Torridon Giants

Torridon Giants, 21-23 May'19

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. Three days of guided hiking and scrambling up the high Munros in Torridon. John King and Christine Menhennet was leading.

Torridon Giants

Day 1 - Beinn Alligin

Starting our week on the Torridon Giants with Beinn Alligin, the forecast was looking mixed but it seemed like we might get a view before rain came in during the afternoon. I was guiding with Christine Menhennet on this trip and we met our team for the week at Beinn Alligin car park early on Tuesday morning. With the forecast in mind we set off in an anti-clockwise direction, aiming to tackle the Horns of Alligin in the dry part of the day. There were a few midgies about in the car park so we set-off at a good pace up through the pines and out onto the open moors to escape them! A great path leads up to the base of the Horns and then picks an intricate line up through the crags to gain the ridge. We made good progress up this and then got into the scrambling.

With a good, drying breeze, the sandstone was completely dry and we were able to enjoy a good clamber along the crest with great views opening up in all directions. The nearby Corbett of Baosbheinn looked particularly good. We picked our way over each of the Horns and had them all done before 12. We descended down into the bealach before the main summit, Sgurr Mhor and enjoyed a break to refuel ahead of the steep ascent to the top.

It was a steady pull up to the main summit of Sgurr Mhor but we made short work of it and were soon admiring the views from the top. The visibility was superb so we could see all the way to the Western Isles and across many of the peaks of the Northwest Highlands. The views back down over the Horns and across to Beinn Eighe and Liathach, our objectives for the rest of the week, were also fantastic. There was a cool breeze though, so we descended to the bealach below our next Munro, Tom na Gruagaich, taking a minute to admire the massive cleft of the Eag Dhubh as we went. We found a nice sheltered spot by a tiny lochan to enjoy a well-earned lunch. A bit of cloud blew over at this point but it didn't last and we were soon heading up to the summit of Tom na Gruagaich with fine views all around once more. We reached the summit in good time and took a moment to enjoy the views. I was quite chuffed as it was my 1000th Munro summit and it was nice to celebrate the occasion with a great group.

From the summit, it was a nice steady descent on a good path all the way to the car park. As we dropped off the ridge there were some nice views across the head of Loch Torridon to the hills of the Coulin Forest and we saw our first red deer of the trip, very close to us in the base of Coire nan Laogh. When the sun came out it was pretty warm and I could feel myself starting to burn so after crossing a stile near the bottom I put a bit of sun cream on. Sure enough, this meant it rained for the last section into the car park, but it wasn't enough to dampen our spirits after a good first day on the hill! We were back down around 4pm with plenty of time for a good nights rest ahead of a longer day on Beinn Eighe tomorrow.

Day 2 - Beinn Eighe

During the previous day's ascent of Beinn Alligin, the good weather had afforded us spectacular views of the quartzite-screed whaleback of distant Beinn Eighe; fellow guide John King and I had waxed lyrical about the magnificent hidden drama of the mountain's Coire Mhic Fhearchair with its impressive triple buttress, and our group was full of anticipation and optimism for the following day, despite the doubtful weather forecast.

The morning of our programmed Beinn Eighe ascent, a slightly reduced but select group met in the Beinn Eighe car park (also the part time residence of an old stag who should be named "Chancer"!).

The clag was down, there was a brisk northerly breeze and rain threatened; there was nothing for it but to tog up from the start and, after some car shuffling to the finish point, get on with it. We headed off at a fine pace along the good stoney track through Coire Dubh Mor aware of Liathach's dark, towering bluff to our left. After the long dry spell of early May, it was quite a novelty to have to splosh our way across the burn before arriving at the watershed. We turned north, north east to head round the base of Sail Mhor, a glorious tract of boggy wilderness and lochans spreading below us to the north. We were glad to have the wind more at our backs, as we turned again to begin the steep climb, beside tumbling waters, to the famous coire of which we had spoken the day before – one of the most impressive in Scotland, and we were ever hopeful that its grandeur would be revealed between the misty drapes. Sadly it wasn't to be; instead we had to make do with very impressive photos of group member John, posing in his bright red cagoule against an imagined triple buttress backdrop! We decided against a dip in the lochan and instead, we each selected a large boulder behind which to take shelter and grab some food and don another layer (and our picnic smiles!) before our next ascent.

We picked our away up through jumbled boulders above the lochan whilst admiring the multi coloured and multi textured lichens adorning them, and then made short shrift of the balding quartzite scree climb to the col that separates Ruadh stac Mor from the main ridge of Beinn Eighe. Conditions were still wet, cold and breezy but when the chips are down, it's the small things that keep people amused – Jenn kept us regularly updated on our altitude whilst Bruce regaled us with impressive tales of his prize winning photograph in Trail Magazine, Al amazed us with his dexterity at lighting cigarettes in these grimmest of conditions and the banter was good! The previous day, fellow guide John King had handed out very excellent chocolate chip cookies in celebration of his 100oth Munro, today my hard rock toffees weren't quite so popular but the focus was on getting the job done – not losing a tooth!

