Friday 6th – Monday 9th September 2019
So this weekend we were heading to Torridon on the West Coast of Scotland.
“Torridon” is used to describe both an area and a village.
The drive up to the north of Scotland was as always spectacular and we passed through some of the most beautiful of scenery.
As we hit Torridon it began to rain but here there was still outstanding beauty as we were situated right beside the sea loch of Loch Torridon, surrounded by rugged mountains.
This area is a mecca for all hillwalkers and lovers of wild places…I love its remoteness and wilderness…we were about to breathe in those views and vast open spaces.
Torridon itself has some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in Scotland, and its magnificent sandstone mountains give it a distinct reputation.
They are steep, shapely and imposing.
The village itself is quaint, nestled in the highland scenery. One very small village shop which also acts as the local tea house is present and full…its really the only thing here apart from a few houses which mostly look empty possibly more likely used as ‘holiday homes’.
Our plan was to camp in a wild campsite, which actually had a real toilet and hike some of these magnificent mountains.
We originally planned to do a wild camp at the top of one of the mountains but due to cold conditions we re-thought that one.
We waited until the rain went of slightly, erected the tent, had a bbq, went for a wander to walk off dinner then settled in for the night.
Our wild campsite was peaceful and tranquil just what we needed and would have expected here in the middle of nowhere.
It was perfect…..until 11pm when a group of four decided to invade our tranquil spot by driving alongside us in the noisiest of cars, then continued to let their noisy car engine run for approximately 15 minutes, then began opening and closing the doors of their noisy car at least 100 times, shone each of their head torches right in our tent for at least 45 minutes, proceeded to have a full blown conversation amongst themselves whilst erecting their two tents which included using a hammer to hammer in their pegs…RIGHT NEXT TO US!
To say we were fuming was an understatement…..we were gobsmacked and could not believe the audacity of these people…on entering their tents they then proceeded to continue with their conversations and giggling until they eventually tired.
Next thing we knew it was 5am and zips of tents were being opened and closed as well as car doors then their wake up alarm call went of at 5.30 am.
The joys of wild camping.
On getting out of the tent the next morning one of the women greeted me with a good morning….my response….not a good morning back that’s for sure!
You would not believe out of all of the space around us just how close their tents where to ours…wow!
So we were up and away early to relieve the tension but mainly because we were undertaking a very long high level walk today.
We were about to hike Liathach which has two peaks of Munro status: Spidean a’Choire Leith and Mullach an Rathain and is rated by many mountaineers and hill walkers as Scotland’s finest mountain….its probably one of the most famous mountains in Torridon.
Liathach in Scottish Gaelic means ‘The grey one’ and on looking at it from the roadside its clear to see why as its very steep sided rocky slopes appear to rise up in a series of near vertical rocky sandstone terraces, the highest peaks topped with quartzite blocks. It looks dramatic.
The hike up is very steep indeed and feels like we continue for ages as we have started at sea level.
However the day itself is beautiful and we enjoy hiking at a steady pace, looking at the superb glen views.
We see many gleaming white quartzite crags along the way. We undertake a couple of short scrambly sections before reaching the ridge. It’s fantastic and overpowering the beauty of the landscape and seascape that surrounds us…breath-taking.
I love the solitude. Hiking above stunning coires and looking out to vast views. Now this is one stunning view.
We decided we wanted to undertake the full ridge walk so we did a small detour which took us to the Munro top Stuc a’Choire Dhubh Bhi, a summit at the most easterly point of the ridge.
The walk along the ridge at this point didn’t feel too exposed and we continued on the path crossing two tops of Stob a’Choire Liath Mhor. Every direction offering spectacular views. We saw for miles.
This mountain offers a lot of ups and downs as we then had to descend again before climbing again to the summit of Munro number one, Spidean a’Choire Leith.
We eventually saw the gnarly ridge which looked razor-sharp and those famous pinnacles as well as towering cones and spires.
At this point I wondered how on earth can we even get over them!
Before reaching these however we needed to descend Spidean a’Choire Leith which at points was quite tricky as there were lots of loose stones and rocks and there was a very sharp descent below us! In poor conditions this would be a whole different ball game.
We eventually reached some flat land, discussed our next route, before undertaking the scramble and from this point it looked crazy.
Today was perfect weather conditions to be undertaking this.
Once up on top we hit the scrambling points which were pretty exposed over Am Fasarinen Pinnacles between the Munro’s. There are some ridiculously steep drop offs.
My heart was pumping. Climbing up, there was good feet and hand holds most of the time, but in my mind I was thinking how do I get back off the other side.
