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Torridon High Bivvy – Reality Exceeding Expectations
by andygunn23 » Tue Jan 15, 2019 7:56 pm
Route description: Beinn Eighe (western summits)
Munros included on this walk: Ruadh-stac Mor (Beinn Eighe), Spidean Coire nan Clach (Beinn Eighe)
Date walked: 16/11/2018
Time taken: 17 hours
Distance: 18 km
Ascent: 1116m27 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
It is often claimed expectations exceed reality – not for this outing, not one tiny bit! That in no instances means I had low expectations. My expectations are nearly always through the roof.
There is something magical about Torridon. My first visit to Torridon was in 2017 to do the Beinn Alligin ridge traverse and it quickly became my plan that this area had to be saved for the finest weather Scotland could offer. Driving away from Beinn Alligin and past the giant nature reserve sign for Beinn Eighe I was in awe at the size and intimidating nature of these mountains – truthfully then I didn’t know much about these particular mountains or their routes but knew I was already looking forward to them. They looked like “proper hills”.
It was now late 2018 and there appeared to be a perfect weather window so Andrew and myself set about planning this weekend. Other Andrew was too busy doing his final year of university so was unavailable… He was unavailable until 10 minutes into our weekly climbing on the Wednesday when I was able to convince him university meant nothing in the long run and bivvying at the top of a mountain would offer far more life skills. Easily swayed, it now meant the three Andrew’s were back.
The only downside was I had to be back in Aberdeen for 17:30 on Saturday so we knew we had to power through.
We set off from Dyce in Aberdeen at about 17:00 after we had finished work and Andrew had finished pretending to do university work all day.
I had done a bit of research into what route would be the best, effectively debating between clockwise or anticlockwise. I read nearly all the reports, and everyone appeared to have slightly different views; prominent wind directions to difficult scree at the start or finish, best views, etc. Our needs were slightly different as a lot had to do with where was a good place to bivvy so I came to the conclusion our three options were:
1) Clockwise – walk in the dark and bivvy at Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair
2) Anticlockwise – walk and gain height in the dark and bivvy near summit of Spidean Coire nan Clach
3) Bivvy at the car and choose either clockwise or anticlockwise in the morning
We discussed our options and came to the conclusion a high bivvy would make for the best morning and most exciting story. We arrived at nearly 21:00 which on the 16th November is safe to say is a late time to be setting off at.
After driving I was pretty knackered and struggled up the first section of the walk, which from the car park just opposite Loch Bharranch is quite unrelenting. Andrew squared appeared to have an abundance of energy and were in incredibly high spirits, which always helps, although I would have appreciated if they could just have pretended to be tired (I jest)!
It was relatively mild, we were sheltered from the wind and the sky was as clear as anything. Although I was struggling it was sensational to see so many stars without the light pollution the majority of the country has. Having to stop every 10-15 minutes to regain some breath worked as a nice reminder to stop and enjoy the views. We would switch off the headtorches let our eyes adapt to the near complete darkness and point and enjoy.
We discussed the bright star next to the moon, my suggestion of Mars was laughed at pretty quickly – thankfully the handy Sky Guide app on my phone confirmed my suspicions (highly recommend paying for the app!). Feeling quite chuffed with my knowledge of one star (probably complete luck) I found a reserve tank of energy to push up Coire an Laoigh. We also discussed how many other people would be out of the hills at this time, safe in the knowledge that we were in a minority of the population that we wouldn’t change for anything!
At just before midnight we reached the cairn on the shoulder of Spidean Coire nan Clach.
It was getting late, duh… I wasn’t convinced we would find a better place to fall asleep on the summit of Spidean Coire nan Clach so we decided this would be as good a place as any to sleep for the night.
Given the mild(ish) temperature and knowing we had to make quick progress on the Saturday I opted for my medium sized bag 45L (against the 34L and 75L), the only downside meaning I didn’t have room for my tripod – I really must get a smaller alternative for outings like this.
