Skye’s ‘Other’ Munro
Of the 282 Munros, 13 stand out as island Munros. One of them, Ben More, is the sole 3,000 ft peak on the island of Mull, but the other 12 are the peaks that truly stir the imagination of even the most experienced and skilled mountaineer, standing tall on the Isle of Skye.
This makes Skye the most mountainous place pound-for-pound in Britain. Based on the Scottish Mountaineering Club’s ‘Furth of Scotland’ classification, the island’s tally of Munros matches that of the whole of England and Wales put together and is five more than can be found in Ireland.
However, there is an odd one out in this group. 11 of the Skye Munros form part of the spectacular Black Cuillin ridge, an extraordinarily steep, rocky and immensely challenging rocky spine to the island that contains some of the very hardest mountaineering in Britain. Here stands the Inaccessible Pinnacle, the precarious Sgurr nan Gillean and nine other seriously tough peaks to conquer.
Hiring Skye Munros guide to help you get up and down these peaks is a great idea, but not everyone will want to take on such a stern challenge. Moreover, even for those who do, it will be impossible not to notice that other Munro standing back from the ridge in glorious isolation: Bla Bheinn.
This 3,044 ft peak is still dramatically rocky and craggy, so nobody should imagine it to be an easy alternative to its neighbours. Indeed, the summit is at the apex of a complex arrangement of three ridges, with a trio of corries beneath. An Stac and Slat Bheinn form subsidiary tops beneath the main peak, while the Graham of Garbh Bheinn is to the north.
From the top, there are magnificent views; it is the grandest of positions from which to see the Cuillinn, while steeply below to the west lies Loch na Creitheach and the smaller Loch an Athain. To the north are the Red Cuillins, the range taking its name from the pink hue of the granite.
It is likely these will only come into view at the top, as the most common ascent route is from the east, starting at the car park above the shore of Loch Slapin. Alternative routes include starting from Camusanary to the south and traversing the gnarly ridge.
Like its neighbours, Bla Bheinn is characterised by towers of volcanic rock, mostly the wonderfully grippy gabbro that affords such a reassuring handhold, something rather reassuring given the exposure parts of the mountain have.
To have climbed Bla Bheinn is to have tasted in miniature most of what the Black Cuillinn offers: Alpine climbing like nowhere else in Britain, a combination of exposure and stunning views to the neighbouring peaks, lochs and sea. Above all, a sense of achievement at bagging a Munro that easily outstrips the vast majority of the many and varied summits that make up the list.
Bla Bheinn may offer an easier challenge than taking on the bulk of the Black Cuillinn ridge, but let nobody say it is an easy one, or anything less of an adventure to climb.