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Liathach - The monster is loose!

Liathach - The monster is loose!


Postby BlackPanther » Thu Jun 07, 2012 1:46 pm

Route description: Liathach, Glen Torridon

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

Date walked: 04/06/2012

Time taken: 8.5 hours

Distance: 11.2 km

Ascent: 1317m

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My first encounter with Liathach was during my very first visit to Torridon, in spring 2008. We walked to Corrie Mhic Fearchair then and obviously, we had to walk in the shadow of The Grey One. The mountain scared the guts out of me then, it looked impregnable, impossible to tackle from any angle. I was enchanted by both Beinn Eighe and Beinn Alligin (and consequently, I climbed each one of them in a short time), but Liathach always felt like "going one step too far". I couldn't even imagine myself on this narrow, rocky ridge and all the scary stories about hard scrambling on Am Fasarinen only made it worse. For a few years I considered The Grey One as far beyond my reach and I didn't even make plans to attempt it. Instead, I concentrated on easier, less demanding hills and eventually, my confidence and my resistance to exposure have built up to such a point, that I started thinking about Liathach as... well... maybe worth a try?...
Funnily, Kevin climbed Liathach in 1998 and he didn't remember much about it! He kept saying "It can't be too bad if I don't recall being freaked out on that ridge". Sadly, I couldn't find a single photo from that day as he climbed Liathach on a cloudy day and didn't take any :(
As my confidence was growing so was my annoyance, that wee devil sitting on my shoulder, laughing into my ear - ha ha ha, you can't do it! Well, if my ultimate target is ticking off all the Munros, there's no escape from Liathach and I will have to face it at some point. Maybe better sooner than later, I thought, grab the bull by the horns, put the menace to sleep...
Earlier this year, when we traversed Beinn Eighe in winter conditions, I kept glancing at the Beast of Torridon and suddenly it appeared less scary. I felt I was ready to tackle it, just wanted to wait until the snow melts :lol: :lol:
The snow has melted eventually though it lasted a bit longer than expected :lol: and the jubilee weekend looked like a perfect time to plan the big walk. On Sunday we had a nice warm-up on Ben Loyal. Monday morning was promising, a few patches of cloud here and there but generally a good day for hillwalking. I'd rather go up that ridge on a slightly colder day than in a scorch, so even the northern wind was not a problem :D
We left all inventive routes up Liathach for rock climbers and fearless scramblers. For us, the traditional traverse was the only option:

