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Liathach

Liathach


Postby The Mighty Midge » Wed Jul 27, 2011 11:24 pm

Route description: Liathach, Glen Torridon

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

Date walked: 27/07/2011

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 11 km

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Now then, my cousin and I finally decided it was time to tackle Liathach having previously enjoyed the other 'big two' in the Torridon area. It had been an ambition of mine for some time, for previously I had regarded Liathach as a mountain that was for the experienced mountaineer, the seasoned scrambler. However on the good advice of a few members of this website I was assured Liathach was a realistic target. And I am very grateful for that advice, for we had a day that will live long in memory.

Liathach looking mean from across Loch Clair.
1.JPG


We set off from Nairn around 10am and were on the very well constructed ascent path on the eastern end of the mountain by 11:45. No nice gentle introduction here, just straight up the side of the hill. In no time your sweating like a particulary sweaty bloke and the midges are hunting your blood down. The path is great for the majority of the way up, with the odd optional scrambly bit thrown in there. We arrived at the ridge after an hour and a half to great relief, surely one of the most relentless introductions to a hill! We detoured off to the eastern end of the mountain to catch a view of Ben Eighe from the eastern summit - well worth the effort and it takes only 15 mins or so. By this point what had been a promising start to the day weather-wise took a slight turn for the worse, banks of low cloud were coming in off the atlantic and the summit cone of Spidean o'choire Leith was intermittently in and out of cloud. The wind had also picked up, and by jove it was it rather fresh up there.

View from eastern summit of Liathach.
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View back along the ridge towards Spidean.
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Neverthless we ploughed on with our assault of the first munro summit. This summit is not easily won, if you plan on just tackling this munro and heading back down the ascent route do not underestimate this - A bit of a slog over large quartzite boulders. We arrived at the summit of Spidean 2.5 hours after we set off, to be greeted by a fierce wind and cloud wisping up all over the place. One of those strange times when the cloud isnt thick and the sun occasionally breaks through to warm you but then sods off for a few minutes while you perish in the cloud. This cloud seemed to have taken a fancy to the main Torridon peaks, we sat gazing with envy across the glen to the Coulin peaks bathed in sunshine.

The first views of the pinnacles from the summit of Spidean.
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Lunch was devoured with haste and we set off for the ridge. Now I personally think, for a number of reasons, that Liathach should be spared for only the better days. One of these reasons is for the descent off the first munro summit. It’s not all that easy to find a good way down in good visibilty, in thick cloud I frankly wouldnt fancy it. From the cairn we headed directly towards the pinnacles and after a short distance noted a path directly to our right that headed down the north side of the summit. This is not the path mentioned in the route description. Care is required, its steep with plenty loose scree but it got us down and across to the ridge quickly with no problems.

The final approach.
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Now for the ridge, the main event of the day. My only previous scrambling experiences had been on Ben Alligin and Ben Eighe. Whilst the ridge on Liathach demands your respect and patience, there is nothing here that will cause any fit, reasonably agile person any problems. There are plenty of holds for hands and feet, and even if you cant see the best way down the sandstone is littered with crampon scratches which provide a handy guide if required. However, more often than not the route is obvious.

Below the first pinnacle.
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Basking.
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Standard Liathach pinnacle fare.
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Needless to say, i didnt join him.
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What makes Liathach different, to say Ben Alligin, is not that the pinnacles are physically more difficult, its that odd moment of unavoidable in-your- face exposure. Case in point would be the very first pinnacle. This is perhaps the most awkward of the whole lot - you are forced to hug the curved stone that makes up the side of the pinnacle and angle your boots for grip. As you near the top of the pinnacle, peer over this stone your clinging to. Yes – that is indeed the edge. If you can handle this ‘holy mackerel’ moment then you are fine for the rest of the ridge. There is nothing else that compares to that moment. Unless of course, you go looking for it! Iv provided a few piccies of different sections along the ridge for those who wish to analyse what they may face.

