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The Mighty Peaks of Torridon


While the cluster of 4000ft peaks around Ben Nevis and their cohorts to the east around Cairngorm are the highest of the Scottish Munros - with Skye’s Inaccessible Pinnacle the hardest and A’Maighden in the heart of the wild Fisherfield Forest the remotest - the sheer-sided, multi-tiered, red-sandstone monoliths towering above the northern flanks of Glen Torridon in Wester Ross are surely the mightiest .

Munros of the Torridon Region of the NW Highlands

Munros of the Torridon Region of the NW Highlands

Prior to my first visit to the Torridon peaks all hillwalks had been of the shortest way up and fastest way down variety - a large expenditure of time and effort for only a brief enjoyment of the summit view. It was on the great massif of Beinn Eighe that I was introduced to the delights of sustained, high-level ridge-walking - whole days on top of the world. The traverse of the sparkling-white, quartzite-capped tops along the narrow, crenellated crest and the excursion to the outlying main summit of Ruadh-stac Mhor is however a serious undertaking. As with other major ridgewalks it demands a high degree of commitment - once embarked upon there are few safe escape routes to the valley floor of the Allt a’Choire Dhuib Mhoir until the far end is reached.

Across the glen loom the great cliffs and buttresses of Liathach ( the ‘Grey One’ ) - the main contender for the title of the mightiest and most imposing mountain in Britain. The spectacular precipices of its eastern ramparts, best seen from Loch Clair on the approach to Torridon from Kinlochewe, rise dramatically from the surrounding moorlands giving Liathach an air of absolute impregnability and total invincibility.

Liathach

Summit ridge of Liathach in winter

On an Easter ascent winter conditions still prevailed. Huge icicles, veritable swords of Damocles, threatened overhead as we cramponed, still stiff and moribund from a freezing cold night under canvas, up a snow-bound gully to reach the ridgetop. From the top of Spidean a’Choire Leith, the reigning peak, we looked over to Liathach’s second Munro of Mullach an Rathain at the far end of the ice-plastered arete. With its snow covered terraces separated by the multiple, horizontal bands of sandstone bedrock it resembled some gigantic wedding cake. Even in good summer conditions the traverse of the intervening ridge takes about four hours. The most sporting and interesting route is to scramble along the very crest of the pinnacles and gendarmes but ‘tourist routes’ are available to bypass the more awkward difficulties.

Summit Ridge of Liathach

The third and most westerly of Torridon’s trio of mighty mountains is the three-horned Beinn Alligin. On a solo traverse of its convoluted skyline one damp and misty day I chose the wrong one of the plethora of paths leading from the last of the horns and found myself abruptly stranded above sensational vertical drops - it was a hard and tiring re-ascent to pick up the correct route. Emerging from the clouds on the final descent from Tom na Grugach a picturesque prospect unfolded of the blue waters of Loch Torridon framed by dark-green rhododendron forest.

Beinn Alligin and Loch Torridon

Beinn Alligin, Beinn Dearg and Loch Torridon

Beinn Dearg, Torridon’s fourth sandstone monolith, only just fails to reach the critical 3,000ft benchmark but is still well worth climbing for its fine vantage point between Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe and the splendid views it affords of Liathach’s northern corries.

Only a short distance to the north of Glen Torridon lies An Teallach ( the 'Forge' ) a possible contender to Liathach for the title of Scotland’s mightiest peak. An impressive view of its jagged silhouette is gained from the Desolation Road ( an early social works project ) on the approach to Dundonnel for the normal starting point to traverse the castellated citadel - another long and strenuous outing - but one of the best of Scotland’s many ridge walks.

From the lofty summit of Bidean a’Ghlas Thuill - the first and highest of An Teallach’s ten 3000ft tops - a superb view unfolds of the assorted pinnacles, turrets and towers of the twisting, undulating spinal cord connecting to the second Munro of Sgurr Fiona.

An Teallach

Continuous scrambling is involved with some exposure and a head for heights is required - particularly from Lord Berkeley’s Seat with the immense voids below. Care has to be taken on the ‘Bad Step’ in descending Corrag Bhuidhe Buttress.

Sail Liath, the final top, provides a tantalizing climax with an extensive view across Loch Na Sealga into a vast wilderness area containing in its innermost recesses Scotland’s most remote Munros.

W.A.Poucher’s book 'The Scottish Peaks' emphasises that traversing the ridges on Beinn Eighe, Liathach and An Teallach is not the province of mere pedestrians. They are however ideal for fit and experienced hillwalkers to make the transition to fully fledged mountaineers. Unfortunately they are beyond a day trip from the central belt necessitating at least a long weekend.

