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Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined


Postby PeteR » Tue Jun 07, 2016 11:35 pm

Route description: Liathach, Glen Torridon

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

Date walked: 14/05/2016

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One from a few weeks back. First Munros of 2016, as I stumble on toward the Compleation line saw me tackle Liathach.

Liathach. What can I say about this hill? I can remember as a young kid (must have been aged 12 or 13 I guess) coming up to Scotland on one of my regular trips up with the Old Man. We’d be driving north along what I now know to be the A896 and seeing this huge mass of impregnable rock rearing up in front of us as the road took a direct route toward it. It wasn’t clear just how we’d get passed it, until the road took a sharp right immediately beneath its imposing cliffs and flanked its southern aspect. Little could I have imagined then, as a shy and reserved young thing that as a forty (coughs splutters) something year old :lol: I would have the cahonies to attempt to climb it, let alone traverse its pinnacle ridge.

Since becoming infected with the hillwalking virus I’d always wanted to save Liathach for a good day. It’s a long drive, but more than that, it’s a classic route and for me it was one to be savoured. I was a tad disappointed then at the showers greeting me as I drove north from the Achnasheen junction :( Thankfully they had passed by the time I parked up at the start of the route :D

ImageP1280150 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Let the fun begin :D

There were those Pinnacles too – despite the number of hills I may have climbed I’m thinking I'm still a bit of a fearty when it comes to scrambling. I don’t mind the climby up stuff, it’s the climby down bits that have me nervous. I really wasn’t sure what I would discover when I got to them, or if I’d be able to manage their traverse.

There were cars about already, and I expected more to come later. As I readied myself I was like a kid at Christmas, with all the expectation of what Santa had delivered. I was apprehensive too, as I wasn’t sure what those Pinnacles might deliver either.

ImageP1280154 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
And I'm off

But it was with great anticipation that I set off along the well-made path to tackle the route from east to west. After an initial (and very short) introduction on relatively easy climbing the mood soon shifted to a steep, steep climb. Lots of “stop-start” for me as I took every opportunity for a breather (sorry, photo opportunity :lol: ). The views south certainly opened up nicely as height was gained (slowly). Then there were Liathach’s imposing cliffs. Today she was benign in fair weather, but I could well imagine with a mist swirling, rain falling and wind blowing this would be a very different proposition.

ImageP1280158 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Nice early scramble

ImageP1280160 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Early view south

ImageP1280169 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280176 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280179 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

Higher up the grind was eased for a short period before the final climb up on to the ridge. This second section of climb gave a couple of opportunities for some scrambling practice. Would this help for tackling the Pinnacles I wondered?

ImageP1280183 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Another nice little scramble

ImageP1280184 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
The view back down

ImageP1280187 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Nice view to the first Munro of the day

Finally though I started to feel a bit of breeze on my face, which heralded my arrival on the ridge. Spidean a'Choire Leith certainly looked imposing from here, but I was headed on the short diversion to the minor summit of Stuc a’Choire Dhuibh Bhig, for the views of Beinn Eighe.

ImageP1280195 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Stunning view to the Munro summit

A straightforward walk up the initial steep looking nose and then a trot to the summit. Met some chaps heading down and off to do the main event. They did their level best to reassure me the Pinnacles were straightforward. “I’ll be the judge of that” I thought to myself :lol:

As for the view toward Beinn Eighe…………simply stunning 8)

ImageP1280199 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Beinn Eighe

I hung around for a short while enjoying some views before heading down and on to the first Munro of the day.

ImageP1280201 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280203 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280205 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280210 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280216 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280237 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

I found the initial section over Stob a’Choire Liath Mhor to be ok, but the final climb onto the Munro was a return to the grind. Slow progress for me, but soon enough I popped myself onto the summit, where there was a good bunch of walkers already there (most had passed me on that grind to the top). Sadly my arrival also coincided with the arrival of a band of clag :roll: But not before I had copped my first in-the-flesh sighting of those Pinnacles. Strangely I was more excited than nervous, given my natural apprehension with scrambling.

ImageP1280243 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
What a view....before the clag rolled in

ImageP1280253 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

I sat on the Munro summit for a short while, as the clag rolled in and out. Eventually I decided to head off and get my hands dirty on the Pinnacles. I’d read you shouldn’t go too far south or too far south south east on the initial descent……………….so I went too far south south east and got the wrong line completely :roll: :lol: Steep, loose scree and a pretty severe drop if it went wrong. As I mentioned earlier though, she was being benign today so traversing across to the correct line was easy enough. Once on the ridge it was then a clear path all the way to Mullach an Rathain.

