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Me and my mountain

Me and my mountain


Postby BlackPanther » Thu Sep 24, 2020 5:26 pm

Munros included on this walk: Spidean Coire nan Clach (Beinn Eighe)

Date walked: 19/09/2020

Time taken: 8.5 hours

Distance: 18.4 km

Ascent: 1238m

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With lovely weather last weekend came the long postponed idea to revisit Beinn Eighe. It was also a belayed birthday gift to Kevin - he loves all Torridon mountains, with Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe on top of his list of personal favourites. He had already climbed all Eighe tops in different combinations, I did several routes including a winter traverse but I had never been to the Carls. Since this year we did very little new stuff on the hills, trying a new route sounded like a brilliant idea, especially when Kevin mentioned "some easy, entertaining scrambling" on the Black Carls. Hey-ho, don't tell Panther twice!

Our planned route starts from a small car park near Cromasaig Cottage (space for 4-5 cars) and follows the glen of Allt na Chuirn and climbs up the eastern slopes of Creag Dhubh, then follows the ridge over two more tops to Spidean Coire nan Clach, finally descending into Coire an Laoigh and returning to the car by following A896 in Glen Torridon:

Track_BEINN EIGHE EAST TOPS 18,4KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Having been to Beinn Eighe so many times, it always feels like homecoming... I have a special spot in my heart for this mountain. It's where my hillwalking career started, where the first steps were taken...

"I've been looking all my life
Waiting for the perfect time
Never knew that I would find it
Right back where I started from

Why'd I have to go so far
When everything was where you are
How'd I know that you be waiting
Right back where I started from

Who can tell ya where the rivers flowin'
Just ride the wave - let it take ya down
All the twists and turns I navigated
It's so frustratin' you were there all the time"

Bryan Adams "Right Back Where I Started From"

And there she is... always waiting for us. This picture actually shows the ascent route and the ridge from Creag Dhubh to Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 003.JPG

There's a good network of paths, a part of Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. We walked back along the road for a short distance and started on a track which soon shrinks to a path. Past some woodland, we reached a little viewpoint (marked with a wooden sign). From here, the path enters the glen of Allt na Chuirn. Walking was easy and we passed some lovely old pines en route:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 019.JPG

The first obstacle that some might find difficult is a burn-crossing located in a small ravine:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 029.JPG

The best way to tackle this is just follow the faint path down the overgrown slopes. Warning: it's slippery and eroded!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 030.JPG

When inside the ravine, Kevin smelled his first scrambling opportunity (there is an easier way out of the ravine, but he just wanted to show off!).
Kevin's way up:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 037.JPG

Once out of the gorge, the path was obvious and following a nice ridge, with fantastic views around!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 048.JPG

This is where we're going!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 056.JPG

After about 150m of ascent on the path, the shoulder flattened for a short time and while walking, we studied the white quartzite face looming over us, trying to work out how to tackle it. Soon we noticed that the path continues up in zig zags, avoiding all difficulties:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 058.JPG

One can practice scrambling even here, but we preferred to leave the four-paws experience for later and stick to the well-worn route for the time being:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 067.JPG

Looking down the shoulder:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 074.JPG

At some point Kevin noticed that the hills behind us were half-hidden in cloud. Fantastic partial inversion!
Strathconnon Corbetts (Sgurr a' Mhuilinn and Meallan nan Uan) emerging from the mist:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 078.JPG

Panther studying the slopes for the best route :lol:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 083.JPG

The path higher up is less obvious. The ground looked easy enough so we just aimed at the ridge line above us and went for it. Soon we discovered that we took the wrong line - we were on loose scree and for every two steps up, we were taking one down. As a result, 10 minutes later we didn't gain much height :lol:
It was a relief to reach more stable ground eventually:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 085.JPG

Once back on the crest, we found the path again and from now on, it was fantastic ridge walking!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 095.JPG

Slioch and Beinn a'Mhuinidh:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 098.JPG

More cloud inversion:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 110.JPG

The higher we were, the whiter the world around us. This side of Beinn Eighe is built almost exclusively of quartzite:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 119.JPG

Once on the first summit, which is marked with a sizeable cairn, we decided to take a break and spent some time photographing the views. As it was my first time on Creag Dhubh, I was gobsmacked by the fantastic panorama of the rest of Beinn Eighe ridge:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 140.JPG

Lucy was bewildered, too. She preferred the cloud inversion though :lol: :lol:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 378.JPG

Looking north to Meall a'Ghiubhais, the birthday boy in the foreground :D
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 395.JPG

