Am Fasarinen – Liathach’s Gnashers

10 10 2015

Sat 5 Sep 2015
To say I normally hate Liathach (although not the Western end particularly), I had a great day this time. The weather helped for a change though…
Am Fasarinen
Am Fasarinen (click on photos for full size/resolution)

After an appalling week at Ullapool, where I was supposed to have finished my outstanding Munro Tops in the area but failed miserably, Richard and I drove down to Torridon area for an overnight stop on the way home. It’s a long drive to England from the far North-west of Scotland…

During the preceding week, I only managed to get up two out of my six outstanding tops due to heavy rain and strong northerly winds. The small patch of bad weather had sat exactly over where we were all week, lending further weight to my parents’ theory that they can tell where I am from the dark blue wet patch on the weather map. The only good day of the week was missed due to a bad forecast the night before ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Just as we were leaving Scotland, the weather started to clear up in general and the high pressure area, which had sat just off the country all week, finally arrived. I’d planned to bag my final top in the Torridon area, that of Am Fasarinen – one of Liathach’s famous rock pinnacles – before checking into our hotel. The pinnacles as a whole are actually just called ‘Am Fasarinen’ which, incidentally, on googling I found means ‘The Teeth’ – I’m henceforth going to call them ‘Am Gnasherinan’ – might catch on ๐Ÿ˜†

That meant leaving the Ullapool Cottage bright and early (essential anyway so she didn’t get to see our bikes were actually living in her kitchen!), throwing everything in the car, driving like mad around to the hotel, dumping the bikes out and then bumping off down the Torridon road to start my walk. Richard had again decided he wasn’t going to come with me – not even tempted by the juicy pinnacle (he likes that sort of thing). I was quite nervous about whether I’d be okay doing the pinnacle on my own but set off determinedly.

The route I use for the Western end of Liathach isn’t the usual one of Coire Tuill Bhainn where there is an ascent up some easy rocky bands and then up a long, steep scree. I park up at the Coire Mhic Nobuill carpark and follow the path which heads around the back of Liathach on the north side. Just where the path crosses the river, I keep on along the southerly bank on a sketchy wet path for around quarter of a mile. Here a burn descends the mountainside and I ascend beside it. It’s pathless but straightforward…

I made quite good progress up the steep and rough ground but it is quite a tedious section of the approach – around 1,500 feet of ascent. I finally reached the lovely ridgeline of the western arm of Liathach. This is where things become exceedingly pleasant, although this particular day there was a very cold wind blasting across the plateau.

I visited our ‘rock bunny’ from Richard and my previous visit – his ears and scut had blown off so I set about finding more stones to refurbish him. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get his ears as good as last time so no photos.

I then continued up the easy ridge which only steepens gradually and hardly narrows at all until the final part of the ascent to the western Munro summit of Mullach an Rathain. It was nice to be able to see this time – last time, everything was misty. Actually, I had a good look down Coire Tuill Bhainn and all looked fine to me so I could have used that route. You never know, if I had, Richard might have come with me – probably not though…

Coire an Tuill Bhan Descent

I looked anxiously ahead to see what my pinnacle looked like – although, of course, I’d been googling photos of it for months! It didn’t look very nice from there – I hoped it looked easier as I got closer. The onward route looked narrower and steeper-sided than I’d imagined from the photos I’d seen too but it was easy enough – it looked like a meadow stroll in the various photos!

Mullach an Rathain to Spidean across pinnacles
My pinnacle is the first peak after the turn of the ridge

On the way out, I took the bypass paths under the next three peaks – if I felt inclined and had the energy, I could take the paths over the summits on the return as I was coming back the same way. I’d soon lost height and arrived at the dip to my pinnacle. The dip was indeed as narrow as I’d seen in the photos.

The pinnacle had gone from looking fearsome, through not looking so bad and now looked completely fearsome again. I was fascinated to see people on the bypass path making their way towards me cautiously – the bypass path is apparently far more exposed and dangerous than tackling all the pinnacles!

Am Fasarinen & Bypass Path
The bypass path is on the grass ledge below the pinnacle on the r/h side – it’s at least a 3000 foot drop straight down below it!

Before my nerve failed, I descended to the narrow neck (which was fine when I got there) and studied the onward route up Am Fasarinen. The pinnacle towered above me but started off with a path and was quite wide at its base. It looked narrow and tricky further up though where there was no choice but blocky rock scrambling.

Am Fasarinen Approach

My heart beating wildly, I set off up the path – all was fine for quite a way and I never got to see the huge drop down the sheer face into Coire na Caime. The view down the southern side was tempered by the shelf with the bypass path on it but was pretty steep and offputting.

