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Liathach butterflies

Liathach butterflies


Postby brightonrob » Sun Nov 01, 2020 6:24 pm

Route description: Liathach, Glen Torridon

Munros included on this walk: Mullach an Rathain (Liathach), Spidean a' Choire Lèith (Liathach)

Date walked: 20/09/2020

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 11.5 km

Ascent: 1380m

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I'd read a lot about Liathach, and watched the videos on Youtube - the mountain's reputation as something of a beast seems well earned. So, having been defeated by what turned out to be the 'ugly step' on the ridge of Beinn Eighe the previous day (see my report here: https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=101388), I approached it with a degree of trepidation, butterflies fluttering madly. But it was another glorious day towards the end of September, so excuses were hard to come by.

I was lucky enough to be able to park in the small layby right at the foot of the normal ascent path, and set off following at a discrete distance behind other folk who seemed to have a better idea than me where they were going, although the path at this point was quite clear. It wasn't immediately apparent how it would get to the ridge though.

P1000062.JPG

But it did. Unremittingly steep with the occasional short scramble, it wound around and through the various rock barriers, arriving quite suddenly at a bealach, from which astonishing views opened up. At the far right is Coinneach Mhor and, descending steeply from it, the aforementioned ugly step that had blocked by planned route to Sail Mhor.

P1000063.JPG

Feeling somewhat lazy after a long day the previous day, and knowing that today wasn''t lkely to be any easier, I passed up the opportunity of an out-and-back to Liathach's eastern summit Stuc a Choire Dhuibh Bhig, and set off on the steep and scrambly path to Stob a Choire Liath Mhor. That view just kept getting better!

P1000065.JPG

After a short descent the climbing resumed across boulder and scree to the first and highest of the day's two munros, Spidean a Choire Leith, from which there is an impressive view encompassing the second munro, Mullach an Rathain with the nothern pinnacles, Tom na Gruagaich on Beinn Alligin and the mountains of Skye in the background.

P1000068.JPG

And of course the route ahead would not be straightforward, because lying in wait was Liathach's not-very-secret weapon, the pinnacles of Am Fasarinen. Gulp!

P1000069.JPG

The view looking back the way I had come was simply awesome, the vast ridge of Beinn Eighe in particular appearing like some monstrous ocean breaker sweeping across the landscape, streaked with quartzite foam on its trailing edge.

P1000070.JPG

A steep and awkward descent took my mind off the fluttering butterflies for a while, but soon that was over and although the going became somewhat easier, the ridge was narrowing unmistakably as the pinnacles drew closer.

P1000071.JPG

To be honest though, it wasn't as hard as I'd expected or feared. Yes, you need a head for heights but nowhere is the scrambling actually very difficult at all. If you've done the Aonach Eagach, or even Crib Goch, you shouldn't find this too daunting. At one point though I thought it would be otherwise. I was behind a group of four who were moving quite quickly and efficiently, but suddenly I found them struggling to find a way up a difficult looking step - not very high in itself but with a nasty and probably terminal drop lying in wait for a faller. While they were struggling I peered hopefully past them and spotted an easy rock staircase leading to the very same ridge. "Hey guys", I said, "why don't you come this way?". They weren't interested - apparently they were deliberately making it harder to keep it interesting! Leaving them to it, I strolled up my staircase and soon all but the highest of the pinnacles were behind me.

P1000072.JPG

The butterflies had settled. Getting to the top was a pleasant, easy scramble, and I perched on the top for a rest and a snack. The camera angle here is a little deceptive - I am not of course standing with one foot dangling over a precipice, I am actually comfortably and securely seated, observing that my car was just about visible way down there.

P1000074.JPG

It's a good hike then to reach Mullach an Rathain, from where you can look back over most of the day's exertions. The quartzite cap on the top of Spidean a Choire Leith is very striking.

