Beinn Dearg Mhòr - 709m
Beinn Dearg Bheag - 582m
Wednesday 25th October 2017
Weather/Conditions: Crazy winds! A shower or two but mostly dry and some spectacular sun splitting between the clouds. Seeminly bent double at points: very hard work to move in this wind, but sometimes I could get some shade from it.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 7.5km / 970m / 2h 54m
I've made a pretty good job of climbing essentially all the Cuillin this year. A few weeks I was around Belig, Glas Bheinn Mhor and Beinn na Cro. These were some of my only Red summits left, and three others were the trio surrounding Beinn na Caillich; so obvious and prominent from so many places on Skye, most of all Broadford. Another significant reason in the choice to go for these hills is the amount of enjoyment I've been taking from climbing island tops.
But on the day I was torn whether to go for these as I sat at the Broadford Co-op with the wind battering the car from side to side. My usual leisg (to use the Gaelic word) sometimes gets the better of me. But I drove to the road end at Coire Chatachan and got on my way.
Beinn na Caillich is a bigger hill than it looks from the car. From there it sits back into a gentle hump above without definition or form to suggest scale. As soon as I got moving I realised I was in for the big 700m treadmill to the top! Bog gave way to a light path, which wound up past falling streams and little waterfalls. Eventually the path got lost among the boulders.
But happily I didn't see any immediate impediment to actually climbing the hill. I passed 100 vertical kilometres for 2017 half way up the flank of Beinn na Caillich (that's almost a personal record). And after some persistence, the terrain eased off and I staggered into the shade of the trig point. Wind blasted by, I took some juice and some photos. I thought it would be rude to come here and not have a look at the big cairn. I gather it has stood crowing this summit a while, but for exactly how long apparently isn't known.
All I can say about Beinn Dearg Mhòr is it was absolutely wild. I was walking direct into the wind, which was firing back at a speed I don't want to know. I walked off Beinn na Caillich just fighting to stay upright. It was all pretty intense. As I reached the bealach between the two hills the intensity of this wind only increased as it funnelled through the gap. The incessant roar could drive you mad if you let it, and psychologically it stretches you too.
The cairn arrived in time though, and again I hid in it's shade, a thankful momentary break! There was time for nothing more than a quick snap, some food, drink and a compass bearing. The descent slopes of Beinn Dearg Mhòr are horrendously loose such that a single pair of feet will do significant damage to the delicate screes. Even still these hills are butch: they might not have the utter severity of the Black Cuillin, but they are no walk in the park.
And neither was the weather. Downpours came and went within moments. Skies split open and sun shafts poured through to Loch Slapin and my foreground. Otherwise, the Black hills looked austere and caught under the dulling of the cloud. I crossed to Beinn Dearg Bheag, my last hill of the afternoon and one of my last Cuillin hills as a whole: another staggering viewpoint made even better with clear views onto the sea and with the sun breaking on the hills.
I turned, and with the wind to my back headed down toward the car. Descent was quick and the wind blew tornadoes around; it was the weirdest sight to hear a 'commotion' somewhere and look around to find a tornado of ripped grasses was flying through the air. I got one pathetic video of this. I have honestly never seen that before, but it happened more than once in quick succession.
I was back at the car in less than three hours. It's interesting to see that in spite of the searing winds my pace didn't especially drop far. I'd be hard pressed to stand those conditions for much longer though! They are an amazing set of hills, and also make a surprisingly short day.
Beinn Dearg Bheag
(0.00) 2.30pm Car, road end
(0.57) 3.27pm Beinn na Caillich
(1.30) 4.00pm Beinn Dearg Mhòr
(1.58) 4.28pm Beinn Dearg Bheag
(2.54) 5.24pm Car, road end