Ruadh-stac Beag direttissima: don't try it at home!

Route: Ruadh-stac Beag

Corbetts: Ruadh-stac Beag

Date walked: 18/09/2021

Time taken: 7.75 hours

Distance: 16.7km

Ascent: 927m

A week after our re-visit to Arkle we still felt like doing something steep, rocky and ridgy. Weather for the weekend was going to be good in the north-west again (a rare occurrence in Scotland!) so we picked another Corbett to re-climb, this time in Torridon. The choice was between Ruadh-stac Beag and Meall a Ghiuthais and of course, we went for the more difficult of the two. In theory, it is possible to climb them both in one visit (it has been done by other Walkhighlanders) but we were not in a hurry. Here comes the advantage of living in Inverness-shire: Torridon is just an hour drive away and can be visited at any time, even on short winter days.

But it was mid-September and our main criterion for picking routes around this time is stalking. The usual approach to Ruadh-stac Beag (from the Beinn Eighe visitor centre) is on Scottish Natural Heritage land, so no problems with disturbing the local stalkers.

Originally, we just intended to follow the WH route, as we had done during our previous visit to this hill, but... what a surprise! We ended up tackling a stupidly steep slope instead...

Track_RUADH STAC BEAG 16.7KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

The morning in the visitor centre car park was rather cold and cloudy, with the air filled with drizzle and countless midges. Not a perfect start but forecast was for sunny spells later on so we didn't waste time and set off through the lovely pine forest:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 002.JPG

The path follows the Allt Sguabaidh and is part of a longer mountain trail:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 009.JPG

Cloudy conditions across the glen on Slioch:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 017.JPG

The first stage was easy on a good path, we walked through a 10min shower, waiting patiently for the mist to lift. By the time we reached the group of three small lochans just south of the main path, conditions were already improving:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 035.JPG
Ruadh-stac Beag (right) and Creag Dhubh, the SE end of Beinn Eighe, reflected in one of the lochans

The very same peaks seen from the spot where we left the path:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 051.JPG

After a short, pathless hike on the mixture of rock and heather, we reached the wide stream bed of Allt Toll a'Ghiubhais. Here, a faint path can be followed:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 062.JPG

Looking back at Meall a'Ghiubhais, possibly our next target to revisit:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 066.JPG

The eastern slopes of Ruadh-stac Beag, despite looking very steep and rocky, might have good scrambling routes for advanced scramblers:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 195.JPG

We started talking about a possible diversion from the main path, maybe a direttissima to the summit? Not up the north-eastern crags but somewhere in the middle of the eastern slope? The lower half of the E side of the mountain is covered in scree, the upper end is crowned with some interesting rocks, where we could scramble to the summit. We thought it was a good idea and an interesting variation of the original route, so decided to give it a go... Didn't realize what was yet to come :lol: :lol: :lol:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 084.JPG
Let's do something different, pleeeease!

First, we had to cross the stream. Kevin started off well...
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 199.JPG

...but only a few seconds after I took this photo, he slipped on a loose stone and went A over T. Thankfully, he didn't fall into the water, but his ribcage hit a large rock. Ouch!
Initially, he brushed the accident off, laughing that he nearly managed to smash his ribs even before we started the direttissima :lol: He paid for that sarcasm later... When the bruising came out in following days!
What we were about to tackle:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 089.JPG

Someone once told me that most slopes look steeper than they are, but this one turned out to be the other way around. What we expected to be an easy rocky ground, was in reality a neverending battle with loose scree:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 206.JPG
Two steps up, one down!

The picture below shows the real angle of the slope we climbed. Had it been solid, we'd have no problem whatsoever, but the scree just made things unstable:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 096.JPG

It took an awful amount of time (and patience) to work our way up the scree section; Kevin first discovered that it was a bit easier to climb up larger boulders, they didn't move as much:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 098.JPG
Show a little... patience...

Getting closer... I was so fed up with the loose scree, couldn't wait to reach the rocks above!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 103.JPG

Believe me or not, it was actually getting STEEPER higher up!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 104.JPG
Please, no more...

Kevin was way ahead me, and surprisingly cheerful despite having bashed his ribs earlier on. He even had time to take a break and fiddle with his camera!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 106.JPG
Panoramic snap from the "direttissima", looking south to the S end of Beinn Eighe (Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe, the Carls and Sgurr Ban). Not to mention a tiny Panther buried in scree...

