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Beinn Alligin Summit Camp Extraordinaire! - Oh, no!

Beinn Alligin Summit Camp Extraordinaire! - Oh, no!

Postby scottnairn » Mon Jan 18, 2021 1:13 am

Route description: Beinn Alligin

Munros included on this walk: Sgùrr Mòr (Beinn Alligin), Tom na Gruagaich (Beinn Alligin)

Date walked: 04/05/2017

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Munros #12 + #13 - Sgurr Mor + Tom na Gruagaich [Beinn Alligin]

Come for the mountains, stay for the views but leave feeling oddly defeated in the wee hours... Here's one of my favourite mountain stories! Buckle up and peg your guy lines down!
(no, seriously, get the rock pegs handy)

So, in the few years I had been dabbling with the mountain life, it was all starting to come together. I was learning to invest in good gear and look after it, I had become an avid 'planner' of wonderful hill days and sure as the sun sets, the hills were beginning to take over!

The week off in question consisted of a tight schedule and I wanted to make the most of a brilliant weather window.
Tues 2nd - Bynack More + Cairn Gorm with Eugene M, followed by 5-a-side football
Wed 3rd - Stac Pollaidh and the Tralligil Caves with Brandon S, football team-mate
Thurs 4th - a lie in allowed ahead of a late start on Beinn Alligin; a summit camp adventure with Eugene M
Fri 5th - recover in anticipation of...
Sat 6th - praying for sunshine on Scotland's finest mountain of all....!!

So this is the mid-week scoop - pick up Eugene, drive west to Torridon and just beyond, climb Beinn Alligin anti-clockwise to hit the 'Horns' first, bag the Munros and set up summit camp somewhere on or around Tom na Gruagaich.

I place great faith in the first week of May (and the last week of March, incidentally) to deliver great weather and 2017 nailed it. Bynack More and Cairn Gorm were in very fair weather and it was even better in Assynt the day after, for a wee bounce up Stac Pollaidh and a squirm around in the Traligill Caves. My defining memory of Beinn Alligin was a feeling of summer in earnest - an impossibly bright sun, warm breezes and an overwhelming desire to swim in the Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil. But there were Munros to bag, so from the car park, we said farewell to my wee motor and surged on. There were a small number of cars there, one full to the gunnels with stuff - presumably a road-trip vehicle or the hub of a motorised hoarder!
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Water features aplenty!

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First side-on view of Beinn Alligin

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Eugene has cool tattoos!

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The White Cloud Over the Black Cleft

Noting the sun getting lower behind us all the time, pit-stops were infrequent, mainly to snack, shoot photos on the hoof or drink water. A refuel of nature's refreshing bounty as we crossed the footbridge over the Abhainn, the sun positively bearing down on us, it was game time. Time to climb, steeply and not without its challenges given that we were tackling the Horns laden with camping gear each and myself with the clumsy tripod and other camera gizmos.
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Eugene goes Super Saiyan (Google Dragonball-Z if unsure)

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Perfect conditions for a scramble! :)

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Ascending away from the path

The position of Beinn Alligin is completely engaging - the mountain is laid out in front of you, its shape changing as you plod around the periphery. Behind, the shelter of the pine forest, the rush of the river soon sits atop Upper Loch Torridon, visible without having seemed to gain height. To the east, Liathach points to the sky with the grey tipped pinnacles that give it its name and reputation. Beinn Dearg announces itself as a neglected but imposing 'middle-child', wedged between some enthralling mountain-scapes. And reaching the base of An-t Sail Bheg slowed progress, but mainly just to admire the different perspectives on the way up! :clap: :D
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Liathach under the moon. Surreal

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Now a stolen glance out to sea

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Beinn Dearg's humpback, Beinn Eighe beyond

As we reached the top of Na Rathanan and continued with Flowerdale just a drop off the ridge away, the trickiest scrambling was done and the higher Horns seemed trivial in comparison to the slog upward. Sgurr Mor was ours to claim, the sun now in our faces as we pushed south-west.
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Baosbheinn, a striking monolith

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Looking back at Liathach and Coulin/Ben Damph peaks

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Blinded by the sun, but the task is clear!

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Sgurr Mor summit cairn

There was a little bit more to go but it was agreed that we should make it to Tom na Gruagaich with enough time to set up an effective campsite. The views down the Eag Dubh (Black Cleft) were savoured for 5 minutes - it just didn't seem fathomable and is an impressive gully - but aside from that, we swiftly aimed for Tom na Gruagaich.
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Another surreal part of this incredible mountain

Tom na Gruagaich probably didn't get the attention it deserved as the sun was setting and we searched for appropriate digs. We opted for a gouge in the shallow mossy ground on the western slopes, Eugene pitching his Highlander tent in minutes and enjoying his prime-time sunset seat with some well-deserved dinner. 8)
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A spectacular sunset sight

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The tricky surface, glowing in the late light

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Happy days for this man

My tent was brand-new in terms of 'above garden level pitching' - a one-man MSR Hubba NX. An exciting purchase and christened with an unforgettable sunset! I hastily pitched, trying to align it to account for the gusts of wind which were making for an entertaining assembly - Eugene's tent not feeling the pressure of this trial. I rushed to stabilise the tent, amidst trying to capture the beauty of the sunset over the western seaboard. And - not unusually for me -
disaster struck!
The gusting winds folded my tent, particularly upsetting due to the tall profile it normally has! My shelter for the night had its back broken and was looking set upon a twilight flight over to Raasay!! :shock: :shock: I dived into action to prevent a costly loss, probably making it worse :roll:

Eugene's fortress was made both of canvas and mental fortitude - he would have happily stayed but my resolve was gone with the wind. Being the keyholder, I decided to withdraw to the car, pending any sheltered spot on the way that looked suitable. Eugene decided to pack up and search with me. Hoping for a windbreak on the Coire nan Laogh side, we noted a family of four (perhaps from the hoarder vehicle) with a large, steel-poled super tent in a gravel bowl. They were determined, and had pegged down their tent with the four largest boulders they could salvage. Fair play to them, but it would have still been a rough night! The lights went out, and headtorches were on.

Unsurprisingly, there were no photos to be had on our descent. I had spoiled Eugene's fun by calling for retreat, and now darkness had fallen, wayfinding down Tom na Gruagaich's slopes was not easy. At one misty point, we had become all but cragfast - trying to figure out which of the many crags we had perched ourselves upon on the map, shining headtorch lights upon any clue as to 'the way down'. A small, torturous eternity passed when the ground levelled out, and we found a path amongst illuminated, beady sets of eyes - the silently watching deer. Within 10 minutes, we reached the car and I set out to drive a tired Eugene and a despondent me along the 2 hour road to home. Torridon village was a hive of activity at 1am - a deer for every garden, driveway and road verge!

The Mountain of Beauty, she may be - in my eyes, certainly during the daylight hours! But despite my misfortunes, this is one of my fondest mountain days simply because of the weather, the scenery, the company and the fact that it has been a story of lessons learned that I never get tired of reliving!
On to even more grandeur, as the Saturday promised a trip to 'The Forge'... fin
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