Beinn Eighe from Achnashellach

Route: Beinn Eighe (western summits)

Munros: Ruadh-stac Mòr (Beinn Eighe), Spidean Coire nan Clach (Beinn Eighe)

Date walked: 03/07/2022

Time taken: 96 hours

Distance: 50km

Ascent: 2216m

In deciding on this hike (as I often do) I used the OS Map to select somewhere with ideal photogenic topography- and Torridon fit the bill. Of the Torridon Three, I ended up selecting Beinn Eighe- Liathach seemed a bit too daunting for the still-inexperienced me, and the forecast for Alligin was (somehow) worse than for Eighe- thunderstorms. I did keep Alligin in my sights provisionally, if the weather played nice.

The problem with this hit me like a truck however- the bus schedule to the SYH on Loch Torridon is absolutely atrocious if you're starting from Edinburgh and intend to get there in one day. I'm sure this is in part due to the remoteness- but the fact that buses seem to only run there every solstice doesn't help. As I don't have a car (nor the patience/finances to deal with lots of buses and their often sketchy schedules) I always take the train if I'm itching to hit the hills- and I wasn't going to pass up on the stunning views that I was sure I'd get on Beinn Eighe with the perfect weather forecast that was given for it. The closest station I could hit up appeared to be Achnashellach, and thus I set up a new route with that in mind.

My plan was to set off on the Tuesday, finding somewhere to camp near the station on the Coulin Pass. Wednesday would get me to the foot of Beinn Eighe, with Thursday and Friday set up as opportunities to hike up- never know the forecast might've changed. If I went up on Thursday, then Friday would be the day I set back to Achnashellach, hitting up Sgorr Ruadh and its partner Beinn Liath Mhor, with Saturday set as the return to the station after a high-camp up one of 'em. Alternatively, spend Thursday moaning in a tent due to bad weather hoping for Friday, with Saturday a day back to the station. The latter case took place- and I overslept massively on Saturday, giving rise to one hell of a mad dash.

Starting on a Tuesday morning, I ended up rejecting the early train and deciding on skipping for Wednesday instead: the forecast (taken on Monday) had rapidly decayed, with torrential rain predicted for Achnashellach- not ideal. I ended up going anyway, taking the later train- this proved fortuitous as the original forecast proved more reliable than the updated one for that night, and I got a nice dry evening camping next to the path (the amount of ticks I got when stepping even a few metres off the path up there proved... not so great.) I regrettably set up my tent on a slope- not such a great sleep.


The following morning, a brisk 5 AM start gave me a push to get to Loch Coulin early, anticipating some fantastic views once the morning inversion broke. That 5 AM came thanks to the awfully sloped tent, by the way- among friends I am well-known for starting late and finishing even later :lol: Hitting Loch Coulin after about two hours, I snagged a great shot from one of the streams leading into it,


and an even better one with the Torridonian hills occluded by cloud in the distance,


Looking back toward where I came from, the pass in the far distance looked rather dull- at least the foreground was well lit, though?


The cows living around here have one hell of a life though... I sometimes wish that we learned a thing or two from them and lived like they do- save eating grass.


Soon thereafter, the Coulin Lodge came into view, with the clouds lifting over Beinn Eighe gradually, giving rise to a fantastic view across the Loch


Ambling on, I was getting rather excited- if Loch Coulin was this still, would I get some decent photographs across Loch Clair, arguably a much greater opportunity? My anticipation proved valid- I got what I wanted- arguably some of the finest photographs I'd get across this entire walk (sorry ridge- or am I?) ... I've given a panorama just to show what kind of magic I witnessed that day! Sgùrr Dubh caught my interest with that photograph- I'll certainly be back for it (while some day I'd love to compleat, such a gorgeous Corbett cannae' be passed up.


