The Dragon's Tooth (II)
Sgorr Dhonuill - 1001m

Thursday 9th February 2017

Weather/Conditions: Good weather, gentle wind on the summits.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 9.4km / 1000m / 5h 15m
Accompanying: Oliver

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Beinn a' Bheithir has become somewhat of a special mountain for me, one which I now live under and have had some pretty tremendous experiences on. I've been around essentially all its principal ridges and climbed it a few different ways. In December I went up the ENE (Schoolhouse) Ridge and descended into Gleann an Fhiodh, not realising that within weeks I'd be living at the very foot of this great horseshoe mountain. There was an obvious ridge I hadn't yet climbed, the Dragon's Tooth. It's a Grade II, pretty unfrequented and considered a bit an esoteric winter route. I remember the first time I ever saw it, the passenger in a car crossing Loch Leven. I couldn't believe something so steep and towering was tucked into the inside of a mountain like Beinn a' Bheithir. In the conditions of early February, it gave Oliver and I an easier first day's climbing. We walked in on a morning of good weather, the sun breaking on the Sgorr Dhonuill crags. You follow the forestry tracks as far as you can in the direction of the Dragon's Tooth, then there is a short section leading through the last of the trees. From here, the terrain was just rough grass and boulder, and we headed up the right side of the Tooth. Here it became quite frustrating; it was just powder snow over boulders. It was very easy to slip and slide, hard to gain any rhythm. A resolution came with the ridge crest: an end to the boulders, and a set of footprints that led south in the direction of Sgorr Dhonuill. We set off immediately, passing above a team in a gully on the east of the Tooth (on reflection we might have had a better time going this way!). The ridge breaks out in a couple of steps and aretes, all of which we soloed. None felt very hard at all. Then the ridge drops in one steep step, which at the time we arrived had two teams at it, both of three people. We'd first thought about taking a downclimb on the east side of the ridge, but waited for them to pass before setting up an abseil ourselves. Happily the abseil anchor was in place, so we just threaded the ropes and went - no gear left behind and minimal fuss. And we thought this route would be a backwater! Including us, the numbers on this ridge were into double figures. And from there, the ridge seemed to end in regards to the climbing interest. We simply stormed the next bit to Sgorr Dhonuill, and barely stopped until we'd hit the summit. We sat on the summit for a long time. It was calm enough to do so, watching the sun breaking out on the hills and on the north-west Highlands. Rum was visible, the Cuillin... I could have sat and watched all day. We descended the west flank of Sgorr Dhonuill, a side of the hill I haven't been on for a long time. We headed down Coire Dearg, with a brief look at the great bulging wall that holds one route with a rather top-end grade. Forestry works were taking place in the glen, a boggy diversion in place, and then we just plodded out the last miles back to the car park.

360° Panorama

Sgorr Dhonuill

Sgorr Dhonuill - NW Detail

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 9.50am Gleann a' Chaolais parking
(1.50) 11.40am Sgorr a' Chaolais (cairn at termination of ridge and start of climbing)
(3.10) 1.00pm Sgorr Dhonuill
(5.15) 3.05pm Gleann a' Chaolais parking

Written: 2017-03-13