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The starting point was the car park near Glen Cottage. It was already busy when we arrived, and we were there just about in time to grab one of the last parking spaces:
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High cloud has just lifted off from Liathach and the summits were clear, so I could see exactly what I was about to tackle. :shock: That's b***dy impossible, I thought, but then I noticed other walkers heading up the path along Allt an Doire Ghairbh and I could now work out the ascent route. Steeeeeeep but must be manageable...
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We quickly got ready and followed the path. It steepens up almost immediately, and even on lower levels there are some bigger boulders and scramble-ish steps to negotiate. So far, I didn't find any of them difficult and as height was gained, views became interesting.
The car park area from above:
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The path follows Allt an Doire Ghairbh:
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Below the flanks of Liathach:
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I wanted to reach Coire Liath Mhor as quickly as possible and as it didn't feel too hot I put up quite a pace. Kevin struggled to keep up with me and at some point I had to stop and wait until he joined me at the bottom of the corrie...
Speedy Gonzales? :lol: :lol: :lol:
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I was overwhelmed by the majestic cliffs of Stob a' Coire Liath Mhor and Spidean a'Choire Leith... I felt like I was in a giant church...
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Higher up, the path is more crubmly-tumbly with some loose scree to avoid, but I managed all right:
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The route turns right (east) just below the vertical flanks of Stob a' Coire Liath Mhor...
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...and the last 100m of steep climb is studded with bigger boulders and rocky outcrops to scramble over - nothing too tackling though, I had lots of fun, even if my legs are a bit short and I had to stretch myself to reach another step :lol: :lol:
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The angle of the cliffs is... acute to say the least:
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Across the glen to southern Torridon:
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The initial steep climb was only the entrance to the adventure. We reached the ridge between Stob a' Coire Liath Mhor and Stuc a' Choire Dhubh Bhig:
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I found a good seat on top of a blind path, spent a few minutes filming the views...
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...and there is a lot to see, a lot to record and a lot to admire! The big drops themselves are pretty impressive:
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The main traverse route heads west from this point, but I talked Kevin into visiting the outlying top, Stuc a' Choire Dhubh Bhig first. It is said to be a good viewpoint towards Beinn Eighe, that was enough to give me strength to climb a few additional metres :lol: :lol:
The main ridge of Liathach (all the way to Spidean a'Choire Leith):
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The classic panorama of Torridon hills: from Beinn Alligin to Beinn an Eoin:
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I must say, Stuc a' Choire Dhubh Bhig is well worth the short detour. On a good day like we had, views are breathtaking...
Me by the summit cairn:
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My attention was drawn to the beautiful, graceful Beinn Eighe:
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A short rest and one more pose with my favourite hill in the background:
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A few more photos, a pack of oat cookies, a short chat - and we were off to return to the main route. From where we were standing at that very moment, I could just about see the worn out path along the ridge:
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Beinn Alligin and Beinn Dearg, the latter one still on my to-do list:
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On the ridge, between the tops of Bidein Toll a'Mhuic:
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At this stage, all the difficult scrambles can be avoided by using bypass paths:
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Resting on one of the subsidiary tops:
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Sometimes when I get into the zone on the hills, one particular song gets stuck to me and it plays over and over in my head. This time it was an old tune by Meat Loaf - and it sounded very appropriate for The Beast of Torridon:

The monster's loose
And now you know the truth
Tell me can you feel it as you hit the wall...
The monsters loose
And now you have to choose
And prove you can take it to the top before you fall...

