Beinn a'Bheithir - a five star walk

Route: Beinn a' Bheithir via Schoolhouse Ridge

Munros: Sgòrr Dhearg (Beinn a' Bheithir), Sgòrr Dhònuill (Beinn a' Bheithir)

Date walked: 19/06/2009

Date: Tuesday 12th May 2009
Weather: Sunny, pleasantly warm, some strong gusts of wind

Nearly four weeks have gone already since we came back from our latest visit to Scotland (and since we could celebrate the promotion of Mainz 05 to the 1.Bundesliga in Germany, yeah!), so it’s time to write some reports about this year’s walks. This one’s about Beinn a’Bheithir.
We arrived in Scotland on Friday 8th May late in the afternoon. On Saturday it was raining all day long, and as it was quite cool most of the munro tops were covered with some fresh snow that day. But from Sunday on we got five days in a row where the weather was very good for walks and where we could enjoy awesome views with snow covered peaks during our walks – a totally new experience for me (not only the five days in a row, but also the snow)!
For Tuesday 12th May we had chosen to climb Beinn a’Bheithir. I had fancied that walk for some years, but there was always some other walk to be done first, or there was bad weather which kept us from climbing it. This year it was different, and the evening before I could catch a first glimpse of the snow covered peak of Sgorr Dheirg.
snow covered Sgorr Dheirg

When we were having breakfast the next morning in our lovely B&B in Invercoe we could see Beinn a’Bheithir through the window - and a deep blue sky with absolutely no clouds at all! So while enjoying our breakfast including creamy porridge with almonds and a hint of whisky we whet the appetite for the walk.
At 9:48 am we left the car park by the tourist information in Ballachulish to follow exactly the route which is described on walkhighlands. This means that after having crossed the field behind the school we had to climb up the steep slopes of Beinn Bhan. The first part was grassy and alright, but later it was covered with heather which was a bit awkward because the slope was steep and sometimes it was hard to see where to place one’s feet. We were glad that it was May and the heather hadn’t grown too much yet. We were even glader when we reached the path which crossed our ascent route at about 340 metres.
After the walk I noticed that this path could be seen from Invercoe (if you know that there is one). The red arrow on the next picture shows where we met the path, and you can see the thin line which is formed by the path. This line moves down the slope to the left whereas the heather starts higher up there. So I would guess that climbing the slope in a slowly rising line to the left might be the most pleasant way, although there are some streambeds to be crossed. Did somebody else gather some experiences with that? By the way, if you view the walk in Google Earth it seems as if the path ends somewhere near the trees to the left, just in the middle of nowhere, but maybe there’s also somebody else who knows more about that.
in this picture a path is hidden (or was hidden)

When we met the path we turned right and followed it to the end of the Bheinn Bhan ridge. On the ridge the path forked several times but we always tried to stay as close to the crest as possible. It could have been a really enjoyable walk if there hadn’t been some quite strong gusts of wind from the east. On the other hand the views were stunning:
white headed Ben Nevis and Loch Leven

from the Pap to Bidean nam Bian

the ridge to Sgorr Bhan

At about 830 metres there were the first snowfields to the right and to the left of the path, but the path was clear of snow all the way. We felt quite warm in the sun anyway, especially when climbing the last metres to the summit of Sgorr Bhan. The views were even more breathtaking here and surprisingly there was nearly no wind up there. So we took the time to enjoy the views back towards Ben Nevis and Glen Coe
blue sky everywhere - that's not my Scotland any more

and of course of the ridge to Sgorr Dheirg, the first munro peak, which was the next target to reach:
the cheese gets a bit runny

The walk along this curving ridge was very enjoyable
I wonder how this guy made it up to the top.

and at about 2 pm we arrived at the peak, again having great views in all directions. To the west we could see Sgorr Dhonuill now with the Isle of Mull in the background.
Isn't there a cloud to be seen?

Sgorr Dhonuill (just about to hop out of the picture)

After a short break we continued our route towards Sgorr Dhonuill, and before reaching the bealach there was a very nice spot to have a late lunch. When we set off again two other guys caught up. I came into talk with one of them, John, a pensioner from Nairn, who was just about to climb his 274th munro. He had taken a break for 10 years and wanted to tick the last ones now (he had done the Inn Pin long before). By the way, he and his companion (I forgot his real name, but he remembered me a bit of Bernie Ecclestone) had chosen the east ridge of Sgorr Bhan as their ascent route which seems to involve some scrambling.
When I was chatting with John, the last metres were mastered in no time. There was only one spot where I had to use my hands, but that was no problem at all.
view back from Sgorr Dhonuill

After again enjoying … bla bla … we went back down to the bealach and turned left there to descend to Gleann a Chaolais. The path was quite boggy in places, but this improved further down. When we arrived at the wood we easily found the improved newer route (to be honest we didn’t find the cairn which marks the old path, but never mind). After a long walk through the wood we arrived at the road near St. John’s Church. The last bit along the pavement at the side of the road and the fact that we needed nearly nine and a half hours didn’t change my mind that this was a real 5-star-walk.
By the way, when we passed the Laroch Bar in Ballachulish, John and Bernie were already there. They had returned via the Gleann an Fiodh (south of Beinn a Bheitir), but they didn’t recommend that route because the descent from the bealach to the Gleann is very steep.

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Comments: 10

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Dirk Winter

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Location: Mainz, Germany

Munros: 54
Corbetts: 9
Grahams: 5

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Trips: 3
Distance: 13 km
Ascent: 1250m
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Corbetts: 1


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