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How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

How Wester Ross Stole My Heart


Postby BobMcBob » Sat Oct 31, 2015 11:10 pm

Route description: Beinn Alligin

Munros included on this walk: Sgurr Mor (Beinn Alligin), Tom na Gruagaich (Beinn Alligin)

Date walked: 15/10/2015

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On the wall of the bar in the Kinlochewe Hotel is a large map entitled 'Wester Ross'. Prior to my first seeing it I didn't even know there was such a thing as 'Wester Ross' and that map was my first proper look at the area, having arrived on a summer's evening in 2011 and gone directly in search of beer. Since then I've always been a little in love with the name 'Wester Ross'. It just sounds like a wild place, a frontier, somewhere ancient and full of mystery. My kind of town :) I had some great time in the area, Beinn Eighe, Liathach, and walks into Letterewe showed the real beauty and power this area has to offer.

I once met an old lady in Ullapool. I seem to have this aura, people come over and talk to me randomly. I like it, I meet people that way but this old lady may have been a witch - in the best possible way. She wandered over to me in a crowd one day and simply said "The North West has a magnet. Once it gets hold of you, it'll never let go". She just walked over and said it out of the blue - and then we had a short conversation which logically would have led up to that statement. So logically of course, it didn't happen in that order. My memory has put the phrase about the magnet right to the forefront and relegated everything else that she said to the area marked 'irrelevant chit-chat'. It really did have a quite profound effect on me. Either she'd detected something in me already, or she put it there. I was magnetised.

It had been a couple of years since I'd been back to Scotland and I was feeling the strange pull. I'd been getting this increasing sense that something was missing from my life. I'd cleaned the camper van ready to sell it, in line with the plans I'd made years earlier, and found myself unable to go through with it - genuinely crying as I typed out the advert. So instead, up through old favourites Glencoe, Skye, and northwards I drove over the course of a few days until eventually I parked the van up in a layby overlooking Upper Loch Torridon, ostensibly for a look at the view and a cup of tea, but one thing led to another cup of tea, and another as, slowly, I relaxed completely and started to feel an overwhelming sense of peace - as if a huge veil had been pulled off my head and a rucksack full of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. I decided to spend the night where I was parked, and I was outside at 3am taking photographs...

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.. and back outside again 3 hours later taking more.

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How could I not climb Beinn Alligin now? The last of the Torridon giants that I hadn't climbed. And scrambling was promised! A drive round to the normal start point, make some cheese and pickle sandwiches (trad.) and set off.

A steady climb soon opened up vistas of what was to come
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Sgurr Mhor (center), second Munro of the day, and the Horns of Alligin - where the real fun happens

And mouthwatering views opened up over the wilderness. By god this area is beautiful.
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Eastwards panorama - Beinn Dearg (L), Beinn Eighe (Centre) and an oddly squished-looking Liathach (R)

The path, easy to follow, wends its way upwards until you get a good view up into Coir nan Laugh, where the normal path goes straight on and rounds up to the summit of Tom na Grugaich
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However a chap in front of me seemed to have found a more interesting route - up the scrambly-looking buttress of Na Fasreidhnean.
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This looked a lot more fun than slogging up in the confines of a corrie, so I followed him. It was fun - some fun scrambling, as difficult or as easy as you decided to make it, and some fabulous views.
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The Horns, Beinn Derg, and Beinn Eighe

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And from the top, what a view round the corrie, over Tom na Grugaich and out towards the Horns and Beinn Dearg
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And then the view back south-eastward
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And it was a simple walk from here up to the summit of Munro number 1 - Tom na Gruagaich, from which point onwards it never seemed at all strange that this place should have some kind of mystical hold over me. How could it not?
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This was really a place to savour, in weather to savour, and I went slowly, keen to enjoy every second of it as much as possible. Torridon from this end looks somehow wilder than from the other. There is no sign of roads, no sign of anything man-made whatsoever. The only sound was the bellowing of stags coming from somewhere down below. If I believed in heaven, I'd imagine it would be a lot like this.
Next up (or down) was the descent from Tom na Gruagaich, which was a very enjoyable one. I chose to stick close to the edge of the corrie and use the scrambly option. From the bealach there was a great view backwards. All these Torridonian mountains have some angles from which they just look huge and mighty, and this seemed to be the one.
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From this point the ascent of Munro number 2 - Sgurr Mhor - was a simple affair
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The path winds around to avoid the huge Eag Dhubh chasm, this blurry shot the result of a cold wind and standing very close to the edge :)
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The summit of Sgurr Mhor has some outstanding views. Sadly, as far as this report goes, I was interested in only one thing - the scrambling to come on The Horns of Alligin
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Looking down towards the horns

And oh what fun these horns were! This was proper far-northwest scrambling, on lovely grippy-but-rounded sandstone, the choice of route yours for the making. I noted that there was a bypass path but that it also looked significantly more dangerous than the relatively easy pull-ups over the gorgeous sandstone blocks. I love sandstone. Does it show?
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Horn number 2 from horn number 1, with Liathach in the background

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Looking back at Sgurr Mhor from Horn number 1

