Beinn Eighe is a complex mountain massif in the Torridon area of the Highlands of Scotland. It forms a long ridge with many spurs and summits, two of which are classified as Munros. The name Beinn Eighe comes from the Scottish Gaelic meaning File Mountain. Unlike the neighbouring hills of Liathach and Slioch it has a cap of Cambrian basal quartzite which gives the peaks of Beinn Eighe a distinctive light colour. Its complex topology has made it popular with both hillwalkers and climbers and the National Nature Reserve on its northern side makes it an accessible mountain for all visitors.
Located between Loch Maree and Glen Torridon on the west coast of Scotland, Beinn Eighe is a complex mountain. A main ridge runs on a line extending from close to Kinlochewe in the north-east to the narrow glen of the Coire Dubh Mor separating it from the neighbouring mountain of Liathach in the south-west. The slopes into Glen Torridon on the south side are steep with few features and covered in white quartzite screes. On the north side are four large corries between which are a series of spurs extending out from the main ridge.
Two of Beinn Eighe's summits are classified as Munros. Ruadh-stac M r ('Big Red Stack' in Scottish Gaelic) is on one of the spurs off the main ridge and stands at a height of . The second Munro, Spidean Coire nan Clach ('Peak of the Corrie of Stones' in Scottish Gaelic), is the highest point on the main ridge itself. It stands at a height of and commands an extensive view over both Glen Torridon and the rest of the Beinn Eighe massif.
One of the most famous features of Beinn Eighe is the corrie of Coire Mhic Fearchair, often simply known as the Triple Buttress Corrie after the three large rock features which dominate the view from the north. There are many rock climbs on the buttresses and hillwalkers can access the tops of the buttresses from the head of the corrie.
The Triple Buttress was also the scene of an aviation tragedy. A post-war converted Lancaster, now operating in a maritime reconnaissance role by 120 Squadron, had taken off from RAF Kinloss just after 18.00 hours on the evening of 13 March 1951 for a NAVEX in the vicinity of Rockall and the Faroe Isles. The aircraft was due back at RAF Kinloss around 02.25 hours the following morning. However, while on the return journey, the aircraft experienced atrocious and freezing weather conditions, together with a strong N'Easterly wind. Some time after transmitting its last radio message, the Lancaster crashed just 4.6m (15 feet) below the summit of Beinn Eighe, and at the top of the almost inaccessible Far West Gulley ('Fuselage Gulley'), west of Triple Buttress and above Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair. Unaware of the crash location, the search teams could still find no trace of the missing aircraft after two days. However, at the time of the accident, a boy in Torridon had witnessed a red glow over Beinn Eighe. Believing this to be coming from one of the fishing boats on the loch, he thought nothing of it. However, two days later, on hearing about the missing aircraft, he remembered what he had seen and reported it. RAF Kinloss were notified of the boy's report together with the reports of several other witnesses who also had seen the red flash over Beinn Eighe. As a result of these reports, the RAF redirected their search efforts to the extensive ridge which included Beinn Eighe. On 16 March, an Airspeed Oxford aircraft located the crashed Lancaster on the mountain and reported its position back to the ground search teams. The rescue teams arrived at the base of the mountain on 17 March and began their attempted recovery from 18 March onward. However, because of the very difficult terrain and atrocious winter weather conditions, the teams could not reach the Lancaster, even after several attempts.
Although experienced civilian mountaineers offered their services, the RAF declined their assistance initially. This was unfortunate, as unlike today, and unlike the civilian mountaineers of that day RAF recovery teams were not fully trained or equipped for arduous mountain rescues or recoveries. Indeed, it was as a result of this incident that the modern RAF Mountain Rescue Teams (RAF MRTs) were formed. Eventually, two Royal Marine commandos reached the crash site and recovered one of the bodies. A few more bodies were recovered by the end of March two weeks after the accident. However, it was not until nearly 6 months later on 28 August 1951 that the remaining bodies of the eight crew members were recovered from the site.
Those who died in this tragic accident were:
Fl/Lt Harry Smith Reid DFC (29), Pilot, RAF.
Sgt Ralph Clucas (23), Co-Pilot, RAF. Buried at Kinloss Abbey.
Sgt Robert Strong (27), Navigator, RAF.
Sgt Peter Tennison (26), Air Signals, RAF. Buried at Kinloss Abbey.
Sgt James Naismith (28), Air Signals, RAF. Buried at Kinloss Abbey.
Sgt Wilfred D Beck (19), Air Signals, RAF. Buried at Kinloss Abbey.
Sgt James W Bell (25), Air Signals, RAF. Buried at Kinloss Abbey.
Sgt George Farquhar (29), Flight Engineer, RAF.
Beinn Eighe is unusual amongst the Torridon mountains in that its summit is not composed of Precambrian Torridonian Sandstone, but Cambrian basal quartzite, a very hard but brittle rock. This gives it its familiar light coloured summits, a notable contrast to the other peaks in the area. Underlying the quartzite is a bed of Torridonian Sandstone.
Beinn Eighe's complex topology offers both hillwalkers and climbers a wide variety of routes, climbs and traverses. For the hillwalker a popular route is the western traverse which includes both of the Munro summits and Coire Mhic Fearchair. A full traverse of Beinn Eighe includes navigating a series of pinnacles known as the Black Carls, which provide good scrambling and are located at the eastern end of the main ridge. Approached from the National Nature Reserve the Black Carls are a popular climb in their own right. Also within the National Nature Reserve, a moderate route ascends to the 'Conservation Cairn' at which offers extensive views of the surrounding landscape including Loch Maree and the nearby mountain Slioch.
National Nature Reserve
The northern side of Beinn Eighe is a National Nature Reserve managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. Formed in 1951 it was the first such area in Great Britain. Based around a visitor centre located two miles north-west of Kinlochewe the reserve covers 4,800 hectares. It has extensive marked trails through woodland on the lower slopes of Beinn Eighe, picnic areas and viewpoints.
The reserve covers a mixture of open moorland, woodland and bogs, and is home to a number of protected species, including red deer, golden eagles and pine martens. Many rare plants, including two variants of dwarf shrub heath and a western variant of moss heath, are also to be found on the reserve.
In addition to the National Nature Reserve facilities the area is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. This provides a field station with full laboratory facilities for up to fourteen people. The station is used by scientists and researchers to co-ordinate field data recording and also provides a base for undergraduate fieldwork.
Image:Beinn Eighe Ruadh-stac Mor.jpg|View from the top of Ruadh-stac M r to the north east Image:Beinn Eighe.jpg|The triple buttresses of Coire Mhic Fearchair
cy:Beinn Eighe - Ruadh-stac Mor es:Beinn Eighe no:Beinn Eighe nn:Beinn Eighe