Beinn Sgritheall from the west. Sunday 4th February 2018.

Date: Sunday 4th February 2018
Distance: 16km
Ascent: 980m

Sunday’s forecast looked a cracker. MWIS suggested the NW Highlands would be the best conditions and that’s a gift horse you don’t look in the mouth.

Up early and as we set off we had 3 options – Bla Bheinn, Sgurr na Stri or Beinn Sgritheall…..we turned right and Beinn Sgritheall it was.

We first visited this one in 2005 – it stands out as a great hill with a rather irksome route. The ascent through scrub from Loch Hourn to the west ridge was a plowter and the descent to Arnisdale was brutal.

Since then we’ve revisited from the Glenelg brochs side via Beinn a Chapuill and the lovely arcing NE ridge which was a fantastic ascent.

We’ve had an eye on an approach from the west, through the forestry (since an ascent of Beinn Mhialairigh a few years ago.

Parked at NG 780 136, there’s space for a few cars. There’s a good track all the way through the (now partly cleared) forest all the way to the high bowl containing Loch na Lochain.

We set off about 40 minutes before dawn. We could already see Eigg out over the Sound of Sleat. No need for torches as dawn was building.

Out of the forest just pre-dawn. Set off from the gate south towards the low point of the ridge between Beinn Sgritheall and Beinn Mhialairigh.

Beinn Sgritheall was visible as a reflection in Loch na Lochain.

Beinn Sgritheall over Loch na Lochain:

The terrain was marshy but easy going and we were on the ridge as the sun broke over the hills at the head of Loch Hourn.

Out past the mouth of Loch Hourn we waved at the webcam at Sabhal Mor Ostaig – I don’t know how often I look wistfully at that one!

Loch Hourn and Beinn Mhialairigh:

We set off up the hill – Beinn Sgritheall looks rather precipitous en face and we were wondering what line to take.

Behind us Rum was visible across Sleat and Armadale.

H with Rum backdrop:

It’s a lovely wander up this arm, so much to look at in every direction although our gaze usually strays out to sea.

Beinn Mhialairigh and Loch Hourn from ascent:

Crossed the snow line at around 600m….always interesting to get a story of what has been there before you.

Hare prints and Beinn Sgritheall:

We’d eyeballed the west ridge, although we knew it wasn’t as steep as it looked we decided on a less “interesting” approach up the middle coire. We were hoping the snow was reasonably solid rather than soft and prone to bridging. Happily, we were rewarded with a relatively simple ascent.

H ascending coire:

After a 30 minute loss of sunlight in the coire we popped back into brilliant sunlight between the two tops of Beinn Sgritheall, and a stunning snowy vista to the NE.

Kintail from Beinn Sgritheall summit ridge:

Beinn Sgritheall is one of those great hills along the coastal strip that have amazing hill vistas one way, and amazing sea views the other (like Rois-Bhein, Ladhar Bheinn and Beinn Alligin to name a few). Stunning stuff.

Wandered over to the 928m top and enjoyed the view out to the Small Isles. With the right day the view should extend out to Barra and South Uist.

Small Isles and Skye from 928m top:

Wandered slowly round the top and then over to the summit.

H on 928m top:

We crossed the top of the NE arcing ridge that we’d used before, then up to the intersection with the east ridge before ascending to the 975m summit. Beinn Sgritheall is a complex little beast.

The Saddle through notch:

At the junction of the E and NE ridges there’s a nice view into Coire Min and then on to Kintail.

Coire Min to Kintail:

Progress was slow – how do you move with such a view?

East ridge of Beinn Sgritheall:

Coire Min:

K and Loch Hourn:

Approaching the summit you’re then on the vertiginous south flank of Beinn Sgritheall and a long way above Loch Hourn. The cliffs were nicely rimed.

East along Beinn Sgritheall:

Once at the summit there’s a view down the west ridge, over Beinn Mhialairigh and on out to Skye. In truth the ridge looked pretty blocky and I think we preferred the easy option.

West ridge of Beinn Sgritheall:

Sat and had a long lunch looking at the views. Too good a day not to sit down and enjoy it for a while. Quite glad we hadn’t headed to our Skye options as the Cuillin definitely had a lot more mist than anywhere else.

Eventually got up to get going. We hadn’t needed crampons on the way up, but there were enough short patches of ice under the snow to make them worthwhile for descent. Got kitted up, took a few more pictures and then headed downhill by the route of ascent.

5 Sisters and The Saddle:

As we were leaving the mist was starting to rise around the summit, we’d timed it fairly well.

Mist rising to summit:

It was a really easy descent, the snow just perfect as a spongey cushioning surface. Dropped down quickly.

928m top from base of gully:

My attempted glissade however got nowhere in the soft snow. H managed a slightly better attempt, although it was still more akin to kayaking than surfing!

H on a short glissade:

The walk back was very slow, the kind of day you don’t want to leave really.

West from near the snow line:

Base of the coire:

With the sun having swung round past south we got a much better view along Loch Hourn than after dawn. Sgurr na Ciche certainly rises up above Barrisdale prominently.

Loch Hourn and Sgurr na Ciche:

Below the snow line the warmth of the sun became quite palpable – the first time in many walks this winter that I’ve felt positively warm from sunshine. A very early (and very transient I’m sure) taste of Spring.

Beinn Sgritheall from west ridge:

West ridge to Beinn Mhialairigh:

The little lochan that is on the ridge where the SMC red route from Loch Hourn intersects had some nice reflections. Newts and dragonflies in months to come I’m sure but for now all are asleep.

Ladhar Bheinn reflection:

Beinn Sgritheall reflection:

A last look along Loch Hourn from Creag an Taghain before we dropped into the high bowl.

Loch Hourn towards Arnisdale:

…and then back over the marshy ground to the forest track past Loch na Lochain.

Beinn Sgritheall and Loch na Lochain:

It was a quick walk back down the track to the car. Saw a Golden Eagle to our north towards Glenelg, briefly wheeling in front of the roots of the Horns of Alligin.

Enjoyed the sun and the view, 2 Sea Eagles were sitting on one of the islands down at Sandaig.
Other than the horrors of the road surface it was a beautiful drive back through Glen Shiel – gorgeous snowy hills going syrupy in the low sun……bump….pothole.

Stopped at Loch Garry to capture the reflection before carrying on south to Embra.

Loch Garry sunset:

A long drive home, but worth it. Happily the road surface improved dramatically after Spean Bridge!

Back to the route planning folder, I’m sure I have one or two for a Beinn Sgritheall summit camp…..just need the weather.


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