East Ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn and Beinn Teallach Walking

An amenable mountaineering route in a spectacular setting, the East Ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn is a fantastic introduction to winter climbing (if in doubt, hire a guide), 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.

Creag Meagaidh from the east Ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Creag Meagaidh from the east Ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn

See our article on this route

Fetching Map

Detailed description

1
NN3907881792 Briefly follow the road verge west, to the wide gated forestry track entrance. The track zigzags uphill; stay with it for only a few hundred metres. Having passed a burn, turn left and head straight uphill through an area of clear-fell devastation, like a WWI battlefield minus the blood and terror - it's marked as a fire break on old pre-felling maps. Join a higher forestry track and follow it northeast and then north, entering a higher pine plantation. The new stony motorway soon ends, now continuing as a rather less-stark older track, leading steadily uphill for a further 1.5km or so to the upper edge of the pines.

2
NN3984085057 The East Ridge is now clearly seen; it may look a bit intimidating from a distance, but proves less so up close. Turn west, ascending heathery ground, then climbing more steeply onto the shoulder that marks the start of the ridge. The broad lower crest leads quickly to the base of the steeper section that marks the start - and the crux - of the graded climbing.
Snowy day on Beinn a' Chaorainn, heading up the East Ridge  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Snowy day on Beinn a' Chaorainn, heading up the East Ridge
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com

3
NN3900385167 Here there are two options. The harder start (grade II) is head-on, zigzagging up the steep turfy ground between the rock outcrops on the frontal nose of the ridge - some teams may want to climb this in a couple of roped pitches. The easier start is via a shallow snow gully just to the right of the steeper ground (a bit exposed, but only grade I). Both options soon rejoin on the ridge crest. Now continue up the ridge. The position is grand, and the more difficult rocky steps on the crest (II) can always be avoided to the right (I). In most conditions, able winter climbers are likely to be happy soloing, but again some teams may appreciate a rope. The summit cairn comes too soon.
On Beinn a' Chaorainn, with the East Ridge in profile. Where the plateau edge incuts, take care not to walk off the cornice!  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
On Beinn a' Chaorainn, with the East Ridge in profile. Where the plateau edge incuts, take care not to walk off the cornice!
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com

4
NN3860185069 If daylight or weather are pressing, most folk will probably want to descend straight to the road (see winter notes, right, for safety advice). Given time, the continuation to Beinn Teallach makes a nice round. First head northwest and then north along the broad summit ridge, being aware of the often-large cornices that can build on the craggy east edge. From the hill's northern top, continue briefly north before bearing northwest on the long, fairly steep, descent to Tom Mor, the bealach separating the two Munros.
Descending towards Tom Mor  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Descending towards Tom Mor
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com

5
NN3712386782 Carry on west, climbing quite steeply onto the northeast ridge of Beinn Teallach. This provides a pleasant ascent through knobbly ground, soon reaching the twin summit of the hill - the higher point is the first one you come to, though the second top is perhaps a slightly better viewpoint.

6
NN3601685891 Descend almost due south, following the well-trodden standard Munroist's path down a sloppy slope (be thankful that you didn't come up this way). Close to the forestry at the foot of the hill, bear slightly left to pass through a gate in a deer fence, then continue down the path beside the Allt a' Chaorainn to the flat ground at the bottom of the glen. The burn - almost a river - is usually best crossed at the ford marked on the map, but in high water this will not be achieved dry-shod, and if there's a safety concern then a long detour up-glen may be needed.

7
NN3634782233 Join a forest track heading east. At a junction in a clear-felled area there's a choice of route; it's quickest to turn right, following a track down through the firs to the A86 at Roughburn. A speedy 1.5km along the grassy verge will bring you back to the car park: this is not a busy road, but it is a fast one, so take care.

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Further Routes

by Dan Bailey UKH



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