Corbett bagging: Evening run-hike of Beinn Bheula in Arrochar Alps
Sometimes, you get lucky in Scotland’s mountains. While the forecast wasn’t too wonderful for mid-week evening summit in the Arrochar Alps, somehow my friend David and I managed to avoid a dramatic weather front of heavy rain and sleet. (This was May but anything can happen with the weather in this month!)
We chose one of my last two Corbetts in the Arrochar Alps, Beinn Bheula, and agreed to meet at the base near Lochgoilhead at 6.30pm. David’s’ wife Alicia came, too, and enjoyed a lower level walk along the side of the loch.
Be warned that the route to Lochgoilhead can be slow. First there is the Rest and be Thankful to drive. It was open but there was a convoy system for one-way traffic. Sometimes the Rest and Be Thankful closes and then you need to use the lower Old Military Road. Both routes add time to the journey.
The single-lane road from the Rest and be Thankful to Lochgoilhead has to be driven with care, firstly to avoid stray sheep, dashing deer and also cars coming in the other direction. Suffice to say I was 10 minutes late to reach Lettermay.
As I drove I eyed the sky with trepidation. Sudden bursts of rain and black clouds made me wonder if we would even set off for the run-hike. Many mountains had a blanket of snow, too.
Run-hike of the Corbett Beinn Bheula
Surprisingly, as we got our kit together for the outing at the start of the route, the sun came out and we appeared to be enjoying a bubble of nicer weather.
We took waterproofs, a spare insulated, gloves (I had two pairs), an emergency divvy bag, snacks and water.
The first section of the route of Beinn Bheula climbs a wide forest track. At a junction we took the right (south-westerly) track and then headed off the main track following signs for the Cowal Way. We passed a stunning waterfall that was in high flow thanks to recent rain and snowfall.
From here, we started the climb proper. The Arrochar Alps are rugged and often steep – and that means there is rarely any let up for leg muscles. Added to this, David is in training for the Montane Dragon’s Back Race, which means he is fitter than normal. That meant, therefore, that I had to work hard to keep up with him as he took big strides uphill.
David had also sensibly decided to use hiking poles, while I’d decided I couldn’t be bothered carrying them on the first section of the route. In retrospect that was a bad idea because walking poles would have been great aid.
The trods us we climbed came and went but mostly it was fairly obvious with only a few checks of the map to see where we should be going.
The views all around were fantastic and we felt very lucky to be able to escape the Glasgow suburbs to nearby mountains for an evening adventure. We were still enjoying fairly clear skies above, although we could see the start of a front of horrible weather to the east. We checked the wind direction and wondered if we might escape the worst of it, although strangely it did seem to be creeping to us against the flow of the wind!
Highest point on Beinn Bheula
There are several high points on Beinn Bheula, including Caisteal Dubh at 779m, then Creag Sgoilte at 767m and Ceann Garbh at 760m. The highest – and the first reached – is marked by by a trig pillar and a windshelter cairn.
We enjoyed superb views over sea lochs and numerous mountain ranges. It was also possible to see the island of Arran. On a clearer day, Jura and Mull can be spotted, too.
There is a choice of route to return and the easiest and shorter is to retrace your steps. We decided to take a chance with the weather and continue an anti-clockwise loop to descend by Lochan nan Cnaimh.
A loop of Beinn Bheula
The terrain was rough but I am so pleased that we made the effort because the setting sun on the calm loch’s surface was beautiful. It was windy and quite chilly at elevation and it felt good to finally have the shelter of the mountain behind us.
The rough hillside eventually heads into forestry and we joined a path down the side of a fast-flowing burn. After this, the OS Map suggested it should be possible to contour on a path through forestry. Due to hundreds of felled trees, the track wasn’t obvious and we trudged with increasing despondency through broken trees, stumps, routes and mangled ground.
After trying to descend to a possible track, we checked the map a few times more, climbed back up the slope and finally came across the higher-level track. It was with some relief because the sun had almost set and we wanted to make it back to our vehicles before darkness. (I did have a headtorch with me just in case.)
We headed off at a trot running down the wide track, passing the junction we had taken some two and bit hours earlier to ascend the Corbett – and then continued running downhill.
We completed the 13km route with just over 900m of ascent in a moving time of two hours and 10 minutes. We were out for about 2:20 including short stops. See Walk Highlands for a more detailed route description. We did not have any rain or sleet despite poor weather being so close by.
Total Corbetts bagged: 49.