Halfway on Beinn Eighe!

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.

Beinn Eighe map

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.

Liathach

Liathach

Shrouded in cloud

Beinn Eighe shrouded in cloud

Beinn Dearg

Beinn Dearg

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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.

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We crossed the outflow at the top on stepping stones, where finally the corrie and Triple Buttresses were finally revealed.

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Triple Buttresses in the shadow

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.

Sail Mhor

Sail Mhor

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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.

Scree chute at the back

Scree chute at the back

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.

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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.

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Grassy ledge

Grassy ledge

Looking back

Looking back

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!

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View from the top of the chute

View from the top of the chute

Looking up to Ruadh Stac Mor

Looking up to Ruadh Stac Mor

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.

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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.

Looking back

Looking back

It was a lovely ridge, Liathach looked tremendous and there was much easy scrambling and exposure to make it hugely enjoyable.

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Liathach

Liathach

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Looking down

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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!!

Yay!

Yay!

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.

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Looking back at the ridge

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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!

Descent path

Descent path

Slopes of Beinn Eighe from the south

Slopes of Beinn Eighe from the south

Sgurr Dubh

Sgurr Dubh

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.

15 thoughts on “Halfway on Beinn Eighe!

  1. Brilliant – can’t believe it’s over a month since I was up there with George & Susan. An epic indeed……and we enjoyed the Whistle Stop as well!

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  2. That’s your best post yet – wish I could give you two likes for it! Superb photos of a great day out and a superb write-up as well! (now I’m off with the exclamation marks).

    Did you bypass Choinneach Mor then? I’ve seen that little bypass path but think I prefer the route up the ‘nose’ as it were – it was very easy and no effort and I thought that bypass looked airy.

    “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. ”
    I’m like that when I look at things like scree chutes. I think it’s because, looking at something straight on from a distance, always foreshortens them and makes them look vertical. When you get beneath them, they always look better. I found it okay in the end but it was eroded and I assume it’s got much worse now.

    Your first photos of the end of Sail Mhor make it look like there’s a nice route up the very end of the ridge – not sure whether there is or not – I just went the standard route up from the loch between Sail Mhor and the Triple Buttress when I did that top.

    You packed a fair bit into your Munroing holiday didn’t you? Makes me jealous that I can’t do that any more – I wouldn’t be able to multi-Munro bag on consecutive days now – getting too worn out – but I can remember not long ago when I still could. Makes me feel very old…
    Carol.

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    • Thanks Carol. Yes, we took that bypass path. We saw a guy in front of us go straight up the nose but Ally wanted to use the bypass, and yes it was very airy!

      Not sure if that could be a route or not up Sail Mhor. I had a quick look online and found some detailed information here about the whole mountain, with several routes up, including Sail Mhor: http://www.colinandmargaret.co.uk/munros/M120.htm

      I felt worn out after the holiday – my knees had become very sore and I was worried I’d done them in. I went to an osteopath as couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to ascend hills, and he said it was a very common problem with hill walkers but not anything to worry too much about; it was only superficial. He said an old cyclist’s trick was to overdose on cod liver oil for a month (or similar) and then take it regularly as that will lubricate the joints. He had tried it as a pro-cyclist in his youth and said it actually worked. So I went and bought a massive tub of capsules. So far the pain has subsided and I’m not getting that pain on ascending anymore so fingers crossed.

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      • Yeah, there’s cod liver oil but I can’t take that ‘cos I’m vegetarian. To be honest though, before my hip started to wear out, I never had any knee problems at all. There are other supplementary things you can take for joints too – glucosamine and chondroitin are supposed to be good too. Cod liver oil is probably cheaper though 😉

        I read that Colin and Margaret website before doing Sail Mhor – I also read it for quite a few other Munro Tops, especially Meall Dearg behind Liathach. It’s a great site with helpful info.

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  3. Wowwwwww Rowena your photographs are fantastic so so beautiful. This is by far your best post not that there has been anything wrong with the others they are all stunning. However this one is magnificant. I actually felt drawn and right into your words and captions and was with you all the way walking if that makes sense. There is something truly spiritual with this ones I have never seen anything like it. Did you feel a presence in the walks? Thank you so much for sharing.
    Really love how you detail and express everything in emotions and also atmosphere. I feel I have made the half way mark too with you except you have done all the hard work by walking them.
    Lost for words what we have in our own back yard to look at and enjoy absolutely amazing.
    Thank you. xx

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    • Aw thanks Elpie. Sometimes hills feel like friends and this one definitely did. Nice weather helps that feeling! These Torridon mountains are so old, made up of some of the oldest rock in the world that I felt really small and tiny, like I was just passing through for a friendly visit. I climbed its near neighbour, Beinn Alligin a couple of weeks later and had the same friendly feeling ☺️ I know what you mean about our own back yard though. There is so much to discover and see. Scotland is so diverse – it never fails to astound me for such a small country.

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  4. Sail Mhor is something else incredible. Love it all xx

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  5. Great photos with that post! Haven’t been up that way in years, but you’ve given me the notion to get myself up there again. 🙂

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