|Looking south over Glen Coe
to Bidean nam Bian (in the centre) with the last patches of winter
||Location: Glen Coe
||Transport: Buses run along the glen.
||Trip Date: 25 June 1993
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.
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
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 Dhearg (right of centre) with Stob Coire nam
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
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
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.