Was this the perfect preparation for the West Highland Way? Perhaps not, as this excursion involved more climbing than distance, but the scenery was stunning. Eleven adventurers, including four Brothers, had a memorable three days in the mountains of Torridon.

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The 710 Years Hikes

By Ian
13th-15th April 2022

In mid April, four Brothers (Garry, Iain, Neil and I) spent three consecutive days in Torridon with seven other adventurers of a similar age. This was to be a test of our ability to traverse different kinds of terrain and ideally improve our recovery times.

The group, whose aggregate age was 710 years (average 65), comprised Brother Ian & Iain (both 68); Brother Garry, Greg, John, Brother Neil, Phil & Steven (all 65); Derek & Ken (both 63); and Brother Iain (58).

Day Zero – Early Arrivals

The quickest route from Dundee was via the A9 and Inverness; around 4.5 hours for just under 200 miles, including a pit stop at the tourist mecca of Bruar. Once past Inverness it was cross country to the western Highlands.

A quick stop above Glen Docherty to take in the view of Loch Maree, and half an hour later we were in Torridon, searching for Newton Cottage; our accommodation for the next four nights. How difficult can it be to find a cottage in a tiny village? Fairly difficult, when the photographs we had for identification had been taken from the side garden, rather than the roadside.

Prior to our arrival, Greg, Iain and Derek had arrived just after lunchtime and decided to go for “a short walk”, according to Greg. It turned out to be significantly longer than Iain and Derek had anticipated as they headed up part of the route we would take on the first official day’s hiking, before turning east to Loch Coire.

The rest of us were extremely envious when we saw their photograph of the triple buttress of Coire Mhic Fhearchair. Perhaps next time…

Day One – Liathach via Coire Mhic and Coire Dubh (or a walk between hills)

The instructions were to muster at the front door by 9am, and by 9:30am all 11 members of the team had gathered and were ready for our walk.

Logistics meant 3 cars headed to the start of the walk then, having disgorged their cargo, all three were driven to the finishing point. The drivers then returned to the start in one vehicle.

The remaining walkers lingered in the car park developing hypothermia.

We were soon joined by Doe the deer who was on a carrot hunt. Having failed to secure any root vegetables from us she indiscriminately approached every other passing stranger.

By 10:15am the drivers had returned and we were again all assembled and heading out on our linear walk.

The walk followed good paths and started uphill for the first mile.

A good pace was set and by 11:15am we had walked into the lairig that would circle between the hills to our left and right.

We stopped and enjoyed drinks and snacks before our peloton headed onwards.

It was fairly uneventful, as the path snaked over undulations and between the lochans. Garry stalled on one water crossing resulting in an overtopping of his right boot.

By 12:30am we reached the halfway point. Lunchtime!

The weather had been overcast since the start and although the cloud was lifting slowly the sun proved elusive. The mist clung moodily to the tops, clearing at times to reveal the stone buttresses beneath.

Just after lunch Phil’s right boot developed a smile with the heel flapping loosely. Running repairs were made using a bootlace which I had been carrying in my backpack for over 5 years. I knew it would come in useful eventually.

The peloton continued snaking its way downwards, now beside a river, Coire Mhic Nobuil.

Different team members took it in turn to lead.

As we continued our descent we passed a small waterfall, and a golden eagle hovered above. We stopped to admire it in flight.

Soon we were in woodland beside a box ravine and heading down to the car park.

I had put a case of beer in the boot of Iain Arthur’s car and four of us enjoyed a cold one before being driven home.

An eight mile walk safely negotiated without incident, save the flapping boot and wet foot, with all members ready for tea, the pub, sleep and another day’s walking tomorrow.

Day 2 – Putin’s Secret Submarines

The peloton reduced to 8 as 3 members failed fitness tests and remained at Newton Cottage. Our starting point was where we finished on day one; a short 5 minute drive away.

It was around 10:00am as we left the car park and walked up the road in search of our path. Garry had brought a map from home but had left it at the cottage!

After 100 yards we found the path which took us unevenly down hill towards Loch Torridon. This was our first view of the submarine flotilla, on the far bank of the loch.

The path soon joined a Land Rover track and we turned through 90 degrees and walked parallel to the loch, heading west.

After a mile or so we came to a golf course at Rechullin; a small 9 hole pitch and putt. It had its own starter hut sitting just off the beach.

Our walk was now on the banks of the loch for a mile or so, passing through a small hamlet with a jetty before it turned uphill beside a cottage.

