Battered by the Beautiful Beinn Deargs

Route: Beinn Dearg Mòr and Beinn Dearg Bheag, from Gruinard

Corbetts: Beinn Dearg Bheag, Beinn Dearg Mòr

Date walked: 20/07/2021

Time taken: 8.5 hours

Distance: 32.6km

Ascent: 1604m

I had first looked at these two hills when planning a slightly unusual route to reach the munros of Ruadh Stac Mhor and then summit camp on A'Mhaighdean, something which is pretty high on my bucket list. I eventually came to my senses and realised that doing the two Deargs, then RSM and A'M with a camping pack was ridiculous and resolved to, at some point, climb the two hills from Gruinard, with use of a mountain bike to aid the approach. This would enable me to attempt the scrambly north ridge of Beinn Dearg Bheag as an added bonus. All i needed was a dry spell to ease the passage over what I expected to be a fair bit of pathless bog. This duly arrived with a magnificent forecast last week which happily coincided with a week's holiday in the lovely hamlet of Laide.

We had arrived on Saturday, and prior to this walk, I had nipped up Beinn Ghoblach on Sunday (which would be useful practice for pathless grassy walks :lol: ) and after some pottering about in Ullapool on Monday and being annihilated by midges on Monday night on Gruinard Beach when attempting some sunset photos I had decided Tuesday would be the perfect time to tackle the Deargs.


Tuesday morning arrived with low cloud, but very close with no breeze to speak of. A quick check of the Met Office radar showed the cloud wouldn't clear until early afternoon. However I decided to go for it, and after (hilariously) assuring my partner that I'd be back before 5pm at the latest, I loaded up the mountain bike and drove the few miles to the start point. When planning this out I had assumed, somewhat naively that the bike in would be a piece of cake, leaving plenty of time for the scramble across Bheag, before waltzing up to Mor, a brief pathless descent to the loch, follow the rough path along the shore before a nice easy cycle back to the car, having bagged two fairly prized Corbetts. In my defence, my fitness levels are way better than they've ever been and I fully believed this would present no problem at all. Oh dear.

The cycle in was a bit tedious, yes it's only a shade over five miles but the track is fairly rough (especially when you realise your tyres are overinflated and like concrete). My bike was also making a fairly weird noise when braking, however I worryingly noted that a brief stop to check this out resulted in almost instant attention from clegs, which did NOT bode well for the rest of the day. Still, the landscape is magnificent and it almost feels as if one is cycling into the heart of jurassic park or similar.


It took a fairly annoying 46 minutes to reach the end of the track where I was delighted to ditch the bike after a fairly uncomfortable ride in. I walked round to the site of the old boathouse, which would make a super spot for a camp.


I had decided to go with trail trainers as my new boots were rubbing at the heel a wee bit and I didn't want to be getting a blister at some ridiculously remote part of the walk. This footwear selection would of course have a downside in that the ground was soaking as everything was covered in dew. My feet were soaked before I'd even got half a mile on the rough lochside path. The path itself though is much better than I'd expected and shortly before the point I departed it gains height above some crags. From here to the summit ridge is almost entirely pathless. I left the path where there are a couple of cairns - I was thankful for the recent dry spell as I am certain this route would be a total bogfest otherwise. It was still extremely unpleasant terrain - soft, strength sapping grass and plenty tussocks and a few peat hags to get round. The other frustration and massive problem becoming evident was the clegs. I couldn't make fast enough progress to outrun them and on several occasions I'd feel something on my leg and look down to discover it was bleeding. Soon however i got my first view of Beinn Dearg Bheag, and immediately thought "How the hell am i getting up that?!"


Eventually I reached the base of the mountain itself and briefly looked for a way up. It was monumentally steep but i did notice a gap in the crags. My concentration levels however were poor as I spent half my time brushing away clegs and getting rid of the blood they had drawn.


After climbing some extremely steep, damp and unpleasant ground I reached what would normally be a fairly easy obstacle - a fairly large angled slab. However it was wet and greasy with no evidently reliably holds anywhere. After a couple of minutes of pondering I looked at alternatives, none of which looked any less unpleasant. Although not quite panicking, I was getting worried - I absolutely didn't fancy reversing what I'd come up and thought "**** I'm going to be bloody stuck here". A quick bite to eat though and the satisfaction of killing numerous clegs and I resolved to make use of a borderline dodgy foothold, along with a seemingly reliable clump of long grass and managed to stretch enough to grab the upper edge of the slab and haul myself up. Graceful it was not. However i was now on safer, but still extremely steep ground. Further up I started finding elements of a path and with a great relief found the cairn marking the start of the summit ridge. My previous wobble had started to concern me here as I knew from other reports there was significant exposure and the slab nonsense had messed with my head a little. I didn't fancy exposed scrambling on wet, greasy rocks. However I needn't have worried. Whilst there is indeed exposure, there is nothing here that can't be either bypassed or is any harder than Aonach Eagach.




