Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Beinn Eighe (Ruadh-stac Mor: 1010m, 3314')

With: on my own
Where: Kinlochewe, Wester Ross, NW Scotland
Weather: Frequent squally showers; wind building to gale force south westerly; cloud above the highest summits most of the day

Choire Mhic Fhearchair
Although a frequent visitor to the Highlands I've spent more time in a canoe when there than on foot so during this current visit I took the opportunity to enjoy a day on the hill. The hill of choice was Beinn Eighe - it was a good choice!
I set off from the car park on the A896 at the bottom of the Coire Dubh which separates the Liathach from the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve. It was a wild squally morning and there were only a handfull of vehicles parked up. The initial trudge up the path and across the stepping stones, which allow a dry shod crossing of the Allt a'Choire Dhuibh Mhoir, was under bright blue skies and in the company of a stiff south westerly breeze. I headed north, where the path divides at a small lochan, tracking around the base of the large bulk of Sail Mor. I didn't see many folk all day but on this section I was completely alone and the view out across the wilderness that lay in the north west quadrant was inspiring, it lifts my spirits to see such vast areas untouched in this country.
It was with a sense of anticipation that I "rounded the bend" towards Coire Mhic Fhearchair, about which I have read so much - the finest mountain scene in Scotland? The waterfalls were in full spate with the rapidly strengthening wind blowing constant spray from the upper cascade.

It wasn't long before I had climbed the final few metres to be greeted with the sight of Choire Mhic Fhearchair; triple buttress and the summit ridge leading to Rhuadh-stac Mor, my main objective of the day.

The scene was"ampitheatre-like" an expanse of bare rock in the foreground; changing shades of green through to grey as the wind disturbed the surface of the water; the towering mass of Triple Buttress to my right and steep scree streaked slopes protecting the ridge to my left. It is indeed a classic view one which I'm not sure my photograph above does justice to.
After soaking up the scene for a few moments I crossed the water issuing from the corrie and headed around the east shore before selecting a route to scramble up on to the ridge. I'm not sure I chose well at all - the ascent was a hard slog over loose rock up, round and over boulders but it was good to get acquainted more closely with the Torridonian sandstone and Quartzite which add a special colour and feel to this environment. I eventually emerged on the  ridge in a howling gale with the summit of Ruadh-stac Mor about 200m to my left, I paused for a moment and vowed to find an alternative route down (my original plan had been to traverse the ridge taking in Spidean Coire nan Clach but I had already concluded by this time that the wind might well have ejected me from the ridge, the forecast was for 75 mph by afternoon & it must have been close to). The last few metres into the wind and a short scramble to the summit cairn were a pleasure & I was rewarded with fine views in all directions.
My chosen line of ascent - not good!

I re-traced my steps along the ridge with a wind that had picked up to the point that it was really quite difficult to stay upright and headed for an obvious col that I had spotted from the loch below which was at the head of a red sandy coloured "rake" hoping this might provide a better line of descent - it did. There was still plenty of scrambling and a little slipping and sliding particularly towards the bottom where the small loose stuff had piled up no doubt helped by the footfall of many others via this route. The section from the foot of the rake to the shore of the loch took a little longer than I had anticipated as the scrambling over slippy, wet, sometimes small car sized boulders continued. Once back on the east shore of the loch it just remained for me to reverse my route in to conclude a great day on a big mountain with the reward of expansive views and much solitude - quality!
Ruadh-stac Mor Summit Cairn
View North
Red Sandy "Rake" my Line of Descent - Would Have Been Better in Ascent Also