BEAUTY is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to certain mountains and the remote Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich is a classic example.
Lying deep in the heart of the Monar Forest, this is one of the harder to reach Munros and any approach will be challenging.
Even its name proves too much for some to get their tongue round (pronounce it hays-kich). It is often referred to as ‘Cheesecake’ for simplicity, but the name has stuck as a term of affection for those who know and love this grand peak.
It is one of my favourite mountains and the approach from Craig through the Achnashellach Forest one of my favourite walks. There are other routes, but this is the one which shows Bidein’s finest side.
It remains hidden for the first few hours, but when you hit the summit cairn on the intervening peak of Beinn Tharsuinn, Bidein appears like a revelation.
From this angle it looks sheer and intimidating, bands of seemingly impregnable crags which rise in two main stages. Above them, the mountain spirals upwards to its apex like a rock helter-skelter.
This is the money shot, the finest profile of the mountain. From all other angles it appears more rounded, more bulky, and the drama is diluted. Like so many other fine mountains, Ben Nevis and Schiehallion, for instance, the viewing position makes all the difference.
All through the big drop to a drystone dyke running across the gap, Bidein remains in plain sight. Now the real helter-skelter ride begins.
A cairned path leads into the first band of crags, twisting and turning round every obstacle, until it comes to a split. Off to the right among towering slabs of grey there’s a tight squeeze up a rock ladder, greasy and dripping, where the sun is permanently posted missing.
This leads to a grassy platform with the second tier of slabs directly in front, but look closer and you will find a weakness, a narrow rising slash which cuts diagonally back the way you are facing to reach more level ground beside a lochan.
The path meanders over a series of rises and short drops to arrive at another beauty spot which holds a lochan and a couple of permanent water pools, just below the final steep climb to the short summit ridge.
On a clear day, every horizon holds a treasure from this eyrie; Skye’s Black Cuillin stretched out to the west, the Torridon giants’ screes sparkling to the north and Lurg Mhor, the next Munro target, on an eastern curve.
Below, lonely Loch Calavie was shining silver in the sunlight, gleaming through banks of thin cloud which rolled over intermittently, and the tracks from Achintee and Attadale were pale ribbons twisting off into the distance.
Bearnais bothy was a speck far below, a welcome refuge for anyone who thinks this is too much to handle in one day or is simply caught out by the ticking clock. It’s a place you want to linger, but there’s a price to pay for overstaying your welcome.
Autumn’s gold spectrum was a fitting backdrop, the constant bellowing of warring stags echoing round every corrie the perfect soundtrack. It would be a spectacular expedition under winter’s deep snows, but the distance to be covered is a major drawback for most and the frontal climb would be even more intimidating coated in ice.
The Attadale Forest approach is a decent alternative, but the pull up from the loch lacks the interest of a head-on collision with Bidein’s craggy face, and in thick weather it becomes just another slog up featureless slopes. My one and only experience of this route will remain just that.
I doubt I will do these hills as a pair again, but I will be back for another frontal assault on Bidein.