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Bidean nam Bian

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The mountains in Glencoe bristle with their defensive crags; so steep that the highest peak on the south side of the glen, Bidean nam Bian, remains very elusive. With one of the newer Munros, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, this walk provides a neat circuit taking in both, and all complete with grand cliff scenery. In winter condition some judgment may be necessary as to slope conditions.

This route may be done in either direction; if clockwise, Coire Gabhail (The Lost Valley) is at the beginning. Views are probably that bit better if done anti-clockwise however and this is the way the route is described.

Begin from the car park just west of the cottage at Allt-na-reigh (172 568). Cross the River Coe by the bridge below Coire an Lochan and take this path, which has had some recent pathwork, up the steep-sided and narrow coire to gain the coire below the cliffs of Stob Coire nan Lochan. Turn these cliffs by going south and onto the easy section of ridge where Gearr Aonach merges into Stob Coire nan Lochan. Follow this ridge west then west up the steepening ridge to the summit of Stob Coire.

Having climbed up, you now have to descend! Bidean nam Bian lies 800m to the south-west, with the Diamond and Church-Door Buttresses dropping down the west flank of the connecting ridge into Coire nam Beith. Descend 100m to a bealach then climb up the narrow ridge beyond to the summit of Bidean nam Bian, the highest peak in Argyll.

We now descend the south east ridge to gain the bealach at the head of the Lost Valley. A climb of about 120m then lands us on the summit of the second Munro, Stob Coire Sgreamhach. From here we are heading for the Lost Valley, Coire Gabhail but have to make a decision as to the route. The one with the least route finding is taken by returning to the bealach at the head of Coire Gabhail then if the snow conditions allow carefully picking a way down the initially steep slope. The path will be joined lower down amongst the screes.

An alternative route is to traverse the Beinn Fhada ridge north east from the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach. There is a short scrambling section near the top. Traverse over the first two tops on the ridge, Beinn Fhada (952m), and the North-East top (931m), then at the bealach at 169 548, before the third top, descend the steep slope leading down into Coire Gabhail. Stay out of the stream and gully to the west, and so gain the peaceful, flat meadow that is the heart of the Lost Valley, with its huge boulder marking the start of the boulder field at its north end.

The boulder field, the result of some old landslide, can be fun on a sunny day with time in hand, zig-zagging through its tortuous maze, or a tedious nightmare in fading light with a dying torch. There is an alternative way down on its east flank, under the cliffs, if you can find the start. In either case, on exiting the boulders the river is crossed to gain the path on the west bank and so to the River Coe bridge and the car park.


Maps: OS Sheet 41 'Ben Nevis, Fort William & Glen Coe'
Distance: 10 km
Ascent: 1330 m
Time: 5 hours
Food & Drink: Go west for Glencoe village, Glencoe Hotel and the Clachaig Hotel or east for the Kingshouse Hotel.


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