P1000075.JPG

I can't say I enjoyed the descent much - hundreds of metres of steep, loose dirt and stones isn't my thing, and neither is trudging 2 miles or so back along the road to the car. But it was a job well done, I thought - I'll sleep well tonight.
Last edited by brightonrob on Tue Nov 03, 2020 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
brightonrob
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Re: Liathach butterflies

Postby Dunblane Bagger » Mon Nov 02, 2020 1:45 pm

Nice pics. What an amazing mountain Liathach is, and Torridon is such a beautiful area.

We took the bypass path last time we climbed it, as the wind was buffeting us all over the place on the ridge so we opted for safety first in the lee of the wind. The bypass path was horrible though and I would have preferred to get my hands on the rock for 4 limb drive as opposed to 2.

What a place though.. Stunningly beautiful, but the descent is pretty brutal (a bit like coming off the Aonagh Eagach down to the Clachaig Inn).

Well done in going up an over. It is definitely something I will be doing as I complete my second round
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Re: Liathach butterflies

Postby jmarkb » Mon Nov 02, 2020 2:47 pm

Enjoyed that - especially the picture of the view past your feet! That slope is a strong contender for the steepest 3000 feet in the country. That descent is a bit of a pig, though. There is perhaps some merit in going W-E: the descent is shorter by a couple of hundred metres, and it is possible avoid the scree/loose rubbish towards the top of Mullach an Rathain by scrambling up the ridge to the west of the path.

Another option I might try sometime is to start from the Coire Dubh Mor car park, go up the NE of ridge of Stuc a' Choire Dhuibh Bhig and return from Mullach an Rathain by Coireag Dhearg, and a traverse under the N face to reach the Coire Dubh Mor path. If you can arrange the transport, then completing the traverse over Sgurr a' Chadeil to the Beinn Alligin car par would be another possibility.
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Re: Liathach butterflies

Postby brightonrob » Mon Nov 02, 2020 10:21 pm

jmarkb wrote:Another option I might try sometime is to start from the Coire Dubh Mor car park, go up the NE of ridge of Stuc a' Choire Dhuibh Bhig and return from Mullach an Rathain by Coireag Dhearg, and a traverse under the N face to reach the Coire Dubh Mor path. If you can arrange the transport, then completing the traverse over Sgurr a' Chadeil to the Beinn Alligin car par would be another possibility.


Hmm that looks like a long day! Good luck with that :D Did you mean NE ridge? That looks pretty horrible to me - from the map, and what I remember of the view across from Beinn Eighe. The SE / E flank looks a bit more doable, but I'm sure you know the ground better than I do!
brightonrob
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Re: Liathach butterflies

Postby brightonrob » Mon Nov 02, 2020 10:26 pm

Dunblane Bagger wrote:We took the bypass path last time we climbed it, as the wind was buffeting us all over the place on the ridge so we opted for safety first in the lee of the wind. The bypass path was horrible though and I would have preferred to get my hands on the rock for 4 limb drive as opposed to 2.


I don't blame you on going for the bypass on a windy day - the top would be a much more uncomfortable place to be with a buffeting wind! Highly recommended though on a decent day.
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Re: Liathach butterflies

Postby brightonrob » Mon Nov 02, 2020 10:30 pm

Dunblane Bagger wrote:What an amazing mountain Liathach is, and Torridon is such a beautiful area.


Quite agree. This was my first visit, and if anything I found Beinn Eighe even more appealing. Already plotting to go back - as if there aren't another few hundred Scottish peaks I've never been near!
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Re: Liathach butterflies

Postby jmarkb » Mon Nov 02, 2020 11:34 pm

brightonrob wrote:Did you mean NE ridge? That looks pretty horrible to me - from the map, and what I remember of the view across from Beinn Eighe. The SE / E flank looks a bit more doable, but I'm sure you know the ground better than I do!


It's kind of a combination of both - you start up the SE flank and head out right to reach the NE ridge higher up, above the horrible steep wet crags.
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