Only falling off the top was not my intention! Instead, I was grasping the rough beauty of the surrounding landscape:
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Another top on the way. Here, going was a bit more challenging, on big boulders and quartzite scree:
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A small snow shower was coming from Beinn Alligin direction:
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Views back to Beinn Eighe ridge:
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The final push to the summit of Spidean a'Choire Leith, the first of the two Munros:
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The descent route towards the col looks rough, there are a couple of easy scrambles along the way:
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And it's definitely not a place for those with fear for heights. Even on wider parts of the ridge, the exposure is pretty dramatic:
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The descent route :shock: :
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I pushed desperately to the Munro summit, even overtook a couple of blokes on the path, scrambled the final few metres and reached the top of Spidean a'Choire Leith. It's the only point along Liathach, from which you can actually see the whole length of this monstrous ridge. Kevin was only five minutes behind and soon he joined me, complaining a little bit about an overstretched thigh muscle. Luckily, it was only a minor injury and he was still determined to finish the traverse.
My summit photo:
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The summit was soon crowded with people, traversing Liathach in both directions:
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We decided to take a longer break here, have lunch and a cuppa. The best possible spot for a sandwich, with the impressive panorama of Mullach an Rathain:
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A very quick snow shower passed over us and disappeared on the southern side. Soon, the air was clear again and views were simply superb!
Beinn Alligin and friends:
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Spidean a'Choire Leith has a false ridge:
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back to Beinn Eighe and the Fannichs behind:
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An Teallach:
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Slioch and Fisherfield hills:
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That's the main ascent path, looks surprisingly easy from this angle :lol: :lol:
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But the best and by far the most exciting view was towards the infamous Am Fasarinen pinnacles. I knew they could be bypassed but at the same time in my crazy head a little plan was emerging... To try? Or not to try?...
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First, we had to descend from the Munro summit to another rocky coll. the descent was rather unpleasant and steep on loose scree:
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On Liathach, wherever you turn, there's always a big gap or two somewhere in sight:
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This picture shows the descent path from Spidean a'Choire Leith:
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Having left the tumbly descent behind, I almost flew to the next top:
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I could see walkers scrambling up the first pinnacles:
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...and I quickly followed them!
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I managed to scramble over a couple of rocks and then descended back to the bypass path - it turned out the first "pinnacles" weren't connected to the main challenge - and now I realised what was still to tackle!
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These aren't the easiest rocks to scramble over, at least I had such a feeling. They are rounded and sometimes it's difficult to find grip:
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Just as well there is a net of bypasses:
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Now it became clear why this hill is sometimes called the Beast of Torridon. Even the bypass paths are narrow and exposed:
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It's not a hill for the faint-hearted, that's for sure:
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Coire na Caime and Glass-toll Lochan:
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Kevin stayed a bit behind one more time, he was busy photographing big drops and rocky outcrops (he took over 500 pictures in the end!) I rushed towards the main pinnacle and in a short time found myself scrambling over very eroded sort-of-a-path:
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I didn't even realise how high I was and suddenly I looked down and noticed Kevin far, far, below me, standing on the bypass path. He was furious!
"Where do you think you're going!!! And how did you get there in the first place! Get down now, do you want to kill yourself???"
I looked up again and I could clearly see the way up, worn by thousands of scrambling boots. I was pretty sure that, if allowed, I would be able to reach the summit of the pinnacle. But on the other hand, I definitely didn't want to give my husband a heart attack... One sigh of disappointment and I started scrambling back down the wall.
This arrow shows how far (more or less) I managed to climb:
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The bypass path from above:
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I know that Kevin was just being the voice of reason and heaven knows, maybe he was right. maybe I'd have gotten to the top of the pinnacle and frozen from panic? Well, I don't blame him for being overprotective but if I get another chance on these pinnacles, I'd like to try. maybe one day in the future...
So we ended up on the bypass path. Needless to say, it is the easier way to traverse Am Fasarinen. Still, the path is very narrow and eroded in places:
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I wonder what would happen if two walkers approaching from different directions met half way on this path? We were lucky not to run across anybody and soon we were past the most exposed fragments:
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Am Fasarinen from the west:
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Now, the remaining part of the route looked like plain sailing on a wide, grassy slope:
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Kevin - still standing between me and the pinnacles :lol: :lol: :lol:
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I was eager to finish the traverse:
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We quickly walked past another impressive gully:
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One more set of pinnacles - no worries, I'm not going to even try these :lol: :lol:
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looking down to Corie na Caime and the rocky shoulder of Meall Dearg:
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Another perspective to see Beinn Eighe:
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Back to Am Fasarinen:
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On the summit of the second Munro, Mullach an Rathain:
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Liathach conquered!!! The monster is not as scary as I thought!
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Views from the second Munro top are extensive, from Loch Torridon to the west all the way to Beinn Eighe, Fannichs, Fisherfields and even distant Ben Wyvis. But I was impressed by another set of pinnacles, these definitely requiring proper rock-climbing equipment and experience:
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The western end of the ridge:
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The Cuillin ridge:
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After our final break on the summit, we moved on to finally descend back to the road. The descent route is again, quite slow and painful. The upper part of the slope is very rocky:
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But lower down, one should logically follow the well-worn path:
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This path is very eroded and we slipped a few times on loose scree, can't imagine going up this way, it would be a nightmare. Things improve though, lower down along the little stream, Tuill Bhainn:
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And there are no big obstacles all the way to the bottom of the glen:
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The last stage was easy, 2 km flat walk along the road, back to the car park by Glen Cottage. I usually hate walking along roads, but luckily this particular one was very quiet and only a few cars passed us - most of them driving slowly. I wasn't too tired really, and the satisfaction from conquering another beast in my career was enormous :D :D :D
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One of the most exciting 8.5 hours in my life and even though I didn't exactly climb Am Fasarinen, still a huge achievement for somebody like me. Five years ago I almost died from fear on Stac Pollaidh :shock: Today I can face my fears. Life is too short to be afraid!!! :D :D :D Meow!
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby monarchming » Thu Jun 07, 2012 2:18 pm

