All-in On Beinn Alligin

2 06 2013

Sun 12 May 2013

After leaving Skye on the Saturday, we drove up to Torridon… During our first evening at the Kinlochewe Hotel, we looked at the MWIS weather forecast in the bar and saw that, although Sunday was due to turn quite nasty, it was by far the best of the bunch of the next few days. The weather was due to start off reasonable but by the afternoon it was due to be very windy (yet again) with low cloud and showers – possibly wintry… That meant we had to get up early – pretty rare for me and Richard when setting out on a walk.

All photos by Richard Wood – and all very misty due to the weather!
The earliest breakfast was 0800 so we were in the dining room by five-to looking out at skies clear enough to show the snowy summit ridge of the beautiful Beinn Eighe. Being up so early meant I really didn’t want anything to eat at all but I managed to squash a small amount of food down and we were heading out of the hotel by 0830 for the 12 mile drive to the Coire Mhic Nobuil carpark. As we parked up, there was another guy just booting up so we asked him where he was heading – he was heading the same way – we could also see 3 people ahead – good, on misty hills I don’t know and with bad weather looming, I feel far happier with other people around! We were heading off by five past nine…

The path sets off through a gap to the left of the bridge and heads determinedly uphill (strangely, it isn’t marked on the 1:25000 OS map). Already the cloud had lowered to half-way down the corrie ahead and it was cold and miserable. The first couple of hundred feet, before the stile through the deer fence, was easily-angled but quite soggy – luckily though, as the hills are sandstone here, the ‘boggy’ areas are sand-bottomed rather than mushy peat so you don’t really sink in at all.

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Our peak looms in the distance…

After climbing the stile the path steepened considerably, heading up in blocky steps. I already had a groin strain when I set off and this was soon balanced out by a pain down one of the muscles of the outer thigh on the same leg – a problem of setting off straight uphill from the car!

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Looking back down to Loch Torridon

We caught up the group of three by a rock step which my friend Alan would call a ‘granny stopper’ – one of the guys seemed to be in his 60s or so (but see later) and was using 2 poles and looking to be struggling somewhat. The other guy we’d chatted to at the car was way ahead and going fast.

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Sgorr a’ Chadail

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The way ahead…

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Our Second Peak & The only view we got of ‘The Horns’

As we reached the mouth of the corrie the cloud came down to meet us – we also caught up with the faster guy ahead who’d stopped to put waterproofs on.

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Looking below us into the cloud (above) and cloudbase raising (below)
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We also started to get buffeted by a strengthening swirling wind – I was assuming it was just swirling round the corrie as the direction wasn’t that forecasted – it was a south-easterly rather than a south-westerly. As I was already stressing about the narrow and rocky northern ridge, wondering whether it had any snow on it, how narrow it was, and whether the wind would be blowing across it, the swirling wind lent an urgency to my ascent – my legs were feeling slightly better now. Richard however wasn’t doing or feeling so good so I had to plod up gently. The path was great though…

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It didn’t seem long (to me at least) before we reached a large snow patch near the top of the corrie. On skirting round the edge of it, we arrived on the col to see a well-placed marker cairn – good – I’d been worried how we’d re-find the route down the corrie, especially as the path more or less disappeared at this point. We looked ahead for the highest shape we could see in the mist and I took a bearing on it (40 degrees) and we plodded upwards. Within five minutes the summit trig of our first summit, Tom na Gruagaich (3021 feet), loomed out of the mist – I was really pleased and saw it was just 11 o’ clock – despite our apparently slow speed, about quarter of an hour less than the book time.

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Now we were on the summit, the wind had completely dropped. We didn’t bother stopping at this point though as I knew it would be getting windy within the next couple of hours and didn’t fancy the narrow ridge which we had to both descend and later ascend if it did. We ploughed on due north very soon reaching the large sandstone steps down the nose.

