Torridon is one of the most celebrated mountain regions in the UK. This is a place of leviathan peaks. Monstrous behemoths that rise from sea level in row upon row of sandstone and shattered quartzite. They have a primeval, ancient grace. This is, after all, some of the oldest exposed land on the planet. The foundation of gneiss that these giants sit upon is over 2600 million years old. In Torridon, you are in the presence of primordial majesty.
Each mountain has its own unique character and its own challenges. Beinn Dearg shrugs off the insult dealt to it by the Munro tables (it is inches too short) to rise as a muscular sandstone ridge of sublime scrambling and astonishing vistas. Beinn Eighe is an entire range; it is huge, quartzite draped and intimidating. It contains perhaps Scotland’s finest corrie in Corie Mhic Fhearchair and its Triple Buttress. Then there’s the highest, the sovereign even amongst kings: Liathach, The Grey One. A monstrous behemoth that draws the eye from every direction, Liathach arguably vies with An Teallach for the crown of the finest single mountain in Britain.
And yet there is still room for another majestic, ancient and beautiful mountain: Beinn Alligin, The Jewelled Mountain. Two dramatic Munro peaks standing above a gracefully curving ridge cut with dramatic gullies, built upon tier upon tier of sandstone and sporting heady scrambling situations, Beinn Alligin fully deserves its high standing in the upper echelons of Scottish mountains. This thing of beauty is not without bite; its eastern end comprises of Na Rathanan - The Horns of Alligin. This is scrambling ground of huge character. Aesthetically, it has few equals. As one negotiates the rocky steps and strides along its narrow edges, the other Torridon peaks grow in stature and a vast wilderness beyond is revealed. The vista is stunning. Baosbheinn epitomises this, a startling mountain ridge that rises and falls above a lochan studded floor. Such is the granduer of Torridon that a mountan such as this barely gets a mention.
Alligin's Munro summits of Sgurr Mhor and Tom na Gruagaich are towering viewpoints to the western seaboard. The Trotternish Ridge of Skye can be seen close at hand and, further south, the unmistakable sharp profile of the Black Cuillin menace the horizon. But the startling sights are not just in the distance. The great cleft of the Eag Dubh slices the mountain in two. It is an unsettling sight that reminds one of the gargantuan natural forces that sculpted this unique and special place. By the time I had returned to Loch Torridon, I had been fully converted by the magic of the place. So what next after Beinn Alligin? Well, even the Jewelled Mountain has a superior. A mountain known as The Grey One...