Beinn a’ Chearcaill

Despite a very negative forecast for most of country, the bad weather seemed delayed on its journey north and so my walk, chosen for being low and hopefully below cloud, was looking like a good choice on arrival. The top of Beinn a’ Chearcaill and those higher peaks around it were all clear of cloud and things generally looked reasonably bright.

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After the scenic drive down to Loch Maree along one of my favourite roads, things were about to get even better. Almost immediately on joining the path up Glen Grudie, views of the north side of Beinn Eighe’s peaks and cliffs drew and held my attention. That said, every now and then I would look back to Loch Maree and beyond to the huge bulk of Slioch, knowing that later on that view may be denied me by the bad weather if it reached this area.

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The ascent proved to be a walk of two halves, at first I was racing along, even with lots of photo stops, on the good stalkers’ path and with the bulk of Beinn Eighe drawing me on making progress to Beinn a’ Chearcaill seem quick. Height was gained easily too once on the branch-off into and up Coire Briste. My summit looked in sight once up at the head of the corrie, but this was only half way, the path petered out and two kilometers of bouldery (occasionally moving), tussocky ground had to be traversed to the final slabby summit plateau. Hard work and not easy on already tender ankles.

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The summit and its approaches has large slabby areas peppered with boulders, where did they come from this high up? Strange, but not the first time I have seen this type of thing and it looks quite nice set against a background of big rocky giants; Meall a’ Ghiuthais, Beinn Eighe, Liatach, Beinn Dearg and Beinn an Edin.

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The rain had been falling lightly a while by the time I summited but wasn’t spoiling views yet, just making taking photos a challenge with the breeze. A shame as it would have been nice to linger longer at the top and spend more time getting shots of Beinn Eighe and its triple buttress backed Coire Mhic Fearchair with the falls beneath, the only white in an otherwise dark and brooding scene.

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Despite it being a great vantage point (I will be back), the cold and wet were taking a toll on me so it was time to retreat. Two diversions first though, one to the northern summit of A Choineach Beag which had been obscuring views of Loch Maree itself and thus would be a good place to enjoy an overview of the loch and its archipelago from. As it happens though the light rain was lessening visibility a bit to the further reaches, but I could still look over the islands remembering an interesting paddle I have had there in the past.

My next diversion was off the path on the way out to a lovely looking spot on the River Grudie with an island which houses the only trees of note in the Glen. The river has chosen two paths here with numerous falls and more below once the two branches have rejoined. A very pleasant spot with some big mountain scenery behind and some big spiders too, one monster was getting particularly excited on its huge web by the vibrations I caused. I was starting to think about a swim even though it was grey but the midges put paid to that idea, my first experience of them since leaving the car.

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Back up to the path and out, by now quite weary but with road very much in sight. The sting in the tail after such a good day? Midges… unbelievable clouds of them, swarming over me and biting as I changed before following me in to the car to continue their meal.

This is such a great walk, so much scenery on offer in such a short time. I will be back for another look, but maybe it can be bettered on a crisp wintry day when Beinn Eighe is coloured black and white.

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