Tricky winter hills – Beinn a Chaorainn.

I was speaking to a winter mountaineer the other day about Beinn a Chaorainn. A Munro on the Laggan road that is often combined with Beinn Teallach. He was unaware that on poor conditions Beinn a Chaorainn can be a very tricky hill in winter. Once again as winter is back very challenging conditions especially in poor visibility make this a tricky mountain. As further large amounts of snow forecast over the next few days this hill and others will make you think as you navigate safely. . In winter, beware that a huge cornice forms above Coire na h-Uamha and Beinn a’Chaorainn’s east-facing crags, which have caused tragedies in the past.

I have sadly been on many call -outs in the past on this hill and was involved in many searches it is a tricky mountain in bad weather.

Beinn a Choarrain This Munro summit ridge is well corniced – so take care in snow and mist IT CAN BE TRICKY NAVIGATION , there have been many accidents here in the past.

On one incident in 1994 we searched for months for a missing walker who had walked over the edge on January 1994 he was located in August – 6 months later under several feet of ice, It was a sad time for the family and the length of time their loved one was missing for made things even worse. I took the young son Neil who was with his Dad when he went over the cornice a day later after hed got down to raise the alarm, Neil showed me the exact spot where he last saw his Dad and it was an incredible effort by the young 18 year old. I searched along with Lochaber MRT for many months looking for his Dad it was a hard, sad time.   This Corrie can be very tricky ground to search in this wild coire is and always was threatened by huge cornices as we searched. This hill has a big history for me and is in no way a simple boring hill and at over a 1000 metres is big mountain.

2017 Dec – I met that young man at a lecture for Mountain Aid that I did in Cuoar this year, he introduced himself to me he is now a member of Ochils MRT. It was a magic night to meet him after the sadness of those dark days in 1994 but Lochaber MRT found his Dad in the end thanks to Hamish MacInnes who brought in ground radar in Sep 94 and there was still a huge amount of snow. It was wonderful meeting him and one of the most moving nights of my life. That awful day he did his best and helped us so much and that day we went out to where his father fell was a hard day yet this young man helped so much. I hope we meet again and his Dad would be so proud of what a man he has turned out to be.

We never give up in Mountain Rescue and it was a special night meeting and talking to him. I searched for his father throughout the winter and summer. In all I went out 10 times into the huge Corrie but the snow was still there. I would take a group from Kinloss Midweek and stay in Roybridge. Sadly despite our efforts we never found him till Hamish brought in the Ground radar. The Corrie is a huge basin and I was amazed how much snow was still there at the end of summer that year. We wanted to give some

Beinn a’ Chaorainn – Once on the ridge, there are no easy escape routes. A quick escape can be made from the summit by descending the northeast ridge, which descends from the south summit (Point 1049). However, caution is required on account of the in cut gully south of the main summit which is not terribly obvious on the map and is a known accident blackspot.

Beware of the cornice on Beinn a’ Chaorainn in poor visibility. Large cornices often build up on the steep east flank above Coire na h-Uamha, and due to the incut corrie edge a safe line between any of the hill’s three summits requires a dogleg rather than a straight line. It’s a well-known spot for tricky navigation, and for accidents,

The tricky area between tops

A very enjoyable winter scramble, slightly harder if the steep initial section is taken directly, but this is easily avoidable.

The approach from the road is via the east bank of the Allt na h-Uamha then cross it in order to join the track heading north. A new bridge means there is no need to ford the river.

At present (winter 2022 ) most teams are approaching via the zigzagged forestry track a little further west, avoiding the boggy section of the other approach.

Another Rescue of a fallen climber.

Comments welcome !

Heavy, The efforts that you, the RAF and Lochaber teams put in will never be forgotten by me, nor my family. I don’t doubt that many involved in that callout are friends on your page and to everyone of those I say a heartfelt thank-you.
The kind words about me as youngster from someone as skilled as yourself mean a lot to me too. Of course the events of that day, and those that followed shaped me into who I am now.
I hope we’ll meet again soon. Neil

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Avalanche info, Books, Family, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Recomended books and Guides, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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