I was fine during the ascent and found that there was actually no difficult scrambling at all – I was sure the exposure would get to me on the descent though… I didn’t linger on the summit but just tapped the cairn and headed straight back down. Luckily the wind wasn’t blowing on this section of the ridge.

I was exceedingly cautious on the down-scrambles on the south side of the blocky rock steps and purposely ignored the view downwards. Soon I reached the section where it was mainly wider and a path again – it was a bit loose in places though and I still took lots of care and went very slowly. At last I arrived back on the narrow col and quickly re-ascended to the next section of ridge where it was comfortably wide again. Here I sat for a break to recover and watch more folks on the bypass path.

I’d started to get extremely hot on my ascent of the pinnacle but decided it wasn’t the place to start messing around taking coats and things off so had continued and got sweaty. Now I could strip off most of my layers and steam gently while I drank my coffee and had a biscuit.

I was soon joined by a largish group of lads who’d been on the bypass path. I asked them if it was as bad as its reputation suggested? They said they’d done the pinnacles before and that the bypass path was much scarier and more dangerous – I can believe it.

While we sat, a couple of their group arrived atop Am Fasarinen as they’d decided to do the pinnacles. I was comforted by the fact that they didn’t descend any quicker or more confidently than I had! We were all soon having a good natter in the sunshine and I realised that, apart from the slighly scary pinnacle descent, I was actually enjoying my day.

Am Fasarinen with Walkers
The two guys atop the pinnacle – gives it a sense of scale!

We all then set off back along the scenic ridge and I started my photography in earnest – it’s rare I take photos on the way out, mainly in case I don’t achieve my objective – I don’t want photos to remind me of where I haven’t managed to get! All the photos were taken after I’d dealt with the scary bit.

I kept to the ridge-top all the way back on good paths – I think they were actually better than the short-cuts were. The views down to Coire na Caime and Meall Dearg were superb.

Coire na Caime from Liathach

Meall Dearg & Mullach an Rathain

They were also fantastic in both directions along the ridge…

Am Fasarinen to Spidean a' Choire Leith

Mullach an Rathain from near Am Fasarinen

Mullach an Rathain from Fasarinen Return

Am Fasarinen Pinnacles from West

Western Peaks to Am Fasarinen

Peak East of Mullach an Rathain

Mullach an Rathain & Northern Pinnacles

I was fascinated by the view from the ridge of the gully my friend Mark and I had taken to reach Meall Dearg – it looked absolutely horrific from here and totally vertical!

Meall Dearg & THE Gully!

Meall Dearg (portrait)

All too soon, I was back at the summit of Mullach an Rathain where I took a quick photo for the lads who’d by now stripped off to vest tops (brrrr in that wind! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ) and were wearing all kinds of strange things on their heads.

And more photos of Meall Dearg – such a fascinating peak!

Meall Dearg from Northern Pinnacles

The crumbliness of the Northern Pinnacles is quite horrific…

Meall Dearg past Crumbly Northern Pinnacles

I then left for my pleasant descent of the western arm.

Western Ridge from Mullach an Rathain

On the way down, I had a good investigate of the next northern ridge to Meall Dearg and the back of that peak to see if I thought there were easier ways up than the one we took. It looked possible but very steep and quite loose.

Meall Dearg Rear Study

Actually, very steep!

Meall Dearg in the gap!

Meall Dearg Back & Northern Pinnacles
Top of the crumbly northern pinnacles & Meall Dearg

The ridge was fascinating though, as was the corrie between the two northern ridges and I was pretty tempted to descend that way. I knew I’d be a lot longer though and Richard would have run out of walks local to the car so thought I’d best not. Worth further investigation for another time though…

Liathach Western Ridge from above gully

Alligin & Dearg from Liathach West
Alligin & Beinn Dearg

I was soon at the re-descent of the unpleasantly rough grass slope down the burnside. It seemed to take even longer to get back down it than it had during the ascent – it certainly wasn’t quicker.

At last I reached the river. The good path was just across the river and I had a look around to see if I could cross dryshod to it but decided I couldn’t so sloshed back along my wet one to the bridge.

Forest Path back to Mhic Nobhuil carpark

It’s a pleasant walk back to the carpark from the bridge and I was glad to find, when I arrived back at the car, that Richard had been up as far as the bridge and done a detailed photographic study of the path through the pretty woods and the burn. The burn here runs into a spectacular gorge so well worth having a good investigate.

Richard’s photos…








The carpark was unbearably midgy so I threw my bags in the boot and hurriedly drove off in my boots until we arrived back on the coast and the breeze was driving the midges away. There was lovely light on the peaks between Glens Torridon and Carron so we both took photos. Then it was off to our lovely hotel.

Richard’s Photo

I’m deliberately not mentioning which hotel we stayed at for a reason… It’s a hotel I’ve visited a lot over the years and always enjoyed the crack in the bar when the locals were in. They were a hilarious, if drunken, bunch and I used to love listening to them.

