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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)


Postby scottishkennyg » Thu Jan 01, 2015 10:45 pm

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

Date walked: 29/12/2014

Time taken: 9 hours

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I had been on holiday for a week and had a mild cabin fever from the DIY works and the Christmas sofa routine. The forecast was good for Monday so it was off for a winter traverse over Liathach.

I parked at roadside and set off up to the snow line which was just above the waterfall.
Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
Upwards above the waterfall
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h19m35s101 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

My previous visit over these hills took 5 hours so I reckoned setting off just after 9am I would have plenty of time to traverse the ridge before darkness. Best laid plans and all that.

Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Back across road
Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
The walk up from the snow level was taxing as the snow was soft and I was clearly not 100% fit. All around the snow was falling off the rocks and tumbling downwards.
Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

I decided to veer away from the obvious narrow gulley at top of Coire Liath Mhor (later confirmed as a graded winter climb) and headed east on a diagonal line roughly tracing the previous ascent route.
Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

The slope was steep and there did not seem to be any obvious ledges to arrest a fall so I stopped to don the crampons and ice axe as a precaution.
Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
A couple passed here and I would see them a few times over the ridge.
Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h21m46s125 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

At the ridge line there was a smooth formation of soft snow creating a sharp angular edge.
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h22m46s215 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

The views were excellent but the clouds were ominously gathering along with the wind.
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h23m04s120 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Alas the conditions deteriorated after the first top and did not ease, so much for the forecast of good visibility.
Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

I continued along the ridge and made the steep pull up to the first cairn where the couple were sheltering on the lee side. Visibility was not great and nor was the time as it had taken a good 2.5 hours to this point.
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h26m57s166 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

I set off down the slope and followed the snow lined ridge.
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h28m42s187 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Another steep pull and then the summit cairn was reached. There was evidence of some previous visitors with the dodgy coloured snow. I took some shelter and had a nice cold lunch.
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h33m17s105 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

I descended into the powdery clouds and immediately felt disorientated as the main ridge appeared to be heading SE and I was descending westwards. I checked the map and compass again and then continued to donate height. I reached the narrow gulley and confirmed that the pinnacles were next.
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h37m44s228 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

I carefully picked a route over the narrow pinnacles and wherever possible tried to follow any obvious tracks.
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h41m51s147 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h42m04s17 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

At one point I met some other climbers travelling in the opposite direction and had a quick chat before pressing on.
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h48m00s249 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr
There were lots of times when the exposure was airy and amplified by the sheer drops and lack of visibility. The toughest sections were the down climbs and I took extra care to negotiate these.
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h53m02s186 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h42m51s221 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h43m05s93 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

On at least five occasions over the day the crampons came loose but thankfully caused no major concerns. I figured this was due to the more rigid soles of the Mammut boots as opposed to the Scarpa sole units. Note to self to source new ones more suited to the Mammut boots or get new Scarpa boots.

I continued to traverse the narrow ledges
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h52m05s123 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h53m21s123 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

and eventually reached the relative safety of the end of the pinnacles.
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h49m49s63 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

It was time to up the pace as it was near three o clock and darkness was looming and I still had a fair bit to go to reach the Munro summit and ultimate descent route. I did not relish a virginal descent in the dark down the steep gully into Toll Ban.
The wind increased and the cold spindrift was irrigating any exposed skin. A subtle diagonal line led to the final top before a sharp descent and final climb led to the Munro summit (MaR) at 1550.
Imagevlcsnap-2014-12-31-21h55m49s68 by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

No time to hang around, just a quick bearing to navigate into the gulley then off. Again the mountain rescue helicopter sounded nearby and I got more paranoid thinking they were looking for me. I continued down over the softening snow which covered the stone gulley as darkness ominously descended.
I reached the head of the Allt Tuill Bhain as the lights went out and the night blanket covered the sky. I got the head torch out and switched it on for the first time in earnest. I was glad I had opted for a quality one (LED Lenser) as it provided a cracking level of illuminance. Still would much rather not to have to use it on the hills.

Image. by scottishkennyg, on Flickr

Again the helicopter passed beneath me and I hoped that they were not looking for me. I followed the waterline and veered away from any ledges before I reached the road side just about 530. I now had a good signal on the mobile so it was an immediate call to confirm that all was well.

I walked along the single track road and later a motorist stopped and kindly gave me a lift for the last half mile. It turned out he was a member of the local MRT who were responding to two call outs. One was for an avalanche on the North Side of Liathach and the other was a fall. I thanked him for the lift wished him well with the call outs and prayed that no one was seriously injured.

On reflection, I had taken a lot more time than I estimated for the walk and put that down to the soft snow, extra care at the exposed sections, poor visibility and too many Christmas pies.

The next day I was able to find a price match deal with gooutdoors and cotswaldoutdoors for the Grivel G12 crampons which I got for 103.50 which are a better fit for the Mammut boot sole.

I put together a wee video of some sections including the pinnacles to help illustrate the walk.



