Our blog - Bespoke Torridon, Mar'17

A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Bespoke day in Torridon

15 March 2017
A day hiking up some of the mountains in Torridon. John was leading...

Navigation A two day trip to Torridon, possibly doing the mighty Liathach and the beautiful Beinn Alligin. Who could resist it? Certainly not me. But wait, what's that...surely not yet another forecast of 'severe upland gales' and torrential rain. How many grim days can one season hold, and indeed, how bad can it really be? Well, the answer to the first question is apparently 'an awful lot', and the second is 'heavy goods lorries tipped over on the Forth Road Bridge, traffic chaos and a diversion around the Kessock Bridge'..... and it's worse up North. Oh, that bad then. So we had better trim the trip to just the one day then. Boo!

So this morning dawned with 50mph gusts, but they were forecast to abate briefly, picking up again in the afternoon. I met Will and Laura at their croft lodgings in Torridon, and we decided to attempt Ruadh-stac Mor, one of the munro summits on the mighty Beinn Eighe, the route giving us some shelter from the wind. The remit is not a summit per se, but 'a good day out', experiencing the full Scottish experience - I suspect we may well be doing just that. The consolation prize, (and it's a good one), is the utterly beautiful Coire Mhic Fhearchair, with its wild green loch and awesome triple buttress, which we have to pass through en route.

At the parking spot, there was another party setting off at the same time, but all but one of them were heading for a circumnavigation of Liathach on the lower paths. We chatted to the other one who was heading the same way as us when he caught up with us at a snack stop, but he was only going as far as the coire, complaining of a sore heel. We wished him luck and parted company in the torrential rain.

After some pictures at the blustery entrance to the coire, where the waterfall was doing its best to run back up hill, we made our way around the loch edge towards the low point obvious in the ridge. Here, there is a scree-filled gully that leads to the ridge proper, and onwards towards the first summit. There is evidence of airplane wreckage strewn around the coire at the base of one of the gullies, known to climbers as Fuselage Gully, where a wartime accident was one of the events instrumental in the formation of what we now know as Mountain Rescue.

The gully looks more formidable than it is, though the loose red quartz boulders demand care, especially covered in wet snow as they were in places. We picked our way steadily up, and were as surprised to see another guide with his client as he was to see us. We exchanged pleasantries, and he asked whether we intended on the summit, we replied in the affirmative. 'It's 'orrible' he said with a wry smile, 'we stayed 30 seconds, and it's getting windier'. We thanked him, and pressed on.

Navigation On hitting the ridge, the wind was only 'nasty', not ''orrible', and Will commented that it wasn't as bad as he expected. Tempting fate! Within the next 100m, we went from a stuttering walk to a crouching stagger, and then we were all but blown over. It was at least 60mph, probably more, and we knew it was getting stronger. We hesitated, tried another 50m, but ended up hunkered down. Time to pull the plug. As we retreated, it just got stronger, and having swung to the West from the South West, it was blowing harder into the gully. All the waterfalls in the coire were blowing around wildly, a sight to see, the coire taking on the mantle of a very wild place indeed.

By the time we got back to the main loch outflow, the spume was 5m high, and sending water all over us as we crossed the stepping stones between gusts. It then blew hard against us as we contoured around the mountain, making the descent hard work. It only really calmed when we got into the shelter of Liathach, and even then, the sheets of rain continued. A 'proper' Scottish day indeed.

Days like these are challenging. They test your gear, and moreover, your resolve. The guys were looking for a good day out, and we all agreed it had certainly been that. Of course it would be nice if all the days were calm and dry, but then it wouldn't be Scotland in March, would it?!

Thanks to Will and Laura for constantly smiling under their Goretex, for appreciating the raw grandeur of Coire Mhic Fhearchair, and for being so sure-footed on the scree. Good effort.

More photos by John are here on Flickr.

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