A small herd of deer in the glen:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 391.JPG

Kevin was an eager beaver today and couldn't wait to get to the Carls. He had done this ridge before but in the mist, so paraphrasing a well known proverb, no views no glory :( This time he wanted the full experience!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 397.JPG

Just amazing. Beinn Eighe is a complicated ridge but that gives walkers so many variations in routes, that no one could possibly get bored here!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 148.JPG

Zoom to Stob Ban, the middle top of the eastern ridge:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 151.JPG

Me and my mountain! Despite this brave pose, I was a bit reluctant to approach the Carls. I was entering an unknown territory so wasn't really sure what to expect. Despite Kevin saying "it's just a rocky ridge, I can't remember anything difficult about it!"
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 153.JPG

There's no way to hide the fact that the pinnacles are exposed. Scrambling is generally easy but very airy in places. As long as you have good head for heights, you will enjoy it.
The first "wall" can be skirted to the right hand side but we preferred to go over the pinnacle. Kevin went first and sniffed the best route :lol:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 417.JPG

2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 421.JPG

I approached the first pinnacle cautiously but soon discovered it was easy enough even for a scared cat. As long as the rock is dry (quartzite is a nightmare to even walk on when wet):
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 158.JPG

The exposure is significant especially if one sticks to the crest of the ridge. This photo was taken on the easier ground between two pinnacles:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 159.JPG

There's more to come!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 162.JPG

Looking down the vertical cliffs into the northern corrie, with Stob Ban in the background. When traversing on loose scree I was more concerned about losing my balance on wobbly stones than about the drop itself, which in my case is a HUGE leap forward. In the past, looking down the big drops made me feel sick. Now it makes me more careful. I might never reach a high level of scrambling abilities, but I'm coping with exposure. That's a good sign!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 165.JPG

Heading for the next scrambling section. We climbed the middle part of the wall:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 171.JPG

The most annoying thing about the Carls is the amount of loose scree below the rocky sections. This is actually more dangerous than the scrambling itself. Watch your feet, Panther!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 178.JPG

On top of the second scramble with views down to Toll Ban corrie behind me:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 186.JPG

Looking back along the eastern ridge to Creag Dhubh:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 189.JPG

Panoramic view of Toll Ban corrie with the Corbett Ruadh-stac Beag in the middle and Stob Ban to the left. The Corbett is due a second visit - it's another fantastic hill with many opportunities for scrambling!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 190.JPG

But back to our current position, even though we had climbed over the most exposed parts, we were still far from the end of interesting sections...
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 422.JPG

There are bypass paths further on, which can be used if one doesn't fancy the steeper scrambling sections. Kevin investigated one of them and found it very unnerving:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 423.JPG

Eventually, the four-paws experience was over and we found ourselves near the summit of Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe, panting and sweating but very happy indeed!
Birthday boy on Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe, he admitted that "the Black Carls were actually harder than he had remembered". Just as well he didn't remember the exposure or I'd never have the courage to do them!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 437.JPG
Last edited by BlackPanther on Thu Sep 24, 2020 6:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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BlackPanther
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Re: Me and my mountain

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Sep 24, 2020 6:36 pm

The summit of Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe was occupied by another group of people (they didn't do the Carls though) so we decided to carry on to Sgurr Ban and have lunch there. Weather was fantastic, sunny and low winds, no midges or keds to drive us nuts :D
Panorama of Beinn Eighe ridge from Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 202.JPG

Loch Coulin and Loch Clair from above:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 221.JPG

The descent path from Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe is annoying: lots of loose scree and wobbly stones, so we took our time to avoid a slip. After doing so well on the Carls it would be a dishonour to go A over T on much easier ground :wink:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 440.JPG

I tried to stick to solid rock rather than taking my chances on scree...
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 229.JPG

Looking south to Sgurr Dubh (left) and Seana Mheallan (right), with the Achnashellach Munros behind:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 231.JPG

The world of vertical drops and pinnacles...
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 441.JPG

Panoramic snap from the col between Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe and Sgurr Ban, with Loch an Thuil Bhain in the middle and Ruadh-stac Beag above it:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 257.JPG

The way up Sgurr Ban looked much easier than our earlier experience on the ridge:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 262.JPG

As we stopped on the col to take photos, we were passed by a young bloke with a very large rucksack. I assumed it was his overnighting kit, but later it turned out, he was carrying a paraglider :D
A quick glimpse back to Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe and the Carls:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 264.JPG

And a panoramic version:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 275.JPG