As it was nearly midnight I didn’t want to spend a great deal of time farting about with the camera but I did manage to get one quick (not great) shot from the Cairn looking towards Sgurr Ban and the east side of the Beinn Eighe ridge – one that I will do when I have more time.
A rough idea of the stars
It was by no means windy in terms of Scottish wind, but there was most definitely a breeze kicking about so we all wasted no time in getting tucked away for the night.
I slept well until about 02:00, so effectively having two hours solid sleep before realising I was quite cold (it must have been close to freezing, if not just below). I made the mistake of assuming it would be better to keep my sweaty wet clothes on – it never really works out well!
I drifted in and out of sleep until our alarm at 07:30 which would give us plenty of time to get to the summit for the sunrise. Obviously when my alarm went off I was in the middle of one of my only deep snoozes – typical.
When I began shuffling about it was clear one Andrew was already awake and he mentioned at also having a rough night whereas the other Andrew was still out cold like a log.
Just after waking*
*again blur is due to the longer exposure and lack of tripod.
I had spent a great deal of the week prior envisaging what the perfect sunrise would be; it would hopefully light up the Beinn Eighe ridge and the Liathach mountains with the perfect colour to get some good photos.
Looking back to where we spent the night (wobbly, longer exposure to get some light in)
When we reached the trig, just off the true summit of Spidean Coire nan Clach it was still pretty dark but the increasing light meant we could just about turn the headtorches off and make our route towards Spidean Coure nan Clach to enjoy the sunrise.
Sense of dark from the trig (flash on)
Andrew heading towards the real summit
Once we were at the true summit we stopped to get some breakfast and really savour the views in all directions – it was stunning. Every 5 minutes the changing angle of the sun offered a different perspective of the hills and their colours. Looking back at the photos it almost doesn’t seem real.
This was exceeding all expectation, massively!
Some of the photos from the summit
I loved how the early blue light had so quickly changed from dark, cold and menacing to warm, welcoming and deadly orange! Now that we were satisfied that the sun was awake, we left to enjoy the main ridge itself at about 08:50, meaning we had spent nearly half an hour just chilling (and taking lots of pictures!).
Setting off to enjoy the ridge by ourselves
Looking towards Loch Maree
Andrew, Andrew, then Andrew, Andrew & Andrew
The ridge itself was easy going and only made slightly more challenging by the reluctance to waste any time looking where I was putting my feet – I just couldn’t get enough of the surrounding views, knowing full well I might never get as good a day in Torridon as this!
Liathach in the background – wonder if I could replicate this, up there?
Jackpot – this is what I had been hoping for
By now the sun was beginning to reach the tops of all the hills and was delightfully warming on our backs. I don’t remember it being a particularly cold morning, but truthfully I have nothing but fond memories from this day so even if it was freezing I would have conveniently forgotten about that part by now.
The route to Ruadh-stac Mor was easy going and we knew we would be able to leave our bags for the final out and back section.
Coinneach Mhor and Ruadh-stac Mor enjoying the early morning sun
Looking north – purple has taken over
Slightly different angle and massive change in light
Un-zoomed and Andrew and Andrew for scale
iPhone panorama (really need to work on Photoshopping a DSRL panorama!)
Andrew, Andrew and the shadow of me
At the cairn of Coinneach Mhor
On route to Ruadh-stac Mor looking towards Loch Torridon in the direction of the Outer Hebrides
From our final summit
I do remember one thing from the summit of Ruadh-stac Mor and that was that it was very windy! So much so that we didn’t hang about for long. I had intended to get back to the car for close to 14:00 to allow for the long drive home and by now it was already 10:33.
We took a great deal longer than needed in the early part of the day, safe in the knowledge once we were down on the path at Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair we could just batter along at a lightning quick pace.
WHAT A DAY!
Our final real challenge of the weekend was to make it safely down the scree towards to Loch from the bealach between Coinneach Mhor and Ruadh-stac Mor. The route down was pretty obvious and wasn’t as bad as we had possibly feared – the rock was all bone dry so this helped massively. I would dread going up that scree right enough, it’s better sliding downwards when you are trying to go down! So if you want my verdict – go anticlockwise (and bivvy high!).
