Hills: Stob Coire Sgreamhach, Bidean nam Bian and the Four Tops (Reach Out I'll be There!)
Date: Friday 26th May 2023
Company: Myself and Ann-Marie
Distance: 16.9km, Ascent: 1645m
Time: 8Hrs 55Mins

With a surgical appointment scheduled for yesterday to excise another skin cancer, I was keen to get out on the hill on Friday as it will likely be a number of weeks before I can return to the hills . I therefore drove to Glen Etive on Thursday evening, where I parked-up for the night, to allow for an early start. On Friday morning, I drove from Glen Etive to the Buachaille Etive Beag car park for an ascent of Bidean nam Bian, Stob Coire Sgreamhach and their four Munro Tops.

Having done some research in advance of undertaking this walk, I knew of two potential routes from the A82 to gain access to Beinn Fhada's NE ridge. I could either ascend steeply from Coire Gabhail (the Lost Valley) or ascend steeply up the nose. I opted for an ascent via the nose.

At 5.40 on Friday morning we set off walking towards Beinn Fhada's nose.


As we walked towards the nose I studied our intended route of ascent i.e. a cleft avoiding the crags. While this route of ascent was not unduly difficult in good weather, I would not have enjoyed attempting a first ascent of the nose in low cloud. If coming this way, if you find yourself having to put hand to rock to ascend crag(s), you are not taking the easiest route up.

Steep nose of Beinn Fhada:

Our route:

On reaching the Allt Lairig Eilde we had to descend a little to find a way across.

Crossing the Allt Lairig Eilde:

Beyond the allt, we progressed to the base of the nose before starting our ascent.

Commencing ascent of the nose of Beinn Fhada:

I found the ascent of the nose easier than anticipated. The only thing I didn't enjoy was the midge. Gotta love summer in Scotland .

Ascending the nose of Beinn Fhada:

Thinking positively, a steep ascent means you gain height quickly and the views looking down to Glen Coe were pretty good.

View during the ascent of the steep nose of Beinn Fhada:

We had a brief rest on reaching easier ground on Beinn Fhada's NE ridge before commencing our way along the ridge.

Onto Beinn Fhada's NE ridge:

Beinn Fhada's NE ridge includes two Munro Tops neither of which I had ascended previously.

Traversing Beinn Fhada's NE ridge:

View to Beinn Fhada's tops with Stob Coire Sgreamhach beyond:

At the summit of the NE Top of Beinn Fhada:

The ascent of the main summit of Beinn Fhada is steep but not difficult.

Final ascent of Beinn Fhada:

At the summit of Beinn Fhada:

Beyond the summit of Beinn Fhada and the first Munro, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, lies the Bad Step. From a distance the Bad Step looks initimidating and from close-up the Bad Step looks even worse. I am not sure if walkers ever ascend directly up the rocks here as the grade looks more like climbing than scrambling. There is however a fairly straight-forward route up to the left of the crag which is basically a series of rock steps. This route is still steep and can be wet so care needs to be taken if coming this way.

The Bad Step:

Our route:

As per the ascent of the nose, I found the ascent of the Bad Step easier than anticipated.

View during ascent of gully left of the Bad Step:

I really liked the view looking back along Beinn Fhada's ridge from above the Bad Step.

Looking back along Beinn Fhada's ridge from above the Bad Step:

Beyond the Bad Step we encountered a sheep on the path.

Thou shalt not pass:

On reaching the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach it was disappointing to get no views as we were now walking in cloud. It's always easier to navigate when you can see where you are going, so for the next few hours, walking in limited visibility, I referred frequently to the map.

At the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach:

From the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach we made our way down to the col between it and Bidean nam Bian passing the top of the eroded mess of a track leading up from Coire Gabhail.

Beinn Fhada ridge during descent of Stob Coire Sgreamhach:

From the col we then commenced our ascent towards the summit of Bidean nam Bian.

Bidean nam Bian from col:

Ascending NW ridge of Bidean nam Bian:

Reaching the summit of Bidean nam Bian brought back some fond memories. In October 2005, I ascended Bidean nam Bian to complete my first round of Munros. On now again reaching its summit, I have five Munros remaining to complete a second round of Munros. While it has taken me eighteen years to get from completing round one to almost completing round two, I have in between also ascended all the Corbetts, Grahams, Donalds and Tops, Furth, and many Munro Tops.

At the summit of Bidean nam Bian:

At the summit of Bidean nam Bian, my final Munro (October 2005):

With two Munro Tops and two Munros now ascended, we next had to undertake an out and back to ascend our third Munro Top of the day, Stob Coire nam Beith.

Minor top en-route to Stob Coire nam Beith:

The walk out to the summit of Stob Coire nam Beith and back was straight-forward.

Stob Coire nam Beith:

At the summit of Stob Coire nam Beith:

From the summit of Stob Coire nam Beith we had to return to the summit of Bidean nam Bian before commencing our descent via our fourth and final Munro Top, Stob Coire nan Lochan.

The descent from Bidean nam Bian to Stob Coire nan Lochan is steep!

Looking back at steep descent from Bidean nam Bian:

Ascent of Stob Coire nan Lochan:

Stob Coire nan Lochan is a hill of many boulders.

Ascending Stob Coire nan Lochan:

It was great to reach the summit of our fourth and final Munro Top, Stob Coire nan Lochan.

At the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan:

From the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan, I expected to find the start of a path leading down. The summit was engulfed in cloud with almost no visibility. With cliffs all around I put aside my GPS and got out my old reliable map and compass to ensure we set off on the correct bearing. Just as I got the bearing, three people appeared out of the low cloud from the bearing I had just worked out which was great confirmation that heading down over the boulders was the correct route and that there was no visible path!

As we commenced our descent we dropped below the cap of cloud and reassuringly saw our route below.

Descending the boulder-covered NW ridge of Stob Coire nan Lochan:

As we made our way down Stob Coire nan Lochan the cloud decided to lift above the summits providing great views back to Bidean nam Bian. I wish I had a pound for every time I have had no views at the summit but on descent everything clears .

Looking back to Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire nam Beith:

View down towards Glen Coe:

Looking back to Stob Coire nan Lochan:

We continued our descent out towards Aonach Dubh.

Loch Leven:

Before reaching the col between Aonach Dubh and Stob Coire nan Lochan, we made our way down trackless grassy hillside to eventually pick-up traces of a path before reaching the excellent quality Coire nan Lochan track.

Heading towards Aonach Dubh:

Looking back to Stob Coire nan Lochan:

Once onto the Coire nan Lochan track it was plain-sailing back down to the A82.

Onto the Coire nan Lochan track:

On reaching the base we followed a track running parallel to the A82 before having to walk back along the A82. In comparison to tackling the nose of Beinn Fhada and negotiating the Bad Step, walking along the A82 was by far the most dangerous part of the day. While most drivers are courteous and provide space on passing a walker, others are ar$eholes who would happily hit you.

En-route to reaching the Buachaille Etive Beag car park we passed the Meeting of the Three Waters.

The Meeting of the Three Waters:

This was a fantastic day out .

Bidean nam Bian is effectively a range of mountains which demand HUGE respect. There is lots of steep ground which require appropriate skills and experience. In winter, Bidean nam Bian is even more dangerous with added avalanche danger.