An Epic day in Torridon
Area: Loch Torridon to Loch Maree
Munros: Mullach an Rathain (Liathach), Ruadh-stac Mor (Beinn Eighe), Sgurr Mor (Beinn Alligin), Spidean a’Choire Leith (Liathach), Spidean Coire nan Clach (Beinn Eighe), Tom na Gruagaich (Beinn Alligin)
Date walked: 22/09/2012
Time taken: 13.5 hours
Distance: 37 km
Imagine an area of Scotland where the mountains rise from the bedrock like giant monoliths. A place of extraordinary beauty combined with rugged steep slopes, incredible pinnacles and amazing ridges. A place where every where you look there is the most amasing scenery. A place where the Glaciers of the last ice age had to ask permission to pass I tell you no lie.
This place is called Torridon.
Now imagine a clear sunny day, a day with no midges, yes I do mean no midges, no wind and cool late September temperatures. Well imagine no more because today was the day. Today was the day that I was going to attempt to walk all 6 Munros in one outing. This was not going to be easy. My fitness level was reasonable and I have done some big walks but this was to be the pinnacle of my Munro bagging experience should I succeed. You may ask why. Well I say why not.
I will go over the horns of Alligin, climb the Am Fasarinen Pinnacles and follow the route you might take should you do these Munros over multiple days. I will see all that you see. Granted I may not study it in as great a detail but I will enjoy all that is on offer just the same. So with my planning and preparation done, I drive up to Torridon on the Friday night and pop into the Kinlochewe hotel for a coffee, before driving to the car park below Liathach and dropping the bike off for the 6 mile cycle back to the car. I then drive to Torridon and park up at the parking area below Beinn Alligan and get my head down for the night.
Up in the morning a little later than planned due to a restless night and I am on my way at 0700hrs. Its 2 degrees at the car as I cross the road and onto the small path following the west bank of the burn. The path is good if a bit rocky and meanders up the hilside into and ascending Coir nan Laogh up to the summit of Tom na Gruagaich. Its only 1.5 hrs to this point but I have been trying to slow down in order to conserve energy. I packed three litres of fluid with me thinking the hills would be dry but there are plenty of streams in which I could have refilled and this is the case for most of the walk.
Sgurr Mhor and the horns of Alligin are in the mist but there are some fine views to the west. There is a slight cold breeze and the sun is shining which make for perfect conditions. The path descends to the coire below Sgurr Morwhich has now appeared out of the mist and it doesn’t take long to arrive at the summit of Munro no2. Its now a descend and ascent over each of the horns which prove no real difficulty whatsoever but they are a bit airy so needs a little bit of concentration if your not to keen on exposure. Its now a simple 3km walk down to the valley crossing two bridges and joining the main path along Coire Mhic Nobuit. I met and chatted with a number of walkers going in to Beinn Alligin.
Its now 1042hrs and I am looking for a steady ascent up the West flank of Liathach. Its a reasonably steep grassy ascent for 450m then 300m of easier ascent with the final steep 50m pull to the summit of Mullach an Rathain. I had seen a couple of helicopters flying around Beinn Alligin during the final ascent. There was a small helicopter and a larger sea king I think. It looked like the sea king landed for 10 minutes on the summit of Sgur Mor so I hope it was just a training excercise. It took off again and dropped into the coire making a hasty path across Loch Torridon so maybe it picked someone up or was called out to another task. The views are sensational, the sun is shining, this is awesome. The view around the ridge over the pinnacles to Spidean a’Choire Leith is just amazing. I now head off descending to the start of the first pinnacle.
There is a path going around the side, which I believe is not the actual bypass path but a lead into the pinnacles, but I want this to be a true test so I start climbing directly up the front face. There are plenty hand holds and options and I am soon on the top of the first pinnacle which is the biggest climb I think. I meet a couple coming down and as I descend and re ascend I meet lots of others having fun on this glorious day. I am soon heading up the seriously steep boulder field to the summit of Spidean a’Choire Leith. Its 1414hrs, quite busy and I stop for a good break.
