Beinn Dearg (Munro number 10) September 12th 2015

This was always going to be tough. Only 4 days after Liathach, and with mountain biking in Torridon and paddling the coast in between, the body still doesn’t know what’s hit it. And the weather has turned, after a glorious week of sunshine. When we arrive Beinn Dearg is only just visible above the mist and clouds, but the wind is already fierce and we consider it likely much stronger than the 50mph forecast.

It’s a long walk in, the terrain fairly easy and only a gentle incline. Not too boggy, the path is good. But, the top seems an unreachable distance away for at least the first 2 hours of walking. Even with the drizzle setting in its not hard to imagine how beautiful this valley would be on a calmer brighter day. Still the purple hue of thistle and heather warms the landscape, and contrasts against the lush green of the forest and valley. Waterfalls and streams weave their way down through the valley. There are frogs everywhere.

By the time we start the steeper climb up, the wind is howling and almost impossible to stand up in. Heads down and pretty much clinging to the rocks we decide to push on, with the promise that the stone wall will act as a windbreak. And then with no visability we literally crawl our way to the large cairn at the summit, completely reliant on the compass. It was pretty wet and the rock slippy, making the scramble at the top pretty challenging against the elements. One near miss (me slipping of a rock) and we make it. WILD! 

It took a good 4 hours of battling against the wind to get up. Then not far off that getting back. It’s an easy enough descent but it feels like we’re never getting back. We spied a couple of bikes abandoned at the start of the climb, and thought enviously of these on the way back. Next time (and there will be one because we had to abandon the plan to take in all the tops) I will bike in. Oh and pick a less windy day maybe…..

  
   

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Liathach (Spidean a’ Choire Leith and Mullach an Rathain) across the Am Fasarinen pinnacles.Rathain,

Couldn’t have picked a better day for tackling this fantastic mountain ridge. These were my 8th and 9th Munros, and my first complete ridge…how lucky am I?!

We started the steep assent early, with the mist clinging to the mountains about half way up, the top of the ridge just visible above and quite terrifying to the novice. I had quite naively left the details to my more mountain worldly friends…experience tells me not to overthink these things before hand (I may not have come)…..

The sun was hot, though just out of sight above the clouds. The midges so fierce it was impossible to pause for a moment, which made the climb seem all the more relentless. Then all of a sudden, we popped up above the mist and had this slightly eerie view with the silhouettes of other walkers appearing faintly on the horizon.

When we reached the top (2 hours of very steep climbing) we took in the views from Stuc a’ Choire Dhuibh Bhig, well worth the slight right hand detour, we were rewarded by this stunning cloud inversion with the surrounding mountains seeming to float above the clouds. It was easy to imagine you were flying above the clouds.

The first Munro Spidean a’Choire Leith was fairly easy to reach, magnificent views all the way. It was on our first break, beyond the reach of the midges, that another walker asked whether we were traversing the pinnacles (Am Fasarinen) or not. My friend replied that we hadn’t decided yet, looking sheepishly at me when she explained there was a slightly nervous-about-exposure member in the group (me).   At this point, the cloud had cleared and with the rugged pinnacles in clear view ahead, nerves set in.  To our luck this other walker, a very kind and extremely experienced mountaineer (as it turned out) took upon himself to guide us effortlessly across the pinnacles.  There was some scrambling, it was airy, but the rock felt secure (perhaps due to our “guide’s” extensive knowledge of every foothold and stone). It was well worth the mild anxiety beforehand, amazing! And his stories of climbing across in the dark made it seem quite straight forward…

We made our way easily across to the end, and the second Munro, Mullach an Rathain, where we were rewarded with sea views and relaxed for a while in the sunshine, taking it all in.

And then there was the decent. After watching a couple of walkers detour off the  path into scree territory, we were careful to keep to the path. If there is anything beastly about this mountain, it is the equally steep and rocky descent. Your knees will not forgive you for this, and my thighs can still feel it 4 days later. I was a bit embarrassed to have to pull in and let a walker overtake. I say embarrassed because I had an age advantage, however I am learning that on the mountain it is experience and not age that counts.  He was very humble about it, though confessed he was taking it easy as he effortlessly sped past. Another stroke of luck was when he waited at the bottom to give us a lift to the car (several kilometres back down the road). Another mountain legend as it turned out. His advice was never to walk the road back after. Very sound advice indeed. Don’t think I could have if I tried.