High above Appin

Bienn Sgulaird (937m)

  • Pronunciation:             Bine Skoolarge
  • Translation:                  Mountain of the Old Hat
  • Total distance:              12km
  • Total time:                     6hrs 45mins
  • Total ascent:                  1100m
  • Weather:                        Fabulous: very sunny and clear. Snowline at 675m
  • Start / end location:     Druimavuic – at the head of Loch Creran [Grid Ref: NN 008 451]
  • Map:                                 A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

The starting point for Bienn Sgulaird is at the end of Loch Creran, which is a very small subsidiary loch off the east side of Loch Linnhe about 6 miles south of the village of Appin, which in turn is only about 12 miles south of Ballachulish. This peak stands in isolation so there’s no opportunity for staying high and bagging more than one Munro.

Looking down Loch Creran towards Beinn Sgulaird

We’ve been carefully watching the weather (I’d recommend Met Office West Highlands Mountain Forecast) and today promised to be cloudy, but improving throughout the day. The good news was that the clouds didn’t materialize and instead it started clear and sunny and remained so all day. And despite more overnight snow falls (the snowline was down to 675m) it actually felt a bit warmer on the tops compared to recent outings: probably due to slightly lighter winds and hence less wind chill.

We parked the ‘van at a lay-by on the A828 beside Druimavuic (large house). From here there was a muddy path (for about 400m) through a wooded grove until the track emerged onto the open hillside. We were greeted by a herd of cattle – one a rather large bull. He appeared at ease with walkers passing only a few feet away form him. After about a further 750m we branched off the track (marked by a small cairn) taking a smaller walkers path directly up the obvious ridgeline to reach a small top at 488m (marked on map). From this top we then had to drop down by about 50m before crossing a large col to gain the main ridge leading to another top at 863m (marked).

Looking SW from above the snowline

From this point at 863m we had to descend again to another col before taking the final ascent to the Munro summit. The snow was by now quite deep in places and because it was so fresh (and early in the season) it had not yet had much freeze-thaw action to consolidate it. The consequence for us was a continual struggle through, at times, knee-deep snow that clung to the sole and rand of our boots. A couple of chaps were ahead of us on the route, which gave them the pleasure (?) of breaking the trial through the snowfields.

We met the two chaps at the summit of Beinn Sgulaird. There aim was to descend by retracing their steps back down, whereas we had decided to press on NE to a narrow col and then turn NW to follow a steep descent line down a narrow ravine and bolder field. This proved to be very hard work. As anyone who has descended routes comprising large 2-3 feet rocks and boulders knows, it is very easy to loose your footing and wedge your foot in between the boulders. Apply a covering of deep unconsolidated snow and it magnifies the challenge. Sometimes we were able to descend nimbly by being lucky to step on top of the hidden rocks, whilst at other times we found ourselves knee deep in snowy holes.

Elaine at Beinn Sgulaird summit cairn

After what felt like ages we left the snow behind and then embarked on a knee crunching descent from 650m back to sea level. A 2.5km walk took us bag to our starting point. We were delight to be reunited with the ‘van.

It was then off to the Ballachulish Hotel for a pint before heading to the Invercoe Camping and Caravan Site in the village of Glencoe.

Cameron climbs to the top

The weather for tomorrow looks promising so our plan is to tackle Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach in Glen Coe. Bidean nam Bian, at 1150m, is the highest peak in Argyle Region.

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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