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3 Days wild camping (and wild fires) with Thomas Heaton

3 Days wild camping (and wild fires) with Thomas Heaton

Postby wilkiemurray » Thu Jul 19, 2018 9:52 pm

Route description: Beinn Bhan, near Kishorn

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn Bhan

Date walked: 26/05/2018

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A world class photographer as well as a YouTube sensation worldwide, Thomas Heatons work is absolutely fantastic. I have been following Thomas’s work for over two years now and regularly tune in twice a week for his excellent and entertaining films from around the globe.

When a message appeared in my inbox asking for some company on a Scottish Adventure, it didn’t take me long to accept! Initially it looked like July was going to be the date for our adventure, however when the usual May heatwave took hold in the North West Highlands, I dropped Thomas a line asking if he would be available to come wild camping for a few days at short notice. I was able to take time off work and we organised a rendezvous point and time in the glorious North West of Scotland.

The week before,I had also spent a weekend in the northwest Highlands. I had bagged an Applecross Munro in glorious weather. It had been perfect for hiking – not too warm – 13 degrees at sea level and a stiff breeze to keep me cool and as I made my way anticlockwise round the Beinn Bhan circuit, I knew this was where I wanted to show Thomas. The views in all directions were stunning for the duration of the walk and I really hoped he would find a suitable shot to make his travels worthwhile.

So a week passed and we entered the bank holiday weekend. Glorious weather and a bank holiday meant one thing – it was busy!! However I was hoping that our planned vacation location would be quiet. Not many people are aware of this stunning mountain and it really is a hidden gem! Having been away the prior weekend I was pushing my luck at home and brownie points are in negative equity as I write this! I think the next few weekends I’ll be spent back home!!

Leaving late morning I had about a 3.5hr journey to Applecross along the torturous A9. Spare a though for Tom though as he had been presenting in Wales the day before, then drove all the way up (albeit with a stop in the lakes!).

Pulling up at the layby in Tornapress and it was one of those rare moments in Scotland when you open the car door and the heat hits you! The air con had been keeping me cool at a balmy 20 degrees but the cars thermometer wasn’t lying when it was telling me it was 27! I lazed about waiting for Mr Heatons arrival, even enjoying a bit of sunshine on the parched grass.

Before long the familiar Heaton mobile was approaching, I recognised it instantly from his vlogs and films and our adventure began. We pulled on our monster packs for the first time and set off for a 3 day adventure on Beinn Bhan! The stalkers path made progress easy going and we met a few walkers heading off the hill (it was now 4pm) and to my delight we were told that they hadn’t seen any other campers – looked like we were going to have the mountain to ourselves – perfect……

The path diminished as we headed towards the first nights camp, and it also started to ascend. The heat was intense but a slight breeze was presently itself every now and again making things bearable.

Soon we crested the first incline and the Lochan (tonight’s pitch) presented itself – a private beach under the imposing eastern cliffs of Beinn Bhan. An absolute sublime spot and one I had ear marked for a wild camp the week before – just didn’t realise I would be fulfilling this tick so soon!

Tents were erected and my first port of call was to make use of my “dad” swim shorts that I had bought. The water was warm and the May sun had done its work making my dook refreshing but not hypothermia inducing. Refreshed I returned to the beach and we set about getting some tea before Thomas scouted out the area for some photography.

Tea scoffed and we had a couple of hours to wait until sunset which was just before 10pm. As often happens though as dusk approaches the breeze died down and this meant one thing at the lochside – the dreaded midge took to the air.

Now I have witnessed clouds of midge and in fact have seen midge far worse than what we were about to experience, but I have never experienced the “sound of the midge”! We were sat facing the shores of the lochan and we both turned to each other having heard a drone. “did you hear that” “yeah – must be someone close by with a drone?”. So we stood up and turned around, expecting to see a drone flying towards us. Instead we soon realised where the sound was coming from! As the wind dropped a sea of midge had taken to the air on across the moorland directly behind the beach! What could have been a nightmare turned out to not be too bad. We both smothered ourselves in a combination of deet and smidge and it seemed to work. In addition to this there were on brief periods when the winds dropped and they became airborne and as soon as there was any hint of the breeze they landed took refuge in the dried heathland! To be honest, I don’t think I recorded a single bite – amazing when I think of the sheer numbers that rose to create the nightmare hum!

