch of snow near the summit, we walked around the edge as it looked a bit slippery. We spotted another walker having no problems crossing:
Zoom to the eastern top of Seana Bhraigh:
The summit area of the second Munro is more rocky than Eididh, and we caught the first glimpse of our next target, Cona Mheall:
Mountain madness - the Meowing Cat version
Soon we were on the top of Meall nan Ceapraichean - Munro no. 181 for me, no. 12 for Lucy. Kevin refused to pose for a summit snap, he said he couldn't stand the thought of me catching up in statistics!!!
To characterize Meall nan Ceapraichean... It's sitting bang in the middle of the group, so more distant views are somehow obstructed, but it's a great point to admire the cliffs of Beinn Dearg itself:
The wilderness to the north east, with two intriguing lochs: Loch Tuath and Loch Prille:
Gleann na Sguaib from above - almost like an aerial photo:
The cloud was lifting quickly now and even the panorama of Assynt looked better with blue sky in the background:
Distant Stac Pollaidh (photo slightly adjusted to remove the haze effect):
Cul Mor and Suilven:
Summit view from Meall nan Ceapraichean - wide pano:
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 146 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We have already decided, that we would go to Cona Mheall next, leaving Beinn Dearg as our last Munro that day. Some people would now say, it's better to do the "biggie" first and then enjoy the easier ones. I'd say it's up to personal preferences. Cona looked easy and inviting as we descended the second Munro:
The most breathtaking view on this walk must be not from any of the summits, but from the col leading to Cona Mheall, looking down into Coire Granda. An appropriate name for this corrie, framed by vertical cliffs. We sat on the col to have lunch and enjoyed this superb view for a bit longer:
Kevin's photo from 1994 - nothing has changed, of course
1994c_0112 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Cona Mheall - the final climb follows a well-worn path, closer to the summit expect some boulder-hopping:
We crossed a large snow patch and climbed easily to the third Munro of the day, I posed happily on my 182nd summit. The significance of number 182? I've got only 100 left to do now!
The Fannichs from Cona Mheall:
At last I convinced Kevin to pose with the summit cairn... and Lucy:
Panoramic views from the summit:
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 259 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 261 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 262 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
What is Cona Mheall about? The open views to the wilderness and rolling hills to the north-east. Also, it's a good vantage point to the bulk of Beinn Dearg.
We returned to the col, passed by a large lochan and started the final 200m climb to the highest of the peaks. At this point, my knees began to send me warnings - enough is enough! I asked Kevin to slow down, especially that the slope was very rocky, ant the path climbed steeply alongside a stone wall, taking some large boulders en route. I'd say, scrambling up this path is minimal and I actually enjoyed some challenge for a change. It would all be great but for the growing stinging sensation in my kneecaps
This is rather steep...
Three minutes break for filming and knee calming
It took longer than anticipated, but we arrived by the summit cairn eventually. It was windy and the wind still had a nasty, freezing edge, but the cairn was big enough to protect us for a few minutes...
Munro No. 183 (Lucy's 14th):
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 215 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
I must say, views from the Red Hill are amazing. By now, all cloud has lifted far above the tops and we could see even more distant peaks, like Slioch and Beinn Eighe:
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 210 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Beinn Dearg, the dominant peak of the whole group, is the best viewpoint to the south: the Fannichs are just across the glen, a bit to the right - the vast wilderness of the Fisherfield and the Torridon hills further away. On the horizon to the left, Strathconnon and Strathfarrar peaks can just about be spotted.
The Fannichs pano:
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 214 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 273 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The northern pano:
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 270 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We would have stayed here for much longer, but the wind was getting stronger and our hands went numb so it was time to descend. Which meant more torture to my knees. Luckily, the ground was dry and with the help of walking poles I actually managed a decent pace. We were overtaken by somebody running downhill, but I'm way past the days of big challenges, so it didn't really bother me
The descent into Coire Mathair Lathaill was a pleasant experience, walking in the shadow of giant cliffs of the Red Hill:
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 221 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Weather was excellent now and we didn't hurry that much, we had plenty of daylight left and we wanted to enjoy the last hours in the wild.
