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Liathach on Fire...

Liathach on Fire...

Postby andrewdoggett » Mon May 02, 2011 12:32 am

Route description: Liathach, Glen Torridon

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

Date walked: 01/05/2011

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 10 km

Ascent: 1610m

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Ever since I first drove past Liathach I've been scared of it; it's enormous; steep sided; and it appears impregnable... I'm full of anticipation and nervous energy as I set of from my home in Bridge of Allan. The Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) forecast is a good one; clear skies and a slight breeze; cooling I'm thinking...

I make short work of the drive; the roof is down; the music on; and I'm indulging in my thoughts... I love 'me' time; when what anyone else wants doesn't matter. Driving down Glen Torridon in early morning the weather was beautiful and I was looking forward to the day ahead...

20110501 - 0735 - Glen Torridon.jpg

I'd chosen to ascend the hill from the eastern end walking to the west; mainly because of the scree exit on the west. Not something I wished to climb!!

The ascent on the east initially follows a well constructed path, but higher up as the slopes steepen it changes to a less well constructed path. You may even see some deer...

20110501 - 0923 - Liathach.jpg

There's nothing uncomfortable on the ascent, just good views; and if anything; the beast that is Liathach seems tame... Though you'll be conscious of the pinnacles to come... Most of the ascent is walking, but there's the odd place near the ridge you'll need / want to use your hands...

20110501 - 0929 - Liathach.jpg

In an hour and a half or so of climbing you'll find yourself on the summit ridge. I headed east the eastern top Stuc a'Choire Dhuibhe Bhig where the views of Beinn Eighe are sensational...

Liathach - Beinn Eighe.jpg

In fact the views in all directions are sensational... I've decided this is one of the most beautiful places on the planet...

Liathach - Beinn Eighe 2.jpg

Looking west along the ridge the highest point of Liathach dominates the view. I'm cursing the smoke which is ruining the views over the Horns of Alligin - little did I know at that time that the mountain was on fire...

20110501 - 1014 - Liathach.jpg

After absorbing the view it was time to head to the eastern munro and the highest point of Liathach; Spidean a'Choire Leith... There's nothing difficult on the ascent; just easy walking / scrambling across some rocky terrain; and the ascent is not as steep as it is on to the ridge. It may look a touch intimidating but there's nothing there that will cause you any bother... The scenery remains stunning - looking back along the ridge just gone before...

20110501 - 1140 - Liathach.jpg

By this time I'm acutely aware the western side of the mountain is on fire... Talk amongst the hikers is whether our descent from the western end of the ridge will be blocked... As if the Pinnacles weren't enough to contend with I'm now facing fire...

The pinnacles didn't look as intimidating as I was expecting; but there was an excited buzz on the munro top about what lay ahead.

20110501 - 1214 - Liathach.jpg

The pinnacles as it happened were straightforward enough; all the talk was to stay on the main ridge; I agree; nothing too challenging; just be careful!! They start with a steep scramble; about halfway up the bypass path can be seen running to the left. I wanted to give going over the top a go though. The first scramble / climb is easy enough; there are plenty of holds for the hands and ledges for your feet. Keep to the worn line just to the left side. For those of you a bit apprehensive (and I was!) I've drawn the line on the image (apologies for tainting it); the blue line shows the bypass path, and the red line the scramble up to the top of the pinnacles.

20110501 - 1226 - Liathach.jpg

Looking back at the descent to the first pinnacle; again it's fairly steep; but not technically difficult. If you're nervous, just stay calm; the holds are there...

20110501 - 1239 - Liathach.jpg

Close up of the previous shot; some hikers descending toward the first pinnacle...

20110501 - 1240 - Liathach.jpg

View of the path along the top of the pinnacles...

20110501 - 1241 - Liathach.jpg

In what feels like no time at all you've completed the steep descent off the final pinnacle and are left with an easy stroll up to the western munro. I took a detour to the right to see the state of the fire; and it became fairly obvious that the fire was going to meet me on the descent path... Just as one hurdle was completed; another had arrived...

20110501 - 1313 - Liathach.jpg

A straightforward ascent to the Mullach an Rathain and time to have my wee shandy to psyche up for the descent... I didn't stay long at the top; I was worried about the scree descent and more so the fire.

20110501 - 1343 - Liathach.jpg

And so to the descent; a fairly horrible initial 400 metres or so on steep scree; not scary; but it was uncomfortable; and you could feel it in the legs!! Here's a shot looking back up...

20110501 - 1437 - Liathach.jpg

And then came the fire... And what a fire...

20110501 - 1458 - Liathach.jpg

20110501 - 1459 - Liathach.jpg

20110501 - 1507 - Liathach.jpg

20110501 - 1509 - Liathach.jpg

20110501 - 1510 - Liathach.jpg

THe whole western end of the mountain was burnt to a crisp...

