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Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Beinn Alligin veiled in white


Postby Alteknacker » Thu Mar 21, 2019 4:53 pm

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

Date walked: 16/03/2019

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 9.62 km

Ascent: 1284m

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The forecast for Saturday had got progressively worse, to the extent that we scanned the forecasts for various parts of Scotland other than Torridon - where we were based - to see whether we might get better weather anywhere else. But, oddly enough, Torridon seemed likely to be as good as anywhere, and better than most. Moreover, the forecast indicated acceptable wind levels, unlike the previous day.

Image

Meaning that the forecast heavy snow ought to be manageable (yesterday we were practically blown off our feet down in the base of Coire Mhic Fhearchair - heaven only knows what it was like on the ridge!). So we elected to stay in Torridon, and do Beinn Alligin.

We needed to be off on the journey back home about mid-afternoon, so being still under doctor's orders, this seemed like a long enough walk for the day in winter - we were estimating about 7 - 8 hours, depending on snow conditions.


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The night before, Dr Frank checked on the sunrise time - 06.00. So, since we had to be ready to drive back home after the walk, we were up at 05.00 so as to have time enough for breakfast and packing.

Just before we set off for Alligin, this is the most striking and clear view across Loch Torridon from Annat of our objective.
Image20190316-061452.

Appearances can be deceptive, mind. This was the view of Liathach the day before from the Ferroch B&B in Annat where we were staying. All looks lovely, but the forecast winds on the ridge were 100kph!
Image

We leave the car park just above Torridon house at about 06.40, and at this point the surrounding summits are free of cloud.
For example this is looking more or less south to the Beinn Damh Ridge
Image20190316-065045.

45 minutes or so later of easy path walking, we're approaching the base of Beinn Alligin.
Image20190316-073738.

Image20190316-073902.

To the east, the south end of Liathach - Sgorr a'Chadail - is still clear of cloud. This augers well for the top of Alligin...
Image20190316-073924.

The path peters out around here, and we debate the relative merits of ascending via Coire nan Laogh versus the east shoulder up to Na Fasreidhnean. The steepness of the corrie sides, and their snow load is decisive for me - I'm very nervous indeed about avalanche risk...
Image :roll:
....so we start off up the shoulder.

Image20190316-075607.

Image20190316-075633.
Initially it's quite bouldery, with snow confined to the spaces between the rocks.

Image20190316-080458.
But it rapidly gets steeper, and very soon we hit real snow, our first of this winter: continuous stretches of alternating hard and soft stuff, with just the top surfaces of the rock showing. It's like taking a big swig of one's favourite malt - a massive sensation of ecstatic pleasure, that defies any kind of verbalisation. Not something that can be "explained" - only experienced. We're both grinning with irrepressible joy at every crunchy footstep.

Image20190316-082927.

Image20190316-083422.
An ice axe is definitely necessary, even at these lower levels.

Image20190316-085312. In this kind of hazy visibility, it looks a deceptively long way down to the base of the corrie.

Image20190316-090439.
The dramatic upper slopes of the corrie are a continuous inspiring backdrop to the ascent.

Image20190316-090445. A short stop for a breather, before the last pull up on to Na Fasreidhnean.

Image20190316-092348. Once up there - WOW! Real wintery snow, but not too much wind to diminish the pleasure. We both remark that although this isn't perhaps as perfect as when the sky's clear blue, these conditions have their own special attraction. The hazy weather makes for a wonderful, eerie, almost out-of-body experience of floating perspective, in which a shape appears, then disappears in the white veil - where a small hill apparently hundreds of metres away is suddenly right in front of you; and you progress forward in a slightly drunken way because in all the diaphanous whiteness you can't quite get a fix on the exact distance between the ground and your eyes. Magic, especially piquant, being - as noted above - the first snow we've been out in this year.

