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One Minute Mountain: Garbh Bheinn

© Dan Bailey

Alex Roddie discovers the delights of Garbh Bheinn, the jewel of Ardgour and among the greatest and most rugged of all the Corbetts.


Garbh Bheinn of Ardgour  © Colin Wells
Garbh Bheinn of Ardgour
© Colin Wells, Nov 2016

Height: 885m (2904ft)

What's in a name?  Garbh Bheinn translates, roughly, to 'rough hill' – which is nothing if not descriptive.

Personality: Rugged, compact, rocky, and adventurous, with an attitude that says 'I don't need to be a Munro to be the best hill in Ardgour'.

So it's not a Munro, then? Garbh Bheinn misses out on the magic 3000ft / 914m contour by a smidgen, and it's arguably all the better for it. It tends to be quieter than most Munros of similar quality and has a wilder, more remote feel. But what it lacks in Munro status it makes up for as one of the finest Corbetts in the West Highlands.

Dusk on Garbh Bheinn  © Simon Dear
Dusk on Garbh Bheinn
© Simon Dear, Jul 2019

Best route: The best walking route is the full circuit of the ridges enclosing Coire an Iubhair to Garbh Bheinn's east, known as the Ardgour Horseshoe. Starting from the roadside in lower Glen Tarbert, a few miles west of the Corran Ferry, the walk climbs steep and boggy slopes to the sprawling ridge of Druim an Iubhair before heading north to Sgorr Mhic Eacharna (650m) and on to Beinn Bhean (736m). The views of Garbh Bheinn's dramatic climbing crags are wonderful from this side. After a sharp descent to Bealach Feith 'n Amean, there's an even steeper gully climb back out the other side. From Garbh Bheinn's summit, continue S then SE steeply back down to the road.

The bagger's route: Just want to get to the summit with minimum fuss? Head up the SE ridge (Sron a' Gharbh Choire Bhig). It's a steep pull up a rocky spur, but there's a clear path (not marked on the map) and the walk is interesting, with plenty of twists and turns (and, yes, false summits). Those of a bouldering disposition will find plenty of fun on slabby rock outcrops along the way.

Heading for Garbh Bheinn, with the Great Ridge straight ahead  © Dan Bailey
Heading for Garbh Bheinn, with the Great Ridge straight ahead
© Dan Bailey

Top scrambling option: Garbh Bheinn is a mountain made for those who like to get their hands on a bit of rock. That NE face, encircling the hanging corrie of Garbh Choire Mor, is home to a clutch of classic climbers' routes at a variety of grades. Scramblers will be drawn to Pinnacle Ridge, which gets a scrambling grade of 3(S) or a climbing grade of M depending on which guidebook you read. It's a serious route with steep rock and exposed aretes, but should be well within the capabilities of experienced climbers. Safety rope, basic rack and helmet recommended.

Summit landmarks: The summit is marked by a ramshackle cairn piled up on a low rock outcrop. Views are exceptional on a clear day, especially to the SE and E across Loch Linnhe.

On the amazing Pinnacle Ridge, more a mountaineer's scramble than a walker's route  © Dan Bailey
On the amazing Pinnacle Ridge, more a mountaineer's scramble than a walker's route
© Dan Bailey

Climbing heritage: Garbh Bheinn's most famous climbing route is probably The Great Ridge, now graded Difficult. The first ascent was made in April 1897 by W Brown and J.H. Bell – no relation to the better-known J.H.B. Bell, active a generation later (and who was the contemporary of W.H. Murray, author of the classic Mountaineering in Scotland). With a deserved reputation as one of Scotland's great easy mountaineering rock climbs (once you get above initial greenery), and also known as a quality grade III adventure in winter, the Great Ridge is a worthwhile climber's objective year-round (but not a place for walkers!).

Hidden gem: Inversanda Bay, where the Inversanda River pours into Loch Linnhe about a mile from the mountain's foot, is a lovely spot to spend a sunny autumn afternoon, with an attractive beach and wildlife-watching opportunities.

You can't argue with Garbh Bheinn's summit view  © Dan Bailey
You can't argue with Garbh Bheinn's summit view
© Dan Bailey

Where to stay? To the east there's the Corran Bunkhouse near the ferry crossing, and to the west there are several options in Strontian, from the Strontian Hotel to lodge accommodation at the Ariundle Centre.

Local pub: The Inn at Ardgour, near the Corran Ferry, has a public bar that serves food. There's also the little Bothy Bar at the Strontian Hotel.

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