Liathach’s Western Ridge

15 09 2011

Thu 8 September 2011 (all photos by Richard Wood)

After our first two days of good weather at Torridon, the only other good day of the week was due to be Thursday so I decided we had to go and climb the western summit of Liathach – Mullach an Rathain. I awoke around 8 and heard steady rain – Richard was getting up but I told him to go back to bed for another hour or so. I eventually got up around 0930 – it was still dull and showery but the cloud was starting to lift slightly off Beinn Eighe, which was visible from the cottage, so I had a leisurely breakfast and we set off around 1030 for the carpark west of Torridon by the Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil.

Despite this ridge supposedly being very easy I was extremely nervous as we drove round the mountain with me peering at it suspiciously. The reason for my extreme nervousness was due to the very bad time I had on the eastern end of this hill a few days before where I spent the whole walk completely petrified and had to be roped up.


The View From The Carpark Bridge

The end of the ridge is a rocky peak called Sgorr a’ Chadail and there is no access on either the south or west sides so we had to take the, very scenic, path round the back of the mountain.

We followed the good path until after the bridge where the path for The Horns of Alligin and Beinn Dearg turn northwards – we then had to continue for about another quarter of a mile on a very sketchy and soaking wet path. I was looking for a particular burn coming down the north side of the mountain where the slopes looked the least steep and there looked to be the least cragginess on the route. I peered up the burn – it looked okay – not too steep and free of crags. Unfortunately, this being the least popular route on the mountain and not much used, it was free of a path as well. I knew it would be a rough, wet, slippery and tedious ascent, especially for Richard who hates that kind of thing. Oh well… onwards and upwards…

We plodded up the nearly 2000 feet to the ridgeline – it was indeed tedious. The only thing which livened up the ascent was seeing two stags peering at us from a hillock to our right.

As soon as we made it up onto the ridge, we had a quick look over the other side down to Loch Torridon and the village and then it clouded right over and visibility was down to about 50 yards.

I made a note of where we’d joined the ridge for our return – it was about 100 yards east of the beautifully-built cairn on Sgorr a’ Chadail. We found a path along the ridge – yipee! About 50 yards later it disappeared into the rocky ground around us… I was amused to see a large rock ahead which looked just like a rabbit and pointed it out to Richard.

Pretty soon it started raining and we had to don full waterproofs behind a large sheltering rock before continuing up the easy ridgeline into the mist. The climb was extremely gradual and soon we came across a line of cairns which saved us the bother of following a compass bearing all the way up the ridge – I tucked my compass back down my top.


Looking up the ridge (taken on the descent when it cleared up a bit!)

The ridge got gradually steeper but was wide and easy on good ground all the way up. Towards the end of the climb, the ridge steepened considerably, narrowed slightly and a zig-zag path appeared. This took us up the final couple of hundred feet, past a little peak off to our left and up to where the normal path turns off down the Toll Ban at a prominent cairn. The ridge just before the cairn went very narrow but the drop off either side was by no means sheer and the narrow section was very short – probably about 50 yards so, despite there being a wind blowing, it wasn’t particularly hairy. I’m sure there would be great views from that section on a better day!

From the route split I could see, just above us, the summit cairn with a couple standing by it in the mist. We puffed our way up to them and chatted about our respective routes. They’d come over the pinnacles – in the wet! They said the rock had been a bit greasy – I would think that was quite an understatement. They asked if we were going that way so I told them what a terrible time I’d had on the eastern peaks and that there was no way I was up to the level of doing the pinnacles.

It was pretty cold on the summit so we didn’t sit more than a couple of minutes before setting off back down the narrow section and the zig-zag to try to find a sheltered spot for a break. For a moment, near the little peak below the summit, it looked like it might clear so Richard said we should wait a few minutes to see if it did – he was going to go back up to the summit if so – I said I wasn’t going to bother anyway. We waited a few minutes but it made no attempt to clear any further so we continued down, looking back periodically to see if it ever did clear. We managed to get a break for a coffee and for me to finish my home-made lemon cake, which Alan had very kindly donated to me, behind the rock where we’d sheltered to put our waterproofs on earlier – it was the only sheltered spot on the ridge.