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As soon as I tried to drop down the first large rock steps, I had a problem… My thigh muscles, which I thought had more or less recovered after Skye, seemed to be quite badly injured! First one thigh and then the other literally screamed with pain as I tried to lower down on them. I could see that if I continued like that, I was going to do very serious damage indeed.

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Me with totally non-functioning legs!

We headed back hard left along a ledge as we could see other paths below us which looked to avoid most of the bigger steps which ran down the ridgeline. We had to backtrack quite a way but eventually found steps small enough for me to sit down on top of and lower down using only my arms – progress became quite snail-like…

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We soon reached the col which, initially, was very bouldery.

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The path soon exited the boulders and improved, becoming very clear again and contouring gently around the back of a grassy knoll heading for our second peak of Sgurr Mor (3232 feet).

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There was a short, easy descent after the knoll and then the path contoured again round the much steeper grassy mountainside – the path was still running at a very gentle angle though.

Eventually, we reached the Eag Dubh gap which loomed eerily out of the mist – it looked quite spectacular as far as we could see. We peered down it and Richard took photos (I hadn’t even taken my camera on the hill as I knew it would be a waste of film).

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Just after the edge of the cleft, the path rose steeply (and was more eroded) straight up the steep grass but, within probably a couple of minutes, we were on the summit ridge and the second cairn was in sight a few yards away – already! I was extremely chuffed.

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It looked to be higher further along the ridge so we continued to the end just to make sure and had a peer down the route to ‘The Horns’ (not that we could see them) – with the state my legs were in it would have to be another time for those!

Looks higher this way?
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No it wasn’t!
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Route down to ‘The Horns’ – looks okay but not today…
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As we were still worried about the wind rising we set off immediately back for Tom na Gruagaich.

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As the ground was so soft my legs had no problems with the descent and we were soon back on the bouldery col and then heading back up the rocky nose of our original peak.

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Little rock bridge that Richard spotted

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Quick glimpse back through a hole in the cloud to the very steep slopes above the corrie

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The ridge rears overhead

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Don’t worry, you go round the side of this bit!
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Crossing the col the wind had suddenly started gusting hard at us, but only till we reached the start of the ridge. At this point we met the guy we’d left putting his waterproofs on in the initial corrie – we were really surprised he hadn’t caught us up as we’d been so slow all the way round so far. We found clambering back up the rocky tors much easier and stuck to the ridgeline more…

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Richard reckons this is a smiley rock

Near the top of the rocky ridge, we met up with the group of three again – the younger man’s wife and the older guy were coming down the steep grass to avoid the rock steps and we chatted for a while to the first guy while he waited for them. It turned out that the older guy was nearly 81 ๐Ÿ˜ฎ He certainly didn’t look it – I hope I’m still able to do a couple of steep Munros by the time I get to that age, although I doubt it.

We had a short break on our second arrival at Tom na Gruagaich’s summit but it was pretty cold and damp so we just had a slice of tea-loaf and a quick warm drink. We then headed off down the corrie on the superb stone-pitched path going as slowly as we could for the sake of our legs. During the descent it started to drizzle but the wind still hadn’t arrived and it wasn’t particularly unpleasant – we counted ourselves very lucky indeed with the weather we’d had as we plodded steadily downwards. On arrival back at the car we were surprised we’d only been just over 5 hours.

This was Beinn Eighe the next morning after it snowed hard all night!
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Good job we went up Beinn Alligin when we did!

Stats: 6 miles, 3597 feet of ascent, 5.5 hours

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17 responses

8 06 2013
Scotlands Mountains

If you think you had sore legs you should have been with Bob and I this week.Two twelve hour days in Fisherfield almost seen us off ๐Ÿ™‚
On the third day we managed another hill,The only food we had left was a tin of corned beef which Bob offered to share with me.I was so hungry I took him up on his offer ๐Ÿ™‚
Good effort on Alligin Carol.How many have you left now ?

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14 06 2013
mountaincoward

Well I’ve actually just come back from another session so 14 left now as I did another 5 last week (only 2 walks though…)

It wasn’t the walking which had knackered me really – it was all the clambering around on Skye using unfamiliar muscles in the Cuillin. I’d have been fine with just walking I think.

