The Pass of the Stags route up The White Mountain

Route: Beinn Bhan, near Kishorn

Corbetts: Beinn Bhan

Date walked: 18/06/2021

Time taken: 4 hours

Distance: 9.5km

Ascent: 538m

I’ve always been drawn to Applecross’s Beinn Bhan but somehow it took until this year to finally reach its big plateau of a summit. I thought I’d post this report because we went up the Lazy Gits way from the Bealach na Ba road. I don’t think there’s been a walk report on this route that uses the narrow Bealach nan Arr - which translates romantically as the Pass of the Stags/Hinds. By doing it this way, we had a nice high 429m start leaving us with only around 400m to climb. I first noticed this route looking at an OS map one evening; then I read about it in Peter Barton’s great wee book 'Walking in Torridon' and realised it was an established route. The photo below was taken in February rather than June, I suppose obvious given the snow!

ImageBeinn Bhan from near start of Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle) by Anne C, on Flickr

A downside of the route is not visiting the tremendous spot that is Lochan Coire na Poite but for ourselves this didn’t matter too much as we’d walked into it one chilly winter's day while on holiday in Torridon a couple of years back. It was a boggy, soggy route in but well worth it, a tremendous spot.

ImageLochan Coire na Poite, Applecross by Anne C, on Flickr

In slightly warmer weather, we were staying in Ferroch cottage in Annat from where it was a shortish drive via Shieldaig and Kishorn to the Bealach na Ba road, one of my favourite drives anywhere.

ImageBealach na Ba by Anne C, on Flickr

The forecast for today had been ok (during 5 days of gloomy, often wet weather with low cloud) though with quite a strong wind; I had high hopes that that might result in really good light, but we woke to a very dull day. Never mind – it was dry and the cloud was quite high - Beinn Bhan was on.

We passed the start of the Walkhighlands route up the mountain, which lay beyond what has become a favourite café - the Bealach Café. Looking at the steep open slope ahead, I was glad of my cunning plan to cut the 800m or so of ascent by half. (Actually, as it turned out this was wrong as the OS map route I plotted showed 538m ascent all in with the various ups and downs but still, it was pretty good and also about 5km shorter than the more usual approach.

A quick stop at the summit of the Bealach where there were clear views to Skye which looked, as it always does from here, incredible.

ImageSkye zoomed by Anne C, on Flickr

Then we drove down in the Applecross direction, trying to spot the place where the map showed a stalkers path; this would take us across what looked like very rough country. Peter Barton’s book mentioned that there wasn’t much parking but since he wrote that, a lovely long parking area has been built at the walk start, just past a very sharp bend and close to an old ruined shieling shown on the map on the right hand side of the road.

Off we set, dropping down from the road and past the ruin, picking up the stalkers path quite quickly. It took us easily and with dry feet across the moorland of Coire nan Cuileag (the not so romantically named Corrie of the Flies :shock: ) with just a couple of small burns to cross. Soon we were below the steep slopes of Carn Dearg and in rough wild country, increasingly bouldery, which is where the path then petered out.

I couldn’t take my eyes off Sgorr a Chaorachain - it just looked superb. In fact the view down the Corrie nan Arr was magnificent, grand and quite intimidating– a vista of orange/pink rock and impossibly steep slopes.

ImageLoch Coire nan Arr and Kishorn by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageSgurr a Chaorachain by Anne C, on Flickr

The map showed a line of crags barring our way to the Bealach nan Arr itself, so that was also drawing my attention. :roll: I never like it when crags are ahead, especially coming at them from above! Great stone terraces lay all around us now and for a moment I wondered whether we were stymied as it was so difficult to see what lay below us. Chris began checking out possibilities while I studied the map, then he shouted me down a route which I thought looked horrendous.

ImageNot that way! by Anne C, on Flickr

But as ever, it was fine and we scrambled easily between fairly benign, shallow crags onto a nice wide corridor of grass with a tiny lochan.

ImageFine cliffs across the wee lochan by Anne C, on Flickr

Re-reading Peter Barton’s book later , he had warned NOT to climb too high up Carn Dearg’s slopes and this is exactly what we’d done! :crazy: In fact, on the return we found a great wee path taking us easily up this dramatic section of rocky terraces well to the left (or south) of where we had originally descended on the way up.

The views from the Bealach nan Arr were very impressive.

ImageWild country at the Bealach an Arr by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageView into wild Coire Atadail, looking north.Carn Dearg on left. by Anne C, on Flickr

That little heart in the mouth moment over, we now faced a rather uninviting bouldery slope – the walk’s ‘middle section’ in my mind.

ImageHeading up onto the middle section by Anne C, on Flickr

But amazingly, there was initially a good path up it which kept to good ground, seen on the left in the photo below.

ImageDSC_0027.jpg by Anne C, on Flickr

It didn’t last as we soon lost it in the maze of rocks and slabs.We made the mistake of heading too near to the western precipices :shock: (We should have swung well to the centre then right at this point, more obvious on the way down.) But after making a meal of a minor clamber down and up a wee notch (oh my hips these days...stiff as a bloomin’ board :( ) we found better ground and soon picked up another path which followed one of the few grassy sections.

ImageThe radio transmittor on Sgurr a Chaorachain by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageThankfully, a path through most of the boulders by Anne C, on Flickr

Suddenly a ptarmigan scuttled in front of us, hunkering low to the ground and trying to draw our attention.