A look back along the ridge from around the 3rd pinnacle.
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A couple of mid-ridge descent route shots. Perhaps look worse than it actually is.
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Again, in poor weather dont bother. This ridge provides incredible views, leave it for a good day. As far as im concerned the pinnacles are a no go area in winds above 30mph and when very wet. Its just not worth the risk. The other section that could prove challenging is the on the final pinnacle, there is a 20ft chimney to ascend. Nothing technical, just take your time and make sure the rock is secure.

The final Pinnacle. Note - we had a peek at the the bypass route for this pinnacle and were quite amazed. Seems to be more dangerous than the scramble.
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Steep chimney on final pinnacle. Dont look down!
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Descent route from final pinnacle - nice and easy.
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Once the pinnacles are finished, much to your relief or disappointment, all that is left is a nice stroll to the top of the final munro summit. Unfortunately the summit was shrouded in cloud when we got there and the wind was gusting summit fierce. So we didn’t linger and headed straight for the obvious descent path. A lot of people don’t rate this descent down the loose gravel and scree – we found it be no problem. Having said that, if my knees were 20 years older then it may not have been as much fun. This route is a potential ankle breaker if your not careful, but otherwise this path provides an easy to follow, quick route off the mountain.

Fine view across to some of the Coulin forest peaks.
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View down to loch torridon from beneath the cloud.
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View en route to the final munro summit.
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Its a long way down! View from final summit. The descent path is not visible, but is obvious on closer inspection of the red scree section.
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After an hour or so of descent we finally arrived at flat(ish) land after crossing a stile. At this point beware! The depths of bog hell lurk beneath your feet as you cross grassy terrain near the road. Its fair to say my legs got a good wash. Once the minefield of bog was negotiated we were then left with a nice flat walk along the road back to the car. The next mission was to find a good camp spot. We found an absolute belter next to Loch Coulin, piccies provided. A beautiful spot, nice calm loch with hunners of lillypads, mountain views and plenty wood.

View from outside the tent.
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Not a bad view to wake up to!
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Im really not sure if we were perhaps too close to Coulin Lodge, it was about a mile in a straight line across the loch from us, behind dense wood. T’was too fine a spot to turn down. We built a nice ‘well’ fireplace from nearby rocks – if you ever walk this route and happen to notice a rather striking assembly of rock near the loch that was us! Oh and needless to say, the midges were fierce. Midge nets were on for a good few hours.
All in all, a great day on an epic mountain in a stunning part of the country.
Last edited by The Mighty Midge on Thu Jul 28, 2011 1:09 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Liathach

Postby Penguin » Wed Jul 27, 2011 11:40 pm

Nice reading and great photo's. Looks like you had a great day's walking. :thumbup:

Penguin
8)
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Re: Liathach

Postby Boulderdash » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:15 am

Great report and glad you enjoyed it. It`s a walk that is hard to beat if you get the weather. Know what you mean about that initial ascent though. It`s a killer. :D
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Re: Liathach

Postby skuk007 » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:56 am

Great report MM, I think this is the only sort of weather I'd be happy tackling this one in.

Great pictures of the pinaccles too, I will be up in Torridon in about 3 weeks time and haven't yet decided if I'm ready for this one. If the weather is favourable I could be tempted. :)
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Re: Liathach

Postby The Mighty Midge » Thu Jul 28, 2011 12:53 pm

Thanks guys, i think it will be hard to beat! I was up An Teallach a few weeks ago but didnt do the ridge. I think that may be the next challenge.

skuk007 wrote:I will be up in Torridon in about 3 weeks time and haven't yet decided if I'm ready for this one. If the weather is favourable I could be tempted


If the weather is good dont hesitate! You dont even need to do the pinnacles if you dont fancy them. There is bypass paths round all the pinnacles, although i cant recommend the bypass round the last pinnacle - far more airy than the pinnacle itself!
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Re: Liathach

Postby JOHNGG » Thu Jul 28, 2011 1:33 pm

Great report - just looking at the pictures brought the memories (and the vertigo) flooding back !

I seem to remember chickening out after the first pinnacle and doing the traverse path instead which was even worse and very exposed - definitely a walk/climb to do in dry conditions.
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Re: Liathach

Postby Vick1 » Fri Jul 29, 2011 8:30 am

Cracking photos and report and agree with you that it should be saved for a nice day
Awesome camp spot as well :)
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