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Liathach, and the builder of Dortmund
by clivegrif » Sun Nov 20, 2011 6:51 pm
Route description: Liathach, Glen Torridon
Munros included on this walk: Mullach an Rathain (Liathach), Spidean a'Choire Leith (Liathach)
Date walked: 13/05/2009
Time taken: 6 hours
Distance: 13 km
Ascent: 1323m2 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Ah, Liathach. What a mountain.
This was the first visit to Torridon for my climbing chum Geordie, and the weather was exceptionally good. Although I had seen it many times before, that moment when Liathach first appears, rearing up and impossibly steep, still takes the breath away. Obligatory photo break at Loch Claire!
We camped at the free (!) site at the coastal end of the Glen – thank you National Trust for Scotland, I’m sure it helps prevent indiscriminate camping, but it is also a cracking facility.
After a relaxing day bimbling on Ben Alligin to recover from our exertions on Tower Ridge (more on that soon, dear reader) it was back to business on Liathach.
The last time I was here they were rebuilding the path alongside the Allt an Doire Ghairbh, and so I tried the Coire Dubh Mor path. That way is further and more ‘interesting’ particularly the exposed sandstone wall that has to be scaled, with its views all the way to the bottom of Coire Dubh Mor almost 2,000 feet below.
This time however, we picked up the new path at the small cairn a couple of hundred yards east of Glen Cottage. I have to say the team that rebuilt the path has done an excellent job, it forms a steep rocky staircase all the way to the top of the high coire, topping out at the level saddle between Stob a Choire Liath Mhor and Bidean Toll a Mhuic.
Turning west, the ridge narrows briefly with a gully falling away to the south. Onwards and upwards on the Quartzite blocks that cap Stob a Choire Liath Mhor. Down to a sharply defined col, and then up to Liathach’s main peak, the stony Spidean a Choire Leith. Catch your breath, have a strategic photography break, for the best is yet to come! Ahead are the teeth of the Am Fasarinen Pinnacles with the huge almost vertical cliff face on the north side, and the south side not exactly a gentle slope either.
Down a steep and stony path to the end of the Quartzite belt into Sandstone, and then the fun begins. The elements have eroded the sandstone top into weird shapes and keeping as close to the ridge crest as possible provides maximum excitement. Some pinnacles are flat topped, some more spiky. There is even an airy gang-plank to walk. Whilst none are particularly technical in climbing terms they all have spectacular drops to both sides, the right especially, and so do need great care.
The Pinnacles done, follow the rim of the coire upwards to a minor top, and in sight of the second Munro of the day Mullach an Rathain. We arrived at this point in time to see a very powerfully built chap smash the summit cairn with his boot! He then sat down next to the pile of rubble, and very carefully and precisely began to rebuild the cairn. By the time we arrived at the summit, he was well into his work. ‘Hello, what an amazing day?’ We ventured. ‘Hello, yes it is’ he replied in an accent that was clearly much from further east than Aberdeen. “Have you come far? asks Geordie. ‘From Dortmund, in Germany’. ‘Oh’. After a pregnant pause, the question just had to be asked ‘What are you doing to the cairn?’ ‘It wasn’t very good, so I’m making a new one’. ‘Oh’. Another pause. ‘Do you often do that?’ ‘Yes’, he replies ‘you see I am builder, and I like to see these things done properly. Every year I come to Scotland to climb the Munros, and every year I rebuild cairns. We have a TV programme about the Munros in Germany, and I have seen many of my cairns’.
He may have been talking complete nonsense for all we knew, but the thought of German precision cairn building in the Scottish mountains is quite appealing.
After taking his picture, we bid this bonkers German builder farewell. It is reassuring to know that other countries besides Britain have their eccentrics too.
The route down is the steep stone chute of Toll Ban. It gets you down very quickly, but doesn’t do your boots much good. About halfway down pick up a good path and wind on down the rest of the way to the road, emerging only a few hundred yards from the campsite.
Quick bite to eat, then down to the Sea shore with a couple of bottles to watch the sunset. Fabulous! What a place this is.
by Gavin99 » Sun Nov 20, 2011 6:59 pm
by Jock McJock » Sun Nov 20, 2011 7:20 pm
by bgmb42 » Sun Nov 20, 2011 8:45 pm
Great pictures, btw.
by clivegrif » Sun Nov 20, 2011 10:36 pm
We didn't mind if the guy was talking tosh, we thought he was a great advert for your country!
...and by the way, a daft superstition worked its way into my head years ago, and as a result I HAVE to put at least a small stone on every summit cairn I reach. No idea what will happen if I don't - but I'm not risking it!
by bgmb42 » Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:35 am
I'll touch every summit cairn - that's all. Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories.
But my walking mate Cord (215 and counting) is a "stone-on-cairn-putter" as well tough he doesn't rebuild them. So i am quite used to that ritual habit.
by paul2610 » Mon Nov 21, 2011 11:21 am
- Hill Bagger
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by Johnny Corbett » Mon Nov 21, 2011 11:56 am
by Alan S » Mon Nov 21, 2011 3:04 pm
Always enjoy a report on Liathach, Thanks