“A lovely day for winter” – in summer

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.

Beinn Bhan

The trees in the woods around the village are looking very spring-like now, but we were to find winter on the tops.

Beinn Bhan

The local wildlife confirmed that spring was in the air, down here at sea level.
Green-veined white butterflyGreen-veined white butterfly

Beinn Bhan

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.

Beinn Bhan

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.

Beinn Bhan

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.

Beinn Bhan

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.

Beinn Bhan

The ascent from the bealach was slippery with a covering of snow on the rounded rocks. This made for slow progress and I was glad I wasn’t carrying a full backpack like the guys were.
Beinn Bhan

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.

Beinn Bhan summit cairn

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.

Coire Poite

As we walked along the ridge we enjoyed the views north-west to Torridon – with Beinn Alligin and Liathach looking particularly striking.

View north-east to Beinn Alligan, Torridon

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.

Beinn Bhan

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.

Beinn Bhan - above Coir' an Fhamair

Coir' an Fhamair

The guys studied the map and had a confab deciding the safest way down.
Coir' an Fhamair

Looking at the steep crags on all these eastern corries, I was quite glad not to be going that way.

Beinn Bhan

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.

Sheildaig, Loch Sheildaig and Upper Loch Torridon

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!

Beinn Bhan

We reached the shore again at Applecross just as the sky was beginning to show tinges of pink over the islands.

Applecross Bay

The colours over Skye intensified by the time we reached the village and the camp site.

Applecross bay - looking to Skye

Ascent of Beinn Bhan from Applecross campsite – 31km and approximate 1000m of ascent.
Beinn Bhan

Enjoy more photos here

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14 comments on ““A lovely day for winter” – in summer

  1. Superb. I love Applecross and spent a few days at the Campsite which even my non outdoorsy partner really enjoyed.

    A huge contrast there from sea level to mountain top in terms of seasons. Amazing scenery you have captured.

    • We didn’t know that the guys had planned to spend the first night in the camppsite, but were quite glad they did, as it’s a nice site with good facilities, but still pretty quiet.

    • We too were surprised by the amount of snow considering this part of the coast is known for the warming Gulf Stream keeping temperatures warmer than the rest of the country.

  2. What a fabulous mountain that is. I’m trying to recall our route from my one and only visit and I can’t. I think some poring over maps is called for. That was quite some walk, 31km and 1000m, on post-holing snow and, if I remember correctly, pretty rough terrain. Standing on the edge of those giant corries looks amazing.

  3. Stunning scenery. I took in Beinn Bhan from Loch Kishorn a few years back winding in and out of the eastern corries before heading back along the edge. Spring snow can be amazing or purgatory 🙂

  4. Awesome 🙂 I haven’t been up that neck of the woods in a long time. Really going to have to make the effort to get back up there this year.

    Great trip report.

    Frankie

    • Hi Frankie, nice to ‘meet’ you. If our summer returns (it’s dropped 10°C here on the Beauly firth today) do go west. We had a ‘rest day’ on Sunday and enjoyed the drive north from Applcross to Shieldaig, stopping off to visit beaches and short hill tracks on the way. that was wonderful too.

  5. Hi Sheila, its nice to your report of our walk (not a pleasure that I often get to do). For anyone interested, Lance and I managed to get down from the summit though in the end we chose separate routes, me taking the longer -easier and less steep option. Will be writing up my Flickr report shortly. In the meantime repeated thanks to you and Niel for lifts, friendship and the comradeship of the hill, yours aye,
    Freddie.

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