I was lucky to climb on Beinn Lair for my only time many years ago (it was 36 years in 1984) when we went into Beinn Lair one of Scotland’s remotest hills. It is a classic day and these two Corbett’s of Beinn Lair and Beinn a’ Chaisgein Mor on the North side of the Fionn Loch are two fine Corbett’s.
Nowadays a few get the boat across from Loch Maree when it runs, my pals were over last week and had a wonderful day out. The area has also many remote Munros the classic Fisherfield 5/6 and so many great cliffs.
We had seen many the cliffs on our Munro bagging adventures and from the Wessex helicopter as we flew with new crews on familiarisation sorties. At times dropping of hidden food caches at remote Bothies a perk we had worked on and benefited for years. I had managed occasionally to get a trip in the new Sea King and show them some of the out of the way crags that they may get a call out on. These were great trips and also gave me an opportunity to hide more food, coal and the odd bottle at bothies. The walk in to Beinn Lair from Poolewe even today with a mountain bike it’s still a long cycle/ walk in. I did it with the late Al McLeod in 1984 after an abortive trip on the nearby Canmore where we climbed Fionn Buttress a great Scottish VS.
I found it hard in a big wind and the odd shower that day we saw eagles. The next day was still damp and I managed to get Al to climb on the opposite side of the Glen on the remote Corbett of Beinn Lair. The area is dominated by the Fionn Loch a wonderful remote place and in these days access was never easy.”In days of yore” the climbing guide was very vague the area has so many incredible routes that little was written about Beinn Lair nowadays in the superlative SMC Guide to the Northern Central Highlands and others there is a lot more detail. Wisdom Buttress is now graded Severe is a 220 metre ( 700) feet three star route, with 7 pitches and was first climbed in June 1951 by by J. Smith, Miss A Hood. J.S. Orr. One can only imagine the limited gear of that era?
Little was little known about this climb to us and we had an hard day especially route finding. It’s a long route and then as now not great in protection. I carried the rope Big Al took minimum gear (as always I carried some extras) it was graded Very Diff but seemed a lot harder it was pretty wet near the top and here the route finding was serious. My extra gear as always came in handy at times. Al managed as always to get up the route, he was a big strong man and I kept him on the rough line. He was dressed in his very light red wind-suit he never felt the cold and we ticked the Corbett and ran of the hill to get warm. My wee Olympus camera got wet and I lost all the photos. Yet I have great memories of that classic route but sadly no photos. Al was training for the big routes went on to climb high on the West Ridge of Everest, summit on Shivling and climb the North Face of the Eiger. Sadly he fell whilst soling the North Face of the Matterhorn a few years later in July 1989. I still miss him and this was one of my best days with Al.
The last time I was on Beinn Lair was with Gail and Stephen on Beinn Lair after my trip to Everest in 2001. It was a long day we walked in from Poolewe with huge bags and camped on the beleach . The last thing I needed was after spending 3 months in a tent was 2 days camping in Fisherfield. Yet it was as always magic and I was fit after being away so long. Seeing the great hills, lochs and cliffs again was just what I needed even after the wildness of Tibet and Everest to me this is special country. On the way in we had met only one person it was Andy Nisbet who had been soloing on Carnmore Crag Fionn Buttress for a new guide book he was working on . He had been his own for several days and we had a great chat.
We saw this figure in the distance moving fast with a huge ginger beard and big bag as he got closer it could only be the one and only Andy Nisbet. He stopped for a while asked how my trip was then we had a bleather in the middle of no where. He spoke of climbing with an Eagle for company and some of the routes he climbed. I mentioned my epic years before and Andy laughed, then off he limped back to civilisation his old climbing injuries playing up after his prolonged stop. Though Scotland’s most famous new router he always had time to chat with us mere mortals and we had met in many out of the way places in the past. Sadly Andy was killed with his pal Steve on Ben Hope in the Feb of 2019. this was a huge loss to all.
I hope to go back and get these hills done again see the great cliffs like I did in the mist as I walked up Beinn Lair following the ridge line and looking into these huge cliffs. It is a place surrounded by superb hills, lochs, goat’s eagles and lots of winter potential for new routers and for many chasing some of Scotland’s classic routes.
Even today this is a remote area and an accident here in bad weather could be difficult be careful but if you want adventure this is the place. As for the harder climbs on Canmore “Hard Rock routes” that’s another story.
Comments as always welcome.
New route on Beinn Lair 1971 photo Graham Hunter – thank you Sir.