ImageFemale ptarmigan by Anne C, on Flickr

ImagePtarmigan and two chicks (front of photo, very golden) by Anne C, on Flickr

No wonder the bird was distressed - in front of us, it now looked as if the ground was moving, with six or seven chicks running and stumbling over the rocks and grass. Gorgeous wee yellow , fluff balls with black stripes, they looked so vulnerable! :o In no time though, they had disappeared completely in amongst what vegetation there was, brilliantly camouflaged. Mama ptarmigan fluttered off before sweeping round behind us and landing on a boulder, seeing us off her territory. A real thrill to see them, beautiful birds.

Really usefully, the top of this middle section had a sizeable cairn on it, so that was a great help in locating the path down this section on the return.

ImageThankfully cairns showed the best route by Anne C, on Flickr

There was now a slight drop onto much softer ground then a final climb up grassy/bouldery slopes. Skye was still visible behind us though some thick cloud was approaching.

ImageFinal section - Skye visible behind by Anne C, on Flickr

Just over 2 hours after starting out, we were on the plateau and the summit cairn was dead ahead.

What a spot! Some thick cloud was starting to hide Skye but the Torridon giants were looking fantastic. Maol Chean Dearg, which we’d retreated from two days ago when clag and rain enveloped us on our long walk in from the Torridon side, made me feel very wistful that we hadn’t reached its summit. As Chris always says, it will be there a long time (though nowadays I increasingly think… yes it will, but we won’t! :roll:

ImageCoulin Forest - Maol Chean Dearg by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageDSC_0077.jpg by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageLiathach ad Beinn Eighe beyond Beinn Damh by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageTowards Torridon by Anne C, on Flickr

An Teallach was visible too in the far distance...

ImageAn Teallach visible by Anne C, on Flickr

A peer down into Coire na Poite with its two tiny lochans was sensational, with Lochan na Poite beyond. We’d had lunch at the icy lochan itself that February day and in winter, it had been fantastic in a different way; glacial blue and white slopes instead of the grey-greens of summer.

ImageLochan Coire na Poite by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageLooking down A' Chioch to Lochan Coire na Poite by Anne C, on Flickr

But Torridon was drawing me most of all...

ImageBeinn Alligin by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageLoch Gaineamhach (centre) and Torridons in background by Anne C, on Flickr

After a good wander around admiring it all, we hunkered behind the cairn to eat lunch as it was pretty cold in the buffeting wind and gathering cloud. We’d been protected from the wind the whole way up given it’s direction, probably protected by Sgurr a Chaorachain's slopes.

ImageLunch in the shelter of the cairn by Anne C, on Flickr

A beautiful summit …well worth the wait but after half an hour or so we really felt chilled and decided to head back before we were enveloped by the rain which threatened. One thing about this route, I wouldn’t fancy it in clag or mist – the ground is complex and navigation could be very awkward with the very steep drop offs on each side. In fact the Torridon book suggested leaving it well alone in poor weather unless your compass work is top notch.

ImageHeading down by Anne C, on Flickr

So down we headed, this time picking up a good path over the lumpy, bouldery ‘middle’ section above the Bealach nan Arr, which avoided the minor difficulties and confusion we’d had going up re what was the best route.

ImageThere was a good path here, despite appearances by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageMyself by Anne C, on Flickr

From the bealach too, a very easy route along the broad bouldery terraces was now clear to us but hidden completely on the way in.

ImageThe bouldery section left behind by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageA better return route -good path by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageSgurr a'Chaorachain - very impressive by Anne C, on Flickr

ImageSgurr a Chaorachain - changing in the light by Anne C, on Flickr

Another section after that of no path , but we could see the start of the stalker’s path below and made for it. Rain now came in very quickly and very heavily and it was on with the waterproofs. Past the ruined shieling and then onto the tarmac of the Pass of the Cattle and a final few mins walk, dripping wet, up to the car.

ImageA soggy return to the car by Anne C, on Flickr

A great half day out, 4 hours all in, a bit harder than we’d thought (though easier on the return) but a spectacular route up Beinn Bhan. Time to celebrate with lunch at the Applecross Inn – neither of us could look beyond the Monkfish Scampi and I never pass on a good pudding and there's not much better than Rhubarb Crumble :D

We’d had the best of the day and it was still chucking it down when we emerged stuffed full from the Inn, so we decided to go back to Torridon not via the fantastic coast road, but back over the Bealach and the way we had come. But even such days often have one final surprise and as we reached the cottage, the clouds began to lift, giving the best view we’d had of Beinn Alligin all week, a real silver lining at the end of what turned out to be a very wet afternoon.

ImageBeinn Alligin as the rain cleared by Anne C, on Flickr

But no complaints - we’d got the White Mountain dry and cloud free with some stunning views. It took a few years and maybe a bit more sunshine would have been nice, but it's definitely Beinn Bhan - tastic in my book :)

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Anne C

User avatar
Activity: Walker
Pub: Any wild camping spot
Mountain: Quinag
Place: North Uist
Gear: Zamberlan Boots
Member: john Muir Trust;NTS;RSPB;Historic Scotland
Ideal day out: Mountain beside the coast or coastal walk with lots of wildlife spotting

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