Ben More Uist & The Mini Striding Edge (& Ben Corodale)

1 02 2012

During one of my holiday visits back to Uist, I was lying in bed reading a book by the famous Seton Gordon who had written a chapter on walking in the mountains of South Uist. In it, to my surprise, he mentioned the huge craggy face of Ben More – “From the top of the hill a great buttress dropped sheer. Very grim did it seem”. Prior to that I had imagined that the gentle hills there had no such thing as huge crags! I decided that the next day, if it was fine, I had to go and see for myself.

As I’ve mentioned previously, in Uist there are no paths to the mountains, and generally none on them either, as they are rarely walked, and only then by tourists. The best way to cross the peat bogs to the mountains there is to try to find an obliging peat track to take you partway across the bogs. I saw from my map that, just south of the Howbeg road end there were two heading in the right direction and picked the longer (most northerly) of the two. This takes you around half way to the start of the Maola Breac (western) ridge of Ben More and then dumps you unceremoniously in the bogs to find your own way!

Ben More & Hecla from the end of the peat track

Keeping to as much high ground as possible, I ploughed determinedly towards the start of the grassy ridge. The ridge gets more defined as you head eastwards up it, eventually becoming speckled with stones (hence the name Maola Breac) and turning south-easterly. Just after the ridge of Maola Breac there is the pass of Donald Gorm (Bealach Carra Dhomhnuill Ghuirm on the map) where a man of that name crossed the hill (if he missed the spectacular summit ridge, he must indeed have been in a hurry!) The climb continues up the stony ridge at an easy angle…

Hecla(L) & Ben Corodale from Maola Breac

Suddenly, to my surprise I was confronted with a scary looking narrow, lumpy and craggy ridge! I call this the ‘mini Striding Edge’.

Ben More Mini Striding Edge

There is a little bypass path to the south (right) but it is hardly necessary – apart from a couple of slightly difficult downclimbs off the far end of a couple of the lumps, the whole ridge was easy and there were no difficulties which couldn’t be avoided with ease. It was a welcome bit of excitement though…

From the narrow ridge there is a brief grassy section and then the ridge curves round up a brief, steep section to the summit cairn (someone must have been there before me).

Ben More Summit

I’ve since re-read, since acquiring Seton Gordon’s book for myself, that apparently, running across the face of the summit crag (although I can’t see it in my photos) there is apparently a narrow grassy ledge. Apparently this is called ‘Bealach Gillespie Dubh’ after a man so named who is said to have used this precipitous ledge to escape pursuers – I must go and have another look!

Ben More Summit Ridge from Summit

It is quite alarming to walk round the summit cairn as there is a huge crack forming between the cairn and the very nearby northern crags. There is a spectacular ridge descending east from the end of the summit ridge with an even more spectacular gully splitting it from top to bottom.

Ben More summit & SE ridge

I went to investigate…

Ben More gully

Looking down the gully I thought you could probably scrabble your way up it if you so desired – I can’t imagine anyone has though.

Ben More Summit Ridge from above The Gully

I wanted to descend to Glen Hellisdale at the foot of the ridge but went back along the summit ridge and took the other, easier, east ridge which goes directly to Bealach Hellisdale. The descent ended in quite craggy steps towards the bottom but, as is always the case in the Hebrides, there was always a way down.

My next objective of Ben Corodale looked tricky. The sidewall looked steep and craggy from the bealach so I headed left across the western nose of the hill on a rising traverse to the west of the summit crags where there was an easy grassy gully up to the summit.

After initially reversing my route south to clear the summit crags, I descended the north-western spur of the mountain on grass to the rough heather of Glen Dorchay (Glen Dorchaidh – the Dark Glen or ‘Glen of Deep Shade’) to start the very long walk out to the road. I ended up cutting back up over the end of my ridge of ascent to cut down the bog-trotting a bit and headed back to my original peat track – the start of which was quite hard to find in such terrain!

I never saw the Tarbh Uisghe or fabled water bull of the glen, although it wouldn’t have surprised me as weird sightings are very common on South Uist. Nor did I see the Each Uisge (water horse) who apparently used to appear to maidens (which I guess I’m definitely not) as a handsome man – probably just as well as, like the maidens, I would never have been seen again! A handsome male companion would have been nice on my walk though…

From Wiki: The Each Uisge, a supernatural water horse found in the Highlands of Scotland, is supposedly the most dangerous water-dwelling creature in the British Isles.

But the Each Uisge was waiting back at the hire car! 😉

Ben More from Loch Eynort Roadend – can be ascended from here via Bealach Crosgard

Ben More from Stulaval



8 responses

4 02 2012

An Area that,s on the to do list along with St Kilda.Maybe one day….
Nice to see the ridge is such a cracker.Many thanks Carol.


4 02 2012

Quite seriously, if you’re getting out to St. Kilda on a trip (which I really should have done when I could have had a free one with the Army helicopter 😦 ), I’d be very interested in getting on the trip too. Wouldn’t be this year though as I’ve got that ‘compleation’ to sort out!


1 02 2012

Fantastic report Carol & great pics. Andrew Dempster’s book on the Grahams notes that the ridge ‘narrows significantly with steep drops on either side’ so its a bonus to see what that looks like 🙂

I’ve never seen a living water horse only the 4 legged variety as well 😀

I have however seen the supposed skeletal remains of one in a garden in Ord on South Skye ! Its a bit overgrown now but you can still make it out.


1 02 2012

Ah – but my pic of my water horse shows it has horns! LOL That’s what it’s ears look like to me on that photo anyway 😉 I’d be very interested to look up that skeleton at Ord, Skye – how did you find out about that?

Don’t worry about the ‘mini Striding Edge’ on Ben Mhor – it didn’t worry me one bit so it must be very mild and easy indeed. There’s one time when I’m really nervous and that’s up any mountain for the first time so it really can’t be scary. I wouldn’t say there’s much of a drop to the right (south) where the bypass path goes anyway – just a bit of steep grass. Maybe it was misty when AD did it and looked worse than it was? It does look bad when you get there I have to admit, but you soon see through it’s facade…


2 02 2012

I was reassured after seeing your pics – at least I only have the weather & midges to worry about !?!


2 02 2012

I thought my photo made the ridge look MORE scary! Especially that second stack which pokes out to the right…

I think if you want to avoid the midgies, you’re really look at no later than May. They can be pretty bad in the sheltered glens and the clegs are even worse! 😦


1 02 2012
Paul Shorrock

Another good ‘un, Carol.

Sigh.. another one on the wish list!!


1 02 2012

I’m thinking of being a tourist-mountain guide on the Uists – would be a great job. I’d have to re-invest in a pair of wellies for the peat bogs though – that’s what we used to mainly walk in when we were stationed up there 😉

I’m going to be writing up reports on some slightly smaller (but still great) hills on South Uist soon – watch this space 🙂


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