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I actually forget which horn this was. but you get the idea

My guidebook, bless it, says that "The direct ascent of the third horn is hard". It wasn't. The path tracked off to the right and regained the ridge by what appeared to be some kind of chimney. I wouldn't really know, I went straight up - the route I found seemingly no harder than anything else I'd encountered all day - guidebooks, schmidebooks.
The descent was straightforward down a variety of sandstone blocks with some minor scrambles until you got down to the really good path with some great views across to Liathach.
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And finally an easy walk back to the car park and a lovely day almost finished. The campsite at Kinlochewe (with the amazing showers) being closed, I drove round to Poolewe (with the miserable drippy showers) but the sunset over Loch Ewe did its usual amazing thing
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Now, although Torridon is a place of mystery and wonder, in previous visits it has always been Fisherfield and Letterewe that have really been the sirens for me and the next day the weather was promised to be lovely so I set off early for a walk down to Carnmore. I had no real aim other than to wander down the path and see how far I could get. What happened was that, hypnotised and magnetised, I got about halfway up A'Maihgdean before realising I'd been walking for 6 hours and I'd better turn back. And as I sat drinking tea by the shores of the Fionn Loch, looking across at the view, listening to the silence, basking in the beauty and splendour of my surroundings I realised that this was genuinely all I needed to be happy, and that were cold and hunger not an issue I could gladly stay there, sitting drinking tea, until the floods of the apocalypse came and drowned me. Honestly, I have never felt so ... calm. Such an amazing place. I leave you with some photos of my walk in and out over the course of about 11 hours on a succulently gorgeous October day because I can't express in words just how utterly wonderful I think this place is. And I'm starting to cry.

The next post will contain the photos, as I can't add more than 25. 25! Blimey, how did I manage that? :)
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BobMcBob
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Posts: 1420
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby BobMcBob » Sat Oct 31, 2015 11:17 pm

Photos from Letterewe. Since uploading more pictures doesn't seem to be working, I'm liking to my Flickr account
ImageThe Serried Ranks by Mark Greenwood, on Flickr
ImageFisherfield by Mark Greenwood, on Flickr
ImageMaterialising in the Morning by Mark Greenwood, on Flickr
ImageTree by Mark Greenwood, on Flickr
ImageKernsary Sunset by Mark Greenwood, on Flickr
ImagePoolewe by Night by Mark Greenwood, on Flickr
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BobMcBob
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby jacob » Sun Nov 01, 2015 11:53 am

Keep the van.
Keep taking pictures.
And keep uploading them. They're beautiful.
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby RiverSong » Sun Nov 01, 2015 12:43 pm

What he said.

Fantastic report :clap:
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby jupe1407 » Sun Nov 01, 2015 5:14 pm

Super stuff :D

I especially like the Fisherfield reflections photos. Outstanding work :clap:
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby skuk007 » Sun Nov 01, 2015 6:30 pm

Cracking report, liked reading that one, and wishing I was there.
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Nov 02, 2015 9:30 am

Aye, there are not many places like Wester Ross.
Fine photos :D
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby dogplodder » Mon Nov 02, 2015 11:44 am

Stunning photos! I'd been a lurker on WH for some time until climbing Beinn Alligin was the tipping point and I broke my silence and produce a report. As you say Torridon gets under your skin. 8)
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby Petr Dakota » Mon Nov 02, 2015 8:13 pm

Beautiful photos from the beautiful day at the beautiful area !!! :clap: :clap: :clap: 8) :clap:
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby CarTor » Mon Nov 02, 2015 8:29 pm

Between the words and the photos I felt like I was there...absolutely beautiful :D
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby Silverhill » Mon Nov 02, 2015 11:01 pm

You do like to dangle those legs! A great read and stunning pictures. Think I now feel the magnet too! :D
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby kev_russ » Mon Nov 02, 2015 11:55 pm

braw 8)
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Nov 03, 2015 1:37 am

If your pics reflect your mood when you took them, then I can well believe you were inexpressibly happy: they're fantastic - probably the best set I've seen of the area, which itself is one of the very best areas in Scotland.

Probably most of us hill addicts can relate to the feelings you describe there: really beyond words.

Loved the report, and the pics. My only question: how did you contrive to stay away for a couple of years??? :?: :?: :?:
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby Dunni » Tue Nov 03, 2015 10:51 am

What a bummer of Report and Pictures! I know exactly, how you feel. this Feeling beyond words. Nothing else seems important but to be in a Country like that. Ive just returned from Scotland 2 weeks ago and can´t wait to go back. Alas I had my sister with me and she is not the adventurous type.
Your pics are among the best I have ever seen of my favorite Torridon Hills. I also love the Fisherfields, Knoydart and Affric, but Torridon is Magic from another world.
Thanks for your ´message!
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Re: How Wester Ross Stole My Heart

Postby BobMcBob » Tue Nov 03, 2015 4:24 pm

Thanks for the comments everybody, it's great to have a place like this to come and share stuff like that with like minded people.

As to how I contrived to stay away so long, I got in with a bad crowd - work :D
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