Thursday, 26 May 2016

Beinn Odhar Beag, Beinn Mhic Cedidh

Beinn Odhar Mhor and Bheag from Beinn Mhic Cedidh

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Ascent:     1303 metres
Distance:   13 kilometres
Time:         5 hours 49 minutes

    Beinn Odhar Mhor    870m   1hr 54mins
c  Beinn Odhar Bheag  882m   2hrs 33mins
c  Beinn Mhic Crdidh   783m   3hrs 45mins

The two corbetts to the west of Loch Shiel at Glenfinnan offer steep slopes and sublime scenery to the walker. The starting point on the A830 beyond Glenfinnan is at the high point where a gate leads across the West Highland railway line from a parking space for half a dozen cars. It was 11:30 by the time we started the walk and as we began climbing I heard the familiar barking rhythm of a Stanier Black 5 locomotive climbing up the glen. I waited for the chance to capture the train as it appeared round the bend, a reprise of all those times I had watched and heard this locomotive as a ten and eleven year old. Then they were the most common locomotive on the BR network, now they are the workhorse of preserved steam locomotive collections.

Having wasted time on a bit of train spotting nostalgia, we continued to climb the fierce slopes that are interspersed with several rock bands that needed careful threading. I took the wrong line at one point and had to spend ten minutes extricating myself from exposed and slippery rocks. Once on the ridge the gradient slackened and we entered the delightful coire. Numerous erratics of quartzite were randomly perched on the exposed schist. Several burns ran down dispensing a sweet cool refreshment. We were once again blessed with a bright day with a breeze to take the heat out of the climb. 

At the summit of the confusingly named Beinn Odhar Mhor there were three walkers and a dog sitting having their lunch and not very welcoming, not surprising given the remoteness and intensity of the ascent. We barely broke step and continued over to the twin peak of the slightly higher Beinn Odhar Beag, it looks smaller from Glenfinnan, hence the name inversion. It is a delightful romp across a broad bealach that passes a vertical drop to Loch Shiel before the final climb to the summit. On a warm afternoon, we could sit and enjoy the views as we ate some lunch.

It is a long descent of 400 metres to the bealach before Beinn Mhic Cedidh and an energy sapping 300 metre climb to the summit. Views from here were equally good but a slight haze hung over the views to Rum and Skye. The rout down is by a ridge to the north that  is narrow and interesting but eventually there is a need to veer to the east for the final 350 metres of descent into the broad glen. There is a metal footbridge and then a boggy path that leads down to the railway line, a narrow bridge under the line and then after another kilometre you reach some stepping stones over the river.

Then just a ten minute walk along the road to the car park at the high point of the road. A young walker was preparing to go out and he turned out to be the fireman from the steam locomotive. He had seen the hill we were on today and wanted to climb it on a perfect spring evening. He advised us to eat at the Prince's House Hotel and told us that he had just secured a job firing the Flying Scotsman, which was to be maintained and run by the company he worked for before being handed over to York Railway Museum in two years time. What a job.

Black 5 on the Mallaig train
On the ascent of Beinn Odhar Mhor, view to Streap
Looking west to Ross Bheinn and Rum
From Beinn Odhar Bheag towards Loch Shiel and Streap
Descending the north ridge of Beinn Mhic Cedidh

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