Only the mad venture out! – [# 276 – 277]

Luinne Bheinn (939m) and Meall Buidhe (946m)

  • Pronunciation:            Loonya Vane; Miaowl Vooyuh
  • Translation:                 The Sea-swelling Mountain; Yellow Mountain
  • Total distance:             20.8km
  • Total time:                    7hrs 34mins
  • Total ascent:                 1832m
  • Weather:                       Absolutely appalling – heavy rain all day with gale force winds. The only consolation was that the wind was noticeably warm.
  • Start / end location:   The bothy by Barrisdale Bay on the shores of Loch Hourn – Knoydart. [OS Map Sheet 33 – Grid Ref: NG 872 042]
  • Map:                               A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

Elaine approaching the summit cairn on Luinne Bheinn in very wet and windy conditions

Last night it absolutely poured down with the rain being driven by gale-force winds that pounded on the roof of the bothy. As we lay in our bunks we thought, “here we go again”! This time there was no question of us switching of the alarm and rolling over and going back to sleep: we had two Munros to climb.

We got up and reluctantly began packing for a wet and very windy day on the hills. As we ate breakfast Adrian joined us in the kitchen area and we were really envious when he said that because of the poor weather he was going to stay in and read his book – we really wished that we could do the same.

After delaying our start as long as possible we left the bothy – in the pouring rain – and made our way across the bridge over the River Barrisdale. The river was running very high and our hopes for the day were diminishing as rapidly as the water was coursing beneath the bridge! Having crossed the bridge we continued along the land-rover track before then taking a walkers’ path that climbed up towards Man Barrisdale. As we reached the crest of the bealach we were confronted with ever increasing blustery winds, which didn’t exactly bode well for the remainder of the walk.

The cloud level was not much higher than our position on the bealach at 450m as we left the path and ascended south-easterly around what appeared through the cloud as a steep rocky buttress. Once around the buttress we climbed towards the col at Bachd Mhic an Tosaich. From the col we continued on a line that skirted below the NNW ridge from Luinne Bheinn’s summit. In driving rain and thick cloud we arrived soaked to the skin by the summit cairn at 939m or 3,081ft. The wind was howling with gale-force 50-60mph gusts and I questioned the sense on proceeding to the next Munro summit. Elaine, though, was adamant that we neither had the inclination nor the time to return to bag the second Munro before our completion deadline of 1 October. So, rather reluctantly we continued our journey to the east top at 937m.

Cameron at the summit cairn on Meall Buidhe in very wet and windy conditions - rain on the lens has smudged the photo

The only consolation of the day was that the air temperature was actually quite warm and despite the ferocious wind and the fact that we were soaked we did not feel particularly chilled: it is the wind-chill effect that causes considerable danger in such weather and we thankfully weren’t experiencing it. [As an aside, had the temperature been cooler, I’d have had no hesitation in abandoning the rest of the climb on the grounds of staying safe – deadline or no deadline.] As it was, we descended south from the east summit to reach the first of several cols en route to Meall Buidhe.

Our route took us up a jumble of craggy little cliffs to the top of Meall coire na Gaoithe ‘n Ear before dropping down the other side to reach the Bealach Ile Coire. From the bealach we climbed up the narrowing ENE ridge to reach the summit of Meall Buidhe’s east top (942m). A short arcing NNW around the lip of the rugged northern corrie brought us to our second Munro summit cairn at 946m or 3,104ft. The rain and wind hadn’t let up so far and when I took my camera out of my pocket the lens was soaked and misted up. All that Elaine could do was use her finger to clear the lens – and it shows in the second photograph of the day!

We quickly abandoned the summit and retraced our steps right back to a little shoulder immediately to the SE of Luinne Bheinn’s east top. This involved us having to regain a fair bit of height, but it led to a preferable descent route – especially given there would have been much confusing and tricky ground to cover if we attempted to descend by any other route. From the shoulder at 850m we turned east and scrambled down the wet ridge towards the stalkers’ path at Mam Unndalain. Before we reached the path we deviated north to descend through a small shallow glen. We then followed the path along the south side of the Allt Gleann Unndalain burn. However, I chose to leave the path early to seek a safe crossing over the raging burn at a position higher up its course and before it was joined by several other tributary but equally fiercely flowing burns. This proved to be have been a good call as we managed to find a suitable crossing but were left in no doubt that we’d have struggled to cross any further down stream (where the path is supposed to cross the burn!) Now on the north side of the burn we made our way over a rough section of a few hundred metres before we regained the path that led us all the way back passed the ‘White House’ at Ambraigh and then onto the track back to the bothy.

We were like a pair of drowned rats when we arrived at the bothy and we were so glad not to have been staying in a tent – somehow the £3 per night seemed extremely good value for money. We got in, hung up all our equipment and changed into a dry set of clothes. Adrian was quick to confirm that he thought us slightly mad – I’d prefer to think that we were ‘hard-core’ … but possibly Adrian was closer to the truth!

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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