After realising we weren’t going to be eaten alive (at first I was scared that the only remnants of us would be a pile of bones on the beach!) we made our way to a rising that overlooked the Torridonian Mountains. A small lochan (or Tarn if you live down south) provide some foreground interest and we set up waiting for sunset! What we did immediately notice was a low lying haze – unusual for evening and something seen in the early morning before the sun burns it away. As we scanned the horizon though, it became apparent as to what was causing this – moorland fires! A large bloom of smoke was rising to the south in Strathcarron and a major blaze had taken hold a few miles to our south. It was a serious fire and one that raged for the next two days on the hill… more of that later!

As the sun faded and the moon rose any chances of a spectacular sunset were quashed as the smoke rose and produced a haze in front of our mountain view. Got a few good shots though but we decided that we would return here to capture sunrise. Back to the tents and a quick “wee dram” was enjoyed in good company , before hitting the hay – for 4 hours!!!

At dusk:
ImageApplecross Dusk by Scotland's Mountains, on Flickr

03.30am and I popped my head out of the tent – the light of dawn was approaching and things were looking good – very good! The hike form the beach to the “tarn ;)” took about ten minutes and we were off ASAP. The next hour was glorious as the dawn light lit the scattering of clouds above Beinn Damh, they turn bright pink before fading to allow the sun to rise above the Torridonian peaks!

a few snaps:

Imagesmoky shadows by Scotland's Mountains, on Flickr

Imagesunrise approaching by Scotland's Mountains, on Flickr

Imagebeinn bhan by Scotland's Mountains, on Flickr

6 am and we were back at the beach, having had our breakfast we decided to tackle the ascent up on to the mountain early, before the heat of the day would make it 10 times harder – a good decision!

Beinn Bhan is similar to Ben Nevis in that one side is dramatic cliffs whilst the opposing side slide gently down to sea level! Our ascent was through the dramatic corries and cliffs of the eastern face. Making sure we had collected enough water we made our way (slowly and paced) into the corrie. It wasn’t even mid morning and the sun was beating down on us whilst the peat fires rage to the south. It really felt like we were in Africa as opposed to Scotland! The usually boggy ground was burnt dry and no moisture remained. Weeks without rain had left the landscape a tinderbox dry. For us, this made underfoot conditions better than what would normally be experienced but it also left the landscape vulnerable as we would soon see as we went higher. The headwall of the corrie was reached and next was the main hiking challenge of the trip – a steep pull up the headwall! Slowly slowly was the order of the day but we had all the time in the world! Soon we were cresting the corrie headwall and looking at new views which stretched in all directions. To the west lay the sea board with The Cuillin of Skye taking centre place – never tire of this view! Whilst inland , the Torridonian peaks took on a new aspect as our viewing platform was now a few thousand feet higher and closer!

Next pondery was where would we camp. Ditching the bags we went for a long wander around the plateaux and eventually decided on a fine spot at the northern end of the mountain, a good choice Mr Heaton (has a cracking eye for a spectacular camp spot!). I was delighted with this as it meant I got to explore more of the mountain and a part I hadn’t visited the week before!

Camp set and it was now time for an afternoon nap. We had spent a bit of time wandering the plateaux and when we returned to get our bags we spent time at another lochan – cooling our feet and enjoying lunch!
I headed into the tent and opened the outdoors – hoping for some airflow – that failed!! I found myself sliding down my ground mat as I as sweating so much!