It was an exceedingly easy descent back to the flat part of the ridge, Sgorr a’ Chadail and the rock rabbit which we furnished with another ear and a scut! 😉

We took some photos of our upgraded bunny, visited the cairn on Sgorr a’ Chadail, which had spectacular views down to Loch Torridon and the village now the visibility was so much better. We even got a quick glimpse of the actual western summit of Liathach where we were not long before and Richard snapped a quick photo of it – it’s pretty misty though.

We then had to set off for our long, wet, slippery and rough descent back down to the valley down the burn we’d ascended. It was far worse going back down than it had been ascending as the ground was holey heather and you couldn’t see where you were putting your feet. The descent seemed to go on for ages but eventually we were back down to the pretty river and the good path back to the carpark through the nature reserve. On the way back, as I was now relaxed, we spent a lot of time looking at the spectacular waterfalls en route – as we’d had a lot of rain over the last few days, they looked great and Richard took quite a few more photos.

We eventually got back to the car and the midges hit with a vengeance, making changing out of our boots purgatorial. It was then off to the Torridon Inn which actually is nowhere near Torridon at all but is way past Annat – must be named after Loch Torridon and not the village.

Stats: 8 miles, 3310 feet of ascent, 5.5 hours

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10 responses

3 11 2011
goth_angel

I liked the bunny shaped rock.

Read your reports on WH and wondered where you had ended up. Mind you the report of the other end of Liathach gave me the willies to say the least.

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4 11 2011
mountaincoward

Glad you liked the rock bunny! 🙂

Yeah, the eastern end of Liathach was truly horrendous – I’ve read your reports/comments on the forums and you’re like me so you’ll probably hate it too! 😦 Are you collecting all the Munros? If you are, best get a friend you trust with a rope like I did. A lot of folks would think that’s completely over the top but, if it gets you there, why not I say!
Carol.

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13 11 2011
goth_angel

Quite! If I could get myself hauled bodily up the front of the Inn Pinn, I would (if I ever do it I am planning on the short western side.. no way I could hack the exposure on the other side, even if it is supposed to be easier) 😦

I’ve no idea if we’ll ever do the lot – it started out as my husband wanting to do one and here we are with 72 done, 3 1/2 years later..

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30 07 2014
mountaincoward

72 Munros in 3.5 years is excellent. We got off to a much slower start than that!

As for the In Pinn – out of the Skye Munros I have left to do (I’ve only done 2 easy ones), that is the one which worries me nearly the least as I fully intend to go up the “Climber’s (short) side”. There is less exposure and it will only be like being at the climbing wall…

I’m really worried about some of the others though where a rope may not be an awful lot of use 😦

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24 09 2011
bob

Having done it that way myself I ,d suggest the short steep side of the in Pin(on a rope) when you get round to doing it Carol It.is far less exposed than the long arete.Just a quick up and down so no bother with some rock climbing practice indoors before hand.It was not as bad as any of us thought it was going to be and we had two non climbers with us..Need a V.diff Leader though but its just a short pitch with good holds.

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25 09 2011
mountaincoward

That’s exactly the way I’d like to do it Bob. That way, if I do slip off, I just dangle instead of going for a wild and painful swing! Glad to see you only practiced indoors beforehand as I already climb indoors now so hopefully that should help then. I’ve also been doing abseiling indoors ready for it.
Carol.

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21 09 2011
David Seòras

atmospheric images… nicely done. 🙂

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21 09 2011
mountaincoward

I’ll tell Richard – he took them… I didn’t take my camera in case it was ‘orrid like the Eastern end – I won’t take it anywhere dangerous – too precious LOL

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16 09 2011
Alan Bellis

Well done on completing “The Monster!” Now you can start worrying about the Skye Munro’s 🙂

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16 09 2011
mountaincoward

Well if the ‘rock bunny’ could make it up there, I’m sure this bunny could! 🙂

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