Beginner on a wet day via bypass route

Route: Liathach, Glen Torridon

Munros: Mullach an Rathain (Liathach), Spidean a'Choire Leith (Liathach)

Date walked: 11/07/2020

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 11.5km

Ascent: 1350m

All of Liathach at the beginning. How can you say no to that sun!?

I am a generally athletic person with lots of experience hiking and climbing around the world, but relatively new to Scottish hillwalking. I started this hike with sore legs and good waterproof gear, a bit of trepidation, but a dedicated cheering section that made this an absolutely lovely walk.

We hemmed and hawed about doing this ridge or another in the area, eventually decided to go for it as a wee break in the clouds promised some epic views from the top, and after all, humans are waterproof. Despite my extremely sore legs from Aonach Eagach two days earlier, we started up the staircase to Dhubh Bhig.

THE ASCENT: This is a gorgeous and extremely well-made path throughout. The way up is steep but just fine for me and my baby steps (sore legs and a dodgy hip). The way has some small scrambly sections but nothing too difficult if you take your time to find the correct route. At times it looks like multiple options are available but there was definitely one "right" way throughout and I got myself into a bit of a pickle part way up. I managed to get out fine but would have preferred the much easier correct route! We made it up from the carpark and into the clouds on the saddle in about 2 hours.

Stuc a' Choire Dhubh Bhig: At the saddle make sure to go right before turning towards Liath Mhor. It's a short detour and we found respite from the wind on the south side of the ridge. However, the wind was howling and rain started falling upwards, so despite the grippy boulders we planned to bail back the way we came.

Luckily, we ran into a group of hikers who had done the ridge before. They said these conditions would be completely fine (they were going over the top of The Pinnacles while we planned the bypass route) so we plowed ahead with the idea that we would happily turn back if we felt unsafe.

Stob a'Choire Liath Mhor: The route over these two peaks is slow-going over large boulders but didn't prove overly challenging with careful footing, even in the wet. The rocks were somehow actually rather dry considering how drenched we had gotten. We were completely in cloud cover so we never got a view of the ridge, and at any point could only see about 50m ahead. We actually completely passed over the first peak without realising, and so upon stopping at the second and taking a look at the map we were a bit discouraged with our seemingly slow progress. At this point we again considered turning back but figured we'd plow on until it felt unsafe.

It's worth noting that a couple points here we purposely spaced out so we weren't climbing down steep descents immediately after one another, as at one point we dislodged a large rock that tumbled onto the (thankfully empty) path below. The large group we passed at six hikers -- I would definitely expect a group that large to be careful about their spacing, though we didn't see them on this section (but shared a few howls across the ridge :lol: ).

THE BYPASS ROUTE: Once out of the boulders the bypass route is extremely clear, you cannot miss it. Again, we were unsure given what we'd read but decided to continue on until we felt unsafe. We took a look at the Pinnacles and while they looked definitely doable and even very fun in dry conditions, I exercised a hard veto on any attempt in the rain. Between my sore legs and the wet, it just wasn't worth the risk to us (especially with no views).

Worth noting, it looks like you can do some of the pinnacles and catch the bypass route at about 3 places throughout. Without having done the scramble I can't say how difficult it is, but you could try the first one and potentially use the bypass if it felt too sketchy. Again, I would personally never attempt the scramble in wet conditions and I am totally comfortable with my limits!

The bypass is a clear, well-made but narrow path throughout, and the abrupt drop on the left is no joke. The fog made it a little worse for me because without a distinct view I felt a bit dizzy with my imagination. When the description says "great care must be taken as any slip would be fatal" it is TRUE. I will say though, great care is easy to take as the route is a fine path and about 1/3m wide. We stopped conversation so I could concentrate, and I took teeny tiny baby steps on the few slick rock sections, with fistfuls of moss and heather above. I found that most of the rocks at hand-height at this point are NOT SECURE so do NOT try to use these to steady yourself! There was one dodgy foot step that had me nervous near the end, but my partner with long legs went across and held onto a rock to take my hand as I went. I am confident I could have done it without him, but with much more hesitation and fear!

If it had been a dry day the bypass route would have felt much safer, but we definitely would have taken just as much time and care doing it. As the route was sheltered from wind on the south side of the ridge, it wasn't too bad.

Mullach an Rathain & THE DESCENT: This is presumably a beautiful viewpoint on clear days, though we sped through here to avoid much windburn! The ridge is a stunning shape and the path is very well made and easy to follow.

We followed cairn-to-cairn along the ridge, passing a very large cairn as the path snakes off to the left down the infamous scree field. We were able to follow two more cairns before following a path to the left, though it looks like the right is doable. I recommend coming down the scree on the left side of the shoulder, as it looks more well trodden.

Again, we took care with spacing here and had a couple "rock" calls both from one another and from groups above us. Our hearts raced for a moment as we heard a loud "rock" call from above us in the fog and the loud clash of a sizeable boulder tumbling for a few seconds before stopping. Take great care coming down this scree field as it's easy to trip, slip, or dislodge boulders. At this point my ankles were very grateful for my stiff high-topped hiking boots!

As soon as you hit the grass the path becomes much easier, basically a staircase all the way down. It's such a well made path, I'd actually love to know where to donate as they're doing something so so right! It follows a phenomenal burn on the left, and when we got below cloud level the view of Torridon and the glen below were absolutely stunning. I can't wait to come back on a warm day and hang out in the natural pools the burn forms after a long day!

The descent took us about 2.5 hours as my knees hurt quite a lot and we paused for a snack by a lovely pool and waterfall. The walk back to the car was about 25 minutes.

A water bottle rescue on the way up. Look at that valley!

Getting up the slope

We got about a total of 45 seconds of view the whole hike. But looking down from the saddle, what a 45 seconds those were!

The final ascent to Dhubh Bhig. What a view ;)

Coming down the boulder field

The end of the boulders of Stob a'Choire Liath Mhor

One of the sketchier (and clearer) sections of the bypass

On the scree it was too wet and wild to take any photos. But just imagine a big scree field that is unenjoyable for about 300m.

The burn on the descent, perfect snack spot!

Playing around under the clouds with Torridon in the backdrop

Bonus: what a beautiful stag at the end!

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Comments: 1

beginner on a dry day -- doable but difficult!

Attachment(s) Munros: Meall Dearg (Aonach Eagach), Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (Aonach Eagach)
Date walked: 09/07/2020
Distance: 9.5km
Ascent: 1100m
Views: 152


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Activity: Walker
Pub: Ben Nevis
Mountain: Ben Vorlich
Place: Peanmenach bothy
Gear: My big ol backpack, Greg!
Member: Mountain bothy association, Sierra club, Appalachian mountain club

Munros: 8
Corbetts: 3
Islands: 5

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Trips: 2
Distance: 21 km
Ascent: 2450m
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Joined: Aug 23, 2019
Last visited: Jul 13, 2020
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