Ascent of Beinn Bhan 896m (2939ft), Applecross
On our drive over the Bealach na Ba we gazed across at the magnificent southern flanks of Beinn Bhan. It is a prominent hill, the largest by far on the Applecross peninsular, but is relatively untrodden since it is not a Munro – missing the ‘magic’ height of 914m by only 20 metres.
As I mentioned in a previous post Neil and I were enjoying a visit to Applecross to accompany our friend, Freddie and his mate who are backpacking coast to coast, Applecross to Beauly, by the high route. We spent Friday night at the well-appointed camp site in Applecross and decided to walk with them today as they took in Beinn Bhan before they headed east.
This hill may not reach up to 914m above sea level, but we had just as much ascent – or much more – than climbing many Munros since we started our walk from the shore at Applecross.
The trees in the woods around the village are looking very spring-like now, but we were to find winter on the tops.
Young Heilan coo
We rapidly left the woodlands behind and emerged onto the open moorland. Now, as for the rest of the day, we had brilliant views of the islands: Skye, Raasay, Eigg and Rhum. Later when on the tops we could see the hills of Harris too.
This approach along this western flank to the ridge of Carn Dhearg was quite slow going, with bog, mossy flushes and peat hags all slowing progress.
I was quite relieved to reach the exposed stones on the ridge of Carn Dhearg. Later I would curse the stones as they made the way very taxing and potentially hazardous where they were hidden by soft snow.
From the top of Carn Dhearg at 673m we soon dropped down to the Bealach nan Arr. From here we could see the crags of the northern ridge of Sgurr a’ Chaorachain, which had been visible from the road on the drive over the pass. These sandstone buttresses looked very dramatic. Far below we could see the road winding up the hillside with the many hairpin bends.
Snow in May is not unusual in Scotland, but it was strange this year since we’d had such a mild winter. F and I agreed that had it been winter we’d have said it was a lovely day. I was quite relieved to reach the summit cairn, but knew we still had a long plod ahead of us.
However this is where the most spectacular views became apparent. The eastern flanks of the hill has six dramatic corries of stepped Torridonian sandstone. Coire na Poite, Coire an Fhamhair and Coire Toll a Mheine are certainly amongst the most impressive corries in the western highlands and all were visible from the ridge as we walked along.
As we walked along the ridge we enjoyed the views north-west to Torridon – with Beinn Alligin and Liathach looking particularly striking.
I’m sure this ridge walk is usually pretty easy when the ground is hard with frost, or dry, but in the soft snow it was like trudging through day-old porridge, ie the hardish crust just about held your weight – but not quite and each step sunk down.
The guidebook the guys were using suggested there was a descent down from the summit at Coir’ an Fhamair. This is supposedly an easy scramble. However today was not a day for rock scrambles – easy or not and they continued along the ridge a bit farther before heading down.
Looking at the steep crags on all these eastern corries, I was quite glad not to be going that way.
After sending the guys off with our best wishes and arrangements to meet in 5 days time, Neil and I continued on our descent to return to Applecross. It was now 4.30 and we still had a long way to go, but first we stopped for a wee break for food and a rest. Oatcakes and cheese and chocolate bars gave me a wee boost of energy (I had been flagging somewhat!) and set me up for the long, steepish descent.
As we got to the most northerly point in our walk we could see the village of Shieldaig, on the shore of Loch Shieldaig.
As we dropped lower we began to hear the cuckoos again that we’d heard when walking up here this morning. Although, I thought I’d heard one when walking on the high tops, but that may have been the ‘cuckoo-ing’ resonating in my ears, from when I’d heard the blasted thing joining in the dawn chorus at 4am!
We reached the shore again at Applecross just as the sky was beginning to show tinges of pink over the islands.
The colours over Skye intensified by the time we reached the village and the camp site.
Enjoy more photos here