There was one very amusing time when one of them was so drunk, he went out to the carpark with his landrover keys in his hand intent on driving home. He completely missed his vehicle and fell down the long grassy banking to the road. Minutes later, he turned up back in the bar, glasses broken and askew on his nose and having forgotten he was going home. He thought he was just arriving for a drink and proceeded to imbibe yet more. I went to bed laughing that night! ๐Ÿ˜†

Unfortunately now everything has changed and ‘the long arm of the law’ has caught up with them. Only one local now comes to the bar and he only has one pint – the new limit for Scotland. While I definitely don’t agree with drink-driving, at the time of night they left the bar and the quiet area they live in, there would never have been any danger to anyone except perhaps themselves.

Anyway, a great day out which fortunately salvaged my trip somewhat… It also changed my impression of Liathach – I might have a go at the whole ridge sometime now!

Stats: 10 miles, 4389 feet of ascent, 6 hours



16 responses

18 10 2015

Cracking photos.

I agree the bypass path looks horrendous. If we ever get round to Liathach I suspect we will be doing what you did and doing the 2 Munros on separate trips.


18 10 2015

I’d heartily recommend that you do it as 2 separate peaks. I still didn’t like the Eastern End – I’d take someone experienced with you to give you confidence if I were you – I had to. You could probably do it on a meet or something. Just not you and Stuart…


17 10 2015

Nice piece and interesting photos of our Meall Dearg route. I’ve not been up Liathach since we shuffled our way up to the Munro Top. It really does look steep! I spoke to Anne this week and she did it with Andy recently. It’s not what she’d call a great day out, so you’re in good company. Just back from a few days near Arrochar, bagged 12 Grahams in splendid weather. Also spent a night at Mark Cottage. Alan was about but we didn’t meet up.


18 10 2015

There’s a gully somewhere down the back which people use to cut across into that corrie I was photographing and then up onto the Western Ridge to do Mullach an Rathain. I was really trying to see it that day but couldn’t see anything which looked possible at all. It must be somewhere near the back of the gully we went up though…


16 10 2015

I have had nightmares in the past about tackling Liathach โ€“ and they will probably return after reading that. I’d heard rumours that the bypass route was as scary as hell, and your account appears to confirm them.
Still, I enjoyed that read, Carol. That feeling of exhilaration after a scary climb always makes the effort worthwhile.
Cheers, Alen


18 10 2015

If you stick to doing Liathach how I did it originally, both ends separately, you should be okay. The western end is really nice. I didn’t like the eastern end at all but that was just the steepness of the side we went up and down – once on the ridge, it looked awful but wasn’t too bad really. I couldn’t have done the eastern end on my own though. I might well hire a guide to do the whole ridge if you want to join in? Won’t be this year and may not even be next year either.


11 10 2015

Great photos – depicting the route & terrain well ๐Ÿ™‚ Been tempted but they have always been in cloud whenever I visit ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Spent a week in a holiday cottage in Lower Diabeg and I don’t think the cloud base lifted above 1000ft! Had a good week fishing thou ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheers Simon


13 10 2015

Richard is unlikely to come with me nowadays even if I hire a guide to do the whole ridge so you could come along instead. I’d want good weather though – definitely no strong winds for the pinnacles! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Liked by 1 person

11 10 2015
Blue Sky Scotland

I’m always amazed at your levels of energy Carol.Well done. That was one of my first Munros after seeing a photo of the pinnacles in a Tom Weir book and I remember them being very exposed. Half the traditional pubs in Scotland have shut now and it’s only places where you go for meals that’s left open as they don’t seem to be able to make money from drink sales anymore. I’m lucky if I visit a pub twice a year now but the atmosphere has definitely changed in them anyway.


11 10 2015

I expended more nervous energy than actual energy I think – it’s not a hard walk really – not the same as doing the whole ridge…


11 10 2015

That is stunning Carol…


11 10 2015

It certainly was… that day – shame I couldn’t have had some of that weather for my Ullapool section of my trip!


11 10 2015

You know, I don’t think you’re a Mountain Coward at all, Carol! ๐Ÿ˜€


11 10 2015

I’m definitely having to face up to my fears more now I’m doing Munro Tops, that’s for sure!

Liked by 1 person

11 10 2015

Wonderful post and photos. Looks daunting on the rocky side. It all looks slippery if a rain hit. We have that same new limit in Canada – one beer! The pubs have to be within walking distance.


11 10 2015

I don’t think the pinnacles would be too slippery in the wet as I think they’re sandstone – not sure though as there is some quartzite on the mountain’s upper layers which is horrible in the wet.

I think you’ve always been a bit stricter over there with your drinking laws.


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