Beinn Fhada East Ridge Top

19 07 2014

Tue 10 Jun 2014
Another day without Richard as this was to be quite a long walk and he was struggling with lameness – he now had a bad knee to add to his hip problems – possibly due to walking across a beach of soft sand at Glenelg on the Monday – another theory is that he has a case of ‘beer on the knee’!

I’d wanted to do this route for ages, since seeing the ridge from west Glen Affric on my ‘Long Way for a Top’ report last year. Unfortunately, I ended up not enjoying it like I should have due to a woeful lack of fitness – still! 😦

Click on photos for full size/resolution
I parked up at the National Trust carpark at Morvich – there is an honesty box there so I dropped some money in before getting kitted up. Although it was hot and sunny, heavy, thundery showers were forecast – oo-err! I was soon heading along the road to Innis a Chro where the road becomes a good track. Unfortunately the narrow track headed through broadleaved woodland in the hot sun and was damp, airless and full of clegs – ugh!

Constant vigilance was required for any bare skin and I had to keep my legs covered up – I hate having to do that in sunny weather and only ever do in Scotland. What with the ticks and clegs, you really can’t take a chance unfortunately… Quite a few clegs landed on my bare forearms and, unfortunately, my reaction was to shoo them away instead of blatting them – the correct procedure for such a menace. Their bites are very nasty and often get badly infected nowadays.

Eventually I reached the end of the pretty woodland and was relieved to start on the more open track rising gradually up Gleann Choinneachan towards the spectacular Bealach an Sgairne. I shortly met a couple with three lovely dogs heading towards me and we exchanged pleasantries – I wondered where they were coming back from so early – it was only around 1030…

Bealach an Sgairne from before River crossing
Bealach an Sgairne

I was pretty miffed during my ascent up the zig-zags to the bealach to meet two Munroists coming back from Beinn Fhada – already – it was still only 1100! I couldn’t decide whether they’d set off ridiculously early (as people seem to do) or whether they were just super-fit and fast – either way, it niggled all the way up to the Munro summit and I felt inferior.

A little way short of the bealach, a path branches off south at a cairn into the corrie. Last time Richard and I did this walk (along with A’ Ghlas Bheinn), I didn’t realise the path continued up onto the ridge above and took us up a ridiculous and dangerous burn in a gorge – the start of an ‘epic’ day which lasted over 12 hours and nearly ended up in a callout to Mountain Rescue for advice as darkness approached!

This time I stuck to the path and it ascended through several levels of corrie until the final zig-zags to the ridgeline.

Fhada's Beinn Buidhe Across Corrie

I was becoming increasingly tired and really dreading the final slog to the summit from the ridge – I could remember how long it was from when we descended it last time. Incidentally, it is well worth proceeding from the ascent ridge along a track to the north-western top and then returning to the main summit across the lovely Cairngorm-like plateau – the Plaide Mhor. This route, which we took last time, is much easier and far more interesting.

Plaide Mhor to Fhada West Top
The Plaide Mhor to the North-Western Top

I plodded onwards and upwards towards the summit on steep, featureless grass which was running with water and full of bogs – it never seemed to get any nearer though. By the time I reached it, I was so exhausted, I’d nearly fallen over amongst sharp boulders when my leg muscles refused to aid my balance any more – I was also walking like a rickets-victim – bandy-legged with tiredness. I’ve never been in that state before and was alarmed at my continuing lack of fitness – I was much better last year. I’m pretty sure the blame lies with work and not just general ageing!

Luckily, by the time I reached the cairn, I’d come into a cooling breeze, the sun had gone and it was starting to drizzle and so I felt much cooler. I didn’t end up needing a break at the cairn and continued further south to pick up the eastern ridge. It looked a long way to my top and, at this point, I was considering scrapping the long descent down the end of the ridge and wondering whether just to retrace my steps after bagging my top. I decided to see how much height loss there was, whether the good path continued and how long it took.

Beinn Fhada East Top
The East Top from near the Main Summit

Beinn Fhada - Start of East Ridge
Start of East Ridge from Main Summit

I was pleased to find that the ridge to my top was very interesting and went quickly. There were some really old snow patches which looked like they won’t clear this year but they were too dull to take photos of unfortunately. There were also a lot of hollows, split ridges and lochans so it was a pretty route. I’d soon descended across a short col for the easy and grassy rise to my ‘top’.

