Binnein Mor South Top - 1062m
Binnein Mor - 1130m
Binnein Beag - 943m
Sgurr Eilde Mor - 1010m
Thursday 2nd February 2017
Weather/Conditions: Pretty horrible in an unthreatning way. Drizzly and wet all day, the cloud down on the hills. But never dangerous, or too cold either. I did get pretty wet though...
Distance/Ascent/Time: 19.7km / 1850m / 5h 35m
I was in Kinlochleven within an hour or so of getting up. On the drive, the rain clouds were down on the hills, and I could feel my desire for these hills waver. This happened a couple times, and I'd unconciously talk myself into an easier plan, before snapping out, and saying 'no - this is what you are doing today'.
I parked up in Kinlochmore, pulled my stuff together and got walking. Despite the plethora of paths leading up behind Kinlochmore, the way to Loch Eilde is well signposted. I'd no issue making my way out of the birch woods and onto the correct hill path above.
Binnein Mor and Binnein Beag
Kinlochleven sits out on it's own little limb - it's sometimes easy to forget where you really are in the scheme of things as the hills close in tight all around. But pretty quickly, a belter of a view was opening up over Loch Leven and the hills were gaining stature and context. I got higher still. I crossed the main Mamore Lodge/Loch Eilde track then contuined upward to Sgor Eilde Beag, where the cloud was pressed down on the hills. I didn't expect to get a view today.
Sgor Eilde Beag is a Munro Top I haven't climbed yet, so my first plan was to score straight up the flank of this (forgetting there was a stalking track just around the corner), and use it to gain Binnein Mor. The views disapperared, the drizzle continued, and I just put the head down and walked. If anything, being high on the hills was an easier mental game than being low down, or in the car on my way. I much preferred being in the middle of the action, rather than aimlessly debating whether to/whether not to/should I/shouldn't I? Sgor Eilde Beag passed happily and I began the amenable walk to Binnein Mor.
I feel I know my map reading; and these hills, well enough. Often I could just have a 5 or 10 second glance at the map, and derive all my terrain information and all my compass bearings just by looking once. I headed over the south top, then headed direct north.
The top of Binnein Mor had a few inches of snow; slushy, and thawing rapidly. In spite of the time of year, the day was freakishly warm. There was no build-up of snow conditions, there was no frozen terrain to be found. I have honestly been more uncomfortable and cold in May, June and July. But while these warm conditions persist, I'm quite happy not to carry winter kit: no axe, crampons, just wear summer trainers instead.
However, it was on the descent of Binnein Mor that I, for a moment, thought about that reality. The ground down the NE spur was steep and grassy. Flat soled trainers have awful purchase, and although I had no serious issues with circumstance, I had a moment of thinking; it's February - and there is nothing in my rucksack if I got over an ankle badly, there is no back-up plan besides a mobile phone. Just as well my footwork is good, then.
In the mist, the ground crossed some odd terrain - the rock strata points direct down the slope, but to reach Binnein Beag, you must cross the flank of Binnein Mor and emerge out at the Binnein Beag lochan. The map came out a couple times, but the mist peeled back at the bealach. Ahead was an impressive view of the Binnein; a brown/grey cone, lashed by wind and curtains of drizzle. It was oddly impressive. I took down more food, and set upon my way.
Binnein Beag was over in a flash really, and I had a fine sense that today's plan would work out just well. If anything, it was starting to feel kind of easy. With one Mamore to go, I traversed around the stalking track to Coire an Lochain, where I met two guys who'd just come off Sgurr Eilde Mor.
Sgurr Eilde Mor and Descent
Sgurr Eilde Mor felt like a formality really, it's ascent was enjoyable in my being dry and entirely shaded from the wind. Emerging on the summit ridge brought the usual drizzle and wind, but shortly I was back in the shelter of the lee slope with just the long walk back to Kinlochleven left.
It had been a pretty anonymous day thus far - I was out list-ticking, making sure my will didn't bend, going for it in the face of rubbish weather. I hadn't seen much beyond some interesting geology, some ptarmigans and a lot of mist. But as appears to be common on my descents, I was overcome by good feeling, legs that moved on autopilot, and a strange trance-like state where disparate thoughts appear to weave themselves into coherent narrative in a way I cannot access at any other time.
Loch Leven appeared in time below; it looked bloody beautiful. The hills shrouded in veils and drizzle and mystery. If this was in Knoydart it would not be out of place, and much celebrated, but Loch Leven is perhaps overlooked a touch because the post-industrial Kinlochleven lies at it's head.
A long, steady descent brought me back to Kinlochleven, slowly down to the birch woods and soon after to the car park where I had a change of clothes and towels to dry off.
There are worse ways to spend a day for sure.
(0.00) 10.20am Kinlochmore parking
(1.55) 12.15pm Sgor Eilde Beag
(2.20) 12.40pm Binnein Mor
(3.10) 1.30pm Binnein Beag
(4.17) 2.37pm Sgurr Eilde Mor
(5.35) 3.55pm Kinlochmore parking