The rain had started and the waterproofs were now on.

The paths continued to be difficult preventing getting into a walking rhythm, but perfect experience for day 2 of the West Highland Way.

At 11:15am it was coffee time so we stopped on a sodden hillside under some silver birch trees. Garry had left his coffee in the house with the map so shared some of mine. The hillside was strewn with algae covered rocks which shone out white against the moss and grass.

The path now became steeper as we walked away from the loch and over a headland. A couple of us overtopped our boots with mud in the sodden ground.

At around 12 o’clock we reached a high point and debated whether to turn or continue. The submarine flotilla had lost its camouflage and it was now apparent that each boat was actually a fish farm enclosure. Clever bastard that Putin, but he hadn’t fooled us.

We decided to continue west in search of a ruin at the headland. However the route took us on a narrow muddy path on through heather with the ground falling steeply below us. It was too exposed for Garry’s liking who decided it was too risky. A couple of others were also having problems staying upright on the worn path so we all turned back.

Now heading homeward we took a right turn and went right around the promontory. It was 12:30pm and with magnificent views over the loch to left and right we found a spot to sit and enjoy lunch.

After lunch it was a couple of hours walking, retracing our steps until we regained the car park and then home.

It was a good day’s walk despite the rain, with good varied terrain making for interesting, if at times tricky walking.

Day 3 – Sgorr Nan Lochan Uaine (Big Steep Stoney Thing)

It was back to the full peloton and a return to the car park we departed from on the first day.

We headed out at 9:32am. Across the road, over the crash barrier and then single file south westwards along a good path.

The ground rose steadily up to a house with a lochan to its right. We stopped to take photos across the lochan, and over Loch Torridon with the Skye hills silhouetted on the horizon.

The going was fairly easy with streams the only obstacles. These had to be negotiated using the rocks which rose proud of the water.

The first casualty was Garry who needed help out of the water on the second crossing. He hurt his calf and overtopped his shoe.

We continued onwards as the ground started to rise more steeply. The same thing happened on the next crossing and that was Garry’s day done. He returned to the cars with John, who was suffering from a sore back.

The path rose ever more steeply. Consulting the maps (we had brought them this time), we turned off and struck out over bracken and bogs.

The walking was increasingly challenging and after a steep ascent onto a shoulder we stopped for coffee at 10:46am.

Restarting our hike, we searched for the best way up the Corbett. There were a few U-turns as we skirted round crags and ravines.

By 12:15 we were scrambling up a boulder strewn hillside and reached the final shoulder before the scree covered summit.

Any hope of paths had long gone and so we looked for the best route through the stones to the top.

Derek decided that the time had come and scrambled quickly up the slope in front with loose stones falling in his wake.

I was last to make the attempt and chose the wrong route finding myself on loose gravel with my legs pushing upwards while I stayed in the same place. I eventually found some firmer ground and reached the summit, breathless, with legs full of lactic acid. Note to self – maybe we should rethink taking a defibrillator with us!!

We lunched on top and then looked east towards Sigurd Dubh (Big Steep Stoney Thing 2).

It wasn’t far distance wise, but looked as uninviting as the present summit, requiring a tricky descent and crossing a bealach before starting the next ascent.

But which was the best route to take? Some of us were more relaxed about it than others.

The scramble down the hill involved a number of us falling as fatigue set in. We were no longer walking in a nice single file but spread out all over the hillside.

The terrain meant each of us was having to find a route that we felt comfortable with. I fell headfirst on the final slope before reaching some flatter ground. Fortunately I was on heather at the time and managed to turn my feet down as I slid, sustaining damage only to my ego.

It was 2 o’clock and we needed to be off the hill by 4.30. A confab decided it was time to bail out from the second climb and find a route back to the cars.

The route down was no clearer than the route up but fortunately only involved one U-turn when we were faced with cliffs.

There was then a choice of routes to take. Maintaining height and reaching a path some 2 km distant, or heading straight down steep heather-covered slopes to reach the same path nearer to the cars.

It seemed bizarre as we headed across the infinity bog towards what seemed like a vertical drop.

It turned out to be the correct decision and despite a number of soft landing falls and stumbles we were down back at the path with a 1.5km walk back to the cars.

We reached the car park at 4:30pm and after changing our footwear enjoyed a bottle of beer before heading home. Everyone safe but tired.

Garry greeted us from the cottage garden, having recovered from his watery excursion.