5 – 12 March 2017
The Gritstone Club had arranged accommodation at The Log House on the Damph Estate for 14 people. 12 people arrived during Sunday. The sunset that evening was spectacular! A good omen?
The three big ridges – Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin were my target for the week, if the weather was kind. It was!
With a changing forecast everyday we somehow managed to get the rain and winds in the night except Wednesday, which was declared a rest day….
Monday saw the team heading up the stalkers path from the car park in Glen Torridon round into Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair. Light rain began to fall as we got to the loch but the forecast was for an improving day. Three of and a dog! (Susan and Brian Melia plus Poppy) set off up the back wall to the right of Three Barrel Buttress and the snow gulley to the notch in the ridge.
It was now snowing and the wind got up a bit on the ridge. We headed south to Ruadh Stac Mor, the first Munro at 1010 m. Retracing our steps we crossed the notch and headed SW to the main ridge, then generally west along this to Spidean Ciore nan Clach, the second Munro at 993 m. The sun poked its head out between the rapidly moving clouds, providing fine views (and pictures) along the ridge. Again, retracing our steps, we headed east for a short while, then via a steep decent in soft snow to the south down into Coire an Laoigh and back to the road. A fine expedition in the conditions.
Tuesday was fine but overcast so 4 of us set our sights on highest summit on the Applecross Peninsula, Bienn Bhan at 896 m, a few meters short of a Munro. We parked a car at the top of the pass to Applecross, Bealach na Ba, then returned to the the bridge over the River Kishorn at Tornapress. A steady climb first along a stalkers path, then across open moorland, lead us passed Lochan Coire na Poite then into Coire an Fhamair, where we had lunch. A steep snow climb up the back wall of the coire lead onto the ridge.
The weather changed dramatically! A strong wind sprang up from the south, laden with snow and spindrift. This made progress directly into the wind along the ridge painful and slow. After about 1 km and close to the summit of Beinn Bhan, we turned west along a second ridge over difficult rocky ground and deep snow, dropping about 380m, to the col at Bealach nan Arr.
We had a break in the shelter of bounders before heading SW along a rising traverse across slabs. The route then turned south rising across deep snow and rocks for about 2 km where we joined a track. A much easier walk along the track lead us back to the car.
Wednesday was wet and very windy, but it did fair up in the afternoon. The full team enjoyed a walk along the loch side and then inland to Balgy Falls. A pleasant 2 hour stroll.
There had been a fresh fall of snow on the tops overnight, but again the forecast for Thursday was for improving weather and sunshine later in the day. Only 2 takers though! – Clive Dyson and myself. We begged a lift to the start point a few miles up Torridon valley. An excellent track lead very steeply up the south face of the ridge. We encountered soft snow at about 600 m, which gradually became deeper and hampered our progress. A second team arrived and helped force the route to the ridge. Progress along the narrow ridge to the west was even more difficult as the snow had drifted onto the ridge, hiding the rocks and mantraps.
The second team (of much younger talent) again took over and forced a passage to the first Munro, Spidean a Chiore Leith at 1055 m. Decision time! Do we follow the other team and complete the ridge? Well how bad could it be? All we had to do was follow the footprints of the other team! Decision made, we followed. A long descent to the SW through deep snow, and down rocky outcrops, brought us to the start of The Pinnacles.
This is a narrowing of the ridge which creates a series of rocky spikes which have to be climbed and descended. In the difficult conditions the party ahead of us did a fine job of route finding. We followed but kept a respectable distance……Pinnacles completed we plodded up the final slopes to Mullach an Rathain at 1023 m, the second Munro on the ridge.
Here we met Brian Melia who had “run” up the ridge from the west. He descended the same way, but our path lay down a steep snow covered slope to the south, then turning left we descended more steep snow and eventually picked up the path down Toll Ban, where Clive’s wife kindly picked us up and took us the pub.
A well deserved and enjoyable few beers followed. What a ridge!!
Friday started a bit damp so we had a delayed start. The objective was a low level walk along the coast on the opposite side of the loch from the Log House, from Inveralligin to Lower Diabaig. A stroll in the park, or so it appeared from the map, so a suitable semi rest day? Far from it. The path rose and fell between ridges of high ground and valleys all the way. What a beautiful path though, providing wonderful views throughout it’s length.
Along the way we saw a Golden Eagle and a couple of Otters on route. The stroll turned out to be 8 km and 500 m of ascent and descent.
Saturday and the last day! Best do something worthwhile then. The day started overcast, but the forecast was for an improving day with the summits clearing early afternoon. Best do Beinn Alligin then and complete my target for the week. No takers! I drove round the loch to the car park above Torridon House, where the road crosses a fine river gorge. A few cars where parked there so maybe I would find company en route? A good path lead steeply up the hill side, with some steeper sections of scrambling up short rock steps. After about 250 m the path levelled off then gradually started rising again into Coir’ nan Laogh. The path climbed even steeper with some wet snow patches. I was now climbing in the mist and constantly checking my progress on the map. I finally arrive at the first summit Tom na Gruagaich at 922 m. No views to reward my efforts so no point in hanging around. A quick check on the compass to get the right direction of the summit, showed the way to be steeply down a snow covered rocky ridge.
Nobody about to consult so down I went taking care on the mixed snow and rock steps. I dropped to about 750m then turned to the NE and climbed up to the summit of Sgurr Mhor at 986 m, the second Munro on the ridge. The cloud refused to lift, but it was time for a bite to eat, sat leaning against the cairn, which given some protection against the wind. I then headed north for a few meters before turning sharp right down a long snow covered ridge heading east. I descended to a col at 760 m, which marked the start of the Horns of Alligin, 3 rocky summits on the narrowed ridge. Climbing steeply up, taking care with the soft snow and wet rocks, I arrived at the first summit at 865 m. Still no views unfortunately! A narrow rock crest continued eastward before falling then rising to the other 2 summits. After the Horns I followed a well trodden path steeply down to join the stalkers path at Bealach a Chomhia. This in turn led to another track, which I joined at the the main river, Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil.
A rest and a few photographs, hoping the summits would clear, before following the path back to my car. What a wonderful mountain – shame about the mist. I must go back on a clear day.
That evening we enjoyed a beautiful sunset to complete a very enjoyable week in Torridon.
I managed to complete my targets and climbed 6 Munros and a Corbett in the process, covering 16150ft of ascent. Not bad for a week!
Pete Barrans March 2017