Most of the scrambling is grade 1 in my opinion, with only a couple of dodgy looking downclimbs, both of which have easier alternative paths. In what seemed like no time at all, the scrambling was over and I was on the summit cairn.


Annoyingly my delight upon reaching the summit and anticipation of enjoying some lunch was ruined by it being claggy and flat calm, which of course meant MIDGES. Great.

After a short a futile few minutes spent hoping the clag would clear, I set off towards the bealach. The descent is a straightforward if slightly loose and rocky affair initially before giving way to pleasant grass lower down. Beinn Dearg Mor was still annoyingly covered in cloud.


Of course Bheag had just cleared :lol:


I didn't hang about long and started up the initially gentle slopes of Beinn Dearg Mor. It's worth noting the reascent from the bealach is something like 300m as this is one of the higher Corbetts. There is a small lochan just beyond which the base of the properly steep section is reached. Thankfully a very useful path zig-zags this taking the sting out of it somewhat.


The sun was not breaking through and I soon began to realise that a) I'd forgotten to put suncream on, and b) I was going to be absolutely nuked by the end of the day. I eventually got up the zig zags, only to realise that there was another wee ascent after that. However this was easy and I was about to be treated to one of the finest summits anywhere.


Beinn Dearg Mor's summit truly is stunning. Although clag was still something of an issue, I could see enough to know this was a sensational viewpoint, with An Teallach filling the skyline, Loch na Sealga below and views up the glen to Shenavall. The star of the show of course is the stunning buttress across from the summit.



I spent a good while here and having taken a bit longer than expected to reach this point, I phoned my partner and suggested I'd be back at the upper end of my time estimate :lol: This was still very naive to say the least. After a bite to eat and the cloud not clearing enough, I decided to head back down and quickly descended the steep section and returned to the bealach. There is no evident path down to the Loch Toll and Lochain but the grassy descent, whilst steep wasn't terrible. The view across the loch to An Teallach was also glorious.



The cloud has of course now almost completely cleared which meant the upper corrie was absolutely boiling. Upon reaching the lochside, the temptation to go in for a dip was enormous. However any pauses for thought resulted in an instant re-introduction to the local cleg population so i took a couple of quick photos and set about trying to find a descent route that wasn't horrendous. Easier said than done.



There are extremely faint traces of a path here and there, but generally it's a case of following the burn as it drains towards Loch na Sealga, switching sides wherever looks best. It was quite a time-consuming descent as I occasionally found myself in unpleasant situations on the wrong side of the burn. The clegs remained unsympathetic. Finally I reached the gentler slopes towards Loch na Sealga, having enjoyed glorious views of An Teallach and Sail Mhor, another corbett I'd had a fine walk on last autumn.


Finally I made it to the shore of Loch na Sealga and my initial delight at finally reaching a clear path was almost immediately tempered by the sight of the rocky knoll I'd headed up past a few hours earlier when breaking off for Beinn Dearg Bheag. It looked miles away. By now I was tiring a bit and could feel myself paying a heavy price for forgetting suncream :lol: However these were minor issues. Here i was in the glorious emptiness of Fisherfield having just climbed two of the land's finest corbetts on a perfect summer's day. Things could most definitely be worse. I steadily made my way along the loch path, clear for the most part, with a couple of brief disappearing acts. It is certainly a much better path than I'd read about. I finally reach the cairns which had marked my earlier departure to BDB knowing i was now less than half an hour from the bike.


Slightly boosted by this situation, I wolfed down what remained of my food, a somewhat pathetic single finger Twix and headed back. In my rush to get back i went over my left ankle with a briefly worrying crunch. However no harms seems to have been done, and in fairly reasonable time I had made it back to the boat shed (well former boat shed).


I had been fortunate on the latter stages of the walk along the loch that the breeze had got up enough to deter the voracious insect population. Unfortunately it soon dawned on me that this would mean a headwind for the cycle out. No matter, it was only 5+ miles. This took nearly as long as the cycle in. I was fine until a couple of steepish climbs, at which point i realised i was actually pretty knackered. Still, it meant an excuse for a couple of photo stops.



Finally I arrived back at the car, over 8 hours after leaving it. I was almost too wiped out to lift the bike onto the roof rack :lol:

There is little doubt I underestimated the difficulty of the pathless terrain these hills involve and they make for an epic outing however they're done. I can't recommend them enough though. Two magnificent mountains in one of Scotland's finest places. Wonderful.

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Comments: 5

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User avatar
Location: Forfar
Occupation: Welfare Rights Officer
Interests: Hills, Cycling, Cricket, Music, Books, Landscape Photography
Activity: Mountain Walker
Pub: Clachaig in winter
Mountain: Slioch
Place: Torridon
Gear: Alpkit lightweight poles
Member: The Grampian Club, Dundee
Camera: Nikon Z6
Ideal day out: Nothing better than a scenic, dramatic ridgewalk.
Ambition: Compleation by 2022

Munros: 245
Corbetts: 37
Grahams: 11
Sub 2000: 5
Islands: 2

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