Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Torridon, Sept'14

Our September Torridon trip is one I always look forward to. This year, unknown to me at the time, I put it into the calendar on a holiday weekend for some folk. John was the lead guide for the trip, but with so many bookings we decided rather than turn people away, to instead put on another guide - me ! So hence I'm writing this and John gets out of some 'homework'.

Our first day is on Beinn Alligin, this sets the scene for the rest of the weekend. It's a moderate day and I emphasised this along with the intended leisurely pace at the briefing in the car-park. Carles, our Catalan group member, led the charge uphill, the rest enjoying the banter as we formed an ordely queue behind. Ground was dry and first stop of the day was roughly half way up, by the stream tumbling down through Toll a'Mhadaidh. Onto our first Munro summit, Tom na Gruagaich, we hi-fived and took in the views - a bit hazy, but still magnificent.

Heading north from the summit, we kept the group together and practiced some easy scrambling on the sandstone. Up to Sgurr Mor, on the way, we gawped down the dark cleft of the Eas Dubh. From Sgurr Mor's summit, ahead and below, the Horns of Alligin displayed their rough ramparts, making one or two members of the group (you know who you are) slightly nervous - John and I reassured them there was nothing to worry about and would be there to coach them along - there's always a by-pass path too ! Conditions were perfect, no wind and dry underfoot, the group yomped up and over the Horns in good-style.

We grouped at the end of the south-east spur and enjoyed one last break on the day. From here the path becomes obvious and we suggested that people head down at their own pace, I'd be at the back ensuring everyone got down safe and well. You guessed it, Carles was off like a bullet !

Day two and it's up Beinn Eighe. The jewel on this mountain is stunning Coire Mhic Fhearchair - its lonely loch encircled by Ruadh Stac Mor, Sail Mhor and the famed Triple Buttress, all hidden well from roadside view and therefore requiring a substantial hike.

We met in the Coire Dubh Mor car-park and after shuffling around vehicles to save our wee legs at the end of the day, started up the fine path maintained by the NTS. With Liathach towering above us to our left and Choinneach Mor to our right, the path headed through an intimidating place. Gradually the views opened up an ahead Beinn Dearg came into view (or was it Baosbheinn, John ??), followed by glimpses on yesterday's mountain Beinn Alligin. As we turned northwards, the Flowerdale Forest peaks showed their southern sides, followed by Beinn a'Chearcaill (a peak I've still to climb - a 'Graham', that explains why !), the autumnal browns offset by the blue sky backdrop. Into Coire Mhic Fhearchair, everyone gasped in amazment at the stage, cameras clicking merrily away. We enjoyed some elevensies by the waters edge.

The usual way up onto Ruadh stac Mor from the coire is to head through a nick onto a narrow part of the connecting ridge between the Munro and Choinneach Mor. However the climb up this is rough and on very loose scree - one chap, not in our group, headed off in this direction well infront of us. No instead, we know of a much more pleasant way up, quite direct and on grass for the most part - and we headed up this, being watch by some curious deer. On the way, Natasha let our a hellish scream - I though she'd fallen and turned around expecting to see the worse. She'd seen a frog jump infront of her !!!! My racing heart calmed down and the comments (ie jokes) came thick and fast - 'it was only and inch long' - 'aye an inch is all it takes'. Up onto the plateau, the summit bagged in sunshine ! As we were enjoying the views and a lunch-stop, the chap heading up the rough way passed us, slightly peeved off on his choice of route compared to us.

We started off in the direction of Choinneach Mor, followed by our companion. At the nick, he decided to head down the way he'd come up and John and I watched to ensure he managed down without event. Beyond the nick, John took some of the group up the ridge, myself and a few others skirted around Choinneach Mor on a faint path, meeting some runners who'd been competing on the Applecross Duathlon yesterday (hiya Claire and Ellie). Up onto the crest again (of course my group got there first) we headed for the day's final Munro Spidean Coire nan Clach. Some rough terrain led up to the trig point, which suprisingly is not on the summit. Rucksacks dropped off by the trig point, we headed along the final stretch to the summit fresh as daisies with the loads removed. Some fun was to be had one a couple of sections of easy scrambling sections. Ah, the views, simply fabulous ! We returned to our rucksacks for a long pause, taking in the sunshine, some of us enjoying a brief snooze. Bliss !

All that was left was a slog down some scree to meet up with a path to take us back down to the roadside.

Our final day in Torridon was on Liathach and began with a revised start time of 8:30 to allow those heading south after the hike to get home in daylight. We were being joined by Stephen, but unfortunately the phone mast seemed to go down the night before and there was no way to communicate with him. So as the group headed up from the roadside into Toll a'Meitheach, I was left waiting. Stephen turned up bang on time and set off. We caught the group up by the sharp turn in the path below the dark buttresses and continued on, Carles in front (again), myself bringing up the rear. Although the forecast was good, cloud sped over the peaks, giving cause for concern when thinking of what lay ahead. Still, after calling home, conditions were much better than down south (heavy rain there). The group hiked and scrambled confidently along the sandstone then up over the quartzite blocks. In mist, we reached Liathach's highest point, Spidean a'Choire Leith and found a plaque on the cairn in memory of someone who'd died young. Personally I think these are inappropriate up here and some people find them upsetting, so after a wee chat, we took the plaque a short distance down from the summit and placed it in shelter under some boulders - it's easily found if required ! We munched away, the cloud coming and going, teasing us with views of the pinnacles ahead.

And so onto the Am Fasarinen Pinnacles. A fair wind was blowing from the south-east and both John and I knew we weren't going to take the group along the crest. We did however get people up the first pinnacle to take in the splendour, then retreated to the shelter of the by-pass path. At the end of the path, John an I took those who wanted to up the final and highest pinnacle as the route was for the most part up this was sheltered from the wind. Some photos, we then quickly joined the rest of the group for the pleasant grassy walk to Mullach an Rathain, the westerly Munro on Liathach. The cloud lifted and the sun even came out - time for another well deserved break to take in some food and drink in the views !

The descent from Liathach is initially on scree - like Marmite, some people love this, others hate it. Some of the group bounded down, great big smiles on the way. Others got their poles out and treaded down carefully. Everyone got down safely, if spread out.

A great weekend, hopefully everyone enjoying themselves and learning something new ! Natasha - thanks for the Black Tower :0)

More photos are on this Flickr album.