We reached the summit of Sgurr Ban without any problems and had a longer break here. It was time to catch the last moments of summer on camera, make plans for shorter autumn days (if we don't go into lockdown again and are restricted to Beauly hills). Lucy admired Ruadh-stac Beag - she hasn't done it yet...
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 469.JPG

Ruadh-stac Mor from Sgurr Ban:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 285.JPG

Me and my mountain yet again! I have now officially climbed all Beinn Eighe's tops!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 291.JPG

Slioch from Sgurr Ban:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 478.JPG

From Sgurr Ban it is only a short traverse to the lower Munro on Beinn Eighe ridge, Spidean Coire nan Clach. The ground is rocky and eroded in places, but the experience is no more difficult than the CMD arete, which this part of Beinn Eighe resembles:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 301.JPG

2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 311.JPG

As we approached the summit, we noticed the paraglider taking off from the Munro summit:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 313.JPG

2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 320.JPG

There is one scramble-ish section where one can have some fun on the rocky crest but for me it was over too quickly...
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 323.JPG

After all the exposure on the Black Carls, this little rocky crest was nothing, but in wet weather any part of this ridge could be lethal. Quartzite is so slippery when wet!
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 333.JPG

Panoramic snap of the eastern ridge of Beinn Eighe: not for beginners but not too drastically technical either :D
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 337.JPG

On the summit of Spidean Coire nan Clach, with Ruadh-stac Beag and the Fisherfields in the background:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 340.JPG

We didn't spent much time on the Munro, there were people everywhere. We knew, once we reach the most popular part of the ridge (the western summits traverse), it will be busy. Kevin caught a moment when I was alone in the photo frame and took this snap to "me and my mountain" album:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 352.JPG

We noticed that some of the cloud inversion was still present to the west of us, over Isle of Skye for example:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 350.JPG

The classic pano of Beinn Eighe ridge with Liathach behind. One more reason why I love this mountain. It never ceases to amaze me...
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 348.JPG

Birthday boy was in perfect mood today. No moaning about sore knees or no energy after secretly eating dairy. Was it Beinn Eighe's magic?...
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 516.JPG

I remember that when I climbed the classic western summits route for the first time 10 years ago, I found Spidean Coire nan Clach very airy and exposed, now it was rocky top like any other. It still looks impressive in the pictures though:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 360.JPG

The ridge descending from Spidean Coire nan Clach has one scrambling section, very easy in dry conditions, the rest is just walking on scree:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 520.JPG

The trig point is situated about 80m below the summit:
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 371.JPG

We didn't plan to do any more tops today though we had time, but any longer walk would leave us in an awkward spot to return to the car, so we did as planned, descended from the trig point to the large cairn marking the start of the Coire an Laoigh path. This is the only part of Beinn Eighe I don't like, the upper reaches of this path are badly eroded and it gets worse and worse every time we visit the hill. Well, it's easy to understand why - it is such a popular route.
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 540.JPG

Lower down the path is nicely made. we didn't push it too fast, just enjoying the last moments spent in Beinn Eighe's company...
2020-09-19 beinn eighe east tops 376.JPG

Finally, we walked back along the glen to the car. The road was very busy, I have never seen it so busy before. Torridon was full of tourists, campervans, cars, motorcyclists... We were lucky to pick the less popular part of the ridge, where we didn't have to cue for the summit :D I think we were the only people to traverse the Carls today, which just makes it more special. Another unforgettable day on an extraordinary mountain.
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Re: Me and my mountain

Postby Phil the Hill » Fri Sep 25, 2020 12:57 pm

That looks a good route. I still have SCnC to do, as we turned back near the top in winter conditions when we didn't have a rope with us and the final section was very windy and exposed with cornices. The Black Carls are also on my to do list, and I'd been thinking of combining them with SCnC. Looks like Kevin had a happy birthday!
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Re: Me and my mountain

Postby Jaxter » Fri Sep 25, 2020 1:40 pm

This looks amazing - we've talked about doing this quite a lot so it's useful to have your photos to look at. It will be at least next year before I can get up that high but it's something to look forward to 8) Malky does the "I don't remember that REALLY DIFFICULT BIT at all" thing all the time :roll: :roll:

Happy Birthday Kevin!
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Re: Me and my mountain

Postby Alteknacker » Fri Sep 25, 2020 2:56 pm

This wonderful suite of pics reminds me that it's time I revisited Beinn Eighe!

I approached the start (Creag Dhubh) in May 2014 on exactly the same route as you, and then once on the top, had one of the best ridge walks of my life. It could only have been bettered by having the weather you enjoyed!

Many happy returns to Kevin on his 21st... :D
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