ImageP1280256 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Bring it on....

ImageP1280260 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
My descent route

But first the Pinnacles. Strange how the two Munros are something of a side show on this walk. It was all about the Pinnacles for me. Despite being on my own the by-pass path was never an option (so long as the Pinnacles didn’t spit me out of course :lol: ). The next couple of photos are an unashamed selection of the approach to the best part of the day :D

ImageP1280265 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280266 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

My only issue was on the first of the Pinnacles. Getting up it was fine, but there was one drop off on the other side I just wasn’t comfortable with. It was about half way down. Too deep a drop to go down forwards and I wasn’t happy with the idea of facing the rock and trying to find footholds. One slip and……..ouch :shock: So common sense was deployed and I dropped down an easy gully to by-pass the final part of the pinnacle. In hind sight I should have climbed up from the down-side. That would have given me the confidence to see that one section from a different perspective.

ImageP1280268 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Looking back at the descent off the first Pinnacle

Not a great start, which left me feeling a bit disappointed as well as slightly concerned for the rest of the traverse. I needn’t have worried though. While a traverse of the Pinnacles is clearly committing, and I wouldn’t want to suggest they are a walk in the park for fear of a coach load of tourists in their Sunday best attempting them :lol:, beyond my initial disappointment I would say they were straightforward. The path, in good weather, is easy to follow. In terms of exposure (beyond Pinnacle #1) the only exposure, if you could call it that, was a wonderful little section on the climb up An Farsarinen. Loved it. It was a great day to be alive…….and I certainly felt alive. With every step along the ridge my apprehension fell away. It was a slow traverse though, as I was passed constantly by people seemingly in a hurry – it was as though they were just nipping to the shops to get a loaf and pint of milk, the speed some of them were whizzing by. Me? I was savouring every step, every hand hold, every view. I would stand atop each Pinnacle and just soak it all in. This was Cadbury’s Caramel hill walking. You just have to relax and take eeeeeaaaasy.

Here's a few shots of that adventure :D

ImageP1280274 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280276 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280280 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280281 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280294 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280298 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280303 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Possibly the only element of exposure I might have felt at this stage. Just the little section making my way round the rocks before the start of the climb up Am Fasarinen. Didn't think it was that bad really

ImageP1280305 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
The view back down

ImageP1280319 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280320 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Scrambling almost over

ImageP1280324 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Am Fasarinen and the second Munro

I would add a health warning to my report though. The weather was benign, the mountain welcoming, with dry grippy rock. I can imagine in less favourable conditions a traverse of the Pinnacles would be a very different proposition.

Having waxed lyrical, I do have to admit that come the end of the scrambling I was thinking that it was just about long enough for me at the time. It was just the right length. Not too short it was done in a flash and not too long it was going to stress me out.

The climb up to the second Munro, Mullach an Rathain is just a straightforward slog to the top. Quite a nice contrast to the scrambling that had just taken place. As I got higher there were some nice views of the hills northern cliffs and the northern Pinnacles started to show themselves quite nicely too.

ImageP1280337 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Easy walking to #2

ImageP1280346 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280347 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
Panoramic view back to the Pinnacles and beyond

ImageP1280356 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

My slow climb to the top coincided with the arrival of full sun. Quite warm as it happened. Sort of sunburn warm. At the summit the chaps I had met earlier on Stuc a’Choire Dhuibh Bhig were enjoying the views ahead of heading down. Oh, and what views they were. Loch Torridon looked super, as did the Torridon classics of Beinn Alligin, Beinn Dearg, Baosbheinn, Beinn an Eoin (I can still feel the climb up that one from the Poca Buidhe bothy), Beinn a’Chearcaill and Beinn Eighe.

ImageP1280362 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280363 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280368 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280373 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280383 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280387 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280390 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280391 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280393 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

Sitting on the south side of the summit and I was bathed in warmth, but as soon as I popped my head over the summit to take in the northern views I was greeted by an icy, arctic blast. Turned fingers to ice in seconds, so I didn't keep my upper torso above the summit parapet for long :lol:

Eventually though it was time to head down……..the dreaded scree mess that is Toll Ban :shock: Initially, after the easy drop down the ridge, I picked the wrong line down and ended up on some very lose, dusty, scree and dirt.

