We’ve all been there… You’ve planned this trip for weeks, reviewed the route many times to get the perfect blend of challenging scrambling and great views, you’ve discussed it on Facebook with your mates and everyone is set… Except : you’ve been checking the Mountain Weather Information Service – and it’s looking really ominous!
For most of us who don’t live close to the mountains, we have to plan trips well in advance. There’s seldom a chance to change dates at short notice – but unfortunately you also have to be realistic and safe, especially in Winter. Heading off for that airy ridge scramble when the forecast includes storms and 80 mph gusts (as happened to us just after Christmas), puts you just the wrong side of sensible. So is their a solution which protects that precious day in the hills, but ensures we get home in one piece ?
Well, if you’re heading for Snowdonia there is a perfect route – and it’s quite possible that that storm will create the ideal conditions for an epic day out and put that smile on your (rather wet) face. The trick is to use the geography to your advantage – and the cliffs surrounding idyllic Llyn Idwal create that perfect wind break, as well as providing a great scrambling route up towards the summit of Y Garn. The wind may be howling – but it’s passing harmlessly 100′s of feet over our heads.
Heading up the Devils Kitchen rock face
Each of Torridon’s three great ridge walks provide a unique mountain experience. On a sunny day, Beinn Eighe sparkles with alpine brightness, topped completely in quartzite icing. The hidden gem though nestles on the far side of the range, with the turquoise waters of Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair lapping gently against the magnificent cliffs of the Triple Buttress.
Best to park at the small parking area near the bridge (OS ref NR 958568). Walk East up the road for about a mile and the follow the clear path that leads up towards Coire an Laoigh. The grassy start soon steepens as it approaches the quartzite ‘wall’. Continue reading
Fancy a gourmet meal of scrambling delights ? Sgurr Alasdair delivers the perfect tasting menu, making it one of the best day’s scrambling in the Highlands! For starters there is a beautiful loch nestled within a classic corrie, the main course is a scree slope to die for and pudding comes in the form of fantastic views covering the entire Cuillin ridge to the North – with an awesome vista of Scottish Islands to the South.
Start point is the small campsite at the end of the road at Glenbrittle. The route follows a reasonable track heading directly towards an obvious corrie (Coire Lagan). After a while you can leave the main path and climb up the huge, smooth rock slabs towards the corrie lip, all the time the amphitheatre of foreboding cliffs drawing in around you.
The Cuillins are all about Drama. The landscape is schizophrenic : smooth red lumps on one side, spiky black rocks with attitude on the other. Bruach na Frithe is definitely in the latter camp : one accesible peak in a gang of malevolant pinnacles. This is a classic day out in the Black Cuillin, with views that fix themselves for ever into your memory !
To make life a little easier, you start and end this walk at the iconic Sligachan Inn, just the place for a pre-walk fry-up and a post-walk pint of ‘Red Cuillin’. Walk in along the Alt Dearg Mor burn, following this for a few miles. Leave the main track at Coire na Circe and head quite steeply up the path towards the obvious corrie between Sgurr a’ Bhasteir and Bruache na Frithe. From the Corrie basin, head straight up the rocky rim towards the lowest point of the ridge (Bealach nan Lice).
Here the vista changes suddenly, with the view dominated by the fearsome pinnacles of Am Basteir (the Tooth) and Sgurr nan Gillean (pictured left). For best effect, take a short detour left to climb Sgurr a Bhasteir, the spur taking you out at right angles to the main ridge. Turning around you get an awesome view of the Black Cuillin at it’s best.
Whilst the Bhasteir Tooth is reserved for experienced climbers, there are ways up Sgurr nan Gillean for expert scramblers. This involves a traverse of the south face, overcoming the obligatoy ‘bad step’ on the ascent.
Sam and I climbed Ben Nevis a few years ago via the Pony track – and ever since then we’ve wanted to do it by the ‘other’ route – the CMD Arete! This is a challenging day out and not for the faint hearted – but you wouldn’t be reading this unless you were made of sterner stuff! Ben Nevis is not the objective here, even though that’s where you end up. This route is all about the journey – and what a journey it is.
Sam and I started at the car park at Torlundy, walking up through the woods and along the Allt a Muillinn burn. A mile or so along the burn, you begin to see why Ben Nevis is not the pussycat it’s sometimes made out to be. First the buttreses of Carn Dearg come into view, quickly followed by the sheer precipices of the North Face as you approach the CIC climbers hut. Take some time to drink in the views (the banner picture for Highland Scrambler was taken from here too). Tried to spot a scrambling ascent route of the North Face … Maybe next time …
OK – so this is NOT in the Scottish Highlands, but it was a really good day of scrambling, so here goes…
A fantastic walk in the high mountains (topped out at just over 8,100’) – and no-one told the weather it was meant to be October! This walk has it all : cool forests, a great Refuge (in season), huge rocks for scrambling and a 360⁰ ‘to die for’ panorama of spiky peaks, right across to Mont Blanc!
Torridon is the Glen of Giants : Beinn Eighe, Beinn Alligin and scariest of all, Lithach!
Every budding scambler should spend 1/2 a week in this fantastic setting : great scenery, iconic mountain ridges – and a fantastic pub for long evenings reliving hairy moments from the day! For relative luxury, try the Torridon Inn (where the excellent bar is), or for those on a budget the Youth Hostel is the place to go.
Easiest way on to the ridge is to follow the stream (see the map below). The going is rocky and you’re starting from sea level – but the view ahead spurs you on.