Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
20th & 21st February 2010
A trip to Torridon to climb Ruadh Stac Beag and Sgorr Nan Lochan Uaine.
After reaching Achnasheen on our way to Torridon we turned off to head for Kinlochewe and travelled alongside the frozen waters of Loch Chorisg before heading over the high pass to Glen Docherty. We paused at the fine viewpoint at the head of the pass to finalise plans for the day. Loch Maree appeared below in between snow showers cradled at this its east end between steep sided mountains. Heading out of Kinlochewe toward Gairloch the road hugged the Loch side as we passed the Beinn Eighe visitor centre before reaching the car park for the Coille na Glas Leitre Trails. After donning our walking boots and feeding a hungry Robin in the car park we followed the underpass beneath the road and out onto the mountain trail. I would imagine that this is one of the few way marked mountain trails in the whole of the UK and it provides a fine walk in itself. The well constructed path weaves its way through magnificent birch and pinewoods increasing in steepness as it goes. Over our shoulder there were engaging views across loch Maree to the superb mountain Slioch, its upper spear shaped rocky buttress's encircled by the mist of passing weather systems.
Slioch across Loch Maree
As we left the trees behind the landscape became more rocky, dominated by bare stone outcrops scoured and weather beaten. Lines have been ground out of smoother parts of the path to help improve grip but some sections were completely ice covered slowing our progress. As we topped out after passing 'Conservation Cairn' we made the viewpoint crossing the undulating rocky plateau. To our right Meall a'Ghiubhais was wearing a misty bonnet while its steep snowy slopes dazzled in the brightening sunshine. Our initial slightly ambitious plan was to include this peak on return from our main objective but we soon realised this would not be possible. Ahead Ruadh Stac Beag took centre stage backed by the extensive range of the Beinn Eighe massif.
The peaks of Beinn Eighe
To access Ruadh Stac Beag we would need to head across some rugged snow packed ground to reach the high col that links it with Beinn Eighe's central peak Spidean Coire nan Clach. We aimed for three ice covered lochans as we made our descent from our vantage point picking up a path heading west just before the first lochan. Leaving the path shortly after we made a gradual ascent picking through some undulating boulder strewn ground before meeting more snow covered gradients.
Ruadh Stac Beag
The snow was mostly supportive but Stephan enjoyed the advantage of his snow shoes on some softer sections. It was deadly still in the corries and the surrounding hillsides held a smooth coating of snow, the only tracks we saw had been left by deer and mountain hares. From the col it was hard going as we worked our way up the sheer slopes to the rounded top of Ruadh Stac Beg. The sun was now making its inevitable decline toward the horizon dropping the temperature further and the heat gained on our ascent soon dissipated as we stood gazing out across the magnificent rugged wintry landscape.
Ruadh Stac Mor from Ruadh Stac Beag
A swift but careful descent and we soon arrived back at the col before retracing our tracks as we made our way back below the cliffs of Creag Dubh. After again locating the end of the path below Meal a’ Ghiublais we headed back up to find and complete the circuit of the mountain trial.
It was time to switch on head torches as we made our long slow descent on the very icy path leading back to the car park. Part way down we took note of the sign on one of the way marker cairns which announced “Ice Age”, this seemed a fair description of current conditions. It was getting late and with limited B&B options available we decided to stay at the Kinlochewe hotel for the night. After a pint and a dram in the bar it was time for a good nights sleep. After a large bowl of porridge and some bacon and eggs the following morning we stretched our legs and prepared for another outing to the hills although I suspect we both could have quite easily settled for a more relaxing stroll. However with it being such a lovely day we decided to make the most of the superb conditions. It was still very cold and it took a little time to de-ice the car before heading off in the direction of Torridon village and our starting point at the Coire Dubh Mor car park.
Sgurr Dubh and Loch Clair
Taking to the track a little east from the car park we then headed south toward the Ling hut, a climbers hut owned by the Scottish Mountaineering Club. Liathach glistened brightly in the morning sun and was reflected in the ice that capped the waters of Lochan Lasgair.
Liathach across Lochan Lasgair
A little way further down Coire a’ Cheud Choic we emerged from the shadows to enjoy the warmth of the sun’s rays. The path was busy weaving its way through numerous moraines, small hillocks created by glacial remains. As we gained elevation the white terraced walls of Beinn Damh dominated the view ahead and the pointed summit of our chosen peak, Sgorr nan Lochain Uaine, now loomed high and seemingly distant on our left against the clear blue sky.
Beinn Damh across Locahn Neimhe
Just after gaining views of Lochan Neimhe the path turned south before running out, leaving us to pick our way across the snow covered heather. We made steady progress as we steered our course to cross Allt nan Lochan Uaine at about the 550m mark before crossing another burn and heading in a northerly direction up onto the north west ridge of Sgorr nan Lochain Uaine.
Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine
As we gained the ridge we picked up a set of descending footprints which we followed to the top without difficulty apart from a short section of steep hard packed snow just meters from the summit. The views from the top were stunning with peaks dressed in white all around, the south facing peaks with half length skirts while the northern slopes wore full length gowns. The Lochans at the bealach between us and Beinn Liath Mhor were completely covered and hidden from sight.
Liathach from Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine
It would have been nice to continue onto Sgorr Dubh but the recommended route off down through the crags on the NW side didn’t appeal under the present winter conditions and suitable alternatives would have meant too long a day. We lingered over lunch before heading back down the north west ridge, this time continuing on to take a more direct line toward our outward path. Avoiding one or two crags we picked up the track as it ran between a couple of small lochans.
Beinn Eighe from Sgorr nan Lochan Uaine
The light was beginning to fade as we neared the end of our walk, a couple of deer were making the most of a patch of snow free grass and showed no intention of leaving their meal. It had been a fine weekend and it was with some reluctance that we began our journey home leaving the snowy peaks of Torridon behind.
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