Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill (1062m) and Sgurr Fiona (1060m)
- Pronunciation: Beedyan uh Glaz Hail; Skoor Fiona
- Translation: Peak of the Grey-green Hollow; Mountain of Wine (or White Mountain)
- Total distance: 14.3km
- Total time: 5hrs 46mins
- Total ascent: 1388m
- Weather: Dull, wet and misty with gale force winds and some hail on the summits.
- Start / end location: Parking on the A832 just east of Dundonnell Hotel at the head of Little Loch Broom. [OS Map Sheet 19 – Grid Ref: NH 093 880]
- 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.
It has often been said by many in the climbing fraternity that An Teallach (with its sweeping castellated ridge) is the best mountain in Britain. Although I’m not sure how one goes about judging something like a mountain as “the best”, our view of An Teallach’s eastern profile from Eididh nan Clach Geala (see photo above taken on 4 September) showed it to be quite spectacular indeed.
That was four days ago, whereas today, we were at the foot of the mountain in fairly awful weather, armed only with a forecast suggesting deteriorating conditions – blamed on the remnants of hurricane Katia reaching the NW of Scotland. So it was that we began our ascent of Britain’s “best mountain”: in misty and wet conditions that could have made it any hill in Scotland.
Our ascent route began, conveniently enough, at the Dundonnell Mountain Rescue building at the head of Little Loch Broom. We walked east along the A832 for a couple of hundred metres and just before reaching two wooden cottages found the start of the walkers’ path. The first obstacle was crossing the burn running alongside the road and passing in front of the cottages. Although actually a tiny burn, it had risen to cover the two or three stepping-stones needed to make a dry crossing. As we had our gaiters and waterproof over-trousers on we chose to quickly “sprint” across – not worried about wetting our boots. Once across we walked behind the cottages and began slowly to make our way up the nose of Meall Garbh.
The path marked on the OS map shows it zigzagging all the way to the top of Meall Garbh, however, the path on the ground seemed to favour traversing round the nose and into the long glen that runs to the south. We chose to follow the path as, although very wet in places, it seemed like there were plenty of rocky outcrops to act as stepping-stones.
We entered the lower end of the glen, which was relatively easy-angled and flanked by Meall Garbh to the north and Glas Mheall Mor (979m) to the south. We made steady progress up its entire length until we eventually emerged at Sron a’ Choire (863m), a col directly north of our first Munro summit, Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill. By this point we’d entered the cloud base and out of the shelter of the glen and were now being buffeted by the strong wind and driving rain.
From the col we climbed east to a small top sitting between Glas Mheall Mor (979m) and Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill. We turned south and dropped a few tens of metres before climbing the north ridge to the summit Trig Point at 1062m or 3,484ft on Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill. Visibility was very poor on the summit. We approached the final section to the Trig Point from the west, with the prevailing wind at our backs. As we sought shelter on the eastern side we were greeted by two other walkers nestled in the lee of the ridge. Their comment was the same as ours: “And we thought that we were the only mad fools out on a day like this!” We stopped for lunch with them in the relative sanctuary of our leeward position but soon we all moved off as the rain got heavier.
We started off slightly in front of the other two and were immediately hit by pounding hail mixed in with the biting wind. We had to quickly change from our thin to our thick gloves!
In the thick mist we navigated our way to the next slightly lower Munro summit of Sgurr Fiona at 1060m or 3,478ft. To reach it we actually traversed across the western face of the hill to Lord Berkeley’s Seat before cutting back up the ridge to the summit. It was a very straightforward approach, which we did in reverse back to the first Munro summit to begin our descent.
Just a few metres from the top of Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill we were able to skirt around the west side to join the north ridge back to the col above the long glen that we’d climbed earlier. From the col we descended the glen and rounded the nose of Meall Garbh once more to reach the back of the cottages. Another quick sprint across the burn and we were safely back on the road near the car park.
Once we’d packed away all our wet gear we drove the couple of hundred metres to the Dundonnell Hotel for some coffee and shortbread.
Arguably the best route to climb An Teallach is to approach via the track from Corrie Hallie and from there begin at the subsidiary top of Sail Liath (954m) in the SE, making the scrambling (grade 3) traverse of the various pinnacles leading to Lord Berkeley’s Seat, then climbing to the first Munro summit of Sgurr Fiona followed by the second of Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill before descending Glas Tholl back to the roadside. Today, the awful conditions of heavy rain and gale force winds, would have made this route unpleasant at least and probably quite dangerous so we recognise that we have not been able to do this mountain justice: it is one that we will return to someday to enjoy the full traverse of its splendid ridge.