I move onto the North flank of the summit away from the crowds to have my lunch and contemplate the next move. After a good helping of pasta and a sandwich I am on my way. The terrain is all boulders with some climb downs and very steep. You have to move nimbly in order not to create a rockslide and a fall from any off the climb downs would not be very clever as no one would expect you to be on this flank of the mountain. I had left information with Danrun and had text him from the Pinnacles, the last time I had a signal, so he knew where I was headed should I fail to return hahaha.
After descending 200m the terrain becomes less boulder and more grass but another 200m of descent and I descend into the most difficult terrain I have encountered. Not because it is steep, not because it is boggy, but because it is filed with huge boulders separated by heather hiding drops between the boulders. These monsters are set in huge terraces and it was not a good experience. I could see the path which I was heading for below me but it just didn’t seem to be getting any closer. However its a bit of mind over matter and careful progress and I eventually reached a small cairn as I rejoined the path to Beinne Eighe at 1540hrs. I have to admit I am tired but the hard work is done. The crux for me will be the scree slope above Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair. If I get up that in one piece I will be able to compleat the round.
So I take the good path for 2km approximately as it contours round and ascends past the waterfalls to Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair. What a fantastic Corrie. I meet a guy up here with his Grandson. They are bivvying in a shelter cairn with bangers and beans on the stove. They gave me some oatmeal biscuits and I am again on my way, following the path and ascending some terraces up to the scree slope. I had read somewhere that there is a path to the right of the scree slope. Initially it didn’t seem to be the case and the scree was hard work but I soon spotted a good path which climbs up the crags all the way to the top.
I drop my pack for the first time and head over the boulder terrain to the summit of Ruadh-stac Mor and backtrack to my pack. The path climbs South then there is a bypass path which skirts the minor top heading for the beallach then the final ascents to the summit of Spidean Coire nan Clach. This was a rocky ridge and I found it quite tough going but I persevered and arrived at the summit at 1919. The sun was fading fast as it hid behind the hills to my West so I had to immediately head of the mountain. I had decided beforehand that I would head down the grassy slopes of Fuaran Mor and had left my pack at the beallach below Spidean Coire nan Clach so back track again and I am soon heading down the steep slope. At the summit my phone battery was on its last legs so I saved the track and the phone then died. I meant to change the battery when I got back to my pack but due to now being in a hurry I didn’t get around to it.
Darkness was descending as I descend directly south. Now this is all going well until I cantsee any more hahaha and decide to get my head torch out. I don’t have my head torch with me. Can you believe it I have carried my head torch all year and now when I need it its not in the pack. However a quick check in my emergency store and I have a small hand torch. Its about 10 candle power hahaha but it will have to do. So descending I go. Its a good descent for 500m but then as the terrain flattens out a bit it becomes extremely boggy. I end up knee deep in a bog and have to change direction a fee times. This part of the descent seemed to take ages and I eventually arrived at the burn Allt a Choire Dhuibh Mhoir which was huge. There was a waterfall cascading just upstream and the noise was deafening. The burn was quite wide and only a couple of foot deep so I waded into it. Had it been in spate I might not have been able to cross which I had not taken into account whilst planning this trip.
This gave me a good opportunity to clean all the bog crap from my boots and trousers and after a short ascent I am on the path to salvation, well the car park hahaha. I am so happy to see my bike. There is a car in the car park with someone in the driving seat and a couple of other cars with there occupants probably in the hills. I retrieve my bike as the occupied car heads off in the direction of Torridon. Now another issue I had been pondering on my descent was I do not have any lights on the bike. Don’t laugh but they are in the house hahaha. So I cycled the 6 miles back to the van slowly, checking over my shoulder every two minutes in case headlights were heading my way and on a number of occasions I had to pull over and wait until the vehicle had passed. me by. The large ascent up the road about 1km from the car park was horrible hahaha.
That was an amazing day, a sunny day, a beautiful day but a tough day. Probably the most memorable day I will ever have in the hills.
P.S. The route descending from the North ridge of Liathach – Spidean a’Choire Leith is steep and presents a degree of danger. DO NOT attempt this route unless you are confident at route finding through very difficult terrain.