Technicolour day in Torridon
EVERY nook and cranny of Beinn Eighe and Liathach seemed to be lit up in glorious technicolour.
I could see a few people gearing up to climb them as I drove down Glen Torridon on this perfect day, with early morning sun spotlighting these wonderful mountains.
Before moving north to the Highlands I recall the long distances I had to cover to join my mountaineering club friends for weekend meets. Now I’m only an hour or so away from some of the finest hills in Britain.
I was bypassing the giants today, though, for slightly lower fare. Beinn Damh is a fine Corbett accessed from the Torridon Inn, on the A896 road to Shieldaig.
Unless it’s very busy there’s parking at the inn and after gearing up I started walking through the car park to cross the bridge over the Allt Coire Roill, which flows into Loch Torridon.
Although it was sunny, overnight temperatures had been well below freezing, so an ice axe and crampons were an essential part of my kit for the day.
Following the hill path sign I crossed the A896 and headed on up the path on the other side of the road.
It climbs through woodland with the burn down below in a gorge, and partway up there’s an impressive waterfall visible through the trees. Higher again there are great views to the big Torridon peaks, especially Beinn Alligin.
Not long after exiting the trees the hill path splits. The left branch goes towards Maol Chean-dearg and crosses the Bealach na Lice.
I took the right branch, staying on the well-made surface that ascends the flanks of Beinn Damh. Eventually the path deteriorates and steepens towards a bealach. There was lots of ice about so I trod warily to avoid a slide.
At the bealach, a very still Loch Damh came into view as I picked my way up the next steepening on the ridge, which leads to a boulder-strewn circular top.
Don’t be tempted to venture on to this, though, because the going is tortuous.
A path on its right, which is easier to locate on the way down than on the way up, bypasses the bouldery top to end on its opposite side.
Some boulders do have to be crossed before the ridge narrows and drops to a dip with a dramatic view down a steep coire to the Allt Coire Roill.
There was no ice here but the snow was rock hard, though I was able to proceed without crampons, treading on ground not covered by snow.
As I made my way carefully up the final section of the ridge, using steps in the snow created by other walkers in the days before, I decided crampons were definitely the best option on the way down.
The summit of Beinn Damh is perched right on the edge of a very steep drop down the south face. The view to Maol Chean-dearg and the other hills above Achnashellach is unobstructed. I sat at the cairn for an early lunch and gazed across this very wild and rugged landscape.
Crampons made the descent to the notch above the corrie much easier and a lot safer than it would have been without them.
As I was taking them off another walker and his dog approached and he stopped to chat for a while before I moved off, retracing my steps along the ridge. Further on I passed a couple from Drumnadrochit who were climbing Beinn Damh on their round of the Corbetts.
Rather than go back immediately I decided to do the top at the north end of the ridge, Sgurr na Bana Mhoraire, which has a trig point and offers great views out across Loch Torridon.
There’s an intervening bump to go over first, then I left my sack at the base of the top to take the narrow little path that winds round the side of it to emerge near the trig pillar. Another spectacular panorama to look out on, then I headed back down, meeting the walker and collie I had seen earlier.
As a local he was familiar with all the hills in the area and we discussed varying lines of access on Beinn Damh before parting company again.
I decided to replace some lost fluid in the Torridon Inn and caught the final throes of the Scotland-Ireland Six Nations clash. It was creating plenty of excitement among customers in the bar, with Scotland clinging on for a win.
Approaching Inverness I was treated to an example of how localised the weather can sometimes be. It was raining!