Trudging on, a wee frog gave me a fright- I almost stomped on it! Thankfully they posed for me (as thanks for my quick reflexes, no doubt!) and I got a few shots. I attempted to take a break on the bank of Loch Clair (my first stop since sunrise- I really am prolific when taking photographs and this really saps the time away) but the midges wouldn't have it, and I was running in circles while stuffing some brioche and sausage in my mouth to avoid the midges having a bite of me... :crazy:


I continued on hastily (the weather got rather depressing at this point- that dull gray-green you get in the highlands this time of year when the sky is overcast) and reached the car park for Beinn Eighe/Liathach, and was greeted by... a deer?

Here I digress from the provided GPX, and in general just discuss some free time/the spare day I budgeted, as the forecast for Thursday was not ideal- included for "viewing pleasure." I was genuinely confused about why a deer was sitting there... I stared at it for maybe 15-20 minutes whilst taking a break, and someone drove up and started to feed it! Apparently the deer is friendly and has a passion for digestive biscuits. The man who fed them told me he was a local, and that the deer showed up a while ago very much near death- now apparently an old local couple feed it salads- sure enough half an hour later (sue me- I was soaking up the rays on a rock and am quite lazy! I was already done for the day!) an old fellow in a truck showed up and gave it a whole damn garden of salad!

^ my first peek- why was this deer just... lounging by a car park?

^ Clearly he's the king of this car park. Best avoid him, lest I get... impaled.

^ Seems to be missing some fur though... I'm unsure if that's normal, never seen it before.

I've digressed a bit, talking about this deer so much- but I just have one last comment to make. I saw some folk- no doubt tourists- pull up in a Ford Fiesta. They walked up to this deer, bemused by its calm demeanor, and started to feed it! The wife (I assume- they had a child with them gawking at the sight) took up arms with the deer and felt rather confident, and actually tried to touch its antlers! Oh lord I've not laughed that hard in a while- the deer spontaneously shot up and gave them a good startle! Boy I loved it. Anyway, back to the hiking...

I had signal by the road- apparently Torridon has 4G+ all along the road, but the second you step off you lose it all. Sounds like my love life, to some extent. I decided against hiking up on the Thursday- getting zapped by lightning didn't sound all that ideal. Instead, I opted to head up to Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair, meandering around the depression between Beinn Eighe and Liathach along the way- I had my tent set up here- I had no expectations for photography the day given the forecast, so went in with low expectations- these expectations were beaten and I got quite a few reasonable ones!


I also met quite a few Cape Wrath-ers on the day- just to add a bit of commentary. One asked for me to take their photograph- "You're the photographer" he asked while asking me on where to pose- I'm not a good one and have never photographed another human being! How am I meant to know? Nonetheless, I borrowed their phone and did my best- I hope they were happy with what they got :?

^ Beinn Dearg sticking up gorgeously- at 914m I thought it'd have been a munro, but apparently not. Nonetheless, I want to get this guy in some day, too- the views from up there of Alligin and Liathach must be to-die-for!

^ There's a wee pool a hundred-or-so metres off the path up to the Coire, and frankly it's just magical. The little waterfall going into it is fairly meek, and the pool about 1.5-2 metres deep- perfect for a quick dip. Bit too cold though!


I got impressive views of Sail Mhor on the way up- you can see the Triple Buttress peering in a wee bit on the edge. I have to admit- I was shocked by the number of people found lounging by the loch in the coire... it sure was quite popular. I got a reasonable photograph anyhow- given the next days forecast was for still weather, I was really hoping for the quintessential reflective photography folks love these days!


After this point, the weather took a turn for the worst- I bolted back to the tent hastily. I'd set up camp on a huge mound of dried boggy sphagnum, possibly the only dry spot I found by the path up by the car park- a poor choice, as it soon wetted when the heavens opened, and I found myself sleeping once again, on an inclined slope- one made of muddy bog. Thank god my tent was waterproof- I sucked it up, and took care in how I slept, anticipating an extremely good day on the Friday.