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 225 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Posing with Lochan Lathail:
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 234 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Lochan Lathail has an unusual green colour:
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 235 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The last glimpse back to the magnificent Beinn Dearg:
2016-05-14 beinn dearg 242 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The full circuit took us just short of eleven hours and I'm afraid, this is as fast as my legs can do at the moment. On the bright side, the injury seems to have healed properly now and I'm fit for big challenges, as long as I don't run up the hills at Bolt's pace I don't care if dozens of fitter youngsters overtake me on the path, just let me meow on the summit and you'll have a happy cat!
Personally, I liked the clockwise direction of the circuit, but no matter what order the hills are climbed, they are so worth doing on a good day! Only Kevin seems to be a bit sad, because I've caught up on Munro account: now the difference between us is only 10 summits... To his luck, they are all well down south, things like Ben Lomond or Stuchd an Lochain, so it will be some time before I get around to them. At the moment, we want to concentrate on some long local treks: Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, the Cheescake, the five remaining Munros in the Cairngorms, and of course the Strathfarrar four (a bike trip has hatched) plus a few remote Corbetts. So there is enough to keep us occupied for the summer, just bring on the weather!
by Gordie12 » Thu May 19, 2016 12:34 pm
I chose to do them anti-clockwise for no other reason that I wanted to do the steep climb of Beinn Dearg while there was still some life in the old legs.
by dogplodder » Thu May 19, 2016 2:36 pm
by BlackPanther » Thu May 19, 2016 4:28 pm
Gordie12 wrote:Nice one BP and you got a good day for these hills.
I chose to do them anti-clockwise for no other reason that I wanted to do the steep climb of Beinn Dearg while there was still some life in the old legs.
It would have been perfect but for the cold gusts of wind, we couldn't sit on any summit for longer than 5 minutes I guess it doesn't matter which way they are done, as long as conditions are good... I'm tempted to repeat Eididh in winter, see BD in white
dogplodder wrote:A pretty thorough test for the injured knee - which it seems to have passed with flying colours!
I was a wee bit apprehensive at the start of the walk, not sure if I'd be able to carry on with all 4 Munros, but I managed! All right, it got a bit uncomfortable towards the end, but still much better than expected. Fisherfields may be next...
by rockhopper » Sat May 21, 2016 12:38 am
by Border Reiver » Sat May 21, 2016 9:29 am
I used to have huge problems with my knees when I was in my early 40's. One day I met an older walker who had ascended Carn Mor Dearg directly from the C.I.C. hut (it's very steep). I told him of my problem as my knees were giving me lots of pain. He told me that he had the same problem when he was younger and had been advised by doctors to give up hill walking. He didn't give up, he just walked slower and here he was, at the age of 74, still walking tough routes on the hills. I had always walked fast but took the man's advice and slowed down and all the knee pain went away. I realised that for me, the hills are to be enjoyed at leisure, not to be raced around. Hope it all works out well for you.
by Alteknacker » Sat May 21, 2016 6:45 pm
Not jealous at all of you guys that live in Scotland, no, not one bit....
by BlackPanther » Tue May 31, 2016 9:36 am
My knees are getting used to the "biggies", we did another 30km/1500m trip last Saturday. Again, not as fast as I used to be, but I'm still able to claim summits. Sometimes it's a good excuse to linger about for longer. Yesterday, we spent 6 hours doing a Corbett route that should really take 4-5hrs max. Half of the time we spent in half-horizontal position, gazing at Nevis Range and other splendid views. Weather was excellent and no need to hurry.
For us, the problem of distance relates to all hills in the south. Tyndrum, Arrochar Alps, Glen Etive, not to mention Galloway and Borders. How more inspirational it sounds: "I'm going camping to Assynt/Torridon/Glen Affric" rather than "I'm going camping to Bridge of Orchy/Loch Lomond"
I'll post my 2 TR's in the next few days.
by old danensian » Tue May 31, 2016 12:19 pm
It pushed the foursome right to the top of my to-do list and I'm now drafting my own report after being up there at the weekend.