Coire Mhich Fhearchair again - even windier this time!

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Attachment(s) Date walked: 21/03/2019
Distance: 13.8km
Ascent: 661m
Views: 5

Beinn Alligin veiled in white

Munros: Sgurr Mor (Beinn Alligin), Tom na Gruagaich (Beinn Alligin)

Date walked: 16/03/2019

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 9.62km

Ascent: 1284m

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.


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.

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!

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

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


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

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.


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

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.


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.

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...)
...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 time to time...

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!

Image20190316-121338. 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...
... 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.

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Comments: 6

Ben Lomond

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Attachment(s) Munros: Ben Lomond
Date walked: 14/03/2019
Distance: 12.6km
Ascent: 1096m
Views: 3

Bleak & rough: the Hirnantau on the warmest Feb day

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Foel Cedig, Foel Cwm Sian Llwyd, Foel Goch (Hirnantau), Foel y Geifr, Pen y Boncyn Trefeilw
Date walked: 26/02/2019
Distance: 32.6km
Ascent: 1496m
Comments: 4
Views: 195

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Attachment(s) Date walked: 14/02/2019
Distance: 15.7km
Ascent: 1225m
Comments: 6
Views: 266

Day walk from Leamington Spa

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Date walked: 26/01/2019
Distance: 34km
Ascent: 260m
Views: 18

Yr Aran Round

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Snowdon - Yr Wyddfa, Y Lliwedd, Yr Aran
Date walked: 12/12/2018
Distance: 14.5km
Ascent: 1665m
Comments: 5
Views: 335

Pen-yr-ole-Wen & Carnedd Dafydd with the grandkids

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Carnedd Dafydd, Pen yr Ole Wen
Date walked: 03/11/2018
Distance: 9km
Ascent: 815m
Comments: 2
Views: 280

A post-op Northern Berwyns round in perfect weather

Attachment(s) Hewitts: Cadair Berwyn, Cadair Bronwen, Moel Fferna, Moel Sych, Moel yr Henfaes, Mynydd Tarw
Date walked: 18/10/2018
Distance: 33.5km
Ascent: 1496m
Comments: 12
Views: 572

A meander in the Cairngorms

Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn Bhrotain, Braeriach, Cairn of Claise, Monadh Mor, Mullach Clach a'Bhlair, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Sgor Gaoith
Date walked: 07/08/2018
Distance: 56.3km
Ascent: 3801m
Comments: 5
Views: 737


User avatar
Location: Effete South (of WIgan, anyway)
Activity: Scrambler
Pub: The Bell, Trysull
Mountain: Cuillin Ridge
Place: Glen Brittle
Gear: Compass
Member: None
Ideal day out: Heavy ridge walk with plenty of scrambling and height gain - eg Welsh 3000ers, Wastwater Circuit, Cuillin Ridge

Munros: 165
Corbetts: 28
Wainwrights: 71
Hewitts: 195

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