Image20190316-095812. The cloud rolls in and out, bringing with it occasional flurries of snow; but route-finding on a relatively narrow summit ridge like this poses no challenge, and we just relax into the hypnotic rhythm of snow walking. In what seems like no time at all, we're at the summit of Tom na Gruagaich. At this point we notice that, moderate breeze notwithstanding, it is quite chilly up here; so we don't hang about! We just get the crampons on as quickly as we can in preparation for the next descent (just a few minutes without gloves and I lose all feeling in ma digits...)
Image
...and then get going.

Image20190316-101402. The drop down into the bealach Fasreidhnean Beinn Alligin is visually sensational, but not actually difficult.

Image20190316-101409. To one side, the corrie seems to disappear down into the bowels of the earth!

Image20190316-102545. Looking back at the descent we've just negotiated, it's clear that it's not especially difficult. Though lots of loverly snow :D .

Image20190316-102654. The slopes down into the corrie are just so steep. I can't stop looking at them - breathtaking.

Image Looking ahead, the ascent to Sgurr Mor appears fleetingly - and then disappears again

Image20190316-102953. More views down into the bowels of the earth as we descend the sharp ridge.

Image20190316-103005. And again looking back up the slope to Tom na Gruachain.

Image20190316-103604. Ahead the start of the ascent to Sgurr Mor.

Image20190316-110701. Looking back from time to time as I catch my breath, an ethereal Tom na Gruagaich appears from now and again, before quickly fading back into the whiteness...

Image20190316-111626. ... more or less more clearly, but always sensational!

Image More loverly snow...

Image It's hard to resist moving a bit closer to the edge to look down into the corries; but we are pretty mindful of the cornices - here just before we get to Eag Dhubh ...

Image ...which is every bit as stunning in reality as in all the pics I've previously seen of it; indeed perhaps more so when one cannot see where it ends in the depths :shock: .

Image20190316-113655. At the summit the clag is quite dense again, so no reason to wait about.

Image20190316-113938. It's also quite cold, as evidenced by the ice on Dr Frank's hair!!!

Leaving Sgurr Mor, we take a quick bearing as we reach the spot where the shoulders descend left and right - either would be OK, but at this point we're still thinking in terms of going over the Horns, and so want to head east.

The clag remains thick as we descend from Sgurr Mor into the bealach before the ascent to the first of the Horns. As we get to the low point we have a decision to make: we're running a bit behind time, and, moreover, I have no real idea what the descents from the Horns are like in these conditions - I wish now that I'd taken a look at some pictures. And I wish I had a rope with me in case they were especially steep or difficult. Looking down to the right into Mhadaidh corrie, it looks as if a direct descent would be quite straightforward, if rather steep, so after a short confab, this is what we opt for.

Glissading the first 100 or so metres is great fun, though it takes a lot of effort to apply sufficient braking pressure to the axe point :shock: ; but then it becomes apparent that there is a series of cliffs, one below the other, that we'll have to negotiate - not by glissading!
Image20190316-121332.

Image20190316-121338. These become progressively more steep and difficult to find a route through as we descend, so that we have to make some quite lengthy traverses to pick out a reasonable way, and to down climb about 100m at the end, facing the cliffs and toe-pointing with the crampons.

It didn't feel too bad at the time, but looking back afterwards...
Image20190316-125416. ...Dr Frank comments that anyone looking back at that would think we were mad to have downclimbed it :roll: :shock: :roll: .

In retrospect, having watched the vid in DizzyVizion's WHR of his traverse on the following day...
https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=87711
... I think it would have been fine and actually quicker to have taken in the Horns. Never mind, though: a good reason to return in the future!

Once we're down in the corrie, the terrain en route back is quite easy if a tad boggy.
Image20190316-131639. Above us the lowering slopes of Alligin are just magnificent, providing an exciting backdrop to the walk out.

Image20190316-131806. We just head directly for the bit of Loch Torridon we can see.

Image20190316-134030. Still absolutely buzzing, we take a last look at wonderful Alligin before we start on the 10 hour drive back home. This is another example of almost giving up because of a bad forecast, going out anyway, and being surprised by joy :D :D :D .

