Torridon Trip – 26-29th June 2019
Torridon is a place that has been on my list for some time now.
And last weekend, as the summer finally arrived in Scotland, I packed my bags and loaded up the van and headed north.
After a 4 hour drive along winding roads and past many a happy traveller I found myself looking down on Loch Maree.
The clouds hung low, hiding the mountains from me ..
I set up camp, pack my rucksack 🎒 fuelled for the day ahead and slowly fell asleep.
Early morning I head to the carpark below Beinn Alligan.
My plan, hatched but 24hours before
– to wild camp upon the munro summit
– to finally be amongst the Torridon hills
– and hopefully find out why this place holds so many close to its heart.
The first climb is hot and steady, my pack full to overflowing and is ridiculously heavy.
I’m used to travelling light but today I load up with bivvie, sleeping bag, a stove and supplies, my drone, batteries , camera, 2 lenses and enough water to see me through the day and night, our so I thought .
It was hot, one of the hottest days of the year.. the path wound its way up through a stony valley, following the stream as I moved up closer to the first summit ..
It revealed itself unashamedly – wide open and what an entrance!
The Torridon hills lay before me. Rugged sandstone and quartz grew up from the land like massive headstones … it was magnificent in scale and shape..
The view seem to last forever, reaching across the horizon to the isle of Skye and beyond In the north and what seemed to Ben Nevis , surely not, but like a massive whale in the far distance lay the UKs highest mountain some 100 miles away … what a day !
I stopped to enjoy the view and talked to a few that passed ..
pictured is Zac and Ash – a border collie and his companion out for the day, keeping each other safe and sound .
From there I followed the ridge up to the next munro .. after a few hours I was onto my camp for the night.
Welcomed by a grand Cairn, a wonderful symbol of extremes (us and nature) , of the people that had been before and a place I could lay my still heavy bag ..
This was the view that will stay with me forever …
It was layer apon layer all added on top another, and it was mezmorising …
the path sharply dropped down to a ridge line that then took you onto the Horns – three peaks all connected — scrambles joining them with a plateau first then more traditional conical peaks behind…
I sat for a while trying to take it in, being thankful that I had made the trip
with no real planning I was here and on this day, the best day in months .. below me looking quite happy with myself
I set up camp and soon after fellow wanderers came and went.
I exchanged thoughts with many, some just a passionate hello, others a more intentional conversation — and for one, Johnny he too was to camp upon the top tonight, a welcome companion some 20 years my junior but in the hills we are all the same – all wanting to be amongst the mountains and grateful for the experience.
The afternoon drew on, the sun would not set until 10.30pm so still many hours of light ahead.
My water had slowly diminished and with only 100mills left I had to leave camp and head down again to the lochans below to fill up and have a wild swim to cool my body and replenish my stores.
Most of us take for granted the ability to turn a tap to gain water.
but that day it was a 2 hours round trip for 1 litre of water .. and additonal 800m of climbing.
including a very interesting choice of lines for my return climb… straight up through rocks , slipping grassy areas and yes of course magnificent views.
but before that, I stripped off and took my first dip in the cool water .. ( my private lochan bath from above)
Wild swimming Is one of those “I feel alive” moments – stripped down to the bare skin, amongst the mountains, alone or was I =:0)
I could have camped there for the night but looking up I knew I still had quite the work to do.
The climb back was tough, sweat poured over me as I rose higher..
I asked myself, was the trip worth the water?! ..
by the time I reached half way I could have drank all the litre I was carrying ..
I found a spot half way up, perched on the mountain side, an oasis in the hills — clean, cold water poured from the mountain side ..
I drank deeply, perched on the edge.
I saw birds feathers beside me that could have been a nest before, a place they felt safe and I felt exposed …
I climb higher, hydrated and hoping the Nalgene bottle wrapped around my waist would not slip —- imagine seeing it rolling down the hill, this would be a cruel twist .. but after another 40 mins I reached the summit again, out of breathe but happy to be home for the night …
The sun still high in the sky a 6pm – Johnny and I sat for dinner looking out to the coast or changing our gaze to the Torridon hills and beyond..
my bivive bag and Lowe alpine ALTUS backpack Tucked up for the night.
The hours passed and soon the clouds poured slowly in low from Harris ..
it looked like a floating island amongst the clouds, we dreamed of cloud inversions and blood red sunsets …
what transpired was neither of these but a combination of golden light and red orange skies ..
I flew the drone and hoped in some small way it would capture some of the essence of the moment..
it is a close as I can get to bringing you along ..
its my way of capturing the moment, just as much as this journal is a memory of this experience.
But for me, if all the gear failed and no one picture survived I would still have been content and thankful to be there, on that day …
As the sunset, 11pm passed and I lay within my bivvie bag with eyes to the blue pastel Sky –
alarm set for 4 am with the hope for a beautiful sunrise..
and then before the day ended my eyes slowly shut and the world for a moment was quiet.
4 am came soon enough, the night never really becoming truly dark..
and the sun rose what seemed In the wrong place ..
but due to the summer solstice, just the week before, the sun only dips below the horizon for a few hours before joining us again to release the shades of the hills and providing a beautiful start to the day ..
As the sun rose I flew again – the early light shimmering across the hills and warming our faces as we smiled sleepy and content.
After a quick nap .. it was time to eat and pack for the day ahead.
Another 6 hours to get back down
Today would be the hottest of the year, so best to start early ..
by 6am I was heading down the steep descent to the first horn and onto another inspiring day in the Torridon hills .
The Horns are scrambles in places, airy in others..
high squeezes with a heavy pack but exciting and nice to use all my hands and feet ..
The first Horn plateau’s and here I used the last of my batterie for the drone – a few passes and it bleeps into submission ..
from there the climbing keeps me amused and the views keep on coming — not a cloud In the sky – burnt off from the rising sun.
I soon summit all three horns and stop to admire the view – I use my Life Straw to drink out of dubious lochans and gradually head down .. somewhat reluctantly to leave my mountain retreat ..
I chose a few interesting traverses due to an optimistic outlook of route finding .. an new adventure with every step.
Below was the path through the valley to the carpark and as time moved on so did I..
by chance on the way down I saw this .. the illusive ptarmigan of torridon with chicks. Amazing camouflage.
Before too long I was on the path looking back up at the mountains that welcomed me the day before, that provided shelter and had reset my wandering mind
I was hot.. and the path passed many waterfalls.. all shouting out to me to get in .. so I did ..
dipping in the cold water, my whole body reacted in joyful appreciation ..
I lay bathing in the fresh cold water being soothed by the flowing goodness and I just could not stop smiling ..
I boiled some water, added coffee and sat within my little tranquil spot and took it all in ..
After sometime I headed on, meeting weary walkers as I went, all happy to be outside on this day.
Some 40 mins later the bridge appeared in-front of me .. a welcome sight for a tried body ..
as I lay my bag upon the ground I stretched out and looked up to the mountains . .
Beautiful and challenging, unique and rewarding.
With a silent thank you I now realised why so many visit Torridon .. and I for one will return.
Thanks for reading this far!
(an adventure like this was one I wanted to perserve)
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Thanks and I hope you find a new place to explore soon.
Take care and all the best.