Beinn Fhada East Top Approach

Beinn Fhada from near East Top
Looking back to main summit

I was further encouraged to see that there were several routes down into Glen Gniomhaidh (west Glen Affric) and that I didn’t have to go right to the end of the ridge if I didn’t want to…

On reaching the ‘top’, I had a quick rest while I decided which route to take. There was a short ridge which went easily down into the corrie below just back along the ridge before my ‘top’. There was also a steep descent to another top (marked 826 ‘metres’ on the map) which had a northern ridge which looked okay apart from one short, steep, grassy section which worried me. The descent into the corrie (I often use corries as escape routes) looked okay but they are very deceptive from above – you are essentially following watercourses through their descents – not good practice on the hill!

Beinn Fhada East Top to Munro
Looking back to main summit from East Top

In the end, I decided to ignore the first ridge as that dropped you at the back of the corrie anyway and decide further on whether to take the north ridge or the corrie. When I reached the next col after the steep descent I chickened out of the north ridge route (which I later decided would have been fine) and headed down the corrie. It was pretty tricky getting down to the valley floor but, by weaving about on various grassy ridges between the streams, I avoided the various gorges and finally made it down safely but with very wet feet. I’d also upset some deer on the way down…

I crossed one burn just before the valley bottom but it was quite narrow and had plenty of stepping stones so was no problem. Now for the main river in the valley bottom… I was amazed to reach it and find it was about a foot across and hardly noticeable!

This was the point I started some serious loafing! The whole area, to me, is delightful and I was really happy to be there. I sat and drank coffee and ate cereal snacks and biscuits and took photos. I must have stopped every few minutes all the way back to my outward path. Loch a’ Bhealaich is very scenic and has various types of lovely little beach – some yellow sand and some black. The loch was calm and shallow and made nice foregrounds for the surrounding hills.

Gleann Gniomaidh to Bealach an Sgairne
Gleann Gniomhaidh – approaching Loch a’ Bhealaich with Bealach an Sgairne behind

Loch a' Bhealaich & a' Glas Bheinn

Sgurr Gaorsaic across Loch a' Bhealaich
Black Beach and Sgurr Gaorsaic (Corbett)

a' Ghlas Bheinn Rears
a’ Glas Bheinn looms…

Bealach an Sgairne & a' Ghlas Bheinn
Approaching the Bealach an Sgairne

I was pretty taken by Mullach Fraoch-Choire behind me which kept popping in and out of wispy cloud and into sunshine – I don’t have a great zoom with my current lens however so the results aren’t great.

Bealach an Sgairne looking down Gleann Gniomaidh

Bealach an Sgairne to Gleann Gniomaidh

I was clicking away with my camera all the way back up and over Bealach an Sgairne. Both sides of the bealach are very spectacular and scenic and it was a fascinating place to be.

Bealach an Sgairne Summit
Approaching the bealach summit

Bealach an Sgairne (portrait)

Bealach an Sgairne looking West

Bealach an Sgairne - spooky bit

Bealach an Sgairne Western Descent - spiky crag

Bealach an Sgairne-looking back up

Bealach an Sgairne - back on easy ground

Route to Bealach Sgairne

When I eventually re-joined my outward path, I hurried off down the track. It eventually started to rain quite heavily which was quite unpleasant for passing through the woodland on the narrow track as I couldn’t be bothered to put my waterproof trousers back on, sometimes had my coat off as I was too hot, and plants were pinging water at me.

I reached the car totally soaked, despite the sun coming out again from time to time, and inflicted myself on the Kintail Lodge bar once again to rehydrate – the barmaids looked pretty horrified at the drowned rat in their midst!

Stats: 3563 feet of ascent, 14 miles, 7 hours 40 minutes

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18 responses

23 07 2014
Scotlands Mountains

I`ve noticed that I`m finding it harder than I used to Carol.I only seem to have one gear nowadays especially in summer heat.
It`s a wonder Richard is still friends with you !

Alex.