We had an easier walk across to the summit of 'the Big Red Peak' at 1010m, took bagging photos, returned to the col and then headed south west to the cairned dome of Choinneach Mhor. From here we followed the narrow white path along the twisted main spine of the mountain - possibly just a glimpsed view of the scree strewn spurs below, but maybe that was imagined! We reached the blocky trig point on Spidean Coire nan Clach 972m (not surprisingly – the Peak of the Stoney Corrie), left our sacks and made the last scramble up some jagged protrusions to the highest point at 993m.

The descent into Coire an Laoigh took some carful negotiation down a steep and deeply eroded section of stalker's path but further down the path takes a series of easy zig zags across grassier slopes strewn with wild flowers. We arrived at the finish car park a slightly bedraggled but fulfilled bunch after a day filled with laughs and banter at all altitudes!

Day 3 - Liathach

To finish our week in Torridon we had one more ridge to climb. After our soaking on Beinn Eighe the day before, it was nice that the forecast was looking slightly drier for Liathach and the winds were due to remain fairly light. However, with the wind direction being due west we opted to walk the ridge from west to east and keep it at our backs as we went along. We met in Glen Torridon, shuffled cars to either end of the ridge and then set off up the path for our first Munro of the day, Mullach an Rathain. This is a 1000m climb and we broke it up with a stop in the sheltered bowl of the coire, Toll Ban. The upper section of the coire makes for some rough walking and we picked our way steadily upwards. It was nice to reach the top of the slopes where we stopped once more to add an extra layer for warmth on the ridge and to have elevenses!

On Mullach an Rathain we were very much in the mist with a fine drizzle falling. After the obligatory team photo on this first top Christine and Chris headed back to the Glen, while I carried on along the ridge with the rest of the group. Following the steep climb from Glen Torridon it was nice to be descending on more gentle terrain and, although in the cloud, you could really sense the steep drops on the north side of mountain down into Coire na Caime. Eventually the top of Am Fasarinen came into view and in the conditions it looked a particularly impressive spire of rock. With the rain falling more steadily now and a gusty wind blasting through between the pinnacles we opted for the bypass path. This also provides an airy walk as the path picks out a line along sandstone terraces far above Glen Torridon but it makes for easier walking and we were sheltered from the wind, which we could hear blasting off the rocks up above us. We rejoined the crest of the ridge briefly at the notch in the middle of the pinnacles and scrambled up to the next section of the bypass. Exposed to the wind and rain here we could appreciate how sheltered the bypass path had been and it was nice to get back into the shelter of the path above.

Before long we cleared the pinnacles and reached the quartzite boulder fields leading up to Liathach's main summit, Spidean a' Choire Liath. Some care was required on the wet boulders but the going wasn't too bad and we reached the top around 1pm, perfect timing for a well-earned lunch! All that remained was to pick our way down over the subsidiary top of Stob a' Choire Liath Mhor and then to the low bealach at the head of Coire Liath Mhor. Here we picked up the path down into the glen and made a steady descent. As we went the waterfalls around us were all looking very dramatic, freshly refilled with water after the past couple of day's rainfall and there were large clumps of saxifrage around a few of the falls. By the time we were reaching the glen the sun was making an appearance, which dried us out a little and we walked into the car park just in time to meet Christine who'd headed back along to meet us at the end. It was a great effort by the group to get so much done in some challenging conditions and many thanks to everyone for some great chat and lots of enthusiasm on the walks!

Some more thoughts by Alex McBride who was on the event :

8 of us met up in Beinn Alligan car park with John and Christine; our guides for the next 3 days. Spirits were high and the weather played ball today. Decision made to go over The Horns 1st and continue over the Munro's. Views got better and better the higher we got. The pace suited all of us and both guides took time to talk to everyone, passing on their knowledge of the surrounding hills and areas. Names of flowers I'd never heard of rhymed from Christine while John led expertly from the front.

Wednesday saw a change in the weather and numbers. Waterproofs were donned in the car park and Beinn Eighe was the target. Target was completed with a gritty determination from all. And still spirits were high. Without John and Christine it would have been difficult navigating in the mist today.

Thursday, and rather than rain all day, it would still be drizzly on Liatach. Numbers increased again. Everyone was looking forward to today. Some were probably thinking "pinnacles or not today" Christine showed her leaderxhip qualities today again with her encouragement. Today we would be going on the "bypass" path led by John and it was time to switch on- if any of us hadn't already!! Mist was down again and John showed his skills again as he navigated off the boulder field and got us all down.

A fantastic 3 days and my hat goes off to SFMG and John and Christine for making this a trip to remember. Cheers also to everyone in our group and I hope to bump into you all again

More photos by John King and Christine Menhennet are here on Flickr.

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