Liathach – [# 228 & 229]

Spidean a’ Choire Leith (1055m); Mullach an Rathain (1023m)

  • Pronunciation:             Lee-aghuch; Speedyan a Horrer Lay; Mooluch un Rahen
  • Translation:                  the Grey One; Peak of the Grey Corrie; Height of the Pulleys
  • Total distance:             11.5km
  • Total time:                    5hrs 52mins
  • Total ascent:                 1420m
  • Weather:                       A grey and misty morning improved to a bright and warm afternoon.
  • Start / end location:    Lay-by on A896 in Glen Torridon, half kilometre east of “Glen Cottage” [OS Map Sheet 25 – Grid Ref: NG 936 566]
  • Map:                               A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

Looking towards Stuc a' Choire Dhuibh Bhig at the eastern end of Liathach

On the path to Spidean a' Choire Leith - looking west along Glen Torridon

At about 14:00 yesterday afternoon the weather really began to deteriorate with rain showers turning heavy and persistent. This weather lasted all night and it was still raining when our alarm went off at 06:00 this morning. As the forecast suggested that this weather front would clear by around mid-morning we rolled over and had another couple of hours sleep.

We eventually ventured onto the hill at about 10:00 as the weather was showing signs of improving.

Looking north from Liathach's main ridge to Sail Mhor on Beinn Eighe (R), Beinn an Eoin (C) & Beinn Dearg (L)

We parked at the road side by the Allt an Doire Ghaibh burn and took the path northward up the burn’s right hand bank. Almost immediately from the road side the path was steep, but very well constructed. The gradient wasn’t too much of a surprise as we had to climb 800m vertically in a distance of just a little over a kilometre horizontally. The gradient of the path eased as it doglegged left into Toll a’ Meitheach. It was about this height that we began to climb into the low cloud base, where all of our views were eaten-up by the swirling mist.

Looking east from Spidean a' Choire Leith to Stob a' Choire Liath Mhor (R) and Beinn Eighe (background L)

Elaine at the summit of Spidean a' Choire Leith on Liathach

We ascended through the Toll a’ Meitheach quite easily until, a little higher up, we entered Coire Liath Mhor where the path once again steepened. Towards the back end of the corrie a deep gully and precipitous cliffs on either side blocked the way. At this point the path took a sharp ninety-degree turn to the right to avoid this barrier as it climbed the last 160m to reach a col in Liathach’s main ridge at 833m.

Once we reached the col we noticed the cloud and mist was much more prevalent on the side of the mountain that we’d climbed compared to its northern facing aspect. We therefore managed to get some good views north towards Sail Mhor and Coinneach Mhor on Beinn Eighe as well as Beinn Dearg and Beinn an Eoin to the NNW. At the col we turned left (west) and climbed the ridge, which was quite narrow at first before broadening out, to reach the summit of Stob a’ Choire Liath Mhor (960m). After a short drop from the other side we climbed again to reach the top of another little minor peak at 983m.

The mist sweeps over The Pinnacles on Liathach's main ridge with Mullach an Rathain shrouded in the background

A rather steeper descent from this peak brought us to a small col and the start of a slightly longer but straightforward climb up the ridge to the summit of our first Munro, Spidean a’ Choire Leith, at 1055m or 3,461ft. Just beyond the summit cairn we stopped for a snack to try to catch a glimpse of Liathach’s famous Am Fasarinen Pinnacles through the mist. As with the views earlier, here too the mist was generally clinging to the south side of the ridge and so we were able to see the castellated ridge and pinnacles lying in front of us to the west – and they looked every bit as awesome as they’ve done in the countless pictures we’ve seen of them.

A closer view of The Pinnacles on Liathach's main ridge

The descent from Spidean a’ Choire Leith was down a steep path of scree and large boulders to a small col at the start of The Pinnacles. (The path down was slightly to the north of the natural line from the summit to the col.) Once at the col there were two thin paths leading onwards: the one on the left passed the “worst” of The Pinnacles difficulties by avoiding the castellated crest line, whereas the other one climbs uphill to present a head-on assault of all the challenges on offer. We chose the latter!

Cameron at the east end of the Am Fasarinen - The Pinnacles - on Liathach

Elaine looking west to The Pinnacles on Liathach's main ridge

Elaine on Liathach's main ridge with Spidean a' Choire Leith in the background

Cameron climbing one of the western peaks on Liathach's main ridge

The scrambling on the various pinnacles was actually reasonably straightforward with only a few of the “problems” being quite exposed. The sandstone rock of The Pinnacles offered great friction for our boots and plenty of holds for our hands, although the holds quite often sloped downwards making them a little less positive for gripping. Over the next 800m, or so, we undulated over every crag on the ridge and enjoyed every moment. The scrambling was fun and the exposure exhilarating. All too soon the technical challenges came to an end as we descended from the final pinnacle before a longer ascent up the ridgeline took us to a minor peak at 973m. A short drop and then another climb brought us to our penultimate peak at 991m.

Finally, a very shallow descent and last little short section of ascent brought us out at the summit of our second Munro, Mullach an Rathain, at 1023m or 3,356ft. We sat that this summit for a short while before descending south into the corrie of Toll Ban. The path down this side was very steep and quite sandy, which made it incredibly slippy. Luckily, the walking poles helped to keep us upright and the steepness meant that we quickly descended Toll Ban and joined the walkers’ path that followed the west side of the Allt an Tuill Bhain burn. The path didn’t follow the course of the burn all the way to the roadside below, but struck off SSW around the 300m contour to weave its way cleverly through a series of craggy obstacles. When we arrived at the roadside we were a couple of kilometres west of our starting point so a bit more walking along the road was required to reach our car.

It had been an excellent day, with the traverse of Liathach having been every bit as thrilling and exhilarating as its reputation suggested.

Cameron at the summit of Mullach an Rathain on Liathach

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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