20110501 - 1513 - Liathach.jpg

Having now gone 'through the fire' the landscape was burnt; hot; and smoky! The route down looked just as smoky...

20110501 - 1519 - Liathach.jpg

As it turned out my main worry became dumped on with what I imagine must be a fair few tonnes of water...

20110501 - 1543 - Liathach.jpg

20110501 - 1546 - Liathach.jpg

My route... Straight over the Pinnacles; that was the word of mouth; the bypass path not being the fancied option... As it happened nothing to tricky on the pinnacles in any case; some easy scrambles.

2011 - 05 - 01 - Liathach.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

I'll add more to this report tomorrow; including some more scenic shots; but knackard now... Needless to say my new favourite mountain; and what a walk...

The day I conquered Liathach... And the day it burned...
Last edited by andrewdoggett on Mon May 02, 2011 11:29 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby Alastair S » Mon May 02, 2011 7:19 am

Wow, dramatic stuff there Andrew. Glad you made it back OK - some walkers needed to be air lifted off according to this BBC report.
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby malky_c » Mon May 02, 2011 7:45 am

That looks interesting to say the least - I was just reading about this on another forum. Looks like your route down went right through the burning area - how did that go exactly? :shock:
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby HighlandSC » Mon May 02, 2011 8:05 am

:wtf: :wtf: :crazy: :wtf: :wtf:

That's certainly an unusual twist to a walk!
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby Paul Webster » Mon May 02, 2011 8:13 am

Amazing photos there Andrew.... glad you got down OK!
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby Border Reiver » Mon May 02, 2011 8:54 am

It's very important that wild campers don't light fires when it's so dry, and are careful with stoves. Having said that, although it look awful, so long as it just burns the surface, it does a bit of good by getting rid of some of the deep heather and it won't be long until new shoots come through, nourished by the ashes.
I like the pics though, very dramatic.
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby andrewdoggett » Mon May 02, 2011 11:35 am

malky_c wrote:Looks like your route down went right through the burning area - how did that go exactly?

Yep, had to pass straight through the fire; it was hot but not too scary; I went through it on a flatter section; it was on the steeper sections where it was really out of control... The smoke wasn't great; but overall I was most worried about the helicopter dumping a load of water on my head - I think a few tonnes would hurt!

Alastair S wrote:Glad you made it back OK - some walkers needed to be air lifted off according to this BBC report.

Darn - could have avoided that scree descent!!

Paul Webster wrote:Amazing stuff there Andrew.... glad you got down OK!

THanks Paul - certainly made for a different day out!!
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby monty » Mon May 02, 2011 11:36 am

Great report Andrew. Amasing photos of the fire almost overshadow the amasing photos of the mountain and the views :lol: Nice to show the route so clearly. :D

Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby PeteR » Mon May 02, 2011 11:41 am

I know what you mean about this hill. It is one hulking piece of rock when you approach it head on. It's useful to get reports that describe the more tricky bits. I'm probablt more confident than I think I am on scrambles, but it's god to hear first hand how they are.

Dramatic stuff with the fire. Came across one on the roadside last night heading down toward Bridge of Orchy, but not as dramatic as you experienced. Fire crews were there when I drove by, but passed about half a dozen more on the way up. I don't think people are realising how dry it is just now.
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby Graeme D » Mon May 02, 2011 2:49 pm

I must say I've set on on hill days before with the thought that I might get avalanched, or washed away in floods, or some other such mishap, but never that I'd get threatened by bushfires! :o Great report btw. :D
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby Tenbob » Mon May 02, 2011 6:24 pm


Wow! Just wow! Incredible shots Andrew on a day that you will obviously never forget. Gonna be a tough task to have a day out with more excitement.

Liathach is a mountain which scares the bejeezus out of me. I hope that one day I will be confident enough to take it on, a lot more experience needed before I try it.

Like the others stated, glad you made it down ok. To be trapped with fire all around foesn't bear thinking about.
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby RicKamila » Mon May 02, 2011 6:34 pm

Just seen your photos on STV News - North.
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby kinley » Mon May 02, 2011 6:42 pm


That's a new hill-walking hazard!

Some great shots of Liathach - a near perfect day. Nice one 8)

Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby mountainstar » Mon May 02, 2011 7:15 pm

Great report, and wonderful pictures, especially "20110501 - 1507 - Liathach" which looks like the slopes of a volcano. :D
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Re: Liathach on Fire...

Postby gammy leg walker » Mon May 02, 2011 8:49 pm

Stunning report and pictures you have there Andrew,loved the ones showing the fires and also the route over the pinaccles
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