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Alls well on Beinn Alligin

Alls well on Beinn Alligin

Postby Daveyf » Mon Sep 02, 2019 5:21 pm

Route description: Beinn Alligin

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

Date walked: 13/05/2019

Time taken: 9.5 hours

Distance: 10.5 km

Ascent: 1250m

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All these years of waiting, seeing everyone else’s photos of Torridon and now finally it was my turn to indulge in the rawness of these mountains. We drove past a couple of days ago on the road from Locharron to Kinlochewe via Shieldaig, fortunately I wasn’t driving so I was able to drool away all the way along the windy road without having to worry about anyone else doing the same and coming from the other direction. It’s a fantastic road littered with parking places to grab some awe-inspiring photo’s. Then we had to continue on to Gairloch where we had rented a cottage for a week, but now I’m back at 5:00 in the morning, parked, booted and eager to get walking.

The Beinn Alligin car park on the road running parallel to the Upper Loch Torridon coastline is good for dozens of cars, but at this hour it’s just me and a couple of parked up camper vans which look like they’ve been dead to the world for several hours.

I’d already decided to do this walk in a clockwise direction, based on little more than the flip of a coin, either route, I was likely to be blessed with amazing views. So leaving the car park I took the track almost opposite the car park entrance and headed north. The path is good, clear and obvious and to begin with not steep at all. In a little over 20 minutes I’m over the large stile spanning the deer fence. Soon after that it starts to get a little steeper although still not at all bad on the thighs. Another hour after the stile and the route merges with a burn and follows it all the way up through the corrie. The climb becomes steeper still, requiring a few 5 minute pit stops which give me a chance to look behind me and admire the views back down the path towards Upper Loch Torridon. Liathach to the east looking as large and solid as ever, a few pockets of snow sprinkled around the higher reaches. The morning light isn’t brilliant, it’s a little dull and gloomy, high clouds dimming the sun. The weather looks promising though and I don’t think the views will be blocked in with clag.
Upper Loch Torridon and the mountains to the south at first light

After a bit of a slog up the corrie, the ground eventually flattens out and the trig point of Tom na Gruagaich can be seen slightly to the right. At 3025ft it’s a great place for a trig point, sitting right on the edge of the summit, overlooking the huge bowl of a corrie which is bordered by Sgurr Mhor to the left and the fabled Horns of Alligin ahead of me, beyond that there is peak after peak, Beinn Dearg, Beinn Eighe and Liathach and countless other summits silhouetted in the distance. It’s still only 7.30 in the morning a chill breeze blowing around, but this is a place where anyone appreciative of nature could sit and stare for hours, transfixed by the view that hasn’t changed in millions of years, spellbound!
Summit cairn at Tom na Gruagaich

The long haul up was more than worth it

The legendary Horns of Alligin

Summit at Tom na Gruagaich

As much as I’d like to sit here for hours on end, 30 minutes is all I can spare and it’s time to move on and head along the ridge towards Sgurr Mhor. I head in the general direction the ridge follows and am a little surprised at how steep the route down is, I wasn’t really expecting that, don’t know why after all I am on the top of a mountain! I’m hardly a mountaineer so I find the route down a little daunting and find myself questioning, is this the right way down? Well it certainly seems that there’s no other way without having to take a huge detour, so I start to climb down with all the grace and elegance of a mountain goat in a wheelchair. Once at the bottom of the col it’s good to look back and see the route just descended, happy in the knowledge that part is now behind me. In fact looking back it doesn’t look quite so bad, don’t know what I was worrying about really.
The route ahead to Sgurr Mhor via the West Top

Looking back up to Tom na Gruagaich

Carrying on along the path I head up to the subsidiary top of Sgurr Mhor West Top, at 2818ft it’s not a bad place to stop for a quick bite to eat and a gaze back at the north wall of Tom na Gruagaich. As well as gazing at the route behind, the route ahead is equally intoxicating the path heads up the south west shoulder of Sgurr Mhor, zig zagging as it nears the top where the summit cairn can just about be seen sitting on the top.
Summit cairn at West Top with Sgurr Mhor behind


Near the top of Sgurr Mhor is Eag Dubh, a huge cleft which looks like it’s been chiselled out of the rock, it forms a gap like a missing tooth in a broad grin. I don’t know if this is a viable route up for the un-roped walker, certainly seems steep, but I bet a few people give it a go. Passing Eag Dubh and keeping right and heading to the edge, there is a jaw dropping view back towards Tom na Gruagaich with Eag Dubh just below my feet which is unmissable, The summit cairn at Sgurr Mhor is just a short distance behind me, after taking in the view over Eag Dubh I head towards the cairn.
The cleft of Eagh Dubh

Tom na Gruagaich from the top of Eagh Dubh

Over the past couple of hours, the wind has been getting steadily stronger and at 3235ft the summit of Sgurr Mhor is the highest point of the day and therefore not surprising that it’s now blowing a hoolie, fortunately the cairn here is fairly substantial and gives a good bit of sanctuary from the wind. While sitting here gawping at the amazing views in every direction, I contemplate which view is the best, Tom na Gruagaich looks awesome with the sun now shining on it. Out to the north lies Baosbheinn with Loch á Bhealaich sitting in front of it and Gairloch a few miles beyond. To the south east is the huge mass of Liathach, the giant king of Torridon, but for me, the view of the day is due east. An alignment of peaks, one after the other, seen from the summit of Sgurr Mhor, the Horns of Alligin lie below it like a sleeping dragon, beyond is Beinn Dearg, the col linking the various peaks of Beinn Dearg form a cradle framing Beinn Eighe with a smattering of snow sitting on the vast distant peak of Ruadh-stac Mor. If there were a pot of gold sitting beyond that I wouldn’t have been at all surprised, it’s like a computer generated film set that no one could possibly believe existed in reality, but exist it does, perhaps that God fella really did know what he was doing when he carved out Torridon, Amazing.
Moody Torridon

