Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Horns of Beinn Alligin

The weather forecast for the first full day of our holiday was dry with light winds, but typically we woke up to rain. Luckily the rain stopped after an hour, so we kept to our plan of going to Torridon and conquering Beinn Alligin and its famous horns.

The clouds were just lifting as we set of from the car park near Torridon House. Hopefully we would get to see why this mountain is said to be beautiful. The close proximity to the sea and the prevailing westerly weather fronts ensure that its slopes are kept nice and green.

Cloud Lifting off the Horns
We had already decided to split the party, with the ladies walking the Coire Mhic Nobuil path that works it way all along the northern side of Liathach and then round Sail Mhor (part of Beinn Eighe). This is a low level walk on a well-made track. The mid-way point for them would be the awe-inspiring views of the Coire Mhic Fhearchair and the ‘Triple Butress’.

Initially we all headed towards Beinn Alligin before parting company with Dawn and Georgina just after the first wooden bridge. The plan was to take the ridge in an anti-clockwise direction, so as to tackle the horns first. From low down the route looked menacing, especially as the ridge above was disappearing beneath the cloak of swirling clouds.

A steep up-hill walk and rock scramble was needed to reach the first of the horns. By this time a young energetic feller we had met in the car park had caught us up. We spotted a Ptarmigan and showed it to the other chap. Surprisingly, for someone who appeared to be an experienced mountain walker, he didn't know what it was.

Between the three of us we found the route over the horns. We kept to the ridge at all times rather than taking the less tricky path on the southern flanks. The route down from the first horn was via a crack (chimney), which lacked good handholds. Climbing down rather than up may have made it harder, but we all got down it in one piece. Personally I would say the horns are quite fun to do rather than scary, but in winter I’m sure it would be a much more serious proposition. We parted company with the other chap, as we had photos to take. Sam was unhappy he hadn’t posed for enough photos on the horns, as he is a budding model of fancy outdoor clothing.

The First Munro Comes in to View with Two of the Horns In Front of it
The view from the top of any of the Torridon mountains is incredible when the scene is clear. To the south-east the mighty Liathach and Beinn Eighe dominate and all around the struggle between rock and ice, both past and present, is clear to see.

Looking Back Across the Horns
From the horns the next obstacle is the unmistakable Sgurr Mhor. A series of rocky terraces add interest to an otherwise very steep path. 

The Horns of Beinn Alligin
Sam Making His way to the Summit of Sgurr Mhorr
The weather was improving all the time, but cloud was still shrouding the summit of the first Munro of the day. We posed for photos at the top, but also checked the map, as Eag Dubh lays in wait for the unwary.

Eag Dubh
Eag Dubh, or the Black Notch, is a cleft in the mountain, which scars the great south-eastern face. Heading carefully northwards for a short distance avoids the trap of falling into the notch. Quite soon a path appeared which took us safely past the notch.
Sgurr Mhor and 'The Horns' with Beinn Dearg in the Background
The difficulties were all but over at this point and the skies were clearing rapidly. It was time to chill and take in the fantastic views. The summit of the second Munro proved to be a slight anti-climax, but the views back along the mountain were breath-taking.

Sam on the Summit of Tom na Gruagaich (Beinn Alligin)
Sam's Favourite Pose
We arrived back at the car park before the girls, so I set off in the direction that they were expected to return by and soon found them and quite conveniently I was able to open the large gate in the deer fence for them - what a good boy?

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