Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
30th and 31st May 2009
Along the ridges of Beinn Damh (Hill of the stag) and Beinn Dearg (Red hill) in the heart of Torridon.
An early start saw me and Stephan make good progress across from the east of Scotland to Torridon on the west coast. After passing Inverness breakfast seemed a distant memory so we stopped at the transport cafe at Tarvie just after Rogie falls for a second course. The final leg through Achnasheen and along the upgraded roads to Kinlochewe provides for a wonderful drive through spectacular scenery. It was then onto the single track road that runs below the long ridge of Beinn Eighe and the sandstone terraces of Liathach. After parking at the Loch Torridon Hotel we made preparation for the walk ahead which included splashing on plenty of sun cream. Highland cattle in the field beside the hotel where lazing in the shade trying to keep cool.
Highland cow trying to keep cool
Heading out from the hotel we could see the rounded shape of Sgurr na Bana Mhoraire high above the trees, this is one of the northern tops of Beinn Damh. Rhododendron bushes brought plenty of colour to the lower slopes, not only found amongst the trees they were spreading out across the hillside. Rhododendron were introduced into Britain in the mid 1700s as an ornamental plant and have since become widespread, particularly in woodland habitats on the west coast of Scotland. They are now a bit of a problem in places as they tend to squeeze out all of the native plants.
Meall Gorm, Sgurr na Bana Mhoraire and Beinn Damh
The pines started to thin as we approached a waterfall before following a stalkers path over the rock strewn terrain.
Waterfall below Beinn Damh
The fine path eased our way up to the lochan at the bealach at the head of Drochaid Coire Roill. Beinn Damh was now showing broad side on to us and the craggy cliffs looked steep and impenetrable.
Beinn Damh from Drochaid Coire Roill
We scrambled upwards and then across a sandstone escarpment soon to be standing below the buttress of the north east ridge.
Maol Chean Dearg & An Ruadh Stac
After spending a bit of time surveying the route ahead we made our way across the grassy corrie floor toward the south east ridge.
Stuc Coire an Laoigh and Spidean Coire an Laoigh
A small burn allowed us to replenish water bottles before finding a deer track to lead the way under tall crags and onto the ridge. The impressive rocky fortress's of Maol Chean Dearg and An Ruadh Stac stood impassively behind us as we made our way.
Maol Chean Dearg & An Ruadh Stac
Gradually gaining height we contoured around the hillside before a more direct pull up the steep grassy slopes brought us to a rocky knoll, Stuc Coire an Laoigh.
Spidean Coire an Laoigh from Stuc Coire an Laoigh
The ridge narrowed while crossing to a col before a gradual rise across a boulder field led to the summit. Part way up a Ptarmigan hen fluffed out her feathers as she prepared to defend her brood. Half a dozen yellow balls of fluff bounced their way across the boulders as we stood watching the mother call her chicks away. Giving them a wide berth we climbed past not wishing to disturb them further. Continuing on we soon reached Beinn Damh's highest point, Spidean Coire an Laoigh.
Looking back down to Stuc Coire an Laoigh
A fine vista unfolded as we gazed across loch Torridon to the main Toriddon hills in the north. The cooling breeze continued to keep the days temperature down to a nice level as we enjoyed lunch.
Beinn Damh and Loch Torridon
From the top we headed along a nice curved ridge before a rocky crossing toward the top above Toll Ban. A dark shape stood among the sun bleached boulders as we approached but the mountain goat moved off steadily before we got too close. After a short drop we emerged from among the rocks onto grassy hillside before descending to the col below Meall Gorm.
Sgurr na Bana Mhoraire, Meall Gorm, Beinn Alligin and Liathach
A cairn marked the way off the hill and onto the path that provides the usual ascent route. Winding down the hillside we made the fork that branches off across the river and our morning's way up the mountain.
Ben Alligin and Liathach
The fine track now led down through the trees and across the road before bringing us out at the back of the hotel. It was time for a well earned drink before heading off for a shower in Torridon village. The campsite here looked a little crowded so we returned past the hotel on our way out to Shieldaig. A field here is open to campers for a voluntary donation, it overlooks the sea loch and provided a nice view of the sunset. The breeze continued to keep the midges at bay until around 10 o'clock but we managed to cope while finishing our meal. After a little wander along the shore in front of the village it was time to retire. Deciding to make an early start we were up shortly after six to pack the tents and gear into the car. After driving the short way down to the shore of sea loch Shieldaig we used a picnic bench for breakfast while trying to ignore the early morning midges.
