West of Loch Monar – [# 220 & 221]

Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich (945m); Lurg Mhor (986m) &
Beinn Tharsuinn (863m) – Corbett

  • Pronunciation:             Beedyan uh Korrer Heskeech; Loorug Voar
  • Translation:                  Peak of the Corrie of the Farrow Cattle; Big Shin
  • Total distance:             32.9km (of which we cycled 11.4km)
  • Total time:                    9hrs 19mins
  • Total ascent:                 2105m
  • Weather:                       Bright, hot and very humid.
  • Start / end location:    Forest Enterprise car park 4.5km east of Achnashellach on the A890 road.  [OS Map Sheet 25 – Grid Ref: NH 047 495]
  • 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.

The summit of Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich from Beinn Tharsuinn

The guidebook description for this route alluded to it being long and remote by the simple statement: “whilst some hills on the fringes of this great mountain massif [between Glen Carron and Glen Shiel] can be accessed fairly easily, others like Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhor really have to be worked for” [Kew08]. It didn’t fail to live up to this expectation.

The summit of Beinn Tharsuinn (L) and Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich from the NNE

As we had done on 4 July we set out on our bikes, crossing first the Kyle to Inverness railway line before then climbing about 300m in height as we cycled into Gleann Fhiodhaig. After 5.7km we reached the second of the twin-wire bridges that cross the Allt a’ Chonais burn where we locked our bikes before making the crossing. The burn was low enough that we could use stepping-stones instead of the twin-wire “bridge” construction. Once on the south side of the burn we followed an excellent stalkers’ path SW up a glen leading to the Bealach Bhearnais.

A lizard clings to Cameron's t-shirt

At the bealach we turned left and ascended a few tens of metres to reach a broad col immediately below the SW ridge of Beinn Tharsuinn and the west ridge of Sgurr Choinnich (the latter was our ascent route on the 4 July outing). We climbed the SW ridge, steeply at first and plagued with midges, before the gradient eased a little to provide an enjoyable ascent to a subsidiary peak at the top of the ridge. Here we turned south and descended a little before a final climb took us to the summit of Beinn Tharsuinn (a Corbett at 863m). From here we got an excellent view southward to the day’s two Munros. Of particular note was the deep dividing gash of the Bealach an Sgoltaidh that we would have to descend down to (a drop of 320m from our present position) before we could even begin the climb up the very steep and craggy north face of Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich.

Looking NW from near the summit of Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich

Looking NE from near the summit of Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich to Beinn Tharsuinn (L), Sgurr Choinnich (C) and Sgurr a' Chaorachain (R)

Cameron at the summit of Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich with Lurg Mhor in the background

From the summit of Beinn Tharsuinn we dropped in a SW direction to reach a small lochan (unnamed) before veering west along a broad ridge that connected to a subsidiary top at 795m. As we crossed this ridge we saw horse hoof tracks in the mud as well as other evidence that horses had recently been up here. When we reached the saddle point in the ridge (no pun intended) we descended diagonally down the steep grassy hillside on the south to reach the top of the Bealach an Sgoltaidh.

As we neared the bealach, a stone dyke crossed the pass and ran up each opposing hillside. We followed this dyke up the north face side of Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich until it ran out after 50m when it came up against the first rock crag obstacle. A faint path then weaved its way around most of the difficult ground until a short section of scrambling was required to overcome an almost vertical section of rock escarpment. The scrambling was quite exposed but always straightforward.  At the top of this first escarpment the route through the next section of cliffs wasn’t at first obvious. We examined the ground for telltale boot prints and saw a few running westward along the grassy rim of the escarpment. We followed these for a short distance before dismissing them, as the cliff face above remained unrelenting in its steepness. We then returned to the point where we’d breached the escarpment and headed in the opposite (easterly) direction. Here we found some more promising signs in the form of one or two “cairns” – no more than one rock placed on another – but nonetheless manmade. Sure enough, after a few metres we came to a devious grassy ramp that ran steeply up a hidden fissure in the rock wall and provided the key to overcoming the next section of cliff.

Looking from near the summit of Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich towards the summit of Lurg Mhor

Once we reached the top of the grass ramp the going became much easier as we scrambled our way up to where the ridge began to level. After crossing a small top on the ridge we reached a col complete with a small dark lochan. A final pull upwards brought us to the summit of Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich at 945m or 3,100ft. From the summit we looked back to the peak at 795m on Beinn Tharsuinn and could make out four white horses near the crest, which we assumed to be a breed of wild Highland garron – the same type as we’d see at Ben Alder several months ago.

Elaine at the summit of Lurg Mhor

We descended SE from the summit via an easy ridge to a col that lay to the west of our second Munro objective, Lurg Mhor. From the col a path led steeply upward for around 80m before it gave way to a ridge of more modest gradient, which continued all the way to the cairn at the summit of Lurg Mhor at a height of 986m or 3,235ft. As with Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich, the views from Lurg Mhor were spectacular in all directions. We noted particularly the two Munros that we’d climbed on 4 July to the north of us on the opposite side of Loch Monar.

Looking back from the summit of Lurg Mhor WNW towards Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich

Looking east to Loch Monar from the Bealach an Sgoltaidh

For our return leg we had a couple of options: (1) we could retrace our steps back over Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich and then Beinn Tharsuinn, or (2) drop back to the col to the west of Lurg Mhor and then descend NE to the bottom of Bealach na Sgoltaidh by the western fringe of Loch Monar before rounding the nose of the ESE ridge of Beinn Tharsuinn and then following the course of the Allt Bealach Crudhain to the Bealach Bhearnais. We chose the latter.

The descent to the western end of Loch Monar was very pleasant through deep, dry grass. Before reaching the shore-side we crossed the burn flowing down from the Bealach na Sgoltaidh at around the 300m contour line and kept to this height as we traversed around the nose of Beinn Tharsuinn’s ridge. We then crossed over the Allt Bealach Crudhain burn (at the 300m contour) and then followed its course NNW to eventually reach the Bealach Bhearnais. This was the bealach that we’d used to begin our ascent of Beinn Tharsuinn earlier in the day. From the bealach we then had a pleasant, but very warm and humid descent of 2.5km back to where we’d locked our bikes.

Our return bike journey was nothing short of brilliant. The 300m height we’d gained during our outbound leg of the cycle meant that we hardly had to turn a pedal the whole way back: it was a very fast descent with a maximum speed recorded at 54kph (33.5mph) – on gravel forestry road, so not for the faint hearted!

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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