Grinning and bearing it on Beinn Mhor & Hecla

Route: Beinn Mhor and Hecla, South Uist

Grahams: Beinn Mhor (Uist)
Sub 2000s: Beinn Corradail (South Uist), Thacla or Hecla (South Uist)

Date walked: 13/09/2019

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 19km

Ascent: 1210m

During our week on the Uists we'd had plans for one big walk: Beinn Mhor, Beinn Choradail and Hecla. After a succession of rubbish weather days we were running out of time - though we'd gotten to know the island's museums pretty well! But things were looking up: our final (full) day on the islands had a reasonable forecast for a dry day and a highish cloud base, though still no sunshine forecast.

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There was still cloud on the hills around Lochmaddy at breakfast time, so we took our time getting to the start. We were just putting on walking boots when a man came out of the house across the road for a chat. He warned us that South Uist ticks had a particularly bad reputation, and that he had a pacemaker fitted as a result of a past encounter. With these words ringing in our ears, we set off into the bogs... wearing shorts of course. :shock:


The track doesn't last long, but a faint path continued across the moor. It was rather boggy, with a few tricky swamps to negotiate. Slightly alarmingly, my partner found a tick crawling him within about 100 metres of leaving the track :shock: We came very close to a pair of short eared owls which gave us quite a fright when they suddenly took off from their hidden location. Red throated divers on one of the lochans:


Fortunately the boggy stretch only lasts half a mile before the base of Beinn Mhor's ridge is gained. Happily the faint path continues:



Slowly but surely we were nearing the cloud base, which was sitting at about 300 metres - well below the summits. :( Into the mist:


An inversion hadn't been forecast so hopes for a summit view were low. But miraculously, just as we arrived on the narrow part of the north ridge...


The cloud was coming and going as we continued along the ridge - which has a faint path and no technical difficulties:


Summit cliffs:




Magical views from the north ridge:


Looking south:


The sea visible for just a second:


Happy that we'd seen a snapshot of the terrain, we headed back along to the north ridge - the cloud descending again as we went. The descent east to Bealach Heileasdail was fairly steep and pathless - and awkwardly-orientated rock bands making navigation a bit tricky in the mist. The typical terrain was like this:


We happened upon a few ghostly figures in the fog. First, a majestic red deer was revealed:


The next ghostly figure turned out to be a sheep :lol:


Bealach Heileasdail - another confusing place in the fog:


Next up was Beinn Choradail - miserable for us as a fine drizzle was now falling. Oh, well, grin and bear it! Getting to the base of the cliffs took longer than expected, but eventually they loomed large ahead:


These were avoided on steepish ground to the right, where I nearly stepped on a hen harrier, which flew off too quickly for the camera to come out. A couple of false summits before the real one was reached. Definitely no views from the northern cliffs today:


Descent to the next bealach is by way of a steepish gully - fairly straightforward to find the top of.


Below the gully the hillside still looked very steep, falling away into the mist, but the gradient soon relented. The bealach a mile later was just below the cloud base (hello views!) and gave us the first proper views of Loch Coradail:


A steep but short ascent took us back into the cloud on Hecla's west ridge, with the drizzle thankfully stopping. More ghostly shapes appeared, including several golden plover:


Hecla has an interesting, rocky summit:


Arriving at the summit there was just a hint of brightness above, but alas it didn't come to anything more than that. So we had to be content with the views from Beinn Mhor. Back to the bealach, and we could see the long walk out to the west:


The next mile to the Glendorchay River is mostly a traverse, avoiding bog to the right and steeper hillside to the left. Fortunately the "river" is small and easy to hop across:


Tough, tussocky ground to negotiate for the next two miles before the outward path is regained... just in time for the boggiest section from the morning :lol:

Not the best day weatherwise, but some summit views are better than none, and interesting wildlife. A fantastic ridge on Beinn Mhor, and we didn't see another soul all day. And we didn't find any ticks during the usual check later that evening! 8)

Uists 2019
<< Wednesday: Flodaigh seals
>> Next day: Berneray

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Location: Edinburgh
Activity: Walker

Munros: 65
Corbetts: 34
Grahams: 21
Donalds: 13
Wainwrights: 6
Hewitts: 11
Sub 2000: 55
Islands: 45

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Last visited: Sep 17, 2019
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