Find your thrill among giants and airy ledges of Liathach a kilometre above the road, says Craig Weldon.

You may have ‘ooh’ed and ‘aah’ed as you travelled up the north-west of Scotland for the first time, the long ridges of Affric and Kintail impressive enough. But then the road rounds Loch Torridon from Shieldaig, and you can’t help but stop the car to get out and gawp. Torridon possesses star quality. And in this landscape of individual giants, Liathach stands out as the most exciting and intimidating of them all.

Its massive wall above Glen Torridon shows few weaknesses, and the traverse between its two Munros over the Am Fasarinen pinnacles is famed – and feared – in hillwalking circles. But closer inspection reveals a route to thrill rather than terrify the experienced scrambler. Who knows? This may just whet your appetite for Liathach’s other routes – Stùc a’ Choire Duibh Beag’s east ridge, the north-west ridge of Spidean a’ Choire Lèith, and most difficult of all, the Northern Pinnacles of Mullach an Rathain via Meall Dearg, the most difficult Munro top on the mainland.

Liathach: it doesn’t do easy.

Liathach, Torridon: route description

START/FINISH: Coire Mhic Nobuilcar park; NG869576/Liathach east car park;NG936566 | MAPS: OS Explorer433(1:25k), OS Landranger19, 24, 25(1:50k), HarveyUltramap Torridon (1:40k), Harvey Superwalker Torridon (1:25k) | DISTANCE: 16km /10miles | ASCENT: 1,370m /4,500ft | DURATION: 8 hours

1. NG869576/NG936566: From the car park, cross the road bridge with views of a waterfall and take the path up the left bank (east side) of the Abhainn Mhic Nòbuil.

2. NG882589: After 1.5km, just before the footbridge over the Abhainn Mhic Nòbuil, pick your way up rough and steepening slopes. Around 300m altitude, the easiest line of ascent is to get established in a grassy rake heading for the skyline.

3. NG885579: On reaching the skyline around 550m, there are no difficulties before the first Munro summit. After an initial steep section, a pleasant broad ridge takes you to the small cairn perched on Mullach an Rathain’s airy summit, where you can catch your breath.

5 Coire na Caime from Mullach an Rathain on the Liathach scramle

Coire na Caime from Mullach an Rathain.
Credit: Craig Weldon

4. NG912577: The view from Mullach an Rathain s enough to take your breath away all over again. North, the tiered giants of Torridon rise individually from a platform of knobbly gneiss, with the top of Meall Dearg tantalisingly just out of reach for those without climbing skills. East, the obstacle of am Fasarinen pinnacles stand between you and the summit of Liathach, 2km away. Those who do not fancy the scramble can retrace their steps at this point.

7 Approaching the first pinnacle of Am Fasarinen bypass path on the right

Approaching the first pinnacle of Am Fasarinen bypass path on the right.
Credit: Craig Weldon

5. NG921574: After 1km descent, a cleft in the ridge is reached at 880m altitude. This is the start of the scramble. To the right or south, a path heads off, bypassing the pinnacles. The path is exposed and has less to hold on to than the pinnacles. You don’t want to meet anyone coming the other way! Instead, carry straight on up, initially on a path leading via large shelves of Torridonian sandstone to the top of the first pinnacle, followed by a slightly awkward down climb.

8 Looking back after descent from first pinnacle.jpg

Looking back after descent from first pinnacle.
Credit: Craig Weldon

A path traverses a second mini pinnacle to the south (right), before more sandstone blocks lead to the level top of the third. If in doubt of the route at any point, just follow the crampon marks. The descent from the third pinnacle is perhaps the hardest part of the traverse: an eroded gully in the cliff face leads south down a few steep moves on good holds. A path takes a short traverse back round onto the ridge and the end of any serious technical difficulties. Another bypass path to the south allows you to avoid the crest, but by sticking to the ridge you can enjoy a further few hundred metres of easier scrambling, before regaining grassy slopes. These soon turn to quartzite scree and the final pull up to the arrowhead summit of Spidean a’ Choire Lèith.

9 Looking back at third Liathach pinnacle.jpg

Looking back at third pinnacle.
Credit: Craig Weldon

6. NG929579: Although the technical difficulties are over, care needs to be maintained descending the path through blocky screes to the east of Spidean a’ Choire Lèith for 1km over the two subsidiary tops of Stob a’ Choire Liath Mhòr, especially in cloud. After a couple of hundred metres of level section of ridge, a col is reached.

Descending Liathach

Descending Liathach.
Credit: Craig Weldon

7. NG938581: In good weather, it is worth continuing another half a kilometre from the col to Stùc a’Choire Duibh Beag, Liathach’s eastern top, which boasts a fantastic view back the way you came. Otherwise, from the head of the col, take a path south which leads steeply down Coire Liath Mhor to Glen Torridon.

Further information

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Torridon village is served by Westerbus 705 and DMK 702. The walk starts 4km from Torridon.


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