ImageP1280400 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280403 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280414 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

ImageP1280441 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

I did manage to source a path which got me down to the main path safely enough. From here it was a straightforward trot back to the main road and then the walk back to the car. Sore feet sure enough, but who cared? I didn’t. I had just had the hill walking experience of a lifetime :D

ImageP1280446 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr
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PeteR
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby Borderhugh » Wed Jun 08, 2016 12:48 am

Great report Pete. Nicely detailed. This will definitely be a test of my metal. i hope to get over it with flying colours. I will take my time and enjoy it!
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby PeteR » Wed Jun 08, 2016 12:33 pm

Borderhugh wrote:Great report Pete. Nicely detailed. This will definitely be a test of my metal. i hope to get over it with flying colours. I will take my time and enjoy it!


Hugh, I was definitely nervous as I set off on this one. It's a steep slog up and a steep slog down, but the bit in the middle is superb. I think you'll find it is a lot more straightforward than you might expect. Enjoy when you get there :D
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby The Rodmiester » Wed Jun 08, 2016 2:08 pm

Enjoyed that Pete, some fine photographs as well, nearly there now, this year I guess.
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby PeteR » Wed Jun 08, 2016 5:33 pm

The Rodmiester wrote:Enjoyed that Pete, some fine photographs as well, nearly there now, this year I guess.


Thanks Rod. Hopefully this year........but the last 50 or so have taken me a disproportionately long time to tick off over the last couple of years or so. 4 of my final 5 aren't straightforward to get to either :roll:
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby simon-b » Wed Jun 08, 2016 8:01 pm

Two great Munros and one impressive mountain.
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby Fife Flyer » Wed Jun 08, 2016 8:05 pm

Fantastic report Pete :clap: :clap:
Well done for persevering with the pinnacles, it is not a walk I would contemplate on my own - even though I have been up there and like you enjoyed every second.
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby Gordie12 » Wed Jun 08, 2016 8:26 pm

That just looked so good - brilliant :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby PeteR » Thu Jun 09, 2016 12:39 pm

simon-b wrote:Two great Munros and one impressive mountain.


Thanks simon-b. I took my time getting there (been on the to-do list for a good 3 or 4 years :lol: :roll: ), but it was well worth it in the end. One for the "repeat" list for sure
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby PeteR » Thu Jun 09, 2016 12:41 pm

Fife Flyer wrote:Fantastic report Pete :clap: :clap:
Well done for persevering with the pinnacles, it is not a walk I would contemplate on my own - even though I have been up there and like you enjoyed every second.


I was apprehensive when I set off Martin, and I certainly wouldn't advise a bus load of tourists or anyone of a nervous disposition to head off up there to do it necessarily, but I was surprised how straightforward it was - well all bar one step down I wasn't keen on.
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby PeteR » Thu Jun 09, 2016 12:42 pm

Gordie12 wrote:That just looked so good - brilliant :clap: :clap: :clap:


Thanks Gordie12. It was :D :D :D
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby Sick Kid » Thu Jun 09, 2016 1:05 pm

Been looking forward to this one Pete! Glad to see you enjoyed it so much, it's a great day out and one to go back to over and over again :D
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby Alteknacker » Thu Jun 09, 2016 8:52 pm

Excellent report, and phenomenal set of pics. There are so many terrific pics - panos, scrambling porn... just great. Really, I think this is the report on Liathach that I've read. :clap: :clap: :clap: (mind you, the mountain itself helps a bit, right..???)

I absolutely agree that the pinnacles are a bit over-hyped if you're OK with exposure; but some folks aren't, and it's not something that seems to respond to rational analysis.
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby ancancha » Thu Jun 09, 2016 9:54 pm

Completely magestic in every way Pete :clap:
Photos are stunning and the report of your adventure well written and captivating :clap:
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Re: Liathach.........not as hairy scary as I'd imagined

Postby Alteknacker » Thu Jun 09, 2016 10:55 pm

Alteknacker wrote:Excellent report, and phenomenal set of pics. There are so many terrific pics - panos, scrambling porn... just great. Really, I think this is the report on Liathach that I've read. :clap: :clap: :clap: (mind you, the mountain itself helps a bit, right..???)

I absolutely agree that the pinnacles are a bit over-hyped if you're OK with exposure; but some folks aren't, and it's not something that seems to respond to rational analysis.


Insert "best" at the obvious place... :oops:
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