I was two Munros away from the halfway point and we had one day left of hill holidays. I really hoped to get a great Munro for this. My 50th Munro was Ben Macdui which was excellent. However my 100th Munro I was on my own, in the pishing rain and a howling gale, on Meall Chuaich, an unassuming and, some say unexciting (although I’d never go that far – all hills are exciting) Munro at Drumochter. It was hardly an occasion to remember. At least, not for the right reasons – I remember battling my way in a galeforce wind across the summit, taking a selfie in the lee of the cairn and getting the hell out of dodge. I had grand plans to climb Buachaille Etive Mor, but Glencoe weather that week was appalling and I had specifically taken a week off to reach 100.
I was looking for a pair of suitably memorable Munros to take me to the halfway point at 141. Well, what would you know – Torridon had a great forecast for the last day of our holidays 🙂 And I immediately thought of Beinn Eighe with its two Munro summits. It fit the bill perfectly.
After a night at Kinlochewe campsite (nice, even for a Caravan Club) with lovely meal at the the Whistle Stop café, we made an early start the next day at 6.30am to get the best out of the day’s forecast. From the campsite I could see the top of Beinn Eighe shrouded in a cloud, but otherwise it looked like a nice morning. As we drove down, Torridon got a bit cloudier and both Liathach and Beinn Eighe tops were now covered in the cloud. MWIS had forecasted 60% cloud-free tops – would we be in the 60%?
We started out at the Beinn Eighe carpark and along the excellent track that takes you down the Coire Dubh Mor. It was a lovely walk in – the air felt thin and pure, Liathach was looking great and there were just fantastic views of Beinn Alligin and the imposing Corbett, Beinn Dearg, ahead. I could not wait to get a glimpse of the famous Coire Mhic Fhearchair, often thought of as the finest corrie in Scotland, along with the prominent Triple Buttresses. The cloud was rising and then lowering – I willed it to shift. And slowly it did.
We rounded the corner to see a jumble of Fisherfields on the horizon and then the path led up alongside the stunning waterfall descending from the corrie lochan.
We crossed the outflow at the top on stepping stones, where finally the corrie and Triple Buttresses were finally revealed.
What an incredible spot. It’s a mind-blowing place. Sail Mhor looked amazing, the lochan was sparkling – we certainly had the weather to do this beautiful mountain justice.
But oh my god – the scree chute! I looked up at it and then looked about for the actual scree chute, because there was no way that was the scree chute we had to go up. But it was – and from my angle it looked completely vertical. I consoled myself with the fact that hundreds of people walk this mountain every year, many of them come this way and so therefore it couldn’t be too hard or it would have more of a reputation.
After photos and stopping to let the sights sink in, we headed on. The scree chute was further away than it looked as we followed a long path beside the beautiful lochan, the Triple Buttresses looking even better the closer we got.
We crossed the little lochans at the head of the corrie and stepped across boulders to the left hand side. The scree chute was looking slightly better but still severely steep, and we noticed a path leading through the boulders on the left, up to a grassy ledge. We made for this rather than the bottom of the scree chute and once past the grassy ledge, we found ourselves on the chute.
I went first and kept to the left. I was very pleasantly surprised to find there were natural rock ledges that I could cling on to and step on. Suddenly, my dread became immense enjoyment as I scrambled up quickly. I was actually a bit sad when it ended, I was enjoying it so much. I stepped out at the top on to the surprisingly airy ledge and looked about. What an unbelievable place!
We had a quick break breather before heading along the wide rocky ridge and pleasant grass to the first Munro of the day, Ruadh Stac Mor. The views were open and wide-ranging and we stopped quickly to enjoy. We headed back down to the bealach and stopped for a wee break, in time to see a group of folk emerging from the chute, muttering expletives. One of the women complained it ‘wasn’t an easy bag’ which I think missed the point. We had a grandstand view of the buttresses and sat admiring nature’s artwork. It is hard to conceive such beautiful and complex rock formations.
We carried on, up the opposite ridge and then an airy bypass path that took us up on to the ridge that curved round, giving dramatic views of the entire horseshoe-shaped rim.
It was a lovely ridge, Liathach looked tremendous and there was much easy scrambling and exposure to make it hugely enjoyable.
Finally, after a rocky walk around, we emerged on the top just before the second summit of Spidean Coire nan Clach, where we met a miserable couple sat at the cairn. They grunted one-word syllables at our pleasantries so we ignored them and carried on to the summit, including an exciting short scramble to the cairn for me. This was my halfway Munro! I was elated! Such a beautiful day on such a beautiful mountain! Sorry for the exclamation marks – too exciting!!
The summit was tiny, so we clambered back down to the top where we had encountered the miserable couple. Thankfully we saw them leaving ahead so we sat at the cairn and had a break.
We could see our descent route which looked like a good path, zigzagging down Coire an Laoigh. When we walked across to it, it was steeper than it looked and was on quite tiresome loose scree. It was a long and weary descent. We could see the miserable couple ahead of us and realised they had trudged up this way as well as trudged back, without seeing any of the wonder we had. No wonder they were grumpy!
Eventually the gradient eased and we followed the path as it took us back to the road, a couple of kms from where we started. Up until now we had been exceedingly lucky with the weather but we could now see black clouds rapidly approaching. Would we be able to reach the van before having to put on waterproofs? We started marching, it turned into a power walk and we reached the van just as the first heavy drops started dinging doon! Fantastic day, and what a day to end the hill holidays on.