What a relief it was to reach the rocks in the upper section of the slope! It was still very steep and the mixture of loose rock and grass under our feet was only marginally more stable than the scree nightmare below, but we preferred the hard rock under our boots:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 111.JPG
Now up the rocks...gulp...

I was close to p***ing my pants but He Who Always Knows It All Best said he could see a nice'n'easy line of scrambling above us. Up we go!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 211.JPG
He was in such a hurry that he didn't even bother to put his camera and walking pole away!

After a few steps I realized that the ground was stable enough and the angle was not as bad as it looked like:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 214.JPG

The final section was nearly vertical but we found a shallow chimney, looking doable. Kevin went up first and scrambled up to a large flat shelf. I passed our walking poles and cameras to him then clambered myself up as well, not without effort... He grabbed my hand and helped me get onto the shelf. Of course, my knees were all battered and bruised by now, but I didn't care :lol:
From the shelf, we went up a few more meters of easy scrambling and then up some loose ground above the crags, before the ground suddenly flattened out and bang! We were on the summit plateau. I couldn't resist a big, triumphant meow!
Looking down the crags:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 113.JPG

From the time perspective, I don't want to do it again. The bottom half in particular, it was much worse than the Great Stone Chute (too many small, loose stones). Also, I wouldn't dare to recommend the "direttissima" to anybody, especially to those with no experience in scrambling. If you decide to do it, do it at your own responsibility.
We strolled casually to the summit cairn, where Lucy behaved like Mr Hickey again!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 220.JPG
My 133rd Corbett!

Views from the summit of Ruadh-stac Beag are somehow dominated by Beinn Eighe, the ridge of the latter surrounding the smaller "baby" hill like in a love-embrace. The only way to fit the whole line of BE ridge in one photo is the extra-long panorama:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 126.JPG

Coinneach Mhor and Liathach behind:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 121.JPG

Slioch and the Fisherfields:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 132.JPG

Baosbheinn, Beinn an Eoin and Beinn a'Chearcaill:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 234.JPG

Meall a' Ghiubhais and Loch Maree:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 129.JPG

For the descent, there is only one plausible option, the south side of the Corbett. All sane people (=not us!) use this side as the ascent approach as well. It is still very unstable but several scree-filled paths have been worn in the loose rock...
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 142.JPG

...and Spidean Coire nan Clach looks spectacular from this side:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 147.JPG

Panoramic snap of the eastern part of BE ridge from the bottom of the scree slope:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 149.JPG

To vary the descent, we didn't drop down to the river bed but crossed to the other side and followed the higher ground below the steep slopes of Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 257.JPG

Zoom to the notorious Black Carls of Beinn Eighe:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 251.JPG

From this side, we had a good opportunity to see and photograph the "direttissima" and...oh dear me... it looked impossible from this angle!
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 260.JPG

Kevin couldn't believe his own eyes...
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 265.JPG
I climbed THAT???

Our line of descent took us over some rocky yet almost flat terrain to the group of lochans close to the main path:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 177.JPG
Descent route

Beinn Eighe's NE tops reflected in a small, unnamed lochan:
2021-09-18 ruadh stac beag 182.JPG

It was another day of "hillwalking bordering on madness". Kevin paid for it with a damaged rib (most likely cracked). It kept him off the hills for three weeks. The funny thing is, he slipped and fell on relatively easy ground below the "direttissima", not during the scrambling part (I'm afraid had he slipped on the steep part, it would be more than one badly bruised rib!). He's now recovered enough to enjoy the outdoors again if in limited doses (no scrambling!). Hence my next two stories will be more benign, but hopefully, still interesting!

As for this route... Don't try it at home! Don't try in on any mountain unless you're just as mad as we are :crazy: :crazy:

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Comments: 2

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User avatar
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire
Interests: Hillwalking, cycling, jogging, mushroom picking, aircraft investigations and many other outdoor activities, meowing on mountain summits included :P
Activity: Mountain Walker
Mountain: Beinn Eighe
Place: Isle of Skye
Gear: well... my husband ;)))
Camera: FujiFilm Finepix HS10
Ideal day out: Anything - from beach strolls to scrambling up icy slopes. Just bring it on!
Ambition: Tick off all Munros...

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Corbetts: 172
Grahams: 123
Sub 2000: 56
Long Distance routes: Dava Way    Moray Coastal Trail   

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