Grumbling Together on the North Ridge Spidean a Choire Leith

Bear Lodge has. a busy schedule of Mountaineering Bear Training this summer so Big Ted sent the human scouts out to explore some new routes for our furry students. He was a bit worried that their climbing skills may be a bit rusty & to be honest, they didn’t look fit enough to walk to the shops, so he asked me to go along and keep an eye on them.

I persuaded them to take a trip to Torridon and as the popular routes can be very busy in summer we thought our students may enjoy an expedition up the north face of Liathach. With its steep sandstone crags and towering pinnacles much of the north face is the domain of experienced mountaineering bears but this is beyond the capabilities of the human scouts. However, the North Ridge of Spidean a’ Choire Leith, which separates Coireag Dubh Mor and Coire na Caime, and leads directly up to the summit is a less demanding and technical ascent which Big Ted said they should be able to manage. The Guide Books classify it as a moderate climb if you stick to the arête or suggest it can be tackled as grade 1/2 scramble by staying to right of the arete on steep grass. I was instructed to keep them on the arête.

We all started out from the main Beinn Eighe carpark at 8am following the Coire Dubh Mhor path between Liathac and Beinn Eighe, my heart beating faster at the sight of these two magnificent mountains, but nobody stopped to take a photo!We crossed the Allt Coire Dubh Mhor and as we came around the eastern end of Liathach we could see our target, the North Ridge, on the skyline.

Map of the Route
Crossing the the Allt Coire Dubh Mhor
North Ridge of Spidean on the Skyline

The scouts were doing well, but it was a perfect June day for hill walking, warm without being hot and enough of a breeze to keep the midges at bay. We continued along the path to the point where it divides to climb up to Coire Mhic Fhearchair to get our bearings, then doubled back for a few metres before recrossing the Allt Coire Dhub, (although there was very little of it), to meet up with a burn flowing down from Coireag Dubh Mor. It was a delightful walk on a faint path by the side of the waterfall, with Marsh Orchids and Violets in flower by my paws and the impressive tiers of rock in the coire ahead. I was getting quite excited!

Following the burn
As this burn was the last water we would come across until we were well down the other side of the mountain we needed to fill our water bottles. I offered to do this as I wanted to make sure we took enough water with us, the scouts often cut it so fine they end up dehydrated.

Filling up the water bottles

The lower section of the ridge was broad, lots of loose stones and boulders to go up, plus some easy scrambling. There was also a horrible steep slimy step of mud and moss. The scouts crawled up this on their paws and knees making strange mewling noises.

Lower slopes of the ridge

I was pleased to reach solid ground before there was any unpleasant slithering and having checked the map we all agreed it was time for lunch.

Good news that scouts can still read the map accurately. 750m altitude at midday, time for lunch.
Nice view along The Strath Lungard to Loch Maree.

Come on Jeremy Jetboyle, strut your stuff, I want my noodles. Supervising the scouts is hungry work.

Meall Dearg &the Northern Pinnacles. I wonder if the scouts would be up to climbing these,🤔
Beinn Alligin and Beinn Dearg

Lunch is over, onwards and upwards.
The scouts pointed out that it would be possible to walk around the next tier of rocks and then to avoid many of the difficulties by keeping right. I reminded them that their objective was to climb the arete, and it was time for them to stop faffing and get on with it.

‘Your meant to be climbing the rock not pulling it down!”

After this section of easy scrambling the ridge became steeper and more exposed so we decided to climb with a rope. I was mortified to discover that the scouts had only brought a 20m rope for a 160m climb. That means 10 pitches, it will be dark before we reach the summit! Grrrr!

Looking up the North Ridge
Checking he’s tied into the rope properly
I love the rock formations!

The rock was very rough and grippy, everyfur was enjoying the climbing and after a few pitches we topped out on steep grass

Topping out.

As they were likely to need the rope again the scouts decided not to untie, but to take in some coils and move together. Big Ted had warned me that the scouts were not good with this technique and I should expect lots of grumbling. He was right! I tried to close my ears to their constant moans about the tension in the rope and speed of movement as we edged along the narrow arête.

Supervising the taking in of coils
Scouts grumbling together along the narrow ridge

Hmmm! That was Stressful, I was very pleased when we were back to proper climbing and this traverse was great fun!

Ah no! There is a bitey insect in my boot!
Don’t worry I am holding the rope while the scout takes the photo!
The final difficulty. Come on! You can do it!

Whats going on here! The scout has belay all wrong, lucky nofur had a fall! 😱. He looks very sheepish as I admonish him thoroughly, I don’t think he will make that mistake again.

The view across to Beinn Eighe is amazing!
The summit up ahead

The walk to the summit turned out to be treacherous ! Huge blocks of Quartz, which were very unstable! The scouts are squeeking!

and we made! All in one piece and no rockfalls! Hurrah for the Mountaineering Bear and hopeless scouts!

Summit Spidean a’ Choire Leith.

But what goes up, must come down! They said the descent was easy, but we have to walk up another two summits before we can even start to come down!

8:30 pm nearly down

Well I’m all in, and there is still 2.5km along the road to walk beforeI can collapse in my sleeping bag. These human scouts are hard work, it was lucky I was around to keep an eye on them! Still the ridge was fun and I think our students will enjoy it.

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