Thanks for reading and best wishes for 2015.
Last edited by scottishkennyg on Tue Jan 06, 2015 8:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby weaselmaster » Fri Jan 02, 2015 12:40 am

That looks great, Kenny, although the pinnacles with a snow coat on look a bit more challenging than in bare rock :shock: - Really whetted the appetite - hope to be up there with Martin Moran next month for some winter mountain climbs.
Happy New Year & best wishes for your mountain time in 2015
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby scoob999 » Fri Jan 02, 2015 1:05 am

Nice one :D

We're hoping to get a ridge done with a white coat on this winter :D

All the best for 2015
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby wilkiemurray » Fri Jan 02, 2015 9:05 am

Fantastic - still got this one to do in winter conditions - looked awesome

enjoyed the video :D :clap:

ATB

Murray
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby Beaner001 » Fri Jan 02, 2015 11:24 am

Fantastic Kenny, I really lot forward to doing this, I will do it in summer first I think :lol:
Great report and thanks for sharing
Cheers
Matthew
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby Bruno » Fri Jan 02, 2015 12:45 pm

Lovely report, Kenny - some inspirational pics and a great video.
:clap: :clap:
Love the bit about too many Christmas pies.....!!!
Cheers
Iain
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby rockhopper » Fri Jan 02, 2015 1:57 pm

Lovely start, Kenny, but more than a bit challenging for the latter part ! Interesting point about the crampons coming loose - must have been a bit worrying. I still use an old set of crampons each with two buckled straps and sharpen the points occasionally - probably heavier than modern versions but the straps keep them secure (touch wood) - cheers :)
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby gaffr » Fri Jan 02, 2015 2:58 pm

I hope you don't mind me saying that the 'flapping about lanyard' on your ice axe has a potential for tripping you up or pulling the axe out of your hand maybe when a crampon makes contact.
You seem to have sorted out the problem crampons. :D Just, I wonder, how much valuable time, with maybe gloves removed? resulting in cold hands?, was expended with five 'crampon re-dos' during the traverse. With the short days time is of great importance. All should be much more organised next time out.
Of course you have the right to tell me to get lost. :)
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby scottishkennyg » Fri Jan 02, 2015 3:52 pm

weaselmaster wrote:That looks great, Kenny, although the pinnacles with a snow coat on look a bit more challenging than in bare rock :shock: - Really whetted the appetite - hope to be up there with Martin Moran next month for some winter mountain climbs.
Happy New Year & best wishes for your mountain time in 2015


Cheers Al, hope the conditions prevail for your visit.
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby scottishkennyg » Fri Jan 02, 2015 3:53 pm

scoob999 wrote:Nice one :D

We're hoping to get a ridge done with a white coat on this winter :D

All the best for 2015


Cheers Stuart..ATB to you and Fi for 2015..
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby scottishkennyg » Fri Jan 02, 2015 3:54 pm

wilkiemurray wrote:Fantastic - still got this one to do in winter conditions - looked awesome

enjoyed the video :D :clap:

ATB

Murray


Cheers Murray..long way to get anywhere near the quality of your reports..
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby scottishkennyg » Fri Jan 02, 2015 3:55 pm

Beaner001 wrote:Fantastic Kenny, I really lot forward to doing this, I will do it in summer first I think :lol:
Great report and thanks for sharing
Cheers
Matthew


thanks Matthew..ATB
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby scottishkennyg » Fri Jan 02, 2015 3:56 pm

Bruno wrote:Lovely report, Kenny - some inspirational pics and a great video.
:clap: :clap:
Love the bit about too many Christmas pies.....!!!
Cheers
Iain


Cheers Iain, ATB for 2015 and the pies were great too..
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby scottishkennyg » Fri Jan 02, 2015 4:02 pm

rockhopper wrote:Lovely start, Kenny, but more than a bit challenging for the latter part ! Interesting point about the crampons coming loose - must have been a bit worrying. I still use an old set of crampons each with two buckled straps and sharpen the points occasionally - probably heavier than modern versions but the straps keep them secure (touch wood) - cheers :)


Aye same as me Neil, I have old ones too and they have always been A1 with all previous boots especially the Scarpas. I think this was the first time I had tried them in earnest with the Mammut boots which clearly had a firmer and shorter sole. Bit the bullet and bought the G12's now, will still keep the old ones though for the Scarpas..lol.
Cheers and ATB for 2015 Kenny
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Re: Winter Ridgewalk on Liathach (images and short video)

Postby scottishkennyg » Fri Jan 02, 2015 4:12 pm

gaffr wrote:I hope you don't mind me saying that the 'flapping about lanyard' on your ice axe has a potential for tripping you up or pulling the axe out of your hand maybe when a crampon makes contact.
You seem to have sorted out the problem crampons. :D Just, I wonder, how much valuable time, with maybe gloves removed? resulting in cold hands?, was expended with five 'crampon re-dos' during the traverse. With the short days time is of great importance. All should be much more organised next time out.
Of course you have the right to tell me to get lost. :)


Thanks gaffr appreciate the spot on feedback. Ironically the lanyard disappeared later on and to be honest I only put it on as a trial. Spot on with the lost time factor too, along with the hassle of stopping to get re attached and utter a few choice expletives.. :)
Cheers and ATB 2015
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