I like Fisherfield though so I might have come with you if you’d asked ๐Ÿ˜‰

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4 06 2013
chrissiedixie

Having just read someone else’s summery post, those piccies of yours looked positively arctic! Hope your legs are fully recovered now, and how come you were eating tea loaf? I thought you only ever took 2 pieces of shortbread on the hill with you??? ๐Ÿ™‚

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4 06 2013
mountaincoward

Richard brings his home-made tea-loaf – it’s great. As it’s so moist, it’s a great food for the hill! ๐Ÿ™‚

My legs must be better as I’ve just been walking in the northern Wainwrights ‘back o’ Skidda’ and was running down absolutely everything as it was such a cold wind. Also, I’d put some washing out to dry at my caravan and I could see rain was on its way – I didn’t make it back in time unfortunately. The rain came just as I was at the furthest point (as it does).

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3 06 2013
McEff

Enjoyed that. Alligin was one of my first outings in the Highlands, and I must say I had better weather, but I was pretty unfit and it knocked the stuffing out of me. Hope your legs have recovered.
Cheers, Alen

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4 06 2013
mountaincoward

I thought it was one of the easier Munro pairings actually – especially of the Torridonian peaks – but we’re both still pretty unfit this year. Luckily, although it was bad visibility and we didn’t see anything, I enjoyed the 2 hills so much I’ll willingly go and do them again on a nice day and hopefully get to see the spectacular scenery next time. Of course, while I’m still ‘bagging’, I’ll go up in any weather just to get them done – I’ll choose which ones I enjoyed enough to do again later…

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3 06 2013
fedupofuserids

Shame about the clag, I’d planned to do BA a few years ago when I stayed at Lower Diabeg but got similar conditions so didn’t bother !

The path looks quite eroded in places I thought the NTS looked after it ?

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4 06 2013
mountaincoward

I think the NTS only look after the path around the hills? The ones on the hill are ‘unimproved’ really… The ground is quite sandy on Beinn Alligin so wears out really easily. Still very pleasant walking though – 2 of those hills I enjoyed even though the weather wasn’t good.

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3 06 2013
smackedpentax

Excellent post Carol, I really enjoyed reading it. And that Eag Dubh gap looks a bit dodgy too – especially in the mist!

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4 06 2013
mountaincoward

Luckily, the Eag Dubh cleft is just for viewing (so far as I know – perhaps some mad ice-climbers go up in winter, i don’t know). It’s quite some sight when it looms out of the mist – must be especially so for folks who don’t know about it in advance but I did so that took the surprise element out of it for me.

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3 06 2013
jackie sowrey

Another great adventure Carol. I like the snow capped mountain photographs.

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4 06 2013
mountaincoward

I like snow-capped peaks to look at – I’m just glad we were going home after it snowed like that overnight. I’m not a fan of snowy walking in Scotland – too severe for me – love it in the Lakes though.

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3 06 2013
bob

Given the wild forecast that weekend you were pretty lucky with the weather Carol and packed a lot in. Very atmospheric photos. I remember the path across the horns being narrow and a moderate scramble in places. Good effort. I’d have turned back in the car park.

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4 06 2013
mountaincoward

Ha, ha! I can’t turn back in the carpark for bad weather until after I’ve ‘compleated’! If i do it again (which I’d like to), I think we’ll have a go at The Horns – I can always use the bypass path if it gets too much for me.

We did actually remark a few times that we’d been lucky with the weather when we looked at what the days each side of our walking days were like on that trip!

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2 06 2013
Paul Shorrock

Well done Carol ๐Ÿ™‚

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2 06 2013
mountaincoward

Thanks Paul – it was a shame to have clag for such a lovely hill but these 2 were some Torridon peaks I would certainly do again (unlike Liathach!)

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3 06 2013
Paul Shorrock

Liathach is still on my wish list unfortunately – must get round to doing it.

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