Bla Bheinn (928m)
- Pronunciation: Bla Vine
- Translation: Blue Mountain
- Total distance: 9.1km
- Total time: 3hrs 43mins
- Total ascent: 1037m
- Weather: Completely awful – extensive hill fog, continual rain and blustery gale force winds.
- Start / end location: The John Muir Trust car park on the opposite side of Loch Slapin from the township of Torrin on the A881 (from Broadford) [OS Map Sheet 32 – Grid Ref: NG 561 216]
- Map: A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.
We woke at 06.00 as usual to quite strong winds, very extensive fog and light rain. It was definitely a day to switch off the alarm, rollover and go back to sleep. Perhaps we should have – but the pull of conquering our 200th Munro was a strong one. So, we got up, but seemed to “drag our heels” a bit as we got ourselves organised.
Our original plan was to climb the two Munros at the southern end of the Cuillin – Sgurr Dubh Mor and Sgurr na Eag. However, this would have been quite a long expedition and the weather was not really conducive for us being outdoors for too long. So, after some indecisive rhetoric, coupled with a weather forecast that suggested an improving meteorological picture in the afternoon we changed our plans to an afternoon climb of Bla Bheinn – the only Munro on the island that doesn’t lie on the main Cuillin ridge. We hung about the ‘van until about 10:30 – but there was no sign of the improvement in the weather: it would surely come by early afternoon as forecast. Leaving the ‘van at the camping site near Loch Greshornish we set off south in the car bound for Broadford and then from there to Loch Slapin.
As we travelled the rain did not let up so we stopped en route at the Sligachan Hotel for a coffee and to while away some more time to see us into the afternoon. Still it rained.
At 12:30 we left the Sligachan and travelled about 14 miles round the coast to Broadford before turning right on the A881 (single-track) road towards Loch Slapin and beyond the township of Elgol on the shores of Loch Scavaig. Just round the head of Loch Slapin, directly opposite the hamlet of Torrin we parked up at the John Muir Trust car park at the start of our walk. Even at sea-level we could hardly see little houses of Torrin only 1km away due to the low cloud and mist. It was still raining when we left the car.
From the car park we went back onto the road and walked north for a couple of hundred metres until we’d crossed the Allt na Dunaiche burn via the road bridge. Once across we took the path west that ran along the course of the burn, passing some lovely little waterfalls as we progressed towards Coire Uaigneich, which sat directly beneath the massif of Bla Bheinn. Whilst we were still quite low on the path we met two chaps coming back down and we asked them what the conditions were like on the summit to which they replied that they’d turned back after entering the corrie as they’d come under considerable buffeting from the wind that was too uncomfortable for them: they decided that the climb could wait until Monday – if the weather improved.
Although a good path led right up to the back of this corrie, our route required us to branch off right (NW) when we were immediately below the towering cliffs of Bla Bheinn’s summit. The problem was that we only had around 10m visibility in any direction and the exit point from the path we were on was not at all obvious. Eventually, we passed a huge glacial erratic on our left and here the path started to climb round to the right and appeared to be heading in roughly the right direction – so we continued upwards. However, as we climbed higher the slope that we were on got considerably steeper and was covered in greasy-wet broken scree. At times we found ourselves getting hemmed into tight awkward gullies between rock buttresses: however, we could never see more than a few metres above us to determine if we were coming to impassable obstacles. I went ahead up one particularly steep gully and had to retreat and find an alternative way as vertical cliffs barred this way ahead.
Eventually, the battle with the misty route from hell was won and we reached the ridge on Bla Bheinn immediately between the main summit and its SW top. We quickly scrambled to the SW top before returning across the ridge and ascending to Bla Bheinn’s summit cairn and Trig Point at 928m or 3,045ft. The weather was so poor that we only took one photograph all day – and that was a self-held shot of us both at the summit – although in fairness it could have been anywhere! Elaine summed up the day so far with: “I can’t believe that we’re out in this” – well that definitely made two of us!
We’ve climbed Bla Bheinn before on a dry but misty day, and on that occasion we were fortunate to get some windows in the mist, which revealed stunning views westward across Glen Sligachan over the entire Cuillin Ridge – with the profile of Sgurr nan Gillean standing proud at the of the ridge in all of its serrated alpine glory.
Our descent path (which was also our intended ascent path) was much better than our “accidental” ascent route. The path left directly from the summit in a SE direction on a scree path that zigzagged down and between various rocky crags. Even here, however, there were a few times that the path crossed some boulder sections and then was hard to pick up again on the other side. Nevertheless, it was always a lot easier than our route of ascent.
Soon we had made it back down into Coire Uaigneich and we rejoined the path that we were on earlier. We looked back at the point of joining and agreed that in poor visibility it was very difficult to identify the path to / from the summit as the terrain was rocky and no secondary path was obvious. [Just in case this proves helpful to anyone else: the 10-figure GPS grid reference for the point where the two paths meet / diverge is NG 53529 21254.]
We returned to the road and the car park by our outward path, both agreeing that it had not been the best of days on the hill and so disappointing given that it was our 200th Munro so far. Still, we had a bottle of sparking wine waiting for us in the fridge back in the ‘van.
[The two photographs of Bla Bheinn “in clearer weather” were taken from Glen Sligachan on the other side of the hill (NNW) a couple of days after our climb of Bla Bheinn … we were descending from our climb of Bruach na Frithe and Am Basteir.]