Monday, 16 February 2015

A Grand Day Out On Beinn Bhan

     I had heard a lot about Beinn Bhan, recently being in the UKC news pages for a new X,10 mixed route and looking through the pages of my Scottish Winter Climbs Guide. It is a relatively modest height, the summit trig point at 896m, but rises straight out of the sea close to nearby Loch Kishorn. The impressive coires are hidden from view as we set off from the car, trudging across the boggy grass and heather, the heavy raindrops bouncing off my waterproofs as we jumped across several streams along the vague path. We cut off from the path and headed up through the bogs, towards A’Chioch. The rain was still hitting hard and the prospect of a long wet scramble was not too appealing anymore. 
Quietly pleased that it has actually started snowing
     The rain began to turn to sleet, then snow, as we were close to the base and decided against the route, choosing instead to contour across the mountain past the huge coires and buttresses before finding a weakness to the summit. The snow continued and whipped it hard into our sodden figures as we traipsed through the saturated hillside. We contoured past Coire na Poite catching the shadow of the imposing buttresses of A’Phoit and Coire an Fhamair ahead. I can’t quite describe the size of these cliffs, they are huge and complex. I think they are the most impressive crags I have seen into the UK.
Looking across to A'Poite and A'Chioch
Piers heading on to the upper reaches of our slope
     We picked our weakness up the hillside on the right edge of Coire an Fhamair. We could pick out a route from the base of the slope, which weaved its’ way through the sandstone tiers following the path of least resistance. The slope was now covered with a layer of snow and we agreed that we wouldn’t climb up anything that we wouldn’t be comfortable climbing down. This was to be our Giants Wall, well it felt like it. We couldn’t tell if there was going to be a route for us to forge on the upper sections as we stared up into the clag which covered the upper reaches of our slope. 
Looking across to Giants Wall
     We hardly noticed all the height we had gained as we moved into the upper reaches of our route. We had weaved around through the shelves of heather and boulders, hitting the occasional patches of old snow which had softened up, proving to be a real pain as every step sank up to the thigh becoming ever more frustrating. We reached a broad ledge in the upper parts of the slope, the snow still falling with strong spindrift blowing down from the upper reaches. From here it narrowed up to form a narrower spur and a final couple of tiers of crag led us onto the plateau above. The cloud had broken and we could look across towards the Giants Wall and the summit. 
Piers nerving off onto the plateau

Navving in the white room from Beinn Bhan summit
     We took the opportunity to practice our pacing and boxing to avoid the corniced edges of the coires. The cloud returned as we reached the summit but the sun broke through to provide cracking views to A’Chioch as we descended the South East Ridge before breaking off down the slope direct to the car. This slope dragged on and on and I can’t recall a step that wasn’t followed by a squelch as we reached the snowline and onto the saturated boggy slopes below. It was a grand day out, a hard won ascent and some really adventurous mountaineering up this impressive Scottish mountain, I am sure to be back. 
A break in the cloud this afternoon on Beinn Bhan
Taking the direct route down to the car

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