Beinn Alligin – how to make a weekend out of a day walk. October 2016.

Date: Saturday/Sunday 1st/2nd October 2016
Distance: 8.5 + 11.1km
Ascent: 1300 + 300m

MWIS was talking about winds falling light for the weekend before anyone else, as the week progressed the forecast firmed towards a NW Highlands high camp opportunity.

As always we had any number of possibilities, but in the end we decided to finally camp on the jewel of Torridon – Beinn Alligin.

Prior to being hillwalkers we’d followed an OS walks book’s description of a circuit around Alligin which suggested a diversion to Sgurr Mhor via the easy slope on the west side. A knackering day for 2 unfit non-hillwalkers, but the views on a stunning summer’s day left a lasting impression.

We’ve fancied a summit camp here for a long time but have never got around to it. Time to put that to bed.

Parked up a little later than usual at the Alligin car park. We’d toyed with a number of routes, however the nature of big prominent hills is that joining them up means a big increase in ascent. We decided to simply head up the Horns and over Sgurr Mhor to pitch the tent on Tom na Gruagaich.

This would allow for a slow day with a lot more time to appreciate the surroundings.

As usual we stopped at the little waterfall of Allt Toll a Mhadaidh.

It was a lovely day, we emerged out of Liathach’s shadow once we crossed the bridge over Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuill and the chilly air suddenly felt warm in the sunshine.

Beinn Dearg looms to the east of the path as it ascends Allt a Bhealaich.

Tom na Gruagaich is a backdrop to some of the falls in Allt a Bhealaich.

The track splits at NG 881 601 – the left hand fork heads for the Horns of Alligin. The route here is quite a staircase, heading very steeply up 150m or so until a brief respite.

Quite hard work with the camping packs. The views provided adequate distraction however.

Liathach:

Beinn Damh, Beinn Bhan and Loch Torridon:

Once up to 600m the steepness eases briefly and allows a view across Toll a Mhadaidh Mor to Tom na Gruagaich.

From there it’s another 200m or so to the shoulder of the Horns. This gives a view of the 2 munro summits.

As usual we used the bypass track on the south side of the Horns, an easier wander than the scrambling above.

Wildlife is a little harder to come by on these busy hills, we did see an adult Golden Eagle whisk past at this point but it wasn’t hanging around.

Between the Horns we could peek out north towards Flowerdale.

Before long Na Rathanan is behind you and the last pull up Sgurr Mhor starts.

Once up to Sgurr Mhor the Horns are part of an amazing set of serried ranks of Torridonian Hills:

The day had started crystal clear, Liathach had bubbled up a cloud hat which robbed it of direct sunshine for much of the day while Sgurr Mhor had stayed sunny. In an irksome turn of events Sgurr Mhor developed a shading cloud just before we reached the summit.

Donned some insulating gear, sat down and had a rather extended lunch break. The cloud hat didn’t prevent us enjoying a rather fine view. With great air clarity we could see Lewis, Harris and down the chain to Barra. Eigg and Coll could be seen to the south, Ben Nevis was just peeking up and once again we could make out Boreray in the St Kilda group at 176km. Not too shabby.

Carn Eighe and Mam Sodhail:

With almost no wind the clouds were not moving. Interestingly over about 15 minutes our cloud hat shrunk away, with sunshine encroaching from both sides, until our direct sun was restored.

Not being in any rush we waited it out and enjoyed some sunnier views from the top.

Horns and Beinn Dearg:

Baosbheinn:

Ben Nevis:

Red Point and out to Tarbert (Harris):

Muck and Coll:

Loch Torridon and the Achnashellach Hills:

Eventually we decided to head on to Tom na Gruagaich. The descent is a little eroded, once the ascent of Tom na Gruagaich starts there’s a decent view of Sgurr Mhor.

Beinn Eighe in the morning lacks detail, once the sun swings a bit the varying rock composition is fareasier to see.

On our last visit in August we’d explored the summit of Tom na Gruagaich. We’d decided that a pitch at 900m just SE of the summit offered the best views of Torridon and out to sea, while being just a minute or two from the summit.

The ground was rather squelchier than in August , but a decent, flat pitch was acquired.

Tent pitched at 1600hrs allowing about 3 hours to enjoy the end of the day. Picked up the night’s water from the spring in Coire nan Laogh at 830m.

Liathach, Beinn Eighe and rainbow:

The last of the day’s visitors passed by, a runner stopping for a chat at the summit, he’d also been over Beinn Eighe earlier while we were lazing the day away on Alligin.

We could see a fellow summit camper on the summit of Beinn Dearg, wondered if it was anyone we knew.

