Bidean a’ Chabair – A Hill Too Far

Bidean a’ Chabair – 867m
29th June 2009
Distance: 15 ½ miles
Ascent: 1, 450m
Weather: Far too hot to be enjoyable
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne and Molly

I always seem to be moaning about the weather these days. Too much snow, is it ever going to stop raining or, at the moment, the current weather extreme…………’s too hot.

Looking at the map it appeared that Bidean a’ Chabair was a hill to be left for dry conditions and good visibility. So with an excellent forecast, it looked like today was the day.

We left Aviemore at 5.10 a.m. and were very glad to arrive at the end of the road at Loch Arkaig at 7.15 a.m. There were already about 15 cars parked, but despite this we did not see anyone all day until we got back to the car.

We were faced with a choice of routes up Glen Dessary, either on the south side of the river through the woods, cooler but I would be eaten by clegs and midges, or along the track on the north side facing the full heat of the sun but with more of a breeze and water for Molly. I decided on the northern track and after rounding the first bend we had our first sighting of Bidean a’ Chabair which looked a long, long way away.

Bidean a’ Chabair looks a LONG way away

Still doesn’t look any nearer

After an hour of walking Bidean a’ Chabair did not seem any closer, I was hot, thirsty and sweaty and already seriously beginning to doubt my ability to make it to the summit never mind back down again.

The Allt Coire nan Uth provided us both with a cooling paddle and a hasty reapplication of the Skin-so-Soft I had already sweated away.

Doesn’t look so bad from here I thought

When we rounded the edge of the forest it was like entering an oven and we were greeted by the prospect of the ascent of Meall na Sroine. It was steep; there were lots of deep grassy tussocks to wade through and the slopes appeared to be home to western Scotland’s entire population of clegs, flies and midges.

About to board cleg central

Anyway, once we got the steep bit over, I hoped things would improve when we got to the ridge. Poor deluded fool. I had forgotten we were in Knoydart.

On the never ending summit ridge

We were faced with a knobbly and contorted ridge that just seemed to go on for ever and ever. The sun had gone in and the humidity had reached previously unimaginable levels.

Sgurr na Ciche from one of the many lochans along the ridge
A distant Loch Nevis

By this point I felt like collapsing, I was overcome with tiredness and the heat was really beginning to affect me. But I am very stubborn and very determined and I didn’t want the days’ efforts to be in vain. Shouldn’t take long to the summit now I hoped………………….doesn’t look that far………………..another hour to be precise!!

Surely it can’t be much further?

There were some interesting rock layers to keep my mind occupied for a few minutes.

Rock Saltire

The final push to the summit was the easiest and most enjoyable part of the day, despite there being only slight traces of a path all the way along the ridge there was a decent path up the final section to the summit.

The final push for the summit
The summit at last. Note the tiny cairn

5 hours to the summit against a book time of 3h 50min. Pitiful.

As the cairn was so tiny I got my GPS out to confirm my position and yes this was it. Joy. A rest at last and even Molly had the decency to be tired.

The SMC guide states that Sgurr na h-Aide is worth a visit for its splendid views. It may well be but today this was a physical impossibility today.

Sgurr na h-Aide will have to wait for another day

After a fortifying sandwich and melted chocolate it was time for the walk out.

Don’t look down, the way off the summit

The ridge appeared to be much shorter on the way back down, that was until I hit the final steep slopes back to the river when the sun came back out and the heat of the afternoon really hit me. I was sure I had most of the symptoms of heat exhaustion by this stage!

There were several encounters with wildlife on the way down. A fox lolloped across the hillside below us, but too quickly to get a photo, Molly was scared by some scraggly sheep who were viciously staring at her and I spotted what I now believe to be a Four Spotted Libellula (a type of dragonfly).

Hairy beastie

The walk out felt like the longest and most tiring walk out I have ever undertaken in my whole hill walking career. When I arrived back at the car I was greeted by two gentlemen lying on the grass verge sunbathing. They greeted me with ‘fantastic day’, I didn’t know whether to pass out or vomit first and simply collapsed into the shade at the side of my car. Eventually revived enough to open the car I retrieved my can of diet coke which I had carefully packed into my cool box surrounded by ice packs. Or should I say my can of luke warm diet coke surrounded by a pool of warm water.

It was just one of those days.

On reflection I think I had probably been overdoing it over the last few days and this hill was just one hill too far.

Never in the history of showering has a shower been longer or more enjoyable than the one I had when I got home.


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