Thursday 20 May 2021

Clouds, light, rocks, splendour, lessons from lower hills - a trip to Torridon

In a reversal to the usual weather pattern the forecast suggested it would be mostly fine in the west but wet and stormy in the east. So I went west and this turned out to be true, just. Throughout my trip to Torridon ominous dark clouds filled the eastern sky, sometimes approaching, sometimes retreating, but always there. Sometimes I felt I could reach out and touch them. On the fifth day they finally arrived and rain fell but that was my last day anyway.

My aim was to climb some of the lower hills I hadn't been up for many years, or in one case ever, and have some pleasant camps. The first two of the latter were spent on The Wee Campsite in Lochcarron, which is pleasant and quiet. I don't usually stay on camp sites but this one was situated just right for my first walks. After two nights I was ready for solitude and a remote camp though so I headed into the hills. For maybe the last time until the autumn I took my Trailstar tarp with just a groundsheet. Within a few weeks it will probably be too midgey for me to consider doing this.

However another aspect of the Trailstar I hadn't thought about was that my trekking poles were holding it up so when I went climbed a hill from camp I didn't have them with me. Now I often don't use poles on day walks and reckoned I wouldn't miss them. I was wrong. If I'd been on a big mountain with a good path - a Munro say - I'd have been fine without them. But I was climbing a lower, little-visited hill and there were no paths just steep slopes of bog, heather, tussocks and rocks. Clambering up and down this stuff I really longed for poles, especially when I went knee deep into one innocuous looking patch of ground. I was also learning that these lower hills are tougher than more popular higher ones. A path makes so much difference. 

So for my second camp I took a tent with its own pole - having driven to Torridon I had a car full of gear. Here I was joined by a companion, Liz Steel, who was spending a week backpacking in the area, and we camped together in a small grove of pines, a lovely sheltered site but not one for when the midges appear. Having pitched our tents we made our way up another lower hill that again gave tough terrain but also superb views.

The contrast between pathless and pathed hills was thrown into clear relief the next day. Liz went down to Torridon for coffee and cake and I went up a more popular hill, with a path and cairns all the way to the top. Even though there was more ascent and some quartzite boulders to cross the walking felt easy. No need to constantly look for the best route, no need to watch every step. I could walk along and just look at the hills and the clouds. I reckoned I went twice as fast with less effort.

This was the last day of fine weather. Indeed, the clouds thickened as I walked and the first drops of rain fell just before I was back at camp. The next morning the mountain was wreathed in clouds.


  1. Spectacular, Chris! What a place Torridon is.

    I love your analysis of the difference between walking on and off paths. And I agree - they are almost not the same pursuits! It's kind of like walking solo and in a group. Completely different activities.

  2. Made me think of the Mummery tent with axe instead of pole

  3. Enjoyed our walk Chris. Had a couple of great days after i left you, climbed my 2 tops in blue skies. Then it went a bit wild, wet and windy. Hey ho. Take the good with the bad.

    1. I enjoyed our walk and camp. Looks like you had a great camp in Coire Mhic Fhearchair.