Last week I was up in that most magical and finest mountain ranges in Britain, Torridon. Return clients Mick and John have been out with Tarmachan Mountaineering in Winter and Summer. Lsst time Mick came out 5 years ago we had a bumper winter season and some fabulous conditions. They chose wisely for their guided walking holiday with me this Autumn. Not only did they get 4 days of superb mountains, they also lucked out with a fine spell of weather. Of course they chose a great guide too, :)
THURSDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER
Driving up on Wednesday afternoon under blue skies and sunshine was wonderful. The weather at the start of the week was suggesting heavy showers and thunderstorms. None of that occurred. A fine travelling day. I didn't arrive until late in Torridon. 5 nights of wild camping for me. With the weather set to be a tad on the chilly side, with below average temperatures for September. I was so pleased that the midges will be absent now we are getting cold nights and, at last, camping would be a joyous affair without the wee beasties!
Summit temperatures on Thursday were to be on the low side, just above freezing. Fine with me! On Thursday it was a glorious morning with light winds and blue skies. Looking at the forecast for the coming days it seemed that this day was to be the best weather day. Liathach it was then. The finest mountain after An Teallach! A beautiful day and fine traverse. I have now traversed the ridge well over 100 times, it never fails to thrill me.
Some light cloud cover came over in the afternoon but the tops were clear all day and the hill was quiet. The stags were roaring down in the glen. A brilliant day.
FRIDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER
Beinn Damh (Ben Damph) stands at 903m, a tad under Munro height. All the finer for it! A quieter hill with only a handful, if any folk usually. Today was forecast to be the 'worse' weather day of the whole period. We saved the 'big and famous' Torridon giants for the better days. A forecast of heavy snow showers mixed with some sunshine was on the cards. Yet again the forecast was constantly changing and updated. The morning was due to be the period of more frequent showers so we had morning coffee in the hospitable Torridon Inn before setting out at a leisurely 10.45am
If the 'big 3' in Torridon didn't exist then this fine Corbett would be on everyone's radar. It is a superb mountain full of interest and views to die for! It starts at a pub (great) and slowly winds up through beautiful Scots Pine on excellent paths. A secret wee waterfall lies in amongst the forest, keep your eyes peeled. Within 30 minutes the trail comes out of the treeline and there are stunning views of Loch Torridon with Beinn Alligin and Liathach for a backdrop
We had some short, sharp showers on our way onto the broad, long ridge. Here the cold Northerly wind kicked in and we got hit with some hail on the higher slopes. The cloud swept over us for a time but we were just 30 minutes from the summit when the clouds blew away and we timed it perfectly for summit views in clear skies. The views from the top are just stunning. Coastal and mountain vistas combined. To the South East the Munros of Meall Chean Dearg, Sgurr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mhor put on a grand show. Sea views to the West and the big Torridonian Giants to the North.
It was pleasant enough to sit on the top for sometime and enjoy the views with a cup of coffee. The only folk we saw all day were the odd few individuals who were heading down on our ascent. Lovely to see a Mountain Hare, Ptarmigan and a small flock of Golden Plover on our way back down the ridge.
Sunshine all the way back to the hotel. It's all in the timing!
Liathach put on a grand end to the day in a rich dusk light, every evening! I couldn't decide which day was the best for sunsets!
SATURDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER
The weather forecast had yet again taken a change within 24 hours. For the better! Today turned out to be the finest, only if you like sunshine! Virtually wall to wall sun and blue skies. We set off for Beinn Alligin. This wonderful mountain gives great loch and sea views being the most westerly of the 'famous 3'. A cold morning but the sun soon warmed us up and we were down to base layers on the ascent to Tom na Gruagach, the first of the mountains two Munros.
A few more folk around today. Of course everyone goes at different paces so we still had lots of time and space with no noise and chatter. We were in no hurry today. Savour these moments and days. This is a special place. Plenty of photography and soaking up the wonderful views in all directions.
The boys were onto the first summit by mid day. Hat and gloves on top if you sat for any length of time. Another day of air temperatures only in low single figures, despite the sunshine. A few hardy folk in shorts who didn't stop for too long.