Summit cairn at Sgurr Mhor

Tom na Gruagaich


From the top of Sgurr Mhor, the Horns of Alligin are immediately below, I know there are two routes, one is a path to the right by-passing the peaks, the other is a scramble up to the top and along the ridge, at the moment I can see neither path so I’m not sure where I’ll be going, I even wonder if there’s another escape route to the right down into the corrie in case neither path are suitable. As I approach the bealach at the bottom of the first horn (or is it the third, depending on which way round you’re going?) I study the hillside ahead neither path is particularly obvious, perhaps a sight of a faint path going to the right of the peaks. I carry on and start to head up what little path there is and spot an even fainter track heading up more directly near to the western ridge.
Na Rathanan aka Horn number 1 or is it number 3?

I’m a little apprehensive but keen to give this a shot, so as the path disappears altogether it’s a matter of finding the easiest route upwards, for the most part it’s not a problem, then I take a route scrambling up over rock and grass having to pull myself up like a seasoned slow worm before finding the next bit looks a bit too much, this was my fear, I find going up far easier, but if I get to a point where ‘up’ is not an option, will I be able to get back down again? I now found myself facing that very predicament. Up meant having to cling to some near vertical grassy wall along a narrow ridge and somehow get up to the ridge above. Down meant having to reverse the past 10 minutes of climbing and probably ending up landing on my head. I decided to defy gravity and crack on ahead and after a little perseverance managed to get myself past this little crux move. Less than a minute later I join a path previously unseen to me that if I had taken would have made things a whole lot easier. C’est la vie! A steady easy scramble followed with little drama and brought me eventually to the top of Na Rathanan aka Horn number 1 (or 3). A rocky summit with of course views all round, a short break on a comfy boulder was taken reflecting on how I’d managed to make what is probably for most, an easy bimble up a hill side into something far more difficult than it should have been.
Summit of Na Rathanan

The ridge top walk along Na Rathanan

Contemplation over, it was time to move on, there is a short airy ridge walk along boulders for maybe 75 yards which is made even more interesting given what seems like hurricane force winds trying to blow me down into the corrie, there is then a short drop down into the col before then heading up the next horn which of course has to be number 2 whichever way round you’re going. After the first horn this one really did seem easy and there were no drama’s at all before reaching the top. After well over 6 hours walking and not having seen a soul all day, I finally bump into a couple of people walking the route in the other direction, we all agree it’s a fantastic place to be but probably not a good place to fly a kite.

With just one more horn to go, I head down and pick up a path to number 3 (or number 1), with no obvious route up I continue on the path passing the horn before finally finding a scrambly route up and doubling back, there’s then a short climb up to reach the top. From here Beinn Dearg feels just a stone’s throw away. The gully’s running from the top to the valley floor look like scars from giant fingernails that have continued to scrape out the corrie below. Sgurr Mhor in the opposite direction looks massive and seems like it’s sitting at the head of the table, in charge, presiding over the smaller peeks keeping it company. Horn number 2 is almost in my face blocking anyone trying to pass. This is indeed a remarkable place to be.
At the summit of Na Rathanan Far East Top, Beinn Dearg behind

Looking back from the Far East Top

Beinn Dearg

Tom na Gruagaich and Sgurr Mhor from cairn below Na Rathanan Far East Top

After a while sitting admiring the majesty of the place it’s time to start the descent, so it’s initially back the way I came and off the last horn, picking up a path which takes me to another cairn, the 4th horn perhaps? Well who knows it’s a little lower than the others, perhaps it has aspirations though? It’s a steady climb down with a mixture of rocky terraces followed by quite steep descents followed by another terrace and so on. The path is easy to follow and leads to a footbridge crossing the Allt á Bhealaich which it follows for a short while until it flows into the Ahmainn Coire Mhic Nobuil where another bridge is crossed. From here it’s a steady plod back to the car park following the path of the burn which looks really inviting, there are several people dunking their toes in what must be really cool, refreshing water. Upon reaching a gate linking a deer fence, I take a last look back at the Sgurr Mhor and the Horns, It’s been an absolute indulgence in ruggedness and a scenic overload that I will remember for some time.
Bridge over the Allt á Bhealaich

The Horns of Alligin & Sgurr Mhor

Once through the deer gate there are a number of trees between the path and the burn, obscuring the view of the flowing waters which have now carved out a gorge producing the occasional waterfall which can be heard rather than seen. Eventually reaching the road, a right turn is immediately followed by the bridge which does have a view of some of the waterfalls back up the burn. The car park is just across the road which by now is virtually full.
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Re: Alls well on Beinn Alligin

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Sep 02, 2019 10:51 pm

Some really lovely pics there :thumbup:
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