Liathach:

H and Achnashellach Hills:

Shadows building on Liathach:

The Triple Buttress becomes obvious:

Scarp on Tom na Gruagaich:

Sgurr Mhor, Baosbheinn and on to Gairloch:

Skye Cuillins and Rum:

MacLeod’s Tables on Skye, Beinn Mhor and Hecla on South Uist:

Barra over Skye:

Boreray (St. Kilda group) out over Skye:

Sunset was approaching fast, a few of the hills started to develop isolated skims of thin cloud an summits.

Cloud skim on Liathach:

Sgurr Mhor and Baosbheinn:

Cloud skim on Beinn Eighe:

Sunset over Skye:

Post-sunset Cuillin:

Watched as the light dwindled before heading back to the tent to celebrate with a little liquid fire and some chocolate.

Grabbed a couple of hours sleep before getting up just before midnight to have a look at the view.

We’d known that there had been some aurora activity earlier in the week, it appeared to have continued:

Headed up from the tent to the summit to enjoy the view and the aurora. As with all night photography it wasn’t nearly as impressive to the naked eye, but the green glow and columns were visible out past Stornoway.

It’s an amazing viewpoint – we could see house and street lights down the Hebrides chain. A map check back home confirms that the lighthouse seen over Achiltibuie must have been Cape Wrath.

Stood around for an hour enjoying this….well worth the wait. A couple of attempts at Milky Way shots and then back to bed.

A long lie at this time of year….up at 0720 to catch the sun breaking the horizon over the Strathconon Corbetts at 0726.

A frosty morning, we’d been toasty in the tent though.

Beinn Bhan and Skye:

Scarp and Sgurr Mhor:

Trig point and the shadow of Tom na Gruagaich cast out to the Trotternish:

For the next hour it was simply a matter of watching the rising light levels and enjoying. A delight.

Sgurr Mhor:

Skye:

Beinn Bhan and Skye:

Visibility was fantastic – spent some time identifying hill silhouettes across the NW highlands. A couple of Mull hills were just visible too.

Headed back to the tent to heat up some cocoa and eat some breakfast.

Sgurr Mhor was lit brighter by now:

The first walker of the day passed by at just after 0800. We lounged around for quite a while. The tent warms quite nicely once some sun hits it.

Back up to the summit and Skye has lit up well. The Trotternish ridge not quite as impressive from a distance.

H, Sgurr Mhor and Baosbheinn:

Sgurr Mhor and the Horns:

Could see quite a few summit camp site – Beinn Dearg Mor was lit in front of An Teallach:

Quite a nice place for a tent:

Eventually packed up and got going at about 1100. A classic no rush trip.

We could have simply dropped down Coire nan Laogh to the car but what a waste of a stunning day that would have been. We decided to use our previous route, dropping west off Sgurr Mhor and heading round via Bealach a Comhla.

By this point there were quite a few happy souls around in hill-walking heaven.

Dropped off Tom na Gruagaich and part reascended Sgurr Mhor to NG 861 611. A last set of views to Liathach and Beinn Eighe.

Dropped NW towards the cairn at NG 855 620. An Ruadh Mheallan sits out on this side of Torridon.

We’d considered visiting the Graham, but although it has splendid sea views, its views into Torridon are blocked by Beinn Alligin. We decided on the easier option of heading up Creag a Chinn Duibh instead. A nice walk on easy terrain here.

Great air clarity – the detail visible on distant hills was amazing.

Slioch looking nice:

The less dramatic side of Beinn Alligin:

Beinn Dearg, Na Rathanan and Loch Toll nam Biast:

Headed up to Creag a Chinn Duibh summit and had a seat. Not a bad wee pitch site itself. Quite a nice angle on some rather fine hills.

Beinn Dearg, Beinn Eighe and a distant Fionn Bheinn:

There’s a pretty decent seaward view too.

An Ruadh Mheallan and Skye.

With some unwillingness we got up and started the return leg to the car. Not really a day to turn for home.

Headed down the high ground on nice Torridonian terrain towards Beinn Dearg.

Baosbheinn looks marvellous – really marching up the revisit list.

Dropped down towards Bealach a Comhla and, horrors, the prospect of about 1.5km in shadow:

The pace picked up – a quick yomp on battery power before we could slow back down on solar power further down the glen.

Approaching the path split for the horns there’s a nice view on Liathach.

A slow meander down the glen. We’ve had a few nice Torridon days, but they still need savoured.

The bridge across Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuill puts you parallel with one of the edges of the Sgurr Mhor slope failure – what a colossal avalanche that must have been:

Back to the waterfall and another picture:

Back to the car just before 1700hrs – pretty much managed to extract a day and a half out of an 8 hour walk. Result!

The drive back through Torridon was simply awesome – what a place.

Pretty pleased with that – not the most ambitious plan, but one executed at sloth-like pace and enjoyed with Epicurean delight.

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