Beinn a Bheithir – poor air quality. April 2008

Date: Sunday April 13th 2008
Distance: 14.6km
Ascent 1300m

Have had an inkling to try Beinn a Bheithir by a different route for some time. The hill seems rather less popular than might be expected from its position and attractiveness, probably in part due to the conifer aforestation in the main Coire.

The route that caught my eye was a loop of the north horseshoe, running from the Gleann a Chaolais car park onto the long north ridge curving up to Sgorr Dhonuill, then over to Sgorr Dearg and off the ridge running N from this munro cutting down to the forest road system near the end of the ridge. This looks the most natural loop of the hills.

We kicked off from the Forest Enterprise car park with a view up to the N face of Sgor Dhonuill:

Normal proliferation of health and safety warning signs including closure of the N end of Sgorr Dhearg’s N ridge. Along forest roads to curve back round the ridge of Creag Ghorm, the N ridge of Sgor Dhonuill – some views along Loch Leven:

Road ends at the transmitter at NN 033 591 – this is a nice viewpoint at about 250m with views to Ardgour and Loch Leven.

Turned up the slope – here follows a 450m slog up very steep slopes, descent this way would have to be cautious but nothing technical. Good views persist, particularly to Loch Leven.

The 758m top of Creag Gorm is a fantastic spot. Hadn’t realised on planning but this point sits directly along the axis of Loch Leven, Glen Coe and has great views down Loch Linnhe, across Loch Linnhe fabulous views of Ardgour. First gripe of the day – air clarity was poor and this really needed better clarity.

Loch Leven:

Loch Linnhe:

The ridge had a Knoydart feel to it – very undulating with sharp 10-40m fluctuations to take the energy out of “winter-fit” legs. A tiring few km.

Views to the 2 munro summits:

Eventually turns up an easy slope to the summit of Sgor Dhonuill. Again a magnificent viewpoint – views now to Cruachan, Sgulaird, Mull, Ardgour, Mamores and Glen Coe (through haze).

View down to Loch Linnhe:

The descent off this summit is steep, glad of the flexible crampons for the first 40m as foot traffic had compacted the snow on an exposed edge, after that it was mixed rock and unpleasant slushy snow.

View from Sgor Dhonuill to Sgorr Dhearg:

Down to the bealach. We were a bit tired at this point and the forecast heavy showers looked to be sweeping in so we decided to head down rather than ascend Sgorr Dhearg and head out the N ridge (mistake).

The descent into the Coire is OK – benefited from Grivel Spiders on slush and grass, a bit eroded here and there.

Then we really went wrong, we came down this way before but I’d forgotten the details. We headed into the forest at the Allt (with other boot tracks this seemed to be the route from before. Quickly deteriorated into a fight through dense forest and knee deep mud, eventually broke into the forest gap that contains the real (poor) track. Eventually got down to the forest road.

Quickly back to the car. Another set of irritations – first it cleared again with sun, second the air clarity was suddenly far, far better – I feel we were being mocked somehow.

The N ridge would have been far better – inspection from below and the other ridge looked good but the planned route would have intersected harvesting operation roads (nothing doing on a Sunday). The N ridge should also hold views longer.

It would be nice to think that access provision might improve with ongoing replanting.

Nothing seems easy with this hill. I hope to try this again sometime and complete the loop. The Creag Gorm 758m top is hard work but I would rate it as one of the best viewpoint I’ve been on and on a clear day it would be stunning.

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