Last night in preparation for our first day hiking, we got out the Ben Damph Lodge/Loch Torridon Hotel suggested walks I had printed out from their website, plus Ben's "Walking in Britain" Lonely Planet book. The book had a suggested walk "Torridon House Bridge to Sgurr Mhor" 3.5 mi/3-4 hrs, then "Sgurr Mhor to Torridon House Bridge" via a different route back down at 3 mi/3-4 hrs. By the description it sounded challenging for us but doable at 6-8 hrs, so even with the misty morning, since blue sky kept peeking out every so often, we decided that would be our best chance to see as much of Torridon as possible...even with the book warning us "you have a more than half chance of not being able to see anything from the top." If we never tried, we'd never know, and today was our only chance to do any proper hiking in Torridon, so we took our chance.
Breakfast didn't start until 8am, but we were there about 8:05 eagerly scarfing the continental breakfast and saving some baguettes, ham & cheese for lunch to save us finding the local shop for provisions. We packed our stuff in the car & drove to the Torridon House Bridge parking lot, getting on the trail about 9:15am. Good thing we started that early, since we got back to the car about 7:30pm, in slight intermittent drizzle and fading light, but we made it!
Britta & Ben on the way to Beinn Alligin
We got some beautiful photos of Loch Torridon at the start, including the PURPLE heather that grows here! In Wales in 1997, and on our drive through the East Highlands on Monday the heather was all pink - I like the purple heather much better! haha...After a very reasonable walk on an easy path, we were at the base of the first Horn of Alligin on time at 1.5 hrs in. That's when the scrambling started! Hoo boy, that was tiring, but having to use your hands to scramble up a steep slope, then finally reaching the top is quite a feeling of accomplishment! Of course that wasn't "the" top, nor was it our last scramble, but it was my first, and I was proud of myself for at least having the guts to try what many people might never do.
Steep slope to scramble!
At the first horn, we could still see the glen below, but we could already only see the second horn briefly when the mist would blow by, so we were getting concerned about the lack of views from any higher. However, there was still the fact that if we finished the walk properly, we would have two Munros (British peaks over 3000ft) under our belts, no matter what we could see. I'll admit that the main factor was that no way did we want to attempt scrambling DOWN that steep slope we had just come up! ;)
At the second horn, Ben checked his phone, and the signal that is barely anything at Ben Damph Lodge was a full 5 bars! He wanted to call someone just to gloat, but couldn't get the international dialing to work. I decided to text my British friend Andy since at least I knew he was awake - being 1pm locally, he'd darn well better be awake! He replied saying "well done!" that we'd reached the second horn, then when I called him to ask about international dialing, I asked him if we should still continue in the heavy mist or if it'd be too dangerous (Andy has ALL 15 or so Munros under his belt, so he's done this before). He said as long as we stuck to the path we should be fine, so that gave us confidence to continue.
I would have been more worried if the mist was heavier than about 50 ft radius around us, since at least we could see the path when it was there, and we also knew when we were close enough to stay away from a dangerous edge. Ben got the excellent idea of watching for walking stick holes as bread crumbs, which really did help when the path was dubious. We met up with two locals who were taking the same path as us, but the opposite direction, but the wind was so strong I couldn't hear everything they said when Ben was asking, but they confirmed what our book said, with better details, so that also gave us confidence. We did find all the paths eventually, making it to all the cairns (markers made of piles of stones) with the help of the walking stick hole bread crumbs, and even after we had resigned ourselves to no views ever due to the mist, all of a sudden, the mist cleared and we had a view! It was fleeting, so while waiting in hopes of the mist clearing again, I told Ben the story of Brigadoon the musical, one of my mom's favorites about the village only appearing from the mist once every hundred years.
Britta at the top of her first Munro peak!
Back in the clouds, with my hair so wet from the mist it was clinging to my neck, we kept trudging along, finally reaching a ridge, taking a breather when - voila! It needed a triumphant angel chorus soundtrack, for when the mists parted, we saw about 5 lochs, another peak and even the sea! We were on a ridge where we could also see into the glen where we had started, and the mists parted for us on that side too!
View looking north from the top ridge of Beinn Alligin
We were amazed at how far we'd come in only part of one day. It was magical that when we got to probably the second best viewpoint of the hike, the mists parted just for us, stayed nice for about 20 minutes, then the mist rolled back in again as we trudged along again. The only part when I got worried was the outcropping that hung over an abrupt and dangerous cliff, where we had just enough space for only our feet to scoot around a 2 ft length, then use our hands to pull ourselves over the edge. As I was lifting myself up, I had a split-second of feeling like I was going to lose my grip & fall backwards, all the way down that cliff! Obviously, I ended up fine. I had said to Ben as I started that section "This is NOT for anyone afraid of heights!" Glad I'm not! ;)
Yes, it was challenging! I know I'm not in the best shape, and I definitely don't hike regularly enough to make any difference, but I've been able to keep up on hikes before with friends, so since this was described as steep walking with "a bit of a scramble," I thought I'd be okay. Since I've had recent problems with my hiking boots giving me horrible blisters no matter what I tried, I thought that would be my worst problem. Thank goodness today I finally had boot success! No blisters at all, just sore feet, and definitely sore legs! :) Ben also thought he'd be okay, but even after his recent stellar success with Weight Watchers, he's still proportionally heavier for his frame than I am, so he was fading fast on the descent. My legs were turning to jelly slowly but surely, with sheer force of will and momentum keeping me going, but Ben kept having to stop because his knee was actually in pain. I kept forging ahead so at least I'd know where the path went, but I kept stopping to check on him, and often waiting for him to catch up before I'd start off again. Finally, 10 hours from our start, we were back at the car, driving back to our lodge in time for a hearty dinner, with Torridon blended whisky, starters, main course AND dessert - hey, we earned it! :)
Tomorrow we leave Torridon to drive back through Inverness so we can drive along Loch Ness to get to Kinlochleven, near Glencoe. Until next time!