Beinn a Bheithir – avoiding the forestry. November 2008

Date: 16th November 2008
Distance: 16km.
Ascent: 1600m

Of all the Glencoe area hills I’ve always thought that Beinn a Bheithir is the most under-rated.

Its outlying position gives it angles of view that the others lack and it has clear views of Loch Linnhe and Ardgour to Mull. The conifer aforestation plays a large role, rendering many approaches next to impossible.

I suspect that, in the absence of the trees it would be much more popular.

Back in April I posted a report of Sgorr Dhonuill (Beinn a Bheithir) via its long N ridge from Creag Ghorm. That time we dropped down into Gleann a Chaolais from the bealach with Sgorr Dearg and had a similar experience to many – missing the path and having a terrible time in the trees.

At the time I regretted not ascending Sgorr Dearg and descending via the long N ridge to the forestry road.

Went back with a forecast of clear skies and excellent visibility to do the complete Ballachulish Horseshoe. Skies weren’t as clear as forecast and the visibility was not fantastic but a good day out.

Parked in the dark at the Gleann a Chaolais car park NN 047 589. No forestry operation signs this time. There was an 87% moon high to the west – enough light to walk without headtorches, the south-eastern skies were brightening over the first hour.

Followed the Gleann a Chaolais track to point NN 0455 580 where there’s a R turn then a 100m or so up, turn R again to follow the forest road back round above South Ballachulish to the nose of Creag Ghorm, emerging at a radio mast at NN 034 591.

This is a fine viewpoint for about 40min walk. Views across to Garbh Bheinn and Glens Tarbet and Gaur across Loch Linnhe. Cameras struggled with the low light – some grainy pics.

From the transmitter the slog up to Creag Ghorm is relentless and very steep – would not try descending this nose. Amazing how a peat bog can hang vertically.

The light was increasing at this point. Unfortunately the skies were not as clear as forecast so no Alpenglow or dawn effects.

The 500m slog develops views of the Mamores, the Ben and Ardgour. A bit hazier than I’d hoped for.

Reached the summit as the sun rose over Sgorr Dearg.

As last time this is a great viewpoint – on the long axis of Glencoe, Loch Leven and Loch Linnhe. Great viewpoint for Garbh Bheinn

Watched a group of Whooper swans flying down Loch Linnhe in front of Garbh Bheinn through the binoculars.

The ridge holds fantastic views all round and the sun was trying to burn off the cloud. Set off for Sgorr Dhonuill.

The ridge is a constant undulation – up and down 10-40m at a time so it takes a surprising length of time to reach the munro base. It also takes it out of the legs. Ridge from Creag Ghorm:

Garbh Bheinn and relecting pool:

Garbh Bheinn from ridge:

Hazel with Mamores backdrop:

A nice easy pull up the smooth west side of Sgorr Dhonuill to the summit. View across to Creag Ghorm ridge:

W ridge ascent:

Clouds were interfering with the views so pushed on. View to Sgorr Dearg:

The descent from Sgorr Dhonuill is nose-bleedingly steep at first – wouldn’t fancy it in full winter. Looking back up to Sgorr Dhonuill:

After that easy enough to the 757m bealach and then on up a zigzag path to the summit of Sgorr Dearg. Better views from this munro.

Back to Sgorr Dhonuill:

The Glencoe Hills:

The North ridge of Sgorr Dearg:

Turned our attention to the north ridge. It’s pretty straightforward – actually a bit airy with an easy path. No scrambling required.

The NE corrie of Sgorr Dearg was already in deep freeze:

Wended our way down this ridge – huge advantage over the dark Gleann a Chaolais is maintaining both sun and views, and, keeping to the watershed stays blissfully clear of bogs. Views to Pap of Glencoe and Loch Leven:

Simple slopes down to the last nubbin on the ridge at NN 057 581 develop views along Loch Leven again.

Lovely drop from here NW – heather on sphagnum made great pace. The only fly in the ointment is a few hundred metres at the bottom through forest felling remains from a few years back – a bit difficult with slippy branches but only took me 10 mins. Might be able to tweak this by heading down an apparent gap to NN 573 590 (might take a look at this when going past prior to doing this again when air clarity is better). Reached the road at NN 050 587.

From there 15 mins back to the car.

I loved this route – Beinn a Bheithir for me has the best views of all the Glencoe Hills and show me a horseshoe and I’d far rather walk round the top with the views rather than through the glen enclosed.

If it’s views that motivate you then this really maximises them. The walk is harder and takes longer than the SMC standard routes. On a poor day that time and effort might be considered wasted but on a good day this route offers virtually the whole day’s walking with a panorama.

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