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23 07 2014
mountaincoward

Yeah – I definitely have to slow down for this heat we’re having – we’re not used to it any more after not having any for a few years (although I did have a hot 3 weeks up there last July in Glen Affric).

I was pretty good to Richard considering – I left the Saddle’s tops in order to drive him around one day and also took another day off to do similar – now I have to go back to Kintail again to finish the Saddle!

You and Bob can take me along the Forcan Ridge if you like – I’m pretty worried about it!

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23 07 2014
McEff

I know what you mean about feeling inferior when you see people who are obviously fitter than yourself. But no matter how super-fit you become, there are always people who will be fitter and who rise earlier. You should ask yourself if those two blokes can write entertaining blog posts. They probably can’t. We all have our strengths.
All the best, Alen

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23 07 2014
mountaincoward

Thanks Alen – I feel a bit better now! I am seriously concerned about my constant tiredness this year though… and I’ve always been very competitive unfortunately! But you’re right – no matter how fit I get, there will always be the Joss Naylors of the world.
Carol.

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23 07 2014
McEff

It’s 1.20am. Perhaps your tiredness has something to do with all the late nights.
Alen

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23 07 2014
mountaincoward

I’m on nightshift. But I’ve always been nights way around which is why I switched to shifts about 25 years ago. I do go to bed as early as I can when I’m on a trip – sometimes even as early as 2300 – and I never set out on my walks before about 0800 or 0900 – if I did, I’d be completely knackered as I just don’t function early in a morning.

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20 07 2014
Paul Shorrock

Another great post Carol.

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20 07 2014
mountaincoward

Thanks Paul – at least I’ve been having much better weather this year 🙂
Carol.

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20 07 2014
bob

I too have been hammered with clegs recently. They seem to be on the increase on the west coast as conditions are probably perfect for them. A lot of folk in the height of summer do get up early, (5 am is not unusual) to avoid the worst of the heat as even Scotland has seen temperatures climbing higher and night time sleeping can be difficult.
I admire your tenacity Carol but Richard has the right idea during warm humid conditions. Long may his unfortunate disability keep him in the pub and sunbathing on the coast :o)

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20 07 2014
mountaincoward

LOL! actually, Richard’s physio seems to have sorted him quite a bit – he says his hip’s fine now and his knee has been okay since he got back from that trip (although it does tend to flare up). So anyway, he might not have an excuse after telling me he’s better now! 😉
Carol.

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19 07 2014
fedup

Great pictures of a fine looking Bealach 🙂 not surprising that path looks like it gets a fair amount of traffic!!

I got bitten by a cleg about 2 weeks ago coming off Shipman Knotts and must of had a reaction to it, my arm swelled up and was really tender for a full week 😦

Everything quiet & back to normal in the Dales after the tdf?

Cheers

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19 07 2014
mountaincoward

Actually, my parents said they’d never known the village so quiet as when ‘Le Tour’ was on – it was about the only day everyone left their cars alone for the day – they live on the main road!

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19 07 2014
smackedpentax

I always look forward to reading your posts Carol – shows me what I am missing. I also like your comment – ‘I’m pretty sure the blame lies with work and not just general ageing!’ – funnily enough I feel exactly the same. Your photos are superb too!

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19 07 2014
mountaincoward

Thanks. I know for a fact that work is steadily grinding me down as, when Richard retired at 50, he suddenly became the spry, fit one of the two of us! 😦

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19 07 2014
smackedpentax

I am 60 next, I go running, cycling and can still walk 25 miles in a day…but I have to force myself now to do all these things, otherwise I would stagnate. I spend most of my time sitting staring at a screen or on a bus, and it is so easy to flop in front of the telly with a beer or two each night. If I did this all the time it would be the end…

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19 07 2014
mountaincoward

I’m exactly the same about having to force myself – which is why I bag lists of hills and stuff. I also find I’m finding the walks much harder this year and I expect it will get worse 😦

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19 07 2014
chrissiedixie

That path through the Bealach on the way back, looked really nice!

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19 07 2014
mountaincoward

It’s a superb walk through the pass even without doing the hill. But Beinn Fhada is a nice hill really and quite easy if you’re feeling reasonably fit – I just wasn’t!

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