Sunday, 30 September 2012

Torridon, Coulin & Slioch, Sep'12

Torridon is one of those special areas ! Superb mountains, fine paths, waterfalls and wildlife. We'd organised this trip over 3 days, with the aim of ascending the highest peaks in the locale whilst staying in the Torridon SYHA.

Some of our group booked on quite late and couldn't get accommodation in the hostel, however the bunkhouse at Kinlochewe proved to be an excellent alternative - much quieter and peacful affter a day on the hills ! The SYHA Hostel turned out to also be the base for 'Glasgow Meetup' and on our final evening a large group from Camden in London.

Weather had its own plan for the weeekend, so we re-arranged the days with the more technical routes set for the best days. Slioch was brought in for Friday (forecast to be wet and windy), Liathach was on Saturday (the most technical day, sunshine, but possibly gusty), Beinn Alligin now on Sunday (gusty and a bit wet) with Beinn Eighe maybe on Monday. 

Friday we aimed up to Kinlochewe, parked at Incheril and began the walk to Loch Maree. We had a group of 7 people, so as we like to take no more than 6 people to a guide, we had two guides, Richard and Steven. Initially  strong winds heading directly into us, blowing rain into our hoods, but as we progressed it became more sheltered as we walked into the woods. Heading along the edge of Loch Maree is a lovely walk, and ends by a bridge over the Abhainn an Fhasgaigh with its spectacular waterfalls and pools. With all the rain of late, the force of the river pounding down was most impressive and quite scary !

Leaving the shore behind, a gentle walk took us into the hidden coire behind Slioch's south-eastern shoulder, then up onto the crest near high lochans. Into mist, we then followed our noses to the summits and imagined the views ! We returned much the same way, finding the stone-circle I'd been searching for on the way up.

Our second day began much more promising, the sun was out ! Liathach was our objective, and we planned it in an anti-clockwise traverse. The group gathered and headed up the well constructed path into Toll a'Meitheach, stopping frequently to take in the awesome views behind. Wind picked up as we turned eastwards for the last pitch up onto the crest. Up onto the crest, progress was tough - a strong wind was coming in from the north-west. Richard and Steven pushed the group hard, but some of the team had difficulty standing. It's a hard call to bin a day, but we really had no option. We about-turned and aimed back to the col west of Stuc a'Choire Dhuibh Bhig, where we managed to shelter out of the wind and take in the fine panorama over Flowerdale, Beinn Dearg and Beinn Eighe. Steven returned to the point where it was decided to bin the day, got out his wind-measuring tool and recorded gusts in excess of 100km/h !

We returned the way we'd came up, then offered folk a leisurely stroll at lower levels. We ended up at Diabaig, the harbour used for some sequences in the film 'Loch Ness', and enjoyed investigating the area and discovering wierd rock.

We offered Beinn Alligin for the third day, but some of the group had been up this before, so we also offered the Coulin Forest peaks. We had takers for both options, so split the group. Richard lead one party over Beinn Alligin, in mist some of the day, but successfully bagged both Munro summits and the Horns of Alligin. Steven lead a couple into the Coulin Forest, with challenging river crossings on route to the finest aspect of these peaks.

On the fourth and final day up here, Moruisg was offered, kind of compensation for not getting up Liathach ! Although the route up this is a fairly straighforward trudge over grassy ground, some challenges presented themselves on the way. Firstly, we chatted with a ghillie and his German stalking party to make sure our interests wouldn't conflict. Then the incredibly wet weather tested our gear. Some of the group had never hill-walked in Scotland before, so they were shown all forms this weekend - sun, rain, mist, wind, and today even snow !

More photos of the weekend are on our Flickr site.