Beinn Alligin – the jewel of Torridon – [# 223 & 224]

Tom na Gruagaich (922m); Sgurr Mhor (986m)

  • Pronunciation:             Bine Ahleegin – Tom na Grooyageech; Skoor Voar
  • Translation:                  Jewelled Mountain – Hill of the Damsel; Big Hill
  • Total distance:             11.4km
  • Total time:                    5hrs 21mins
  • Total ascent:                 1320m
  • Weather:                       Started off overcast with low mist. Extremely humid. Cleared into a bright warm day.
  • Start / end location:    Roadside car-park midway between the townships of Inveralligin and Torridon. [OS Map Sheet 24 – Grid Ref: NG 868 576]
  • Map:                               A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

A misty start to the day with views south over Upper Loch Torridon

The operation of getting out of the car and getting our boots and rucsacs on this morning was done with military precision in order to minimise the time that the midges had to attack us – and attack they did as our parking spot by Torridon House was in amongst the trees and the conditions were still, calm and overcast – absolutely perfect for them!

Looking north into a misty Coire nan Laogh on Tom na Gruagaith

We hurriedly crossed the road and took to the walkers’ path on the west side of the Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil river. Immediately the path veered from the riverside as it climbed NNW and headed directly towards the giant, steep-sided corrie of Coir’ nan Laogh directly below the summit of Tom na Gruagaich. Before entering the corrie we first climbed a steep section of slope, which then reduced in gradient until the western nose of Na Fasreidhnean was passed. At this point we entered the corrie and were greeted by a spectacular amphitheatre of precipitous sandstone and narrow grass-covered terraces, which really highlighted the creative geological forces that have shaped Scotland’s diverse landscape.

Sgurr Mhor and the three Horns of Alligin from below Coire nan Laogh on Tom na Gruagaich

The cliffs to the west rose up in an impenetrable barrier, and the only breach that could be found was via the northern headwall of the corrie where the well-constructed path we were on headed towards. Despite the sensationally dramatic aspect of the corrie, negotiating our way through it was very straightforward and we soon reached the corrie’s rim where a further few hundred metres of walking took us to the summit cairn of Tom na Gruagaich at 922m or 3,025ft. This Munro summit along with its neighbour, Sgurr Mhor, belong to the mountain massif that is Beinn Alligin.

Cameron at the summit of Tom na Gruagaich on Beinn Alligin

The mist was still shrouding the summit as we made our way north down a rocky ridge to a col at 766m. However, every now and then it would clear enough to give us a tantalising glimpse of our next objective only 1.5km away. From the 766m col we followed the rim of the giant Toll a’ Mhadaidh Mor (big hollow of the calf) that separates the two Munros as it rose up and over a subsidiary top at 859m. A short descent from this top brought us to the final straightforward ascent of Sgurr Mhor.

Elaine appoaches the summit of Sgurr Mhor on Beinn Alligin with Tom na Gruagaich in mist in the background

Elaine approaching the summit cairn of Sgurr Mhor on Beinn Alligin

As we neared the summit we passed the top of a massive near vertical narrow gash in the rock face that slices from close to the summit right down several hundred metres into the corrie. This feature is the Eag Dhubh na h-Eigheachd (the Black Notch of the Wailing) and according to local legend shepherds used to hear wailing coming from it until one of them tragically fell to his death in the gash and the wailing was never heard again … .

A very short climb took us beyond the gash and onto the summit of Sgurr Mhor at 986m or 3,235ft. As we approached the summit the mist began to clear and we were rewarded with some spectacular 360° panoramic views – especially towards the east with Liathach and Beinn Eighe dominating the scene. Although to the north Baosbheinn, a Corbett, looked particularly stunning.

Our descent from Sgurr Mhor was via the three Horns of Alligin (Na Rathanan) to the east of the summit. (Crossing these Horns was a grade 1 scramble.) We descended steeply to the base of the first horn, and then tackled the scrambling ascent via a direct line to the top (865m). The rock was glorious, high-fraction sandstone and the scrambling was excellent. We reached the top where we were provided with an excellent view back across Beinn Alligin’s twin summits. Crossing the next two slightly smaller horns (859m and 816m, respectively) was essentially a repeat of the exercise to cross the first – a continuation of the excellent scrambling.

Cameron at one edge of the Eag Dhubh na h-Eigheachd near the summit of Sgurr Mhor on Beinn Alligin

From the summit of the third horn we descended steeply SSE for several hundred metres, always via an obvious path through the rock obstacles, until we reached the base of the ridge where we then joined the path southward along the course of the Allt a’ Bhealaich. This path soon joined another one alongside the river Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil (the corrie of the Noble’s son), which followed the course of the river right to the car-park where we’d left our car.

Beinn Alligin had certainly lived up to its name as the Jewel of Torridon, and had truly sparkled today.

Elaine on one of the Horns of Alligin with Tom na Gruagaich (L) and Sgurr Mhor (R) in the background

From the second of the Horns of Alligin looking NNW to Loch a' Bhealaich and Baosbheinn (R)

Tom na Gruagaich (L) and Sgurr Mhor (R) from the second of the Horns of Alligin

Laithach from the lower slopes of the Horns of Alligin

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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