After 30minutes I extracted myself from the sauna to find Tom fast asleep OUTSIDE the tent on his ground mat. I quickly copied this and before nodding off – smothered myself in factor 50 to save waking up like a lobster! Afternoon nap done and I went for a wander back up onto the plateaux. Smoke filled the dry, heaving air and the views were now extinguished – in all directions! Fires towards Diabeag and Torridon now accompanied those to the south that we had seen earlier, and the Torridon peaks had now disappeared. It was surreal. Haven’t experienced being in the hills with such fires so close before and even the corrie next to us was full of smoke which made the cliffs a little grey and hazy. The sea views were gone too, and although I couldn’t see it, I read later that another fire had been started at Sligachan over on the Isle of Skye that has caused considerable damage.

Back at camp and Thomas was now up. Time for tea. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky and as its rays filtered into the corrie next to us , they caught the smoke and streams of light were lacing the air behind us.

To our delight as we got up from tea and looked north, the wind direction had changed and the smoke that was obscuring the mountain views was now being blown westwards out to sea – a stroke of luck!

Once again we waited on dusk and sunset to see if it would be as good as dawn had been all those hours ago – it seemed like weeks since we stood taking sunrise photos that morning. Cloudless skies allowed a full moon to rise to our south and we snapped away. No clouds meant less interest but I wasn’t complaining, it been a while since I had experienced two wild camp on the mountain as good as this!

As the light faded we could now see the flames from the wild fires over at Diabeag, this didn’t look good – we counted at least three fires from our position……. Cameras were packed away and out came the remains of the Tomatin whisky. To both our shock, we found ourselves in our duvet jackets and woolly hats were donned! I wouldn’t have expected to be doing this a few hours earlier as we melted at 750 metres!

After supping the golden nectar we again headed to our tents for a few hours sleep…

4am and tripods were being extended and shots composed. It was good, but not as good as the previous morning. After a few shots at the campsite I decided to head up on to the plateaux, after that shot to Skye that I was after. I was so excited when I got there – the full moon was now starting to set – right over Skye. I quickly set about getting some snaps – what a place this was!!!!

a few snaps:

ImageIsle of Skye moon by Scotland's Mountains, on Flickr

Imagediabaig dawn by Scotland's Mountains, on Flickr

ImageWild Fire Diabaig Torridon by Scotland's Mountains, on Flickr

Imagecuilling moon setting by Scotland's Mountains, on Flickr

The sun was now up and heat was intense already – 5.50am and it felt about 18-19 degrees!!

A quick coffee and we decided to descend via the shoulder. Another decision I was ecstatic about as we were exploring new ground ! Although pathless, the dry conditions made progress easy and after a few hours heather bashing we soon found ourselves back on the stalkers path that we had used 3 days before.

Having been fantasying about cool beers for the majority of the trip, our focus now turned to a full Scottish breakfast!! By 9am we were sat at the Waterside Café in Loch Carron. Options were – Full Scottish Breakfast, The Mega Breakfast or THE CHALLENGER breakfast! We both took the challenger option and I don’t think I have ever seen such a large breaky!! As well as quantity though – was quality – this was superb! An absolutely great way to refuel and also to end our 3 day Applecross Adventure.

It was a pleasure to meet Thomas and spend three days on the mountain with him. His work and professionalism is second to none and he is a thoroughly top bloke to spend time with. Really looking forward to seeing his film of this adventure this is how all adventure/photography films should be :

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Re: 3 Days wild camping (and wild fires) with Thomas Heaton

Postby Alteknacker » Fri Aug 24, 2018 2:15 pm

Great stuff, as always!

BTW I hadn't heard of Thomas, but I've now met quite a few folk who follow "Steaming Boots" videos...
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Re: 3 Days wild camping (and wild fires) with Thomas Heaton

Postby wilkiemurray » Fri Aug 24, 2018 4:26 pm

Alteknacker wrote:Great stuff, as always!

BTW I hadn't heard of Thomas, but I've now met quite a few folk who follow "Steaming Boots" videos...

If I ever go to the same following as Thomas (will never happen!!) then Steaming Boots would be famous !! :crazy: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Location: Perthshire

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