Back to the actual hike. Friday had came, and the weather looked ideal! I slept in a bit- my 3 AM start turned to a 5 AM start, as I didn't fancy hiking through an inversion- I realize this might be sacrilege some, as inversions provide fantastic breathing and in general are magical to go through, giving opportunity for fogbows and more- not for this guy however. I wanted photographs of the entire walk, especially across to the hills east of Shieldaig Forest that were hazed out on the Thursday- and I got what I wanted!


Continuing up to the coire, I did not get the reflective photographs I dreamt of the day prior- the winds were not, in fact, still. The forecast still showed 0-10 km/h up the slopes- this wasn't accurate at all. Nonetheless, I whipped out my ND filter and snagged a shot of the triple buttress, which I hadn't gotten a decent photograph of the day before.


Meandering around the loch, I found my way to the base of the scree shute of legend- one warned about in the scripture that is the Walkhighlands Route Guides. The first part is fine- larger rocks you can walk up and over, with no slippage on offer. Later however, the scree turns fine, and you get a veritable slip'n'slide- a cavalcade of laughably icy scree that'll send anyone tumbling. I've never encountered a path this worn down (most routes I've taken previously have been less popular- much less popular) so it makes sense that it'd be so prone to breaking apart underfoot- but I was not prepared for it, and found it too much to deal with. I instead opted to edge the sides, and ended up just climbing up the wall on the side of the scree chute- no slippage, perfectly ideal. I got some great photographs once up and on my way toward Ruadh-stac Mor, the first munro of the day (I believe.)


The wind up there, by the way, was in no way shape or form 10 km/h. I dunnae' care what Mountain-Forecast said, or what the MWIS said- it was easily blowing 30-40 mi/ph up the tops that day. I'm sure the landscape played a massive part in that- but turning 0-10 km/h into 30+ mi/ph is a bit much. I almost lost a sausage when it caught me off-guard! I continued on after a quick break up here, heading up toward Coinneach Mhor and onward to my 2nd munro thereafter.

^ Cracking view of Liathach- god I want to bag that one but I'm not confident enough for the pinnacles, and that bypass path can kiss me' arse!
^ Quintessential selfie before hitting the ridge. I set my tripod up for this one! (No one to hike with :lol: )

The ridge truly doesn't disappoint- there's nae really that much exposure, and the rock is extremely grippy- honestly if it weren't for that ****y scree chute at the start, this walk would be suitable for anyone.


I also ended up making a friend along the way- a juvenile raven followed me for a bit, before landing when I hit the final trig point up Spidean Coire nan Clach. I realize this isn't technically the top of the munro (I have to come back for it... :shock: ) but honestly, the final smidge looked like it might've killed me! I started on to the true top of the munro at this point, but it looked a bit too dodgy to do while wagging my camera around, so I turned back.


Before heading down, I grabbed some glory shots of Liathach, which looked absolutely stunning- the problem was that the light was getting that usual midday-haze, so I opted for B&W, as you do (with some clumsy content-replacement in the lower right, to remove some foreground from the hill. Hopefully no one noticed it without my saying!)


The way down from the last munro is a rather nasty bit of scree (worn down by path erosion- still easily doable) before a, rather nasty, scree-laden path. You can see it here-


The wee outcrop before the descent (spurring off from where this photograph was taken) yields commanding views over Loch Coulin and onward-


I've nae more photos from this point on, but the walk back proved uneventful. Down the narrow scree zigzags, then a well-built path down to the car park, before a mile on the road then a walk back up from the next car park to the tent, before a well-earned rest (after a meal of tortillas, chorizo, and gouda.)

Now, I mentioned earlier that I like to oversleep- I did so on the Saturday. The train? 2:40-ish from Achnashellach. Me? In bed half-nude at 8 AM. The plan? Stuff it all in the backpack and run my (sore) legs as hard as possible to that damn station! I left camp at 9 AM. The distance? God knows- 14-16 kilometres. You might think that I'm somewhat fit- surely I must be... well, this was my first trip since Corrour in February, and I had spent every day since then sitting at my desk studying- I was not in shape.