We continued along the wonderful twisting ridge linking it to Sgurr Mor, the second Munro. Along the way we saw a bold young stag who seemed to be amused by all the humans puffing up and down the hillsides. Lovely to see this fella.
One of Beinn Alligins unmistakable feature is the huge Eag Dubh. This enormous gully runs all the way from the ridgeline near Sgurr Mor's summit down to the floor of the coire, the Toll a' Mhadaidh
More stunning views on Sgurr Mor. Last time I was standing here was in March was with a full cover of snow down to 400m and brilliant blue skies. That day Scott and I had the mountain to ourselves and we saw not a single boot print in the snow. Very different times we live in now. The views, of course, are timeless.
It's very easy to escape the crowds, even on a narrow ridged mountain. We walked a few metres away from the 'selfie cairn' and had lunch looking out to the Flowerdale Forest. Baosbheinn looking especially beautiful amongst the glistening lochans.
The fun and day isn't over by any means. After descending Sgurr Mor's summit The Horns of Alligin come next. This series of 3 blunt pinnacles offer some easy scrambling, all of which can be avoided with many paths skirting the Torridonian sandstone rocky steps.
By now it was 3pm and most folk had whizzed off into the distance, leaving us to enjoy the peace and the glorious afternoon light. The views as you traverse across the ridge are stunning. Liathach's Northern corries and spires looking wonderful in the late afternoon sunshine.
We slowly descended enjoying afternoon 'tea' in the bright sun. Time to soak in the rays and fine mountain views. Only the roaring stags and distant waterfalls breaking the silence. Magic.
There is a steep descent off the end of the ridge. This one always catches folk out. Take your time. Very easy to slip around here, it's a steep, long and rocky fall if you do! I always remember descending here one very wet day in June. It was like walking down several waterfalls on that particular day. Not this time!
Once you gain the coire floor a fabulous, easy and beautiful path heads back through Coire Mhic Nobuil. Stunning colours in the early evening light.
My usual wild camp gave wonderful night time views and sounds. The stags roared and the skies were clear and cold for most of my stay. Really beautiful. There seemed to be the same Owl perched on a tree right outside the tent every night.
SUNDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER
Another day of fine weather. A very cold morning but stunning one with crisp, clear skies over the greatest glen in the whole of Britain. Final day with Mick and John. Today we went up Beinn Eighe's Sgurr Ban. This Munro summit sits in the middle of the mountains enormous and complex ridge. To walk the entire ridge from East to West is a mighty fine day out. The boys just fancied an easier day and walking just a smaller section of it, with one Munro summit.
The excellent path winds its way into the upper reaches of Coire an Laoigh. It steepens up before gaining the ridgeline. From here you get a fantastic view of Liathach.
The mornings clear skies started to fade with some high, thin cloud cover. It was the coldest day so far on the tops. I would think only a couple of degrees above freezing. The light wind making it feel even colder once you stopped. Hat and gloves and 3 layers for lunch.
The final section to the top goes into a narrow quartzite ridge with a little steep ground. Fine views both East and West from the summit.
An inspiration to everyone, especially those who say 'I'm too old to go hillwalking'!
Cheers guys, see you again soon!
TUESDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER
A more relaxing day amongst the Mountain Hares in the Monadhliath. Another beautiful, fine morning and afternoon with glorious sunshine in Strathspey. Light winds and bright sun. Lovely conditions for photography.
Plenty of different hares out today. I was surprised to still see a lovely wee Mountain Hare Leveret. I do hope he grows quickly and fattens up before winter, which isn't far away at all!
There are still some Wheatears around on the tops. Once these leave our hills then I can safely say it is Autumn, for sure! Last of the nice weather for some days to come. Rain and cloud ahead and into the weekend. Looking forward to some more crisp, cold morning and the Autumn colours at their finest time of year, October is nearly here!
Last photo, different photo. All Summer there has been regular crossing of an early warning aircraft flying low over Strathspey. It flew over again this afternoon. Always the same flight path.