Hills: Sgurr Choinnich, Sgurr a'Chaorachain and Bidein an Eoin Deirg
Date: Friday 12th September 2014
Company: Just myself
Distance: 28.3km, Ascent: 1810m
Time: 8Hrs 50Mins

The MWIS forecast for yesterday, for the whole of Scotland, was negligible wind, no rain and >90% cloud-free Munros. Forecasts like this coinciding with non-work days are generally fairly rare so this was an opportunity not to be missed. I packed a rucksack, my thermarest and sleeping bag with a view to driving to a starting point the night previous and sleeping in the car which would allow for an early start.

What I had still to decide was where to go and what hills to do. The forecast seemed too good to waste on some dull Graham or mundane Marilyn. I therefore narrowed my options down to Munros (and ex-Munros). With only six of the original 1891 Munro list still to complete, I decided to head for either Sgurr na Lapaich (Glen Affric) or Bidean an Eoin Deirg (Achnashellach). On reaching Inverness, I had to make my final decision and opted for Bidein an Eoin Dearg. This would also allow for a second round ascent of Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a'Chaorachain.

I reached the starting point at Craig around 23:00 and immediately settled down for the night. The next morning I was up and ready to go by 07:10.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

I last visited the Achnashellach hills in 2005 (Maol Lunndaidh) and 2004 (Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a'Chaorachain). On commencing the walk, I soon realised that I should not have neglected this area for so long.

After crossing the railway line and walking a short distance along the track, I was passed by several vehicles. A hydro scheme is currently under construction in this glen. However, despite the track being part of the site, it is not closed off to walkers.

The first hill in view was Sgurr nan Ceannaichean. This hill was demoted from Munro to Corbett a few years back as it is apparently below 3000ft. On seeing the cloud shrouding this hill, I hoped that the cloud would dissipate by the time I started my ascent or better still, I would climb up through the cloud to have inversion below.

Looking towards Sgurr nan Ceannaichean:

The walk in along the track was mostly in cloud.

On the track alongside the Allt a'Chonais:

As I approached Pollan Buidhe, I could see that the tops of the hills were free of cloud. I needed to gain height quickly to get above the cloud.

Looking back to Sgurr nan Ceannaichean:

I crossed the wire bridge at the start of the path leading to Bealach Bhearnais where I was fortunate to spot a Dipper in the water.

Wire bridge at Pollan Buidhe:

The path leading towards Bealach Bhearnais was much better than I recalled having walked this path twice previously.

Sgurr Choinnich:

I stopped to photograph a small frog on the path. Literally within seconds of stopping, a swarm of deer ked landed on me. I knocked one off my hand only to discover my hand bleeding where it had landed. These horrible flies do bite humans! I got moving again quickly to avoid these pesky flies. I did however encounter them again throughout the walk, including at the summits.

A frog on the path:

Bealach Bhearnais is a very interesting location. It is in fact a junction of several bealachs.

Looking towards Bealach Bhearnais:

Inversion in Glenuaig:

At Bealach Bhearnais:

Red Deer:

From Bealach Bhearnais, I started my ascent of Sgurr Choinnich.

Heading for Sgurr Choinnich:

Inversion below Sgurr na Conbhaire:

My log from 2004 told of a scary traverse in gale to severe gale force winds. In calm conditions, the ascent and traverse were not scary. There are a few bands of rock to ascend during the ascent but these are Grade 1 scrambling at most.

Ascending Sgurr Choinnich:

It was great to get good views of Bidein a'Choire Sheasgaich (often referred to as Cheesecake). This is one of my favourite hills. Having ascended "Cheesecake" from both Craig and from Attadale, I would strongly recommend the far superior ascent from Craig. It was great to get above the cloud and look down on inversion.

Looking towards Lurg Mhor and Bidein a'Choire Sheasgaich:

Looking towards Lurg Mhor and Bidein a'Choire Sheasgaich:

Bidein a'Choire Sheasgaich (zoom):

As I gained height, more and more hills come into view including all the hills in nearby Torridon.

Looking towards Beinn Eighe, Torridon (zoom):

Looking towards Liathach, Torridon (zoom):

Inversion to the North:

The final stretch of ridge leading to the summit is narrow in places with the path mostly staying close to the edge.

Ridge leading to the summit of Sgurr Choinnich:

I could see a large number of deer on the flank of Sgurr Choinnich. Seeing them reminded me that it is stalking season.

Deer on the flank of Sgurr Choinnich:

Looking back to West top of Sgurr Choinnich:

On reaching the summit of Sgurr Choinnich, I stopped to take a few photos and then continued on.

At the summit of Sgurr Choinnich:

Lurg Mhor and Bidein a'Choire Sheasgaich from the summit of Sgurr Choinnich:

Heading for Sgurr a'Chaorachain:


The initial descent from Sgurr Choinnich is fairly eroded so care is needed.

Ascending Sgurr a'Chaorachain:

The ascent of Sgurr a'Chaorachain was straight-forward, no hands-on and not exposed.

Looking back to Sgurr Choinnich from Sgurr a'Chaorachain:

I stopped at the summit to have a good drink before continuing on to my main target of the day, Bidein an Eoin Deirg.

At the summit of Sgurr a'Chaorachain:

Bidein an Eoin Deirg was one of the original Munros in Sir Hugh's 1891 list. It is an outstanding hill, arguably superior to both Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a'Chaorachain and it is very much a distinct mountain. In my opinion, this should still be a Munro. Bidein an Eoin Deirg looks fantastic when viewed from the end of Glen Strathfarrar.

Photo taken in 2009 from Glen Strathfarrar:

Heading for Bidein an Eoin Deirg:

The terrain leading out to Bidein an Eoin Deirg includes a section of boulderfield that has to be crossed.

Bidein an Eoin Deirg (zoom):

Bidein an Eoin Deirg:

At the summit of Bidein an Eoin Deirg:

Was it worth the effort heading out to Bidein an Eoin Deirg? Definitely! This hill provided great views down to Strathfarrar and Loch Monar.

View from the summit of Bidein an Eoin Deirg:

View from the summit of Bidein an Eoin Deirg:

Looking back to Sgurr a'Chaorachain:

View from the summit of Bidein an Eoin Deirg:

After spending around ten minutes at the summit, I reversed the route back to the summit of Sgurr a'Chaorachain where I met two other walkers.

Lurg Mhor:

Bidein an Eoin Deirg and Loch Monar:

From Sgurr a'Chaorachain, I descended the North ridge to eventually pick up the North-East Sron na Frianich ridge leading down towards Glenuaig Lodge.

Descending the North ridge of Sgurr a'Chaorachain:

Looking back to Bidein an Eoin Deirg during descent:

The descent was trackless and not that pleasant in the lower section.

Descending Sron na Frianich ridge:

Once on the track, I commenced the long walk out back to Craig.

Sgurr na Ceannaichean:

A really enjoyable day out in outstanding conditions.