Amazingly as we stopped to get some more food in it was clear that we were still the only people on the ridge of Beinn Eighe – people missed out on so much! There is often that great sense of delight when you have such fine hills all to yourself.
Heading down the scree and various photo
Pinkish scree was the route down
Boulder man, lets call him Andrew
This was our other camp option
Once we reached the Loch we began to see the first drabs of people making their way up towards the hill. To me it seemed like a late time to get started with the real incline given it was getting dark by 16:00 but I guess we spent hours the previous night plodding about in the dark without a care or feeling of unease.
They must of thought we were bizarre heading off home so early.
As planned as soon as we hit the path it was single file and as quick a walk as possible, just short of a run back towards the car, we were bombing along. Anytime I stopped to take a photo I just ended 100’s of metres further behind. By now it wasn’t really about enjoying the view, it was about getting back.
All that remained was the rather soul destroying 2km walk along the road towards the car. I did contemplate doing that in the dark last night but in hindsight I am glad we didn’t, a midnight finish was late enough!
As we were walking back along the road I was reunited with the Beinn Eighe sign that tempted me the year previous in my last visit to Torridon – this is exactly the type of weather I had hope to see in it.
Beinn Eighe – b-e-a-utiful!
We made it back to the car and were off driving by 14:00 – what a quick day. The plan was to drive in one but by Ellon (I think) I was craving a Burger King, or any kind of junk so we made an unscheduled stop to wolf down some food. I did indeed make it back to Aberdeen in time to host pre-drinks and get out to the pub – I may have been there in person more than spirit if I am telling the truth, I was exhausted! Holy cow, I was sore the next day.
Looking back and writing this I honestly can’t think of a better outing. We discussed this in the car and always tend to favour those more recently, but this WAS magic. Possibly at the time my brain was saturated with the views, but I am glad I take my camera and make sure I get around to writing these at some point, because this will almost definitely be in the top 5 outing by the time I finish!
Again, ma-hoooosive thanks to Andrew and Andrew for their daft company and willingness to do a massive car journey for such a quick walk (and walk in the dark and camp at 900 metres high in November!). I hope to “university Andrew” this was better than sitting pretending to write a coursework and playing FIFA?
Torridon – until next time!
by rockhopper » Tue Jan 15, 2019 8:16 pm
by Anne C » Tue Jan 15, 2019 10:24 pm
by goingforawii » Tue Jan 15, 2019 11:08 pm
by iangpark » Tue Jan 15, 2019 11:42 pm
by Alteknacker » Wed Jan 16, 2019 12:00 am
Good to see that Andrew was able to experience it...
by past my sell by date » Wed Jan 16, 2019 12:12 am
by andygunn23 » Mon Jan 21, 2019 9:12 pm
Alteknacker wrote:Stunning is a rather overused word; but it this case it's absolutely correct. WHAT an experience!!! The variable light is - quite literally - incredible. It's just the greatest thing being up in a place like that when the weather is so perfect - wonderful! I envy folk like you who have just 3 rather than 10+ hours drive to get there..
Good to see that Andrew was able to experience it...
Wow, thanks - appreciated! Couldn't agree more, always worth the drive and variable quality of sleep to be there. That's a really, really good point, I often moan about the drive (mainly on the way back when I'm tired), but 3-4 hours to the Northwest Highlands really is a good deal. Hats off for each 10+ hour drive - could be to the Caribbean in that time... Ha, yes Andrew got lucky on this one!
past my sell by date wrote:Fabulous - you just can't beat the light of dawn
goingforawii wrote:Wonderful photos!!
Anne C wrote:Absolutely fantastic the light in your photos is just wow. What an experience.
rockhopper wrote:Magic - cheers
Thanks for all the smashing comments!
by Graeme D » Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:09 pm
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by Jim777 » Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:42 pm
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