Six days in Torridon, Part 3: SliochJanuary 8, 2019
Slioch was to be my third big mountain walk in three days. Unlike Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe, Slioch only has one Munro summit. But that doesn’t make it any less of a challenge. In terms of total ascent and in terms of distance, Slioch is a bigger walk.
Map showing the route we took on Slioch. The 5km walk-in mentioned below is not shown on the map.
However, I woke up feeling great. I had been consciously trying to improve my fitness in the weeks leading up to this recce weekend, and it seemed to have paid off. I love climbing, and I think the indoor climbing wall is a fantastic training ground for climbing mountains. It strengthens the muscles that carry you up hills, and it also improves your flexibility and agility.
Lissa, who was accompanying me on this walk, is also a fanatical climber, and she was full of energy that day. Once we got going, I noticed that I was a wee bit more tired than usual, and I had to ask her to slow down a bit!
There is a long walk of about 5km up to the start of Slioch. I really didn’t mind the walk-in, because it helped my legs warm up for the steep challenge ahead.
At last, Slioch came into view.
Slioch, on the banks of Loch Maree.
The weather was still warm and dry, but unfortunately there were quite a few clouds clinging to the top of the mountain, and they didn’t shift until we were on our way back down.
The view back to Loch Maree as we climbed higher, with Beinn Eighe in the distance.
The climb up to Slioch is not too difficult for the first 650m of ascent. There’s a bouldery path which is steep in places, and eventually leads to a kind of amphitheartre plateau – maybe an ancient volcanic crater – which is known as the Coire na Sleaghaich.
Coire na Sleaghaich, with Slioch summit the highest point.
After crossing the Coire na Sleaghaich, a steep diagonal path takes you up to a lochan at 650m. This lochan is nice, but it doesn’t have the astonishing beauty of Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair on Beinn Eighe.
The unnamed lochan at 650m altitude on Slioch.
However it’s a good place to rest before tackling the most difficult part of the climb – the steep 250m haul up to the summit plateau. Although this is not a hands-on scramble, it could be a difficult challenge for anyone with a fear of heights.
Looking down at the lochan from the steep path up the mountainside, with Loch Maree in the distance.
Once you’re on the plateau, there’s just a slight incline to the summit cairn of Slioch. This should be an incredible viewpoint, but unfortunately the low cloud when we climbed it made everything look a bit hazy – and brought the temperature down considerably.
Me at Slioch summit cairn.
From the summit, the route turns east towards a top called Sgurr an Tuill Bhain (934m) which does not have Munro status. This may be because there’s not much of a dip in between the two tops – however there is a very scenic ridge walk leading up to this point, and luckily for us, the clouds started to dissipate as we walked.
The narrow ridge-walk leading to Sgurr an Tuill Bhain.
Loch Garbhaig on the left, and Lochan Fada, with the beautiful, remote Fisherfield mountains in the distance.
I often find inspiration for my walks after seeing the views from other mountain summits, and this one is no exception. I have my sights set on the Fisherfield mountain range now, hopefully for this coming summer!
As we were walking along the ridge, a ptarmigan appeared not too far away. She seemed to be observing us – and we returned the favour! I managed to take quite a few photos of the bird, most of them out of focus.
I’ve often seen ptarmigan on the mountain tops, but I’ve never seen them on lower ground. They stick to rocky mountainous areas.
The ptarmigan. These mountain birds are so good at camouflage!
We sat at just below the summit of Sgurr an Tuill Bhain eating our sandwiches, enjoying the beautiful view down into the Coire na Sleaghaich, with Beinn Eighe to the south west.
Looking down into Coire na Sleaghaich, with Beinn Eighe beyond. The lochan we passed at 650m altitude is at the right, and you can clearly see the diagonal path leading up to it.
The weather started to warm up considerably. I was sad to be heading home!
We spotted a group of wild goats in the distance.
Once we got back down to the foot of the mountain, the 5km walk back to the car felt like a nice way to ease out my legs after the endurance of three consecutive days of mountain walking. I felt tired, but not totally exhausted. It was reassuring. I knew that I’d be able to manage the same three walks again a month later, when the long weekend for my Meetup group was to take place.
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