About an hour in to my walk the temperatures had risen a fair bit, and I got my first (see: first, very common for me) nosebleed, and it was a good one. I coated a sphagnum-crusted rock, and turned it red- several more Cape Wrath-ers passed me by, and asked if I was alright- I had my tissue walrus in, and it was dripping with blood. Not good. Thirty minutes lost tending to a nosebleed so bad that I got a bit lightheaded. I had a train to catch, though- on I pushed after rehydrating.


I saw Sgorr Ruadh in the distance- god it looked majestic, and I wanted it. No time though- on I dashed.


I hit the pass between it and its neighbour, Beinn Liath Mhor, and checked the clock- I recall it being around 12:30 PM, leaving me around two hours and fifteen minutes to reach the station. I was sweating bullets. The moderate pace I kept until this point (keep in mind that I was stopping to replace my tissue walrus- the blood didn't stop for two god damn hours. Yes, I've seen a doctor about it- apparently I just have to deal with it and have a weak membrane inside my nose...? They mentioned not being able to fix the apparently-permanent ease by which I get these damn things.

Thirty minutes left- I hit the end of the plateau, where the descent by the River Lair begins. I was running by this point- the 12-13 kg on my back (yes- I carry a lot of camera equipment and my stuff isn't exactly ultralight) didn't matter to me, despite it bouncing around like a tart on the corner of the Ritz. I speed-walked down until I hit the forests by the station, 20 minutes left. I reached a point that said "Achnashellach Station- Follow Mud Track" or something of the like- I did so. Ten minutes left- the track literally just hit a giant pile of sticks and a broken fence- THE HELL DO I DO? I walked over the sticks, getting stuck but forcing my way through- and sprinted on. By this point I'd been splattered with mud, and had ticks up to my arse on my pants- no choice though. I reached the station in the end (after getting through a gate into someones back garden... that Station House isn't an actual Station House!!!) and just made it by about thirty seconds (I heard the train honk in the distance- this made my sprint turn rather frantic at the end, as you might expect.)

Dripping with sweat, brushing ticks off my trousers, pulling dried leaves and twigs out of my extremely-long fuzzed-up mane, I got on the train (which had a broken AC and NO DAMN WINDOWS, WHAT THE HELL SCOTRAIL? EVEN THE TRAIN TO OBAN HAS WINDOWS... THE TRAIN COMING HERE HAD WINDOWS... YOU GIVE THE ONE MODERN TRAIN ON THE ENTIRE DAMN NETWORK TO THE LINE, AND IT HAS A BROKEN AC?) My day was over, I was tired, and I had sunburn.

The icing on the cake? My face was covered in dried blood- in my fervent desire to not miss my train (I had another hike planned the next day- never happened due to the recent shortage of drivers) I didn't clean myself up from my nosebleeds. My nose was blackened, with a long track of dried blood down the side of my mouth, on to my neck. I shudder to think of what the geriatric couple opposite me thought- or what the conductor thought- I cleaned myself up promptly, then passed out in my seat whilst listening to some Metallica.

If you want to see more photographs from the trip (with some music :D ) here's parts #1 and #2

(I don't run a YT or anything of the sort- just casually put up photos and other random bits for friends to see.)

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Comments: 4

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Location: Manchester
Occupation: Professional Procrastinator Amateur Photographer Astrophysicist
Interests: Procrastinating Taking Photos Astrophysics Hiking and daytrips Anime
Activity: Wanderer
Pub: 酔湖伝
Mountain: Mt Rishiri
Place: Holy Island
Gear: Salomon 4D 3 GTX's
Camera: D780
Ideal day out: Long distance sunrise-sunset footpaths, preferably along the coast ^.^
Ambition: To get a PhD

Munros: 16

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Trips: 3
Distance: 89 km
Ascent: 3116m
Munros: 3


Trips: 3
Distance: 81 km
Ascent: 4530m
Munros: 3
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Sub2000s: 2


Trips: 1
Distance: 20.8 km
Ascent: 1381m
Munros: 1
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Joined: Aug 17, 2020
Last visited: Nov 25, 2023
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