Once at the top of the pinnacle however it looked better than I originally thought, we climbed down and all of a sudden we were off, what a relief!
The path re-joined the ridge which took us to the second Munro of the day, Mullach an Rathain.
On looking back at what we had just traversed was amazing, it looked superb and unachievable, the ridge was stunning and the glens and the other Torridon mountains were all out in full show.
From the cairn we just sat and stared out.
From here you could clearly see the classically glaciated U-shaped valleys, the sea and the many mountains surrounding us and in the distance, a full 360 view, it was unbelievable.
This traverse was an expedition that will be remembered forever and probably one of the best ridge walks we have done.
We reluctantly began our descent as we knew it was going to be tough – very long and very steep.
This was hard on the knees and thighs.
And it felt like forever.
The feeling of hitting the valley floor was nice as the descent had been tiring.
We then had to begin the two-mile walk back along the road to return to the car.
At this point a car stoped beside us and asked if we would like a lift, I was surprised by this and reluctantly declined the offer wanting to finish off the walk on foot. This however was before I realised it was a 2 mile walk to the car.
We discussed if another car stopped what we would do and agreed to take the lift.
Another car stops, I refuse the lift again insanely, what am I doing!
Once the car drives of we discuss again how stupid it was to refuse a lift and if a third person stopped we would definitely take the lift….would you believe it, a third person stopped and I refused again “no honestly its fine, thanks very much though”, I heard the words coming out of my mouth!!!!!
There will be no cheating on my watch and we finish the walk by foot!
On reaching the car 11 hours later from when we left in the morning it was a relief.
This had been a long strenuous ascent and descent. On looking back up at what we had achieved though felt rewarding.
Tonight there was going to be no cooking so we decided to head to Shieldiag to find the one and only pub/restaurant anywhere near us and open to treat ourselves to dinner – haggis, neeps and tatties!
On reaching our tent we found our friends next door were still around, tents were there but no-one was in.
After sorting ourselves out it was time to hit the sack as we were shattered.
All was peaceful and tranquil until 11.30pm when our neighbours rocked up noisily but not quite as noisy as the night before……….
Today we awoke early with more noise from next door!
We were going to try and tick off another two Munro’s today. Our legs were feeling it this morning. Due to the long steep descent of yesterdays ventures my knees were really hurting and my thighs were screaming.
Todays walk was Beinn Alligin, meaning the ‘Mountain of Beauty’ in Gaelic and its not hard to see why.
Beinn Alligin is the name given to this small collection of peaks. We were going to be climbing Sgurr Mhor (Big Peak) and Tom na Gruagaich (Hill of the Damsel) which should take us between 6-8 hours to complete the full traverse.
Today we could not see the top of Beinn Alligin or any of the mountain tops in-fact due to clouds hovering over them, but down at sea level it was a nice day.
We followed a very clear path up the mountain which was pretty rocky and tough going. The path climbed steeply and steadily up through the Coire nan Laogh beside a beautiful waterfall.
We took in the lovely views back towards Loch Torridon.
The higher we climbed the more exposed it became and the less we saw until we came onto the plateau and saw nothing as we were surrounded in cloud.
I had read that from the ridge spectacular views could be seen, but not today!
From here we then had to ascend some more steep rocky sections before reaching the summit of Tom na Gruagaich.
As there was no views to be seen we continued to hike on.
It was difficult to see where we needed to head to get of this mountain as the cloud around us was so thick we could only see a short distance ahead.
We made our way down some rocky and scrambly terrain before following the ridge path and then climbing to the second summit of Beinn Allign, Sgurr Mhor.
By this time the winds had picked up and we were being blown of our feet, it was treacherous.
On reaching the summit we had two choices to make either go back the way we had came or proceed to follow the route over the three Horns of Allign which is a technical scramble we wanted to undertake before descending the southeast ridge, eventually leading back to the starting point.
We couldn’t even see The Horns from here.
It was a no brainer in this weather we had to play it safe and go back the way we had just came…..reluctantly!
We tried to get of the mountain as quickly as we could as the wind at this point was so powerful.
On eventually reaching our first summit it began to calm down and we headed downwards over the rocks before reaching the bottom which took us to the carpark.
We had been walking for over 7 hours.
Our time spent in Torridon had been amazing.
It is a truly beautiful glen that has been described as ‘exhibiting more of mountain beauty than any other district of Scotland, including the Isle of Skye’.
The peaks here are amongst the oldest peaks to be found in the whole of Europe, being some 2500 to 3000 million years old.
Its ancient and enchanting wilderness of water and rock is awe-inspiring and we will be back to explore it some more.