Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Days like these, a winter day in Torridon
Looking through some images on a memory stick, I came across two from an outstanding day's hillwalking in February 2006. I'd set off from Kinlochewe well before dawn on a clear, frosty morning and walked down the Torridon road. Approaching Loch Clair as dawn was breaking, I detoured to the loch shore to take this picture of Liathach (the grey one). This viewpoint is a popular one with photographers but I had it to myself that morning while the whole mountain was bathed in pinkish sunlight. In the shadows where I was, my fingers were sticking to the camera in the frigid air - which may have gone some way to explaining why nobody else was around!
Liathach is a tremendous hill, steep and challenging with multiple summits. It has its standard routes but also some superb quieter routes to the summit ridges. Composed of Torridonian Sandstone and quartzite, the whole mountain is, in geological terms, upside down with older rock overlaying the younger - an amazing thought.
Liathach wasn't my objective that day though. I headed past the eastern end of Liathach and up into Coire Mhic Fhearchair (Farquharson's Corrie), also known as Triple Buttress Corrie from the stupendous rock architecture on the corrie headwall. A very steep climb of a further 550 metres (you earn your hill summits in Torridon as nearly all routes start from near sea level) got me up above 1000 metres on Beinn Eighe (hill of the file).
The view from here is simply breathtaking. A sweep of bold, primeval looking hills backed by the blue of the Minch and spattered with glistening lochans. Just magical.
This view shows (from left to right) the end of Sail Mhor (the big heel) which is the western summit of Beinn Eighe and forms one of the arms of Coire Mhic Fhearchair; the Corbett of Beinn Dearg (red hill) and beyond to the distinctive chisel summit of Mullach an Rathain, part of Beinn Alligin (jewelled hill). Across the trench of Loch a' Bhealaich (loch of the pass) is another Corbett, Baosbheinn (wizard's hill) and on the far right, Beinn an Eoin (hill of the birds).
All evocative names for hills of great individual quality. The memory of that view is as clear as the winter air near the summit of Beinn Eighe.
I turned northeast to walk the quartzite ridges of the "hill of the file". Soon I was in a strange mist through which the sun shone, making everything appear soft and pale. No more photos,but a magical and strange experience. By the time I reached the base of Beinn Eighe near the road I was very tired and it was just about dark. All along the final few kilometres of road back to Kinlochewe my headtorch picked out the golden reflections in the eyes of Red Deer browsing the grass at the roadside.
Days like these; they live with you for ever.