Beinn Alligin was one of my first Munros, many years ago. I had gone on a walk from a guide book with a friend that took us round the back of Beinn Alligin (meaning the north), past the little lochans and effectively on a circuit of the mountain. Then when we reached the slopes leading up to Sgorr Mor, the book said it could be easily climbed if felt like it. We thought ‘why not’ and went for it. I remember clinging on the steep slopes with hands but enjoying the grassy climb. Sadly the views were not to be that day from the top, with extensive cloud cover, but we duly edged back down, not realising there were two Munro summits and that we could go back down via Tom na Gruagaich. From the bottom, the walk had us simply continue round the base of the mountain, except the pathless ground got rougher and rougher, and we took forever descending the tussocky heather. The sun came out and baked us as we slowly made our way back to the road, hot, sweaty and gasping for a drink, eventually collapsing in the Torridon Inn with relief and a pint.
So although I had ‘climbed’ up Beinn Alligin, I couldn’t recall doing both summits and so it had to be climbed again. One of our days in Poolewe had a good forecast of, if not quite sun, then dry and low wind. I decided this was to be the day to do it.
Ally was not feeling too great so I headed off myself, deciding to do a clockwise circuit, planning to finish with the Horns of Alligin and coming back down via Coire MhicNobhaill.
Off I went from the carpark, west of the burn, along a really well-maintained path. The track was steep with some big steps but aided progress really well – I had not expected such a good path.
The views behind were fantastic across the loch to Beinn Damph and Maol Chin Dearg, and down the glen towards Beinn Dearg.
I was soon sweating heaps – it was boiling hot. I caught up with a lovely elderly German couple who stopped to chat for a bit. It was the lady’s 13th time to Scotland and her partner’s 4th.
The excellent path wound its way up into the sauna of sheltered Coire nan Laogh. I met a guy coming from the opposite direction. He said he had come via the Horns, which he had found seriously scary. Then he said ‘I take it you’re just doing an out and back?’ I said no, I intended to go via the Horns and he exclaimed ‘are you?’ in surprise. I didn’t know whether to be amused or offended – after all, he’d just done it!
The corrie was roasting, but it was dramatic and seemed to welcome me in, enveloping me into its green interior, the views behind looking more and more beautiful. The path pixies had also been here apparently!
Soon I was at the top of the corrie and walking along to the summit of Tom na Gruagaich. And from here, I got my first sighting of the wonderful Horns of Alligin. They looked tremendous – I couldn’t wait. Although the guy I’d met on the way up now had me slightly worried…
The descent from the top to the bealach towards Sgurr Mor was very steep in parts, albeit on good paths. I guessed I must have climbed up these slopes to the bealach the first time I went up. I suddenly came along beside the Eag Dubh, the huge cleft that so defines Beinn Alligin. It was as dramatic as I remember the first time, and I stopped for a while looking down and taking in its strange atmosphere and listening to the drips of water far below.
On the way up, I met some more folk, all of who separately moaned about the weather being too hazy to take great photos, of all the things to moan about. But having said that, my photos probably are a wee bit on the hazy side. I was delighted the weather was so warm and dry, although I was to curse the lack of wind at the summit of Sgurr Mor. I have never witnessed so many midgies above 3000 feet!
I got to the summit, took in the views and sat down, studying the Horns ahead, watching some people make their way over them. I had a bit of lunch and sat enjoying the atmosphere, despite the midgies.
A man came up to the summit from the Horns and stood chatting for ages. I was eventually starting to get eaten alive and was keen to make a start on the Horns, so made my excuses and left, after he kindly took a picture of me at the summit. Beats a selfie anyway 🙂
I was really looking forward to scrambling over the Horns but not sure what to expect. I’d read descriptions of mostly easy scrambling but a lot of exposure. In the end I didn’t notice any exposure, none that warranted a mention to be honest, not any more than you would get on many ridge walks but then again, I tend not to look down. The scrambling was great fun though, and what views. God I love Torridon! What a brilliant day.
The first Horn had a tricky step up. I met who I presumed was a guide and his client (if they were a couple they were affy formal with each other) making their way down the tricky downclimb. The woman was wedging herself down a large crack. I looked about for an alternative but the crack looked the best option so waited until they got down. It was a little tricky but I managed to wedge myself up ungracefully. There were then a couple of easy steps to the summit. Looking back to Sgurr Mor I hadn’t noticed how steep a descent it was down to the first of the Horns. My mind had been very much on the way ahead. I texted Ally to let him know I was finally on the Horns. Little did I know he was parked training his binoculars on them and could actually make me out from the carpark!
The next Horn from the summit looked fairly straightforward and indeed the climb up was. I had to look about a bit for a good way down but it was fine otherwise.
A steep scree path zigzagged down to the third and final Horn where a woman was stuck on a tricky part, being coaxed down by her partner. I think they had just chosen an awkward way down though as I didn’t end up going their way and moved slightly to the right to step up instead.
The way down was steep and a few scrambly bits but I could see the good path ahead that stretched down the glen.
The walk back down the glen was just wonderful, beautiful views everywhere, waterfalls along the bonnie burn, the sky ahead just starting to glimmer the faintest pink. It was a pretty short walk – from memory I think it was about five hours, but utterly enjoyable.