Beinn a' Bheithir Walking

A superb round of the sculpted peaks that dominate the mouth of Loch Leven, the Ballachulish 'horseshoe' is a ridge walking classic complete with scrambly bits and expansive sea-and-mountain views. But now for a confession. I've neglected beautiful Beinn a' Bheithir for years, either blasting on through towards the Ben or stopping short in Glen Coe. There's always a plausible excuse of course, but the result was that when did I finally decide to make up for lost time last week, nearly 20 years had elapsed since my previous trip round these brilliant hills. Don't make the same mistake.

Site user Joak heads from Sgorr Dhonuill towards Sgorr Dhearg  © Dan Bailey -
Site user Joak heads from Sgorr Dhonuill towards Sgorr Dhearg
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NN0803557975 Head uphill past the school, and where the tarmac ends continue south on a track. Beyond a disused quarry the track narrows to a path through rough pastures. Just past a gate in a fence look out for a small cairn on the right.

NN0789856885 Turn off right here onto a well-trodden trail which makes a beeline up the heathery lower slopes onto the ENE ridge of Sgorr Bhan - the objective is obvious on the skyline above. The ridge steepens and narrows, providing some basic scrambling on a short series of airy rocky steps (easy winter climbing under snow). Beyond the crux section easier ground leads to a last steepening. On the gentler slopes above, bear left for the walk up to Sgorr Bhan's attractive little summit.

NN0626456048 Follow the ridge line into a gap and on up the graceful curving crest to the day's high point on Sgorr Dhearg - a magnificent spot. In heavy snow conditions the summit may run straight out onto a cornice overhanging the northeast face, and a little common sense might be advisable.

NN0567755826 Heading west-southwest, a broad ridge leads down to the low col between Beinn a' Bheithir's two Munros. Step through a decaying fence and continue up Sgurr Dhonuill's fine east ridge. Pass the top of the subsidiary ridge that leads out north to the satellite peak-let of Sgorr a' Chaolais, aka the Dragon's Tooth (scramble in summer, grade II in winter). The final summit ridge of Sgorr Dhonuill is narrow and airy with some very brief scrambling, and an alpine feel in winter.

Descend easily west onto the complex hummocky ground that characterises the western arm of Gleann a' Chaolais. It'd be possible to head right out to Creag Ghorm overlooking Loch Leven, but hard going on the tops and a final conifer-choked descent tend to rule that out.

NN0298255538 At a dip before the 824m summit marked on maps, bear right to reach a cairn overlooking the steep slope at the head of Gleann a' Chaolais. Pick your way down this with care (note seasonal variations in the info box) to reach the floor of the corrie, and a well-trodden path on the west bank of the obvious burn. This leads down into the pine plantations that cloak the glen.

NN0375056759 Meet a forestry road at a big U-bend. Turn right onto this for the long woodland march home, ignoring any downhill turn-offs as you go. Reach the coastal A82 near a little church, and follow the cycle/pedestrian lane back to Ballachulish.

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