Ruadh-stac Mor - 1010m
Coinneach Mhor - 976m
Spidean Coire nan Clach - 993m
Sunday 2nd October 2011
Weather/Conditions: Absolutely stunning, Clouds cleared as we left the car park and a wee bit of rain even fell out of a clear sky. All day was sunny, dry and cool - the stuff of dreams. :-) Ground was dry and I wore sandals - very dirty going up the Coire Mhic Fhearchair gully, pleasantly damp on Coinneach Mhor and sore on the final descent.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 17.1km / 1300m / 7h 25m
Accompanying: Bealach M. C. - Struan, Dougie
The valleys were in mist as we drove through Achnasheen and it began to lift as we drove into Glen Torridon. But as we parked up, nothing had us prepared for the moment that the skies cleared and the sun came out. It happened within moments. What were the chances of that?
We walked up Coire Dubh Mor, between Liathach and Beinn Eighe. The Coulin peaks wrapped themselves in stray cloud and a warm sun beat down. Light rain fell from a clear sky. I had sandals on, a test run to see how far I could go. My boots were on the back of my rucksack, I would preferred to have left them behind but I couldn't chance it on Beinn Eighe.
The road soon disappeared from sight and we arced around to Coire Mhic Fhearchair. Everywhere you read, it is said to be one of the most impressive coire's in the Highlands. Twin paps enclose the coire (Ruadh-stac Mor and Sail Mhor), and the back wall is dominated by the Triple Buttress.
We climbed into the coire firmly in the shade of Sail Mhor, surmounted some sandstone pavements and then right ahead, it was all there in front of us. Coire Mhic Fhearchair is all that they say it is and more. I didn't anticipate the scale of the Triple Buttress. Photographs don't show the way in which they tower above the lochan. It must be experienced. It could be the first time I've ever thought skyscraper to describe a cliff. They aren't of conventional architecture - they really are three skyscrapers of rock, lined up, and set above a lochan.
We dropped rucksacks and stood in awe at the size of the buttresses. It's easy to sound like you are overstating these sorts of places - but that morning that place really was that impressive. We crossed the river and continued towards the corrie headwall. A scree gully breaks the steep wall and this is the common route of ascent to the ridge. I had to watch my toes here - if I could get through this section I wouldn't have to change into boots at all - but the boulders are large and I had to think carefully about foot placements that wouldn't result in squashed toes. We met an old guy half way up who seemed to have got around Scotland a bit, judging by our short conversation. Higher up, the scree gives way on the left to a stone staircase and we followed this to the ridge, where we emerged to sunlight, with a short walk to Ruadh-stac Mor and a huge view of the eastern half of Beinn Eighe.
It suddenly got busy up on Beinn Eighe. As we walked to the summit, crowds passed us - the same people as yesterday in fact, who were out as part of the Torridon Walking Festival. A guy run past us, wearing a pair of shorts and shoes. He didn't really look like he was having a good time, instead the look of determination in goal setting. But each to their own, I respect hill running as much as I think that it's really not for me.
We reached the summit soon after, following an easy walk up the ridge. How glad we were that we didn't go home in the morning - the guys going home would surely be kicking themselves?
Coinneach Mhor and Spidean Coire nan Clach
Ruadh-stac Mor was also my Munro #149, which left Spidean Coire nan Clach for 150. We walked up to Coinneach Mhor (and went to the cairn). The plateau is a change from the rocky ridges - the gully out of Coire Mhic Fhearchair left gravel between my toes so the damp grass was refreshing. The weather was cool and settled. Absolutely perfect.
There's some substantial aircraft wreckage on Coinneach Mhor which we checked out. And then we headed off for the ridge walk across to Spidean Coire nan Clach, an amazing place to be. The north eastern aspects of Beinn Eighe are a jumble of geological chaos. Liathach is a Scottish geological wonder; how a mountain forms in such perfect shapes is beyond me. And the ridge we were walking is in my opinion the best place to see it.
Struan walked on ahead of Dougie and I, and ahead I could see that he'd stopped at the trig point (not actually on top). He was waiting for us and when I arrived there, I took a great shot of him sitting on the trig, the summit of Spidean Coire nan Clach behind. he was the face of contentedness. As we walked to the summit, I was amongst deep euphoria, I enjoyed getting hands on and scrambling up the last little blocks. It's a great ridge, if only it went on longer. We emerged onto the summit, my 150th Munro.
Everywhere was in bright sunlight (for a change), Fisherfield was to the north and Beinn Airigh Charr was ever present (one of the most beautiful mountains I know of). Southward views had cleared up so that we could see to the rooftop ridges of Affric and Cannich - Carn Eighe, An Riabhachan, etc. One day I'll get down there, too.
There was also an atmosphere hanging over the day though, one of unease for the fact that once the walk was over, we would have to head home that night. I was also a bit disappointed though when I remembered for the first time in days that I had a doctors appointment for the next day. It turned out to be nothing (as usual) but it did knock me off my stride a bit.
We made our way down to Coire an Laoigh for a quick descent to the road. My feet were sore by now with the incessant pounding of boulders through my sandals. Even then, I was keen to finish Beinn Eighe in sandals and accepted that I couldn't scree run, and I slipped and slid over boulders. Descent went on and on - I wanted it done with! It was a long way home once we were finished the walk - about 4 hours in the car, then an further hour and a half for me on the train from Edinburgh to home in Glasgow.
Since we would have a road walk to do at the end, Struan offered to run on ahead and pick the car up, but when Dougie arrived back at the road there was a woman there who offered a lift back immediately: Lorraine McColl, who did a continuous round of the Munros in 2005 and resulted in my picking her brains as soon as I realised how she was (I hope she didn't mind too much!)
I fell asleep for some of the journey home but it still dragged on and on. It didn't help that it was dark so there were no hills to look at. We stopped for a curry in Aviemore but everyone was a bit too shattered for it and I had to be in Edinburgh for 11.30pm anyway. Well I made it, just, (thanks Struan for that demonstration in fast driving!) and got home very late.
Ruadh-stac Mor 360°
Spidean Coire nan Clach - 180° North
Spidean Coire nan Clach - 180° South
(0.00) 10.35am Car park
(3.55) 2.30pm Ruadh-stac Mor
(4.40) 3.15pm Coinneach Mhor
(6.00) 4.35pm Spidean Coire nan Clach
(7.25) 6.00pm Car park