Dave Kirkpatrick joined our Torridon Munro 3 day activity holiday in May this year, he shared his experience with us...
At the beginning of the year I had set a personal goal of climbing the challenging Munros (hills above 3000ft) around Torridon in the NW highlands. If you haven’t visited this remote part of Scotland yet, go, it is beautiful.
If you have visited, I'm sure you've marvelled at the majestic (seemingly impregnable) pinnacles of the mountain behind the village called Liathach (the grey one in Gaelic). Climbing it is a serious business where knowledge of the route, experience in scrambling/hill walking and a head for heights are all a necessity. I didn’t want to climb it alone as it and several of the other Munros in the area offer certain 'challenges' that are best met in the security of a group. This is where an SYHA activity holiday became a perfect choice to help me meet that challenge.
SYHA Hostelling Scotland offer a number of activity holidays in Scotland which are a great way to learn new skills, keep active and meet like-minded people while staying in the comfort of the youth hostel. The Torridon Munros option offered a 3 or 7 day trip in which you climb the 6 Munros in the area, led by an experienced guide. I decided to book the 3 day trip.
I arrived at Torridon Youth Hostel on a wet and blustery Saturday afternoon in early May, armed with my pre-bought pasta, carbonara sauce, pork pies and a bottle of whiskey. The surrounding hills were still gripped in winter, the weather forecast was less than favourable and it was blowing a gale. I was having my doubts we would get up anything! When I checked into the hostel, the friendly staff informed me that there were two others in the group Neil and Joanne.
Beinn Eighe was chosen as the first route as it offered some scrambling, two Munros and a decent walk. As I drove into Torridon the day before its top was covered in snow. We started from the base of Spidean Coire nan Clach (the first Munro) on another cold, wet and blustery day.
With spirits high, we climbed slowly from the roadside. We hit snow near the top, as it got steeper the snow got deeper and we lost the views. I had doubts we would climb along the exposed last section to get to the top in the howling wind. Iain reassured us and led the way over the snow covered rocks. Just as we reached the top, the clouds parted and we were treated to the fantastic vistas that make Torridon so special, what a view!
With the weather picking up, we made our way along the ridge, again with the ever present grand views of Liathach teasing us in the distance. Neil and I climbed the second Munro, Ruadh-Stac Mor and followed the group back down the ‘knee-knobbling’ snow covered gully to Coire Mhic Fhearchair, something I would not have attempted myself. Arriving back at the car 9hrs after the start, we were all exhilarated from our first day's achievements.
The forecast was for heavy rain, which when we awoke proved to be correct. We waited for an hour for the worst of it to pass and made our way to Beinn Alligin. This route was chosen due to the climb to the first Munro was mostly sheltered through a coire.
The hike up was mixed with flurries of snow showers, rain and wind. A group of girls ahead of us turned back whereas we chose to carry on. At the top of Tom na Gruagaich, the first Munro, the weather started to clear. We all decided to commit to the ridge to climb the Munro Sgurr Mor finishing off with the legendary scramble Horns of Alligin. Once again, we were treated with fantastic views. Just as we were about to start the scramble, a hail storm hit us which made standing up or walking difficult, not the best timing to try scrambling for the first time.
We sat it out on the ridge huddled together, waiting for it to pass. Iain reassured us once again the scramble would be easy and looked worse than it was. Once again, he was correct and yet again when we got to the top of the first horn, blue skies arrived and the rest of the climb was a truly fantastic experience.
Would our final day involve tackling the infamous Liathach which the previous two days had been building up to? Unfortunately not, the forecast yet again was for gales and with the winter conditions it would have made for a hazardous and tiresome slog.
But Iain had another great route planned, an epic day involving two Munros and a ridge - Beinn Leith Mhor and Sgorr Ruadh. At ground level the sun was out and the start was pleasant easy walking, just as well as the old legs were tired from the previous two days. We wondered what all the fuss was about.
However, once we climbed up the ridge the wind hit us and for 2km we battled against a strong head wind which at times brought in hail, rain and sleet. It was hard going and when we got to the end of the ridge and Beinn Leith Mhor we pretty much all decided to head down. On the route down we could see the steep route we had taken from below and enjoyed the sunny walk back though the picturesque Glen back to the car.
Overall, the activity holiday lived up to its expectation. Although the weather was harsh at times, we were also treated to majestic views and moments of exhilaration throughout the trip. At times, it was hard going; I was surprised we managed to climb five classic Munros in three days in winter-like conditions.
We enjoyed each other's camaraderie, the craic was good and we challenged ourselves in the routes we chose in the conditions we did it in. So, if you're looking for a challenge with the security of a group and a mountain leader guide, give the SYHA activity holiday a try. The only comment I would make is to try to vary your cuisine each evening, my choice of pork pie carbonara every night did get a tiresome… No fault of SYHA of course, just my cooking skills, although the whiskey did help wash it down!
Like Dave's review? Find out more about our 3 or 7 day Torridon Munro Walking Trip here.
All images courtesy of David Kirkpatrick.
Biography for SYHA Hostelling Scotland
Scotland's best known network of youth hostels in stunning city & rural locations. Go on a #SYHAdventure! As a not-for-profit organisation, we encourage guests to join SYHA Hostelling Scotland. Members enjoy a range of exclusive benefits including dual membership of Hostelling International, providing access to more than 4,000 youth hostels in over 90 countries worldwide. Membership and guest overnight income supports our charitable youth programmes and the maintenance of the hostelling network, particularly in rural Scotland.