April 20, 2020

Bla Bheinn

Climbing on the magnificent Cullins' outlier on the Isle of Skye.

The other day (about a year ago), a few of my friends and I did a tour around some of the Scottish prettiness. Inevitably, it had a stop on Skye, and as it's been a while since I wanted to have a closer look at its mountains, I incorporated the summit of Bla Bheinn into the itinerary. The lack of foothills in the area means that one has to start almost at the sea level, which could be seen as a drawback. But starting a day with a beach stroll is all right, I'd say.

Bla Bheinn is a 929 m (3,048 ft) tall mountain that sits across a glen from Black Cullin on the west and overlooks Red Cullin to the north. Considering that Cullins are among the most scenic ridges of Scotland, you know Bla Bheinn will have an ultimate viewpoint just by looking at its position on a map. The only question was if the weather will cooperate, as Cullins to clouds are what neodymium magnets are to strong ferrous metals.

On the day of our ascent, the mountains did attract some haze. Yet, as we could see them from a distance, it was evident that we will be in for a treat.

Bla Bheinn is the tall one on the left. Its name is a mix of Gaelic and Norse, and it means something like blue, or blue-black mountain. With the haze, it was rather fitting.

The trail begins by following the stream of Allt na Dunachie, which features a few of neat waterfalls. Then, it rises through a cirque to a saddle linking Bla Bheinn with two smaller peaks, and continue climbing on the mountain.

Passing Loch Fionna-choire.

By this time, the views were already spectacular: sea lochs in the distance blended with the foggy horizon, while the sun started making a camo pattern on the ground, based on the clouds above us.

We decided to get up by the eastern ridge, where we got teasers for what kind of landscapes are awaiting us from the top.

The ridge's edge is full of steep, sharp rocks, which are in constant dialogue with the similarily shaped mountains of Red Cullin to the north. And since Bla Bheinn is taller than Red Cullin, at one point, you can actually see behind them.

This signaled that we must be close. Sure enough, we reached the summit in a moment.

The western face of the mountain forms a steep cliff straight down, so the vistas it gives aren't too far from an airplane window. And indeed, it is a place of beauty.

The main cluster of the tallest peaks of Black Cullin was hidden in clouds. But you could clearly see their northern extension and the remote glen that divides them from the Red Cullin. Long before I planned the trip to Bla Bheinn, I browsed the map of the glen and imagined how it looks. Seeing it from a bird's eye felt amazing.

The pointy ridge on the left is the north of Black Cullin, in the middle is the glen with Loch an Athain, and to the right is Red Cullin.

...And looking in the other directions wasn't bad either.

Some parts of the rocks have well-defined sedimentary layers. Walking on it is like being sucked into a geology book.

The shard of Sgurr nan Gillean in the background, and an icon of Red Cullin, Marsco, on the left.

After some quality time at the summit, we descended back to Loch Fionna-choire...

...and further towards the sea.

The nice trail in the low portion of the mountain is one of many great projects of the John Muir Trust charity.

Aided by gravity, going down felt half the distance of the opposite direction. But we made frequent stops anyway, as it would be a shame to just run away from such scenery.

Looking back on the ridge where we've been.

Once back at the car, we made it to the other side of the Black Cullin range, where we took a walk around some of the gems of Glen Brittle. The highlight was this colorful picnic.

That's about as good as a picnic gets. A superb ending of a superb day.

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Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories

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