Image 3D View of Route.
Last edited by Alteknacker on Tue Mar 26, 2019 12:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Postby DizzyVizion » Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:44 pm

Wow!
Those pictures. That route. Absolutely superb! :thumbup:
The Horns were no trouble at all.
But your descent route (and ascent route) looks and sounds brilliant!
Your descent route does looks more challenging than the Horns for sure. :crazy: :clap:
Hope to return in winter again to do Deep South Gully.
I'll be keeping that descent route in mind :wink:
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Re: Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Postby rohan » Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:03 pm

Love your atmospheric photos, not so sure about the route down though!
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Re: Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Thu Mar 21, 2019 10:43 pm

Beautifully written report I especially love the way you have described walking through the snow in the hazy weather, I always find that the white veil is such a peaceful place to be and worth missing the views for! I think I would give your descent route a miss though :crazy: .
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Re: Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Postby wilkiemurray » Fri Mar 22, 2019 7:55 am

lovely - really enjoyed this report

Never ascended up the nose - must try that next time :)

ATB

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Re: Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Sat Mar 23, 2019 2:18 pm

Wow, wow, wow, I love your photos too, and really enjoyed reading your report.
I agree, the Horns would have been easier, but where's the fun in that ;-)
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Re: Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Postby litljortindan » Sat Mar 23, 2019 10:25 pm

Great, evocative photos and writing. That white veil seems to amplify the drama of the ridge and its walls.
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Re: Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Postby dav2930 » Sun Mar 24, 2019 6:43 pm

Have only just seen this after a few days away. Fab report with, as others have said, some nice descriptive writing. Very atmospheric photos too. Certainly an interesting route you took, both up the shoulder and down into the corrie - though (as others have also said) the latter sounded and looked more difficult than the horns would have been! Going in that direction, the trickiest bit is ascending the first horn; all the descents are pretty easy. Great stuff AK. :clap: :clap:
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Re: Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Postby mrssanta » Sun Mar 24, 2019 11:14 pm

oh that was gorgeous!
but I definitely would NOT have come down that way!!!
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Re: Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Postby steviesea » Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:21 pm

Ooer Alt :shock: :crazy:
I keep looking at your route plan and thinking back, I can't even comprehend your decent route.
As already stated by dav2930, the first horn ascent could've been a bit dicey but considering what you did achieve then you'd have p****d that. :lol: Those photos into the bowels were awesome and appeared to be peering down into the cone of a dormant volcano .Excellent :clap:
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Re: Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Fri Mar 29, 2019 11:06 am

A thrilling trip report complemented by some fantastically atmospheric photos, excellent :clap:
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Re: Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Apr 08, 2019 8:58 pm

DizzyVizion wrote:Wow!
Those pictures. That route. Absolutely superb! :thumbup:
The Horns were no trouble at all.
But your descent route (and ascent route) looks and sounds brilliant!
Your descent route does looks more challenging than the Horns for sure. :crazy: :clap:
Hope to return in winter again to do Deep South Gully.
I'll be keeping that descent route in mind :wink:


Thanks, DV.
I wish I'd seen your video before our expedition!!!
The descent route was OK in fact, at least wearing crampons. It felt quite secure. notwithstanding the steepness.

rohan wrote:Love your atmospheric photos, not so sure about the route down though!


Thanks Rohan. The route down had the merit of providing a good work out :D

Cairngorm creeper wrote:Beautifully written report I especially love the way you have described walking through the snow in the hazy weather, I always find that the white veil is such a peaceful place to be and worth missing the views for! I think I would give your descent route a miss though :crazy: .

mrssanta wrote:oh that was gorgeous!
but I definitely would NOT have come down that way!!!

Thanks for the kind words, CC and mrssanta. We were both very struck by the "white veil" experience, that was - yes, worth missing the views for (almost!). As regards the route down, see above... It looks worse than it actually was.

Thanks also Murray, Emma, litljortindan, dav2930 and steviesea.
As regards the ascent of the first horn, we could see most of that, and it didn't look too bad given we were properly equipped - it was reall the descents we (I) were a bit concerned, given we were running short of time. The descent route was just straight down from the bealach before the first horn.
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