Pages about Scotland Sgorr Dhonuill and Sgorr Dhearg
The Munros
Sgorr Dhearg from Sgorr Dhonuill (Bidean nam Bian to the right)
Sgorr Dhearg from Sgorr Dhonuill (Bidean nam Bian to the right)
Country: Scotland.
Location: Glen Coe.
Accommodation: Clachaig Inn, camping, Glencoe Youth Hostel in the middle of the glen. Hotel and perhaps B&B in Glencoe Village by Loch Leven.
Transport: The A82 runs along Glen Coe and across Ballachulish Bridge with a number of buses per day.
Maps: Landranger Map 0041: Ben Nevis, Fort William & Glen Coe
Trip Date: 28 June 1993
Introduction

The peaks of Glen Coe cannot be truly appreciated from within the glen itself. The stupendous steep slopes of the glen sides hide the true glory of the tops. A close-up view of the peaks is best obtained from the top of the ridges, e.g. Aonach Eagach or Bidean nam Bian. A wider perspective can be seen from the nearby hills of which Beinn a'Bheithir (hill of the thunderbolt) is a fine viewpoint. The two contrasting peaks of Beinn a'Bheithir are:

Sgorr Dhonuill (Donald's peak, 1001m) with a steep sided cap of grey granite and
Sgorr Dhearg (red peak, 1024m) topped with pink quartzite.

The advantage of these two peaks is that you can enjoy the seascapes to the west from Sgorr Dhonuill and then drink in the views to the Glen Coe and Lochaber mountains from Sgorr Dhearg. However both of these peaks are fine enough in themselves to justify bagging them even if the weather does not permit views.

Route

From the few houses of South Ballachulish (1.5 kilometres SW from Ballachulish Bridge), follow a forestry road on the west side of Gleann a'Chaolais above the main stream down the glen. This continues for 2 kilometres (ignore any side-roads), mostly with the trees well away from the road giving a less confined feeling than usual forestry roads. After the 2 kilometres, the trees crowd in for a while as the road zigzags up steeper ground. The road passes an old quarry on the left and reaches a junction amongst clear-felled plantation. Cross straight across and round another zigzag until a concrete bridge is reached.

A few metres east beyond the bridge, a cairn marks the start of a path. The path climbs at first through a clear-felled section of forest (marked with cairns) before continuing SE through the trees, eventually climbing out onto the open hillside. A fence is followed over rough and sometimes boggy grassland until a small stream is crossed. From there a steep bouldery path climbs up onto the bealach (col) at 757m between the two peaks.

Sgorr Dhonuill from Sgorr Dhearg
Sgorr Dhonuill from Sgorr Dhearg

Both peaks are easily accessible from the bealach. To start with Sgorr Dhonuill, climb west up the broad ridge that narrows as it gets to a level section at 930m. This is a very distinct path - slightly eroded in parts. The last 70m are climbed via a narrow and steep scramble up the grey granite ridge. There are interesting little views down the steep corries to the north. The summit is marked by a cairn. To get the best views to the west, drop your pack and walk a bit along the level top of the ridge until it starts to descend again.

Return east to the bealach (the scramble is just as interesting on the way down). A faint path zigzags straight up the stoney ridge to Sgorr Dhearg. Once you get to the quartzite scree cap, the familiar squeaking of quartzite on quartzite will accompany you to the summit.

Over Sgorr Bhan to Glen Coe
Over Sgorr Bhan to Glen Coe

The return can be done via the ascent route. However there are a couple of better alternatives. The first is to follow the north pointing ridge from the summit. This ridge descends easily for 2 kilometres - there is a clear path on its crest. Eventually the path becomes less distinct as it drops steeply into the forest to emerge at a cleared section above a forest road. Make your own way down to the road and turn right. One kilometre of nice walking returns you to the A82 about halfway between Ballachulish Bridge (to the west) and Ballachulish (to the east). Before starting this route, be sure that there are no logging operations in the forest at the end of the ridge.

The best descent route is to continue to traverse Beinn a'Bheithir to the east. A lovely curved ridge takes you down and up to the shapely Top of Sgorr Bhan (947m). This 'white peak' is covered with a paler coating of quartzite than Sgorr Dhearg (it can just be seen in the top photo). Take the north-east ridge from the Top (avoid the ridge dropping to the north). The route descends easily for a few hundred metres and then drops steeply down a well-defined ridge to meet a right of way leading south to Glen Creran. The school at the back of Ballachulish is 1 kilometre north along the path.


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