The Mountain's Silhouette

Hiking and backpacking in the mountains of Scotland

Liathach

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I don’t think it is too often that a weather dependent plan works out on the west coast of Scotland but luckily for us today it did. A forecasted shift in the wind from south west (laden with moisture) to north-east (dry and cold) occured sometime in the wee small hours. By Friday morning the skies were clear, Beinn Damh could be seen from the window (complete with summit) and the air felt fresh and full of optimisim.

Just before 9:30am we rolled up at the Beinn Eighe car park and within a couple of minutes were heading up on the good track that had brought us around from Coire Mhic Feacher a few days before. The views already were stunning, a high wind wrapping a blanket of cloud tightly around Liathach but with the sun shining down on all sides.

Liathach from the east

After an easy walk up to a point below the scree slopes of Beinn Eighe we turned aside and made our way up easy sandstone slabs to the foot of Stuc a Choire Dhuibh Bhig were we picked up a narrow path, half hidden by heather that wound its way steadily up the mountain, threading a route between the terraces of rock that make Liathach look almost impreganble from the road.

Not far below the ridgeline we reached a wide balcony with views both up Glen Torridon and away west down the Loch strewn Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil towards Beinn Alligin. From here it was a brief, enjoyable scramble through some fine sandstone to reach the ridge.

The ridge of Liathach

The strong wind had already blown the cloud from the eastern end of Liathach so we continued to enjoy the sunshine. Up ahead however the summit of Spidean a Choire Leith, the first Munro and still a couple of kilometres away, was shrouded in mist.

With the first bit of scrambling done it was now a fairly easy walk along the ridge, occassionally passing through boulder fields, to bring us to the eastern summit. Along the way we enjoyed fantastic views all around, to the Coulin forest south, and north towards Fisherfield.

As we climbed the final few meters we were plunged back into the cloud and upon reaching the broad summit found a tyipical Torridon mountain view.

Pausing for a bite to eat was a good move though as the fresh easterly wind started to blow the cloud through and before long we had views both north and south and back east along the ridge we had come.

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Then, in a true moment of drama, the cloud to the west was torn away and we finally got our first view of the Pinnacles which make the Liathach traverse so famous.

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I’d of course made the mistake of reading a few too many accounts of the pinnacles and so was more than a little nervous as we descended towards them. As we approached our guide advised that if we had any tripping to do we should get it out of our system in the next 100 yards. This was particularly important as the wind had picked up and though this had been good for dispersing the cloud, it was not so good for maintaining balance on narrow ridges.

With some trepidation we boldly ignored the avoiding path to the south of the pinnacles and made our way up to the first scramble. From now on the camera was more often tucked safely away in the bag but it is safe to say there were some spectacular views from these rocks which very often gave exposed views to one side but a more sheltered feel to the other.

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It was very enjoyable scrambling that brought us forty five minutes or so later off the last pinnacle. I felt that they had been exaggerated. It certainly was nothing like the Cuillin. Whilst airy there was consistently a feeling of some security. Perhaps this was simply the effect of having a good guide who had gone to the trouble of carrying a length of rope in case anyone in the group felt unhappy. It wasn’t necessary.

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As we approached Am Fasarinen the exposure reduced and now we could enjoy the views along to the second Munro summit of Mullach an Rathain. The bright waters of Upper Loch Torridon could be seen on the left and to our right the Beinn Alligin massif dominated the skyline.

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The final walk along the ridge was much less exciting after the pinnacles but by no means dull. The final pull brought us up onto the rocky summit where we could pause to take in the views that now opened up all around us.

The Pinnacles

Away to the southeast the Cuillin of Skye, jagged and enticing could be seen whilst away to the north the mountains of Fisherfield stood tall amidst the wilderness. Slioch and Loch Maree were visible and to the south we could see into Applecross. It was fabulous in the late afternoon sunshine.

Upper Loch Torridon in B&W

After twenty or so minutes on the top we ended our traverse by leaving the summit and heading down a steep rocky path that eventually brought us down alongside the Allt an Tuill Bhain.

The descent was fairly rapidly and we soon emerged on the roadside where a group of National Trust for Scotland were just heading away from a day working on path construction.

A quick walk along the road took us back into Torridon whilst our guide retrieved the minibus from the Beinn Eighe car park.

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