When your guide tells you the weather looks ‘interesting’ on the day of your planned walk, what he really means is heavy downpours interspersed with 60mph winds and bouts of horizontal hail! And so it was on the day we met Nathan. Originally we’d hoped to walk up Beinn Alligin, but a chat about the conditions with Nathan at our meet-up spot soon stopped that. However, undaunted by the weather, we decided to try Beinn Damh on the south side of Loch Torridon. And we were not disappointed. Parking up on the side of the road, we pulled on our wet weather gear, checked we had enough food for both first and second lunch and set off. The going was fairly easy to start, with a steady up through forest next to a wonderful waterfall in full flow (it had been raining for days!). As we came out of the forest and the trees thinned, we looked back over Loch Torridon and the peaks beyond. Catching a glimpse of the peaks as the cloud lifted occasionally, we knew this would be a beautiful walk. Leaving the woodland, we took a right hand fork and headed up a stony path that followed a small stream coming down from the top. This was the sheltered side of the mountain and we chatted as we began the steep walk up. Thankfully, Nathan chats almost as much as us, so didn’t seem to mind as we bombarded him with questions about his life and the hills around us. Coming up on to the broad ridge at the top, it wasn’t only the 60mph gusts that took our breath away. The views across Loch Damh, Loch Torridon and Loch Shieldaig were stunning. Every now and then a bit of blue sky appeared and we lived in hope it would come our way. Sadly it was not to be and as we contemplated the second higher peak of the two Beinn Damh peaks, the wind increased and we had to hunker down until it passed. Deciding on the closer and more manageable of the peaks, we set off along the ridge following Nathan up to the top. Finding a spot out of the wind we stopped for first lunch before heading on. What looked like easy going ‘scree’ from below turned out to be ankle-jarring boulders, which we scrambled up using our hands to steady us. Meanwhile Nathan was hopping up them like a mountain goat. At the top, we felt we had earned our G&Ts later that evening. What a view! A fantastic 360-degree panorama of the Highlands. This is what we had come here to see and despite the weather, it was worth every minute of that lung-busting, knee-creaking climb up. Trying to stay upright in the wind, we took as many photos as we could, before following Nathan over what looked like a sheer cliff. Of course it wasn’t – we’d already stipulated no ropes or sheer drops! The route we took led us off the peak and down the opposite side of the mountain bowl. It was boggy in places and involved a bit of careful manoeuvring over large rocks, which we managed mostly on our feet and occasionally on our bums, stopping only to sit out a squall of horizontal hail. Coming back on to ‘flatter’ land (you’re on a mountain, so nothing is flat) we hopped over the stream and some tiny frogs to get on the right side to meet up with the stream/path we took on our way up. Stopping for second lunch, we looked back up the route we had just walked and couldn’t believe we’d done it. We’re keen walkers, but we’d never walked the Highlands before, so booked a guide to make sure we wouldn’t do anything stupid. We also wanted to do something we wouldn’t normally do and we can all categorically say we’ve not done a walk like that before. With the calm figure of Nathan leading us, we felt we could tackle both the mountain and the weather. It just goes to show, you don’t have to be a super-fit mountaineer to enjoy these mountains. You just need a Nathan (who happens to be a super-fit mountaineer!). Thanks Nathan and also to Jim who introduced us. Beware – we’ll be back!
A big thanks to Julie, Sue, Penny and Julie Ann for writing this blog for nineonesix-guiding