Well done BP! :thumbup: I climbed Liathach a few years back and it's my favourite mountain although a few run it close.Great pics as well.The pinnacles for me is the only way to do it in my opinion so fair play to you for giving them a go.As you said some of the paths are even more exposed than the pinnacles! :lol: Glad you tamed "The Beast" :thumbup:
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby EwaMH » Thu Jun 07, 2012 2:32 pm

Unbelievable!! Well done on conquering it and on getting such good conditions!!
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby Stretch » Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:44 pm

I'm not jealous of this. Nope, not one bit jealous. Ok I'm liar.
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby ChrisW » Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:57 pm

wow- an absolute stunner BP, your best yet I think. You made me laugh getting told off on those pinnacles :lol: fantastic photos of a truly wonderful hike, well done on conquering your fear of heights over the last few years and continuing to chase your goal - great stuff :D
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby dogplodder » Thu Jun 07, 2012 5:15 pm

I was looking forward to this report and it didn't disappoint. It's brilliant! I appreciate your honesty and description of the route along with fantastic photos and I think you're very brave overcoming your previous fear of exposure. :clap: :thumbup:

I also note the references to descent on scree and think that sadly this one is probably not for me. :(
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby joonnifer » Thu Jun 07, 2012 5:44 pm

Full of admiration! Wonderful photos...tho I felt safer tied into my armchair looking at them :D I cant get over the cool, calm and collected way you look in all the pictures as tho you have just sauntered down to M&S for a wee bit of shopping :D
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby Bod » Thu Jun 07, 2012 7:20 pm

Lovely detailed report BP, can't help wondering though too about those pinnacles? :D :D :lol:
Still to visit this monster ourselves and can't wait. Hope we get a day like you did :clap:
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby L-Hiking » Thu Jun 07, 2012 7:37 pm

Wonderful stuff BP, a great report I was really engrossed reading it. :clap:

Still laughing at Kevin shouting at you :lol: :lol:

Well done fantastic effort
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby jimandandrea » Thu Jun 07, 2012 8:01 pm

Wow.... Wow and Wow! I will print this off and take it with me when we do it - cheers for showing us the route. :clap: :clap:
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby soapy27 » Thu Jun 07, 2012 8:41 pm

Amazin report and photos,The best I have seen on the mighty Liathach. Well done :clap:
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby BobMcBob » Thu Jun 07, 2012 8:52 pm

Great stuff. I'm going to Torridon tommorow and your photos have really whetted my appetite. I find these eroded sandstone tops to give the hardest and scariest scrambling I've done and those pinnacles look fearsome. I think you got posessed by the scrambling demon :D It happens to me too :D Thanks for the photos, you've confirmed my fears that this is one to do only on a very dry day :)
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby ScottishLeaf » Thu Jun 07, 2012 9:10 pm

Fantastic report, with great pictures. Defo filing this in the to do list now.
Looks awesome!
Well done :clap:
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby 147cjl » Thu Jun 07, 2012 9:23 pm

great report, what a mountain! You should have finished that pinnacle, don't think I'd appreciate being shouted at while in that position and being told to climb back down something like that - probably safer to have carried on :)
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Re: Liathach - The monster is loose!

Postby skuk007 » Thu Jun 07, 2012 10:22 pm

Great report BP and some really detailed photos there for others planning this one in the future.
Well done for getting this one under your belt, looks quite scary but a must-do at the same time. :clap:

Been said already but might have been easier to keep going on that pinnacle as you were close to the top. The picture of it from the west shows a clear path back to the bypass path, which looks horribly exposed. Fair play for even going along that one.
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