Non Munro-baggers and those that don’t progress further north than Glencoe or Ben Nevis miss out on some of Scotland’s most memorable mountain experiences.

The Commentator, The ( Glasgow ) HERALD, Saturday 6th May 2000:


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Torridon - Ben Eighe & Liathach - OS Explorer MapLandranger Map 0024: Raasay, Applecross & Loch Torridon & Plockton

 

The Munros Map Torridon Map Kintail, Glen Shiel - Map Torridon - Beinn Eighe & Liathach An Teallach & Slioch - OS Explorer Map Applecross & Loch Torridon - OS Landranger Map Gairloch, Ullapool & Loch Maree OS Map Western Scotland & the Western Isles OS Road Map Northern Scotland OS Road Map Southern Scotland OS Road Map

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The High Mountains of Britain & Ireland  Munros Tables SMC  The Munros - Scotland's Highest Mountains  Scotland - Lonely Planet  NW Highlands - SMC Guide  Exploring the Far NW of Scotland  Guide to Walks in NW Highlands

Walking in Scotland - Lonely Planet Mountain: Exploring Britain's High Places  National 3 Peaks Walk Scottish Highlands Hillwalking Guide The Scottish Islands Bouldering in Scotland

Pathfinder Guide: Skye and NW Highlands WalksNW Highlands SMC Torridon: A Walkers Guide The Munros: Scottish Mountaineering Club Northern Highlands Northern Highlands, Volume 1 - SMC Northern Highlands, Volume 2 - SMC Highland Outcrops Scottish Winter Climbs

West Highlands 50 Walks in the Scottish Highlands & Islands Scotland's Highlands & Islands - Lonley Planet Scottish Highlands & Islands - Rough Guide The Munros and Tops The Corbetts - SMC Call of the Corbetts Munros & Corbetts Chart

The Munros - Scotland's highest mountains Magic of the Munros Munro Almanac The Munros: Scottish Mountaineering Club Hamish's Mountain WalkThe Munros in WinterMy Scotland by Hamish MacInnes Mountain Days & Bothy Nights

Scottish Mountains - 50 Classic Routes50 More Routes on Scottish Mountains The High Mountains of Britain and Ireland Scotlands 100 Best Walks Scottish Mountains - 100 Best RoutesBig Walks of Great Britain Classic Walks in Britain & Ireland

Scottish Hill & Mountain Names Classic Mountain Scrambles in Scotland Classic Climbs - Central & Southern Highlands Mountaineering in Scotland and Undiscovered Scotland by W.H.MurrayMore Wilderness Walks Wilderness Walks Wilderness Walks 2 - Video Ski Mountaineering in Scotland

Ski Touring in ScotlandScrambles in Lochaber Rock Climbing in Scotland Rock Climbing SkillsThe FACE: Six Great Climbing Adventures Great Snow & Ice Climbs of the British Isles100 Best Routes on Scottish Mountains One Man's Mountains - Tom Patey A Mountaineer's Tale - W.H.Murray

Dougal Haston: Philosophy of RiskCentral Highlands Central Highlands SMCCentral Highlands: Six Long Distance Walks Scotland - Lonely PlanetScotland's Highlands & Islands - Rough Guide Highlands & Islands of Scotland - Hidden Places Rough Guide ScotlandHillwalker: The Corbetts

Hillwalker: The MunrosRough Guide: Scotland Lonely Planet, Walking in ScotlandLonely Planet - Walking in Britain100 Walks in ScotlandVisit Scotland - Touring Guide Scotland: Where to Stay - Hotels & Guest Houses Scotland: Where to Stay - Bed & Breakfast

The Munro Show 1 & 2 - Muriel GrayWeather for Hillwakers & Climbers Mountain Weather Guide to the Weather Weather: Collins Gem Hillwalking Handbook for Mountain Leaders Hillwalkers Manual Hillwalkers Guide to Mountaineering First Aid on Mountains

All Mountain Skier Off Piste Mountain Travellers HandbookMountaineering: Freedom of the HillsMountaineering: The Freedom of the HillsHistory of Mountain ClimbingClimbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World

Mountain Leadership Handbook of Climbing - Hamish MacInnesRope Techniques: The complete guideMountains of the Mind - A history..Mountains of the Mind - Experiences200 Challenging Walks in Britain & Ireland Maps and guides from Maps Worldwide











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