It was an early start up at 0500 up at 0800 and Rachel was ready to go at my door on the dot. It was bitter cold and the forecast was great but with winds 30 knots plus and a wind chill of minus 15, it would be an interesting day. We had great views as we drove to Torridon and Kinlochewe in the North West, the daylight was arriving and the hills alight with colour. We looked at the Avalanche forecast for the Torridon area now running all winter and decided to climb onto the ridge of Beinn Eighe. Liathach looked like a huge battleship snow covered and imposing and a long winter mountaineering day to be kept for another day. Beinn Eighe is also a wonderful mountain and in winter a true classic, you are spoilt for choice here.
Beinn Eighe is a huge mountain, its crests and summits almost entirely made of quartzite, in winter it can be an Alpine adventure. The mountain has 7 peaks, two of which are Munro status. There are so many adventures to have on this mountain and so many routes to recommend. The neglected Black Carlins are a classic Alpine day as is the ascent of the Sail Mor by Morrison’s Gully splits the North face of Sàil Mhòr and “the Ugly step”on to the ridge. The The most dramatic feature is Coire Mhic Fhearchair a spectacular amphitheatre with the famed Triple Buttress. A place that has a wildness all of its own a wonderful mountain in all aspects. There are some grand climbs here.
We decided to gain the ridge and climb Spidean Coire nan Clach ‘peak of the corrie of stones’ (993m, Munro 150) from Coire an Laoigh . I know this Corrie well when I was in the local Kinlochewe and Torridon Mountain Rescue Team who train here occasionally. This wild corrie holds snow well and has plenty of places to practice snow techniques but like all Torridon hills is a hard pull up. The team work in some area and in winter it is a wild place.
We were amazed how cold it was as we left the car. The path is great well maintained and very icy there was a car already in the car park but no sign of its owner. Normally you shed clothes on the way up as you warm up but it was – 4 and a stiff wind it was freezing. The views were outstanding especially of the two Corbetts opposite Sgurr Dubh and Sgor nan Lochan Uaine a great day often neglected for the bigger Torridon mountains and in winter special!
We had a great chat on the way up till we hit the snow at about 600 metres, we spoke about conditions and avalanche danger and Rachel is so fit. She did Tranter’s round last year in Lochaber a huge hill day. It is a round of some 36 miles and over 20,000′ taking in 19 Munros in the Mamores, Grey Corries and Aonachs together with Carn Mor Dear —– Munros. She is a fit girl. I took a few photos stopping regularly as it was a wonderful day but my fingers froze and I had to keep moving them. The snow was fine but hard work and a steady plod there was bits of wind – slab about so we took care. The ridge behind Rachel is another great way up to the ridge with some scrambling and incredible views.
The wind was fierce and I felt it very cold on my face and pulled my Buff over my face to protect from frost nip. it was that cold – 15 in the bitter wind. We already had axes out in the Coire but did not put crampons on till later at the trig point. There was the occasional gust but it was the cold that was intense as some days in Alaska. We had to take care and were watching any exposed flesh, that could have serious consequences. I could feel my eyelids freezing on the way up not often that happens in the UK!
We had a stop some quick food and drunk in the views, the tops of this massive mountain Beiin Eighe were incredible, today it was Alpine and thsi is some mountain with so many ways up and such wild ground. It was on with helmets and crampons then onto the sharp ridge and onto the summit and the Munro Spidean Coire Nan Clach with some scrambling and interesting snow. We took it easy as the snow was slabby but enjoyed the exposure but my Iphone froze as I was trying to take a photo near the first steep bit. I put it in my inside pocket and had my camera that was also freezing up and got some photos on the final ridge.
We were soon on the top a hard 3 and half hours work again what views this is why we climb, it was one of these days but still very cold. We did not stop long and headed back taking it carefully as there was still plenty of slab about and a slip could ruin your day. We took it in turns to cross the steep bits and trod carefully but what a place to be on such a day. Rachal said she was off to the Saddle at Kintail and the Forcan Ridge on Sunday a long day and another early start for her. I had already thought that this would be enough for me today. It was hard going on the ridge and would be along day and we would be back very late Thankfully Rachal agreed she would have big day tomorrow.
We took it easy going down it is steep ground and a slip would not be the thing to do. The crampons made the descent easier but we took it easy and it was still very cold. We saw someone on the beleach a part of 3 but they soon were out of sight and I think they went down the wind was increasing.
It was then a descent into the Coire and we got a bit of sun and out of the wind. On the flat of the Coire we stopped to eat and take off the crampons then headed down, it was still cold and the views again incredible. On the way down we met a party heading up to Beinn Eighe they had driven from Edinburgh. We had a chat and found they were friends of a young lad i knew who was killed in the Alps a few years ago a sad reminder of the toll these wonderful hills can take at times. They were fit and strong and enjoying there day and I was glad that the tragedy of losing a young friend in the mountains had not stopped their love of these places. Never easy.
We got back to car mid afternoon and I found that I had dropped my phone , my North Face pocket on my jacket had opened the pocket is stitched on and opened and must have dropped out somewhere on the descent. It was a bit of a blow and I last saw it at the trig point near the summit. I was a bit upset but you cannot get upset on a day like this can you/
I tried to not let it spoil the day and there was no way I was going back up not fit enough yet for that but a lot better than last year. The drive back was in the sun and we enjoyed seeing the hills looking magnificent, what a day and Rachel has another great day at Kintail, oh to be young.
Take care on the hills its hard going and there is suspect snow about and bitter cold.
If you find a phone on Beinn Eighe it may be mine – there will be a reward please get in touch and sorry to all the girls who have sent texts cannot answer them!
As I write this there is no point in being upset what a day we had, and what and area an area to be in. How did I manage these two big hills Liathach and Beinn eighe in full winter on several occasions. I had even tried to do Ben Alligin as well in winter, these were for long summer days.