Bidean a Choire Sheasgaich & Lurg Mhor

Strathcarron ~ by Fraser Smith

Start Point: Car park just off the A890 just south of Attadale station
Grid Reference: OS Sheet 25, GR 925387
Time: 7.5 hours not hanging about
View Location: Scalable multimap
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Introduction

A challenging route to two of the most remote munros. Requirements are a bike in good order, a strong grip (see later), an ambition to complete your munros and a snow level above 350m. You will travel into some of the most remote countryside in Scotland and most likely will have it to yourself. The route described here is an alternative to that in the munros book that takes you over Beinn Tharsuinn. I'm not sure which requires the lesser energy.

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Route

The route starts at the very convenient car park just off the A890 just south of Attadale station. A nicely worded information board welcomes walkers and bikers to the estate and gives the preferred routes to the various summits of the interior. The first problem to be overcome is how to fold the map to allow the whole route to be seen as your objective is over 14km away as the crow flies.

The route starts up a nice tarmac drive past the end of the famous gardens and then east to some holiday cottages at Strathan. Passing through a gate brings you onto the stone track that will be your guide for the next hour and a half or so.

The first two kilometres is wonderful but those with an eye for detail will see glimpses of the track heading off and up on the right. The track turns right over an attractive lattice bridge and immediately starts its climb. The gradient for the next kilometer or so varies from steep to "I'm going to get up here on my bike if it kills me". If you are not that determined to cycle the whole way then the steep bits here are probably worth walking up to save some energy for later in the day - you will need it.

The track keeps climbing past a lochan and then eventually another. Somewhere around here there is a bit where a dogleg in the track has been bulldozed out to leave a VERY steep and loose section. I couldn't get up it but those who, like me, are determined to cycle the whole way can still get up the old bit on the right.

At the second loch those scanning for the route ahead will see the most difficult part of the day's activities looming ahead. The section just North of Loch na Caillich is steep and requires careful judgement of when to really push and when to ease just a bit. Again the less cycle fit will be well advised to walk this bit.

About 1km later the high point of the track at 350m is reached. A long gentle descent to another lattice bridge at GR003383 brings you back down to 200m and facing another 2km of ascent, but gentle this time up to Bendronaig Lodge. A convenient tractor implement provides a suitable bike rack and also a seat to enable you to recover from your cycling exertions and prepare for the walking part of the day.

As you set off from the lodge ENE you will not find the path marked on your map but instead a bulldozed track. This appears to have been "built" in 2001 all the way through to Pait lodge. Then in 2002 the northerly section heading to Bhearnais was also in the process of being ravaged when the MCofS managed to halt the works. The scars of these tracks are not a pretty sight compared to the well constructed paths that used to exist. Anyway this track is followed to about GR034394 where you can turn off left and start up hill around the crags of Creag Dubh.

If the sky is clear it will be worth the acsent of Sail Riabhach for the view down the valley but if it is murky as we had it you will want to just head for the col at GR039407. From here it is a more relaxing stroll along the ridge before the final pull up to the summit of Cheescake (GR049413, 945m) (Ed. Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich). It's a fine narrow summit with great views I'm sure.

You will need to retrace your steps a little way before you turn off south east down the ridge on your way to Lurg Mhor. It was peculiar when we were there in that Lurg Mhor was clear but the slightly lower top just to the east was shrouded in cloud. There is a reasonably obvious walkers path to follow down to the col and up some zig zags on the steeper parts of Lurg Mhor that eventually brings you up to the summit (GR065404, 986m). There is very little to remind you of man's presence on the planet in the view from the top as you are just about as far as you can get in Scotland from any road. This is a moment to savour along with being on the summit of A'Mhaighdean and, just possibly in terms of remoteness, An Scarsoch. If you have the time and the weather the top to the east looks to be a fine vantage point from which to observe your day's two peaks and the intervening ridge looks interesting but as we didn't have either we decided to cut and run.

The descent form Lurg Mhor was quite easy. We retraced our steps for a bit before heading approximately south west towards the NW end of Loch Calavie using the remaining snow patches to save our knees. Here we picked up the track and headed back to our bikes.

After a brief coffee break whilst getting the kit sorted and the bikes unlocked we set off down the track towards the bridge. Now comes the most telling part of the day where energy saved in the morning ride in can be put to good use.

 

Over the next three kilometres there is a fairly relentless pull up from the 200m at the bridge to 350m at the summit. That doesn't sound much but after the cycle in and the walk it is quite daunting. I managed to cycle all the way but not continuously. Many rests were taken at the top of the steeper sections and each of those got longer and longer (the rests that is).

Finally we were over the summit and off on the long downhill run. However your problems are not yet over and those of a nervous disposition, who have weak grips or whose brakes do not work terribly well might well consider walking down the really steep bits to Loch na Caillich. With brakes on as hard as I could pull it still felt too fast and that was doing 5mph!! You might want to consider what you would do here if one of your brake cables snapped as you would not have time to think about it afterwards. After this section the going is generally good but watch out for that steep loose section I mentioned before. You won't want to go down there too fast either. The final descent section is not as bad and eventually drops you down to the valley bottom where you can relax those fingers at last.

The final section along the tarmac is bliss. No need to pedal hard, no need to brake just cruise back to your car.

So there we have it. One of the longer one day expeditions you can undertake and one that will undoubtedly be a challenge to most. If you are a biking nutter then the challenge of cycling the whole way will appeal but it will add considerably to your exertions. The payback is it will give you a smug glow to know that you did it.

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