One Minute Mountain: Bidean nam Bian

Bite-sized intros to Britain's favourite hills. Here's one-time Glen Coe local Alex Roddie on the mighty Bidean nam Bian, a shy retiring character with hidden depths (the hill, we mean, not Alex).

Stob Coire nan Lochan - Bidean nam Bian, Glen Coe, Scotland  © CH
Stob Coire nan Lochan - Bidean nam Bian, Glen Coe, Scotland
© CH, Oct 2016

Height: 1150m (3770ft)

Personality: A complex and rugged behemoth, but a little bit shy. Glen Coe's known for drama: Buachaille Etive Mor and the Aonach Eagach grab the attention up-front as you drive along the A82. By contrast Bidean hides behind its spectacular satellites the Three Sisters. Only visible from a couple of places in the glen, its main peak is less prominent than subsidiary summits Stob Coire nan Lochan and Stob Coire nam Beith. But with its many craggy corries and narrow ridges, Bidean is best considered as a range in its entirety rather than as a single peak - it's not all about the high point.

What's in a name? Bidean nam Bian is generally agreed to mean Peak of the Mountains – a fitting title considering its position above many lesser peaks.

Best feature: The massive wedge-shaped wall of Church Door Buttress, just beneath the summit on the north side, is one of the most impressive crags in Glen Coe.

Greatest route? Every route on Bidean is great! But the best is the circuit climbing up Coire nan Lochan to the Munro Top of Stob Coire nan Lochan, up Bidean's North Ridge, then back down via the beautiful Lost Valley. This is a great walk in summer and a classic, challenging mountaineering outing in winter. If your taste is for something a little more vertical, the foreboding cleft of Central Gully (I**) is one of the best Grade I winter climbs in the area.

A Lost Valley, you say? More hidden than lost, but it's a must-visit place in Glen Coe. This impressive glacial trough is largely concealed from the glen beneath and, according to legend, was used by cattle smugglers in centuries past.

Who does it? Winter climbers looking for a bit more adventure gladly make the longer walk-in to Bidean's crags. Due to their higher elevation, good conditions usually last longer here too. Munroists and hillwalkers revere Bidean as one of the best mountains in the area. And although there is comparatively little to interest the scrambler, interesting easy lines can be found by the determined.

Pub quiz trivia: Collie's Pinnacle, a huge spike of rock at the foot of Church Door Buttress, is named after early climbing pioneer J Norman Collie. In 1894, he and a few friends attempted but failed to climb Bidean's West Buttress, taking Collie's Pinnacle as a consolation prize. They went on to make the first ascent of Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis shortly afterwards.

Where to stay? The Clachaig Inn ( at the foot of the mountain offers hotel accommodation. There's also a campsite (the Red Squirrel) and two hostels nearby.

Local boozers: The atmosphere in the Clachaig's Boots Bar is legendary. At the other end of Glen Coe you'll find the Kings House Hotel - currently undergoing something of a revamp with as-yet-unknown results.

Stob coire nan lochan
© Nadir khan, Dec 2012

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