Thursday, 11 February 2016

Beinn Bhan, Gairlochy

Summit of Beinn Bhan from the Coire Mhuilinn ridge
Inverskilavulin House and the slopes to the ridge
Looking north east from the south cairn of the Coire Mhuilinn ridge
Towards the summit
The last leg to the summit
Job done

Our fellow walker's car
Wednesday, 10 February 2016
Ascent:       810 metres
Distance:    9 kilometres
Time:         3 hours 47 minutes

Beinn Bhan - western top    771m          1hr   50mins
Beinn Bhan summit             796m          2hrs  26mins

We had expected a cloudy wet day after the downpour of last night but there were signs of a blue sky, it felt as if the rains may hold off in the morning. Our choice of hills was either a return to Glen Roy to climb the remaining two corbetts at opposite sides of the glen or to drive across to Gairlochy and climb the isolated Beinn Bhan from Glen Loy. We chose the latter, it would be a shorter day and the steep climbs of the two hills in Glen Roy might be quicker on a summer's day in lightweight gear.

We passed through Gairlochy with its collection of new kit houses and started from Inverskilavulin house. We had parked at the foot of a forestry track to Stob a' Ghrianain, a splendid looking Graham, that is opposite the bridge that crosses the river Loy. Inverskilavulin house has been renovated and a couple of holiday chalets have been built in the grounds. They are fenced in which requires the walker to turn left just before the entrance to the house and follow a muddy path round the property. It sets you at the start of the unforgiving slopes to Coire Mhuilinn. It is a 680 metre climb up the steep grass covered slopes with no respite. The faint path reminds you that others have managed it this far.

The snow level was down to about 600 metres but it is only when you reach 750 metres that the gradient decreases. Once on the curving and graceful ridge we were in our element. The snow held up most of the time and the 2 kilometre ridge round Coire Mhuilinn to the trig point and summit at 796 metres is a perfect high level winter walk with a total ascent of only 65 metres as you follow the beautiful cast iron fence posts to the summit. The cornice to the north of the ridge was quite impressive and we kept our distance from its edge. Even with lots of stops for photos it is little more than half an hour along the ridge.

There was a sharp cold breeze at the summit so we took in the views before beginning our descent to the south. The Grey Corries looked ominous below the grey cloud in the east, Gulvain occasionally slipped its mantle of cloud in the west and Loch Arkaig and Loch Lochy were glints of blue radiating from Beinn Bhan. We dropped down to about 550 metres just below the snow line and found some rocks to provide seating for some lunch, a cheese and tomato roll, orange and a coffee.

As we set off again we fell in step with the lone walker who had set off five minutes behind us and was following the same route. He was a web developer who lived in Skye and was taking a few days to tackle the more remote munros and corbetts from his home. We had one of those half hour conversations that reassure you that the younger generation of walkers have sound values. I was pleased to discover that creative thoughtful people are taking advantage of the internet to locate their business in a place that satisfies their love of the great outdoors. He was the proud owner of a Citroen 2CV and this fitted his lifestyle perfectly.

We had some trouble finding our way round the fences that surround Inverskilavulin house at the foot of the hill. They are a deterrent to the right to roam, but we eventually crossed a fence and found an open gateway leading to a ford to cross the burn just before the bridge over the river Loy. It was not yet 2pm and, as we started the drive home, the rains arrived. I was home by 4:30pm after a thoroughly enjoyable two days of winter hill walking.

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