Beinn Eighe - Spidean Coire nan Clach & the Black Carls Walking

A scrambly outing at the eastern end of the sprawling Beinn Eighe massif, this is one of the top days out in an area rightly renowned for its ridge walks and scrambles. The traverse of the massif from Creag Dubh to the eastern of Beinn Eighe's two Munros, Spidean Coire nan Clach, takes in several summits and some spectacular airy ridges. Highlight of the day are the Bodaich Dubh, or Black Carls, a rank of shattered quartzite teeth that provide the meat of the hands-on action. A straightforward grade 1 scramble in summer, the Carls present a very different challenge in winter, and are best left to confident mountaineers.

On Sgurr Ban heading for Spidean Coire nan Clach  © Dan Bailey -
On Sgurr Ban heading for Spidean Coire nan Clach
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NH0245160977 From the layby on the A896 between the houses at Cromasaig and Cairn Shiel, a trail heads northwest through the trees to meet a made path. This runs roughly west towards the mountain, passing through the regenerating native woods of the Beinn Eighe National Nature reserve. After crossing open ground the path runs along the north side of the gorge of the Allt a' Chuirn, where the beautiful old scots pines give a sense of what the area would have been like before deforestation (and hopefully will be again).

NH0015760987 The trail descends into the steep burn cutting. Hop over the burn and follow the continuation of the path up the crest of a defined ridge between two branches of the burn. Follow the high ground roughly west towards Creag Dhubh. Where the ridge ahead rises in a steep craggy nose look out for a trail that cuts up right to skirt north of the steepest ground. This makes a rising traverse above the steep burn cutting before climbing back up left on rough stony ground to regain the ridge crest. This is followed without further difficulty to the summit of Creag Dhubh.

NG9855260806 Follow the broad ridge around the head of Coire Domhain. Pass over a minor top to a col. Ahead, the craggy Black Carls bar access to the peak of Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe. Climb direct over the first pinnacle, then follow the ridge over or around a series of smaller teeth. Descend into a notch at the head of a steep gully, then climb a corner to gain the easier crest above. Make a longer descent to another gap at the head of a second deep gully. The crux step rises above. If tackled direct this is best climbed just on the left of the crest, with some steep moves - watch out for loose blocks. Alternatively it can be skirted by moving round onto a rubbly path on the left (east) flank before climbing more easily to regain the ridge. Note that this avoiding manoeuvre may not be an option if there's deep snow. The summit lies just beyond.
Heading for the Black Carls   © Dan Bailey -
Heading for the Black Carls
© Dan Bailey -, Feb 2020

NG9816360041 Turning west, descend steep scree to a low col at the head of the Toll Ban. The continuation ridge onto Sgurr Ban is a bit of a plod, but straightforward in summer conditions. Poised above its ragged northern crags, the sharp summit of Sgurr Ban is a fantastic viewpoint. Carrying on roughly west, the ridge narrows into an airy crest, a stunning bit of ridge walking with one or two very easy hands-on sections. From the next col it's a short easy ascent to the high point of the day on Spidean Coire nan Clach.

NG9662259789 Follow the scrambly ridge to the lower west top (misleadingly, the one marked with a trig point). Here turn south down a broad shoulder to a cairn overlooking Coire an Laoigh. A cairn marks the drop-off point for the well-used path into the corrie. From the floor of the corrie bowl this easy trail winds down through the knobbly lower slopes to reach a car park in Glen Torridon. Turn left onto the A896. It's a long road walk back to Kinlochewe (not included in my distance figures), but an optimistic hitchhike usually does the trick.

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