A Weekend in Paradise – Torridon

I originally got into hill walking for photography. The height offers a much better perspective of the landscape and provides views that not everyone gets to see. But it seemed like months since I climbed a hill and did some “proper” photography –  I had the weekend free and wanted to make the most of it! It didn’t take long for me to decide I was going to go to Torridon. When I think of iconic mountains in Scotland (taking away Ben Nevis), I always think of Buachaille Etive Mor or An Teallach, but here’s something special about An Teallach. It’s much more remote and for me, that makes it much  more rewarding to climb. A few years ago I watched a documentary of Scottish photographer Collin Prior on An Teallach, and from there on I was smitten. My plan was to get a photograph of An Teallach at sunrise. 

I literally spent all of Thursday planning and researching camping locations, downloading GPX routes and looking at OS maps. I couldn’t find much information at all about camping on An Teallach, but there seemed to be a few flat spots near the summit which would be suitable. I packed my rucksack which ended up weighting just over 17KG, which included 2.7L of water because I couldn’t see any water sources on the map.  

I began the 260 mile journey late on Friday morning and arrived at the lay-by on the A832 just after 4pm. I followed the route on WalkHighlands which suggests sticking to the old path, but I would probably disagree on this. The old path offers lovely views of Loch Little Broom, but it can be difficult to navigate in places. I image it would be very difficult in bad weather or snow. The new path however is much more defined  and there are small cairns which have been erected by walkers to keep you on the correct route.  Anyway, after a slight deviation, I continued on the old path and the views were spectacular. 

It took me about three hours before I reached the small plateau bellow the summit of Bidein a Ghlas Thuill. It was also the only bit of grass that I had seen all day! I contemplated walking to the summit of Bidein a Ghlas Thuill, but it looked very rocky and I wasn’t hopeful that there would be somewhere to pitch my tent, and by the time I got back down it would be pitch black. I decided to camp on the plateau and head off first thing in the morning to the summit and to take the photograph.

It seemed like I had chosen to pitch my tent on a wind funnel which quickly made me very cold! After pitching my tent I wandered around taking in the views over the summer isles and enjoyed a meal with a view. It wasn’t long before I was absolutely freezing and retired to my tent. Sunrise was at 4:55am, so I set my alarm for 3:30 and drifted off to sleep. 

It wasn’t long after midnight before I was woken by what felt like gale force winds battering my tent. The space inside my tent was halved as the poles flexed and absorbed the wind. I looked outside and I was in the clouds. I couldn’t see 20ft in front of me and was disheartened at the likely prospect of not getting my planned sunrise photograph. From then on I slept in 10 minute intervals as the wind continued to wake me up until I eventually gave in a 3:30am. Everything was still completely shrouded in cloud, but I set off regardless just after 4am with my tent still pitched so that I could return and get some sleep.  

I arrived at the summit about 30 minutes later and as anticipated, the visibility was terrible. I couldn’t see ANY of An Teallach. I was so disappointed, but decided to hang around for a while to see if it lifted. I found a semi-sheltered rock to sit on and tried to get some sleep, but it was too cold and windy. An hour later I was about to head down when I saw a loch appear from bellow in a small break in the clouds. I was so happy I felt like trying a “Bruce Almighty” and blowing them away myself! After another 15 minutes the clouds eventually lifted and like magic it revealed the stunning An Teallach. 

Staring in awe

The sunrise had long since past and the light was rather flat, but it didn’t stop me snapping away! After an hour of taking photos I decided to take in the second Munro Sgurr Fiona. It didn’t take long to get to the summit and it offered a completely different view of the pinnacles; they didn’t look nearly as intimidating.

I really wanted to do the whole traverse, but I couldn’t because I had left my tent pitched. I left it for another day and retraced my steps back to Bidein a Ghlas Thuill where I took some more photographs before heading back to my tent.

An Teallach

By the time I got back I was absolutely starving. I had some breakfast, a quick 30 minute nap then packed away. I descended down the new path which I said earlier was more straightforward, but I think it would still be easy to get lost in poor visibility. 

I spent the next few hours driving around the coast on the A832 which was absolutely stunning! The water was crystal clear and the views of the inland mountains were incredible. 

I decided to spent the rest of the day walking the Mountain Trail, which is a 6.5k hike that starts at the Coille na Glas Letire Trails car park on the bank of Loch Maree. The route starts by climbing through a pinewood forest then steeply up to a plateau of quartzite rocks which were shaped by the ice age. I was already tired by this point, so my plan was to take my camping gear and find somewhere half way through to pitch my tent and spend the night. The trail was tough going but provided tremendous views over Loch Maree and Slioch. After an hour and a half I reach plateau which was so windy that I had to hold onto my tripod to stop it from falling over! 

I continued on trying to find a spot to pitch my tent, but the area was full of socks and there was nowhere suitable. I ended up doing the whole route and got back to my car at 8pm, tired and hungry. I walked along the banks of Loch Maree looking for a somewhere to pitch my tent, but the only suitable spot was already taken. I decided to get in my car and drove along the Torridon Pass, and happened across a small campsite adjacent to the SYHA Hostel. It turned out it was a free campsite which suited me perfectly! It had been years since I’ve stayed in an actual campsite, but it felt good to be warm and at sea level for a change. I cooked myself some much needed food and climbed into my tent. I must have been shattered, because I had the best nights sleep I’ve ever had in a tent and slept right through until 0830am!

The next morning and packed up and headed home after a tremendous weekend!&nbsp

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2 Comments

  1. Colin May 27, 2018 at 2:20 pm #

    Brilliant blog and photos Steven. Well done that man!

    • Steven Fergus June 2, 2018 at 10:38 am #

      Thanks for taking the time to read it Colin, appreciate it 🙂

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