Loch Torridon

Very much a trip of two halves: the first day idyllic, the second nothing more than a head down battle back into Shieldaig.
Loch Torridon is renowned for severe squalls and while the upper loch is perhaps most affected, any wind with an easterly component will very often funnel out of the mountains creating very difficult if localised conditions reaching far into the outer loch.
Shieldaig offers a convenient jetty and is an ideal place from which to launch. I spent a while here chatting with a local fisherman as he worked on the tangled mass of ropes festooning the jetty. A little wary at first, he soon opened up and was telling all sorts of tall and fishy tales. A local skipper's encounter with a pod of 250+ dolphins however was corroborated by others who had seen the same pod in the vicinity of Red Point. I was soon heading out, my objective, of course, Red Point.
I paddled first to the narrows to pick up the ebb and having poked my bow into the drying gap between Eilean a Chaoil and the headland, the dramatic slopes of Beinn Eighe beyond, I headed out on glassy seas.
This outcrop of gneiss provided a novel late afternoon lunch stop and had done so for an otter or two previously, discarded urchin, crab and other shells littering the platform.
Passing Diabeg, I remembered the first time I climbed here with Karl, when, having successfully scaled The Pillar (the best E2 slab pitch in the UK?), we very nearly fell off the top of the crag trying to find the descent amidst the bracken and then failed completely to find our next objective after which midges and rain forced a rapid retreat.
Landing just beyond Craig and finding a lovely little spot to camp, I decided to call it a day preferring the remote feel of this section of coast to camping on the sands at Red Point. I would be extremely glad of the decision the next day but for now, with the camp set and plenty of light, I set off to explore the surrounding country.
The ubiquitous bog cotton was everywhere...
...but I was quite surprised by the number of orchids, many hundreds of them scattered between small stands of birch and pine.
As the sun began to set, what little breeze had kept the midges at bay dropped completely; I lit a small fire in an effort to deter them but it was only as darkness approached that their numbers really became tolerable.
Having stopped flapping, I was able to sit still for long enough to attempt a few long exposures...
...both of these shots utilising a convenient rock to help stabilise the camera.
As the temperature dropped, a slight breeze returned and I noted with a tinge of concern that it was out of the east.
The morning however proved completely still and I set off across the outer loch towards Rubha na Fearn, the northern tip of the Applecross peninsula. Half way through the 5km crossing I noticed a small yacht, under sail heading west and making fast progress close to the far shore. Now how is he doing that I wondered, just as the first gusts ruffled the surface in the centre of the loch...
Within ten minutes, the wind had increased to a good F5 and by the time I was across, it was a fairly constant F6, gusting at quite a bit more. I rested in the lee of the point, ate and drank, pushed a few barley sugars into my BA pocket and set off. It was both an exciting and gruelling return trip with no chance of stopping let alone taking any photos. A fishing boat shadowed me for a short while as I bounced and pitched past Aird; I wanted to wave but had to make do with raising the paddle above my head briefly between gusts to indicate all was well before plugging on.
In fact, despite the wind the conditions, if hard work, were not overly difficult, the fetch being small but the sudden and violent nature of the squalls that affect Loch Torridon is certainly something to be aware of.


Ian said…
Hi Will,

I've had remarkably similar experiences twice on Loch toridon with the wind. It really dows seem to funnel any sort of easterly. Perhaps the strategy should be to stat at Lower Diabeg and work inwards in the hope of a push back out?!
Will Herman said…
Ian - it was the second time for me also - The first involved towing someone in F5+ for 5km across the mouth of the outer loch - interesting day!