It all begin a few years ago after a glass or two too many. I heard myself suggesting the idea. We would walk the length of Scotland. We would do it in small chunks devoting a week or so to each making our route by the most interesting or to us the least explored route from South to North. We began at Berwick on Tweed, technically just south of the south east border between England and Scotland one January in the snow. After a number of forays over several years, by July 2012 we had reached Torridon in the far north west highlands. We, that is Janet, my wife, Rob my brother and our mutual friend, confusingly also called Janet adopted the policy that we would not follow anyone else’s route or indeed plan our own in advance but rather decide where we would go next from where ever we finished up each time.

After studying the maps of Torridon it soon became clear that we could not just push northwards during our allotted week, there was far too much interesting stuff in the area to just walk past. We abandoned our camping/backpacking plans and booked accommodation that could be classified as being somewhere between a cottage and a doss. Torridon village is in a stunning location at the head of a sea loch and below the dramatic ridge of Liatach. In July it only gets dark for a few hours so it is hard to drag yourself away from admiring the view and sun set. We shared the overgrown garden with deer and a pine martin.

Our first outing was to what is advertised as the most popular peak in the area Beinn Alligin. It was true we met four other people all day. One of whom had been out in the highlands since April aiming to do a complete round of the Munros alone and unsupported. He was due back at his job at a nuclear power plant in August!

The highlight of a traverse of Beinn Alligin is the crossing of the Horns of Alligin. The clouds were low so we didn’t see them until we were more or less on them. The others on the hill had turned back after the main summit. They turned out to be 3 straightforward exposed scrambley lumps on a ridge. The guide book said that if you found these daunting don’t go to Beinn Eighe or Liatach.

So, the next up was Beinn Eighe. I was keen to see the famous Triple Buttresses, the scene of the near death avalanche experience for Jon Winter and Ian Parnell a few years earlier. Stupendous puts in mildly and they are in themselves a just reward for the two hour walk to the base. Most people reach the summit via an easy gully to the left of the buttresses, but in order to reach another summit and some exposed scrambling we took the right side. Below the summit it was hard to work out the route from below and an error of judgement might lead you onto the buttresses themselves or a 1500ft drop.

We skirted along some exposed slopes and eventually climbed some steep loose steps that lead to the summit. Great scrambling. We had intended traversing the whole ridge to the village of Kinlochewe but realized that it would be 9pm by the time we reached it and would still have an 8 mile walk back to Torridon. We retraced our steps leaving the remaining Munro for another day. Our day was 11 hours long as it was.

The traverse of Liathach is the plum of the area and we were lucky that although not brilliant the weather was only cloudy and windy with showers. The ridge is one of the best in the UK, probably second to Skye. Jagged, exposed and giving stunning exposure and views between the clouds in all directions. The route finding despite being on a ridge is not that straightforward and I imagine the whole thing could very easily become an epic in winter.

As far as our trek northwards went it was hardly a week of great achievement. We made about 30 km north from our finish in 2011 at Strathcarron. As a mountain scrambling adventure, it couldn’t be beaten.

Tom works in the Boot Room at Outside Hathersage

By Tom Richardson
Footwear and expedition specialist

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Tom Richardson
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