NEW ROUTE CARD: East Ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn and Beinn Teallach

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An amenable mountaineering route in a spectacular setting, the East Ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn is a fantastic introduction to winter climbing, and makes an equally satisfying trip for more experienced teams looking for a fast-moving day. Formerly a mud-fest, access has become much easier in recent years thanks to an ugly but convenient forestry road. After a steep, turfy start, the ridge itself proves friendly in most conditions, with some mild exposure and a few largely optional rocky steps; and like a classic ridge should, it brings you to within a few strides of the summit cairn. The fairly featureless summit ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn is a grand viewpoint in good visibility, but an infamous navigational black spot when the clag is in - beware cornices. Most parties will probably opt for the quick descent back to the road, but on a good day it's worth prolonging the fun and earning an extra Munro tick with a continuation onto neighbouring Beinn Teallach.

10.81 miles, 17.40 km, 1,167m ascent, 5 – 7 hours. Fort William

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 Norman Hadley 21 Jan 2024
In reply to Dan Bailey -

Glad you mentioned the cornices, Dan. Back in the day, the OS map 1:50,000 map used to show a direct bearing between the tops so I was following the compass trustingly through a total white-out.

To this day, I don't know what made me stop - it was nothing visual, maybe just a shift in wind speed or direction that told me the edge was near. A crack propagated across the snow by my feet and I lunged rightwards like a goalkeeper stretching for a penalty kick to get an axe into something secure, just as half the hill whoomped down into the clag.

I might have shrugged it off as one more near miss if I hadn't read about the horrific fatality there had been at the same spot the previous winter, when the victim's body wasn't found until August.

Anyway, don't want to be a buzzkill - it's a damn fine hill, but it's one to respect.

 Jamie Hageman 21 Jan 2024
In reply to Dan Bailey -

The East Ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn is one of my absolute favourite grade IIs.  Take all the obstacles direct and it's brilliant!  Heading North then East and climbing Creag Meagaidh is a nice add on as I find Beinn Teallach is less interesting, apart from the river valley to the main road which is beautiful through the forests.  Careful navigation is required on Beinn a' Chaorainn in poor vis - it's not at all obvious ground and is disconcerting at times.  

 Lankyman 21 Jan 2024
In reply to Dan Bailey -

When I was bagging we did these two hills on different days out and both in less than optimal weather. For Teallach we approached up the obvious glen which wasn't particularly inspiring. To enliven our walk we left the glen and headed up a fairly obvious looking stream bed which seemed to head directly to the top. It actually turned out to be quite a nice, continuous scramble and most likely an improvement on the trudge up to the bealach.

In reply to Norman Hadley:

Lucky escape Norman! It's a notorious spot as I'm sure you now know: the edge is incut, so a direct bearing between the two summits leads out over the cornice. 

 Fat Bumbly 2.0 21 Jan 2024
In reply to Dan Bailey -

Late 1980s or so - three parties went through on the same day IIRC

 Norman Hadley 22 Jan 2024
In reply to Dan Bailey -

Wow, FB.

This is a clipping (probably from Climber and Hillwalker) I kept from thirty years ago. How little the hills change...

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