Stob Coire nan Lochain - 1115m
Bidean nam Bian - 1150m
Stob Coire nam Beith - 1107m
Stob Coire Sgreamhach - 1072m
Beinn Fhada - 952m
Beinn Fhada NE Top - 931m
Beinn Fhada Far NE Top - 823m
Wednesday 14th June 2017
Weather/Conditions: Following days of rain, finally a break - but bit warm and humid in the glens, and gusty on the summits. Overcast conditions developed into warm sun and blue skies at the end of the day.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 13.2km / 1750m / 4h 40m
I've been keeping my activity accordingly low-key. I've also been doing a fair bit of outdoor work, so generally when the rain has arrived, I've been content to get computer jobs done. Nonetheless, it underlines how dry the spring was. In such periods of dry is has been easy to forget just how wet it gets when the Atlantic comes flooding back in.
Equally, I had a Skye trip planned for this week and the weather put that plan to bed, too. Rather than do nothing, I got out the house and headed for Bidean nam Bian on the one day of clear conditions.
I always find a lingering lethargy when I first set foot on the hills after a period off. Work days don't really count, because there I'm not really pushing hard enough physically. To all intents and purposes today felt like first time back after a period away, and I had to work hard to get through that. I chose to head up the Zig Zags of Gearr Aonach, a route I'd never been up before. Neither is Gearr Aonach a summit I've stood on before, which is remarkable considering I've driven past it so many times over a course of ten years.
Gearr Aonach & ZigZags to Bidean
Cutting off the Lost Valley path, I picked up faint tracks to the base of Gearr Aonach, then when presented with the rock face completely disregarded the Grade 1 status, and began climbing direct on Grade 3 ground. Searching out terraces which were linked by steep walls, I emerged out at the upper path of the Zig Zag having barely noticed I was off-route. Seeing the route face-on later in the day confirmed I took a really rather direct line.
I also completely failed to notice the summit of Gearr Aonach, walking past it then not realising for another ten minutes when Stob Coire nan Lochain suddenly looked closer than I'd have expected. I was obviously slow in getting going.
And all of this felt like a tremendous effort. I was moving fast, but it felt harder than normal. What I know from experience is that after about an hour or so, my mind will switch off and my body will go into auto. At this point walking becomes more effortless and pleasureable.
Stob Coire nan Lochain gave a lovely ridge leading to the summit, with just a moment or two's scrambling. This was also the first time I've been on this summit in clear conditions, so I got a long-awaited panorama. This is also a phenomenal viewpoint for Bidean nam Bian, which is sprawled out in a tangle of cliff and scree, with elegant pointed summits strung along the top just to complete the juxtaposition.
I headed over to Bidean, a gusty wind now blowing. On the summit a German (?) couple were drinking Innis & Gunn, sitting in the shade of the cairn. Nice idea - but I headed on swiftly for Stob Coire nam Beith, yet another Top of the Bidean range I'd never been on. There were quite a few of these. And this too was the intent of the walk; I was here to climb the remainers. I climbed Stob Coire nam Beith as a quick out-and-back from Bidean, and the views down to Glen Coe from here were astounding. Stob Coire nam Beith looks massive from the glen, but it's when you are standing on the summit that you can really appreciate just how high you are. The mountain topples away in cliffs and ridges, dwarfing the adjacent Aonach Eagach and dwarfing even further the single house of Achnambeithach in the glen.
I headed back over Bidean nam Bian, and descended in the direction of Stob Coire Sgreamhach. I passed the German couple once again, crossed the Bealach Dearg, then a short pull took me to the summit. North of Stob Coire Sgreamhach is a rock step, apparently this goes at Grade III in winter, but today it didn't seem like much, just a couple of little steps down.
Beinn Fhada throws out a long ridge to the north, perhaps the last truly major ridge of Glen Coe I hadn't yet traversed. Beinn Fhada looks beautifully steep from here - I'll bet this is would make a top-class winter ridge traverse. The first top of Beinn Fhada comes to a sculpted top, plunging down on either side. Beyond that the ridge peters out, swells a couple more times, then after a mile or so drops abruptly to Glen Coe.
The direct descent off the north of Beinn Fhada asks for a bit of routefinding experience; bands of steep dirty rock interrupt the way, so you have to be able to find you way down without getting stuck on steep ground, or too committed. For me it was time to get back to the car, and I dropped down by the River Coe, past the roadside crags. I crossed the river, regained the road, then walked the final short section back to the parking, which was a damn sight quieter than it had been at lunchtime.
Stob Coire nan Lochain
(0.00) 2.20pm Glen Coe parking
(1.05) c. 3.25pm Geàrr Aonach
(1.45) 4.05pm Stob Coire nan Lochain
(2.05) 4.25pm Bidean nam Bian
(2.18) 4.38pm Stob Coire nam Beith
(2.30) 4.50pm Bidean nam Bian (again)
(2.50) 5.10pm Stob Coire Sgreamhach
(3.07) 5.27pm Beinn Fhada
(3.15) 5.35pm Beinn Fhada NE Top
(3.30) 5.50pm Beinn Fhada Far NE Top
(4.40) 7.00pm Glen Coe parking