Loch Shieldaig from the breakfast table
It was a hazy start to the day and the lack of wind would mean that we would feel the heat much more than the previous day. After finding our way around the shore of loch Torridon we stopped at the car park near the bridge over Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil. A fine path leads through the pines and along the river past a number of waterfalls and cascades. A Grey Wagtail fluttered from rock to rock to the sound of a distant cuckoo. A bridge provides a river crossing further up before a fork in the path gives a choice of destination.
Beinn Dearg in the morning haze
A large group of walkers continued on heading for Beinn Alligin while we turned right to continue alongside Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil. The stillness and heat of the day wasn't helping me to shake the slight weariness from my legs. As we continued we were flanked on our right by Liathach while on our left verdant hillsides led over to Beinn Dearg. Mountain bumblebee's sporting their bright orange colours flew low level through the grasses in search of a flower.
Beinn Dearg from the south along Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil
Further on a number of newts were enjoying a swim in a shallow pool at the side of the path. A bit of a dip seemed quite inviting as we stopped for a snack at Loach Grobaig.
Liathach and Loch Grobaig
Leaving the path here we crossed onto drier ground as we approached the true start of our ascent up Beinn Dearg by way of Carn na Feola.
Carn na Feola, Beinn Dearg
Looking for the breeze below Carn na Feola
While weaving up between the crags we stopped to top up our bottles from water dribbling down from the rocks on the wetter part of the hillside. Views of Beinn Eighe to the east kept us company until we reached the top when the mountains of Beinn an Eoin and Baosbheinn appeared out to the north. A couple of deer departed quickly as we gained the main ridge to leave us with the mountain to ourselves.
Beinn Eighe from Carn na Feola
All around hill's seemed to have simply sprouted up from the surrounding plains. The full length of Beinn Dearg now lay before us to the west and we contemplated our route ahead over a bite to eat.
Beinn Dearg from Carn na Feola
After dropping slightly we then crossed sandstone slabs with many rocks sitting on top in haphazard fashion. Occasionally the air stirred briefly and strange whooshing sounds emanated from the nearby rocks. A short pull up the grassy slopes brought us onto the narrowing ridge that leads to an impressive rock tower. Heading toward the tower Loch a' Choire Mhor could now be seen nestling in the corrie below, its clear green waters glistening in the sunlight. The way ahead looked difficult but after initially taking a straight line up the tower we found a path on the south side that avoided what looked a like awkward scramble.
Beinn Eighe & Liathach
The path helped us skirt around the tower with relative ease albeit over slightly exposed ground above some precipitous slopes.
Skirting around the Rock Tower
The path then weaved upward between some crags before easing us onto the summit.
Down the ridge to The Rock tower
One of the most appealing features of Beinn Dearg is its location and the views it offers all around. The three Torridon Munros of Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe are all close neighbours. After lunch the continuation of the ridge took us down to a col before turning north up to Stuc Loch na Cabhaig.
Stuc Loch na Cabhaig
From here we began our descent along the narrow upper part of the north west ridge down to Bealach a' Chomhla.
Beinn Dearg from Stuc Loch na Cabhaig
The horns of Alligin and the summit of Na Rathanan stood apposite in the haze while further north the peaks of Baosbheinn and Beinn an Eoin stood next to their adjacent large lochs.
Baosbheinn & Beinn an Eoin
The descent was steep and tricky in places, many patches of scree were loose and slippery underfoot. With achy knee joints we arrived at the bealach before heading across to gain the rough path on the far side of Allt a' Bhealaich. The ground became occasionally boggy and way indistinct at times. A frog jumped out in front of us to complete our trio of amphibians, joining this mornings newts and a toad we had seen back at the campsite. We were now in the shadows cast by Beinn Alligin and remained so until the track started to drop towards the junction with our outward path.
Waterfall below Beinn Alligin
A brief stop on the bridge revealed Beinn Dearg showing clearer under the lowering sun than it had in the morning.
Last look back at Beinn Dearg
After a long hot day is was a really nice to clean up and cool off in the showers back in the village. It was almost nine as we started on our journey home, it had been a long but enjoyable weekend.
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