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Bidean nam Bian
Looking south over Glen Coe to Bidean nam Bian (in the centre) with the last patches of winter snow
Country: Scotland
Location: Glen Coe
Accommodation: Glencoe Youth Hostel and campsites near the Clachaig Inn. Hotel and B&B in Glencoe village.
Transport: Buses run along the glen.
Maps: Landranger Map 0041: Ben Nevis, Fort William & Glen Coe
Trip Date: 25 June 1993
Also See:
Bidean nam Bian and a couple of the new Munros by Paul Kennedy.
A great description of Coire Gabhail by Beverley Mercer.
Introduction

Bidean nam Bian (peak of the mountains, 1150m) is a massive and complicated massif towering over the south side of Glen Coe (the name applies both to the mountain and the range). The summit lies on a north-east facing ridge with a Y-shaped extension to the north creating three excellent corries. The two peaks at the Glen Coe end of the ridge and the neighbouring peak at the end of the Beinn Fhada ridge are known as the Three Sisters. A combination of steepness and height enables these peaks to hide the summit of Bidean nam Bian from the glen. However there are impressive glimpses of the immense buttresses under the summit from Loch Achtriochtan. All of the routes up the mountain have some degree of scrambling over scree and rock.

This area is the home of three of the new (1997) Munros - Stob na Broige (955m) on Buachaille Etive Mor, Stob Coire Raineach (924m) on Buachaille Etive Beag and Stob Coire Sgreamhach (1070m) to the east of Bidean nam Bian. I suspect that the reason for adding the first two mountains was that they are a fair distance (2-3 kilometres) away from their adjacent Munros (with long high ridges connecting them). The addition of Stob Coire Sgreamhach is a bit more subjective. It is a fine peak with at least a kilometre and and a drop of better than 100 metres between it and Bidean nam Bian. However Stob Coire nan Lochan is higher (1115m) and a bit more dramatic. Its closeness (about 900 metres) to Bidean nam Bian may have excluded it from also becoming a Munro.

Route

If you are staying at the youth hostel or the campsite west of Clachaig Inn then walk down the quiet country road to the inn. You can continue along the road for a kilometre to meet the A82 road at the bridge where the River Coe emerges from Loch Achtriochtan. Cross straight over, climb the wall at the bridge's west end and follow the path on the west side of the stream that drains Coire nam Beith. However a slightly more interesting start is to turn north at the inn and cross the River Coe on a footbridge. Walk east up the A82 for less than a kilometre and cross a stile to follow a path that joins the other path well above the Achnambeithach farm house.

The path climbs up into the corrie, passing some fine waterfalls (firstly at the 250m mark and then higher at 400m). On the steeper sections there are some well-placed slabs but just over the lip of the corrie the path becomes rougher with some easy scrambling along a steep rocky hillside. There is a choice of routes at a fork in the stream. A path continues SE over the stream and heads up to the col between Stob Coire nan Lochan and Bidean nam Bian. But this route continues SSW along the stream bank through another 500 metres of steepening terrain. The stream dries up and the path bends to the north for a steep clamber through boulders and scree. The final section gains the crest of the ridge dropping from Stob Coire nam Beith via a steep and slippery gully - the more solid rock to either side provides easier and safer progress.

Continue up the ridge for 500 metres along a clear path to Stob Coire nam Beith at first along the top of some nice crags (there should be great views back into the corrie). More walking along a fine sharp ridge brings the west top of Bidean nam Bian in another 500 metres with the summit a few hundred metres to the east. There should be marvellous views from the summit north over to the Aonach Eagach ridge with Ben Nevis probably poking his head up. But I cannot vouch for this since clouds were swirling around me once again (I could just see the outline of the Aonach Eagach ridge).

Bidean nam Bian from Sgorr Dearg
Bidean nam Bian from Sgorr Dhearg (right of centre) with Stob Coire nam Beith closer

There are a couple of routes from the summit (disregarding the boring retracing of the uphill course). One way is to drop sharply to the north-east down the rocky narrow ridge that leads to the col before Stob Coire nan Lochan. From the col, you can descend back into Coire nam Beith. I had originally planned to return via this route. However in the clouds all I could see was the beginning of near-vertical rocky slopes with no sign of a path. On the other hand, there was a clear path heading SE down an easier ridge. So I headed that way instead.

The path heads SE along a stony wide ridge for a hundred metres until crags crowd in from the north and south forming a sharp rocky ridge. There are no difficulties as the path winds its way through the rocks for a kilometre. A tiny col at 950 metres high is reached with the abrupt slopes leading to Stob Coire Sgreamhach ahead.

At first glance there is no way down from the col into the Coire Gabhail - have a look at the photo in the Bidean nam Bian section of the SMC Munro Guide or the second photo at Bev's Coire Gabhail. The path actually plummets from the col's lowest point on gravel and dirt. This vertical section is luckily soon over and the route becomes merely steep (the path actually fades out here). When I descended there was a large snowfield on the upper part of the corrie with plenty of chances to stop my knees from overheating on the steep drop. At the lower end of the snowfield (about the 800 metre height), a clearer path emerged.

A stream gathers to your left and the path gradually eases down to its banks just as the valley floor becomes absolutely level. You are now in the "Lost Valley" which was reputedly used by the MacDonalds of Glen Coe in times of trouble and for hiding stolen cattle. There is a kilometre of pleasant, grassy strolling to reach the other end of the valley with one shallow crossing of the stream. The mouth of the corrie is marked by the disappearance of the stream under a jumble of gigantic boulders and the appearance of a scattering of trees on the east side of the corrie.

From the corrie there is a steep rocky descent with a crossing of the stream and another of a deer fence to reach the wooden footbridge over the River Coe just downriver of the Meeting of Three Waters. Climb up the slopes on the other side of the river to a carpark beside the A82 road. If you do not have transport arranged then there is a pleasant 4.5 kilometre walk back to the Clachaig Inn along the glen with the first 2 kilometres on a path before rejoining the road.


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