Liathach Traverse

5 11 2016

Wed 12 Oct 2016

The day after my Ghuibhais walk (previous post), I joined another Steve Fallon Group walk – this time on my erstwhile ‘bete noire’ – Liathach! Would my chest hold out for such a steep and hard climb? Would I freak out in a total funk like last time? it’s a pretty fearsome beast…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Photo R Wood

click on photos for full size/resolution – all my digi-camera except where marked

This was my most fearsome mainland Munro without a doubt when I originally did the Munros – I read my earlier report again last night and was amazed at how much I’ve come on lately!

It turned out another lady on the same walk was staying at my hotel so I accosted her in the carpark when she arrived back from her Tuesday walk and suggested we carshare to the start point in the morning. I was a bit worried at this point what would happen if I had to turn back for my chest but figured that, even with a bad chest, I should be able to walk 10 flat miles back.

My new friend was called Lynne and we sat and chatted over our evening meal Tuesday night – we seemed to have a lot in common and she was very good company. She was around my age but in much better condition – Liathach was to be her third day in a row with Steve Fallon’s group and she’d already done another hillwalk the day before that! Not only all that, but she was due to do An Teallach the next day with the group too! I remember those times but, unfortunately, am unable to emulate them nowadays…

We met again at breakfast and headed off at 0830. On arrival at the meeting place, I headed straight out of the car when I’d booted up to talk to the three guides and warn them about my lung disease (I’d already told Steve Fallon but he wasn’t guiding this walk). I explained that I’d probably be okay after an initial coughing and wheezing fit which would start during the early stages of the ascent and should give up after around half an hour. They looked alarmed but none of them banned me from continuing… I also warned the group that I wouldn’t be talking at all during the ascent and that I wasn’t being snobby!

We set off at 0900 prompt for the immediate very steep climb up the flanks of Liathach to the corrie. As predicted, my chest did have a bit of a wheeze and scrape but I managed to keep up this time, had a reasonable amount of lung capacity (the group pace was good and steady which helps), and a blast of my inhaler stopped it getting any worse. Best of all – nobody noticed! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

We continued up through the corrie and up the next section of climb by the side of the crags and then we stopped for a break in a little cosy hollow. My chest had completely settled down by now and one of the guides remembered I was supposed to be ill and asked me how my chest was – they hadn’t noticed any wheezing at all. I said I’d passed through the dodgy stage and should be fine. Well, I’m happy to report, I wasn’t just fine – I positively blasted the rest of the hill – it was just like the old days ๐Ÿ™‚ I had, however, taken the precaution of a course of steroids before this trip…

As we chatted in the hollow I found that the three non-Scots folk on the walk were all from Yorkshire like me – and not far away at that!

Soon we set off for the horrible part of the ascent where I’d started to freak out and hyperventilate on my previous visit. I found it all fine and even had a few looks down to the valley far below and found it didn’t bother me. I found the scrambling very easy and non-disturbing too.

We were soon up on the ridge where the week’s Arctic wind hit us hard. It was absolutely freezing and I couldn’t get my clothes on fast enough. I was perturbed to hear the guides advising people to put their down clothing on – I don’t own any down clothing and just had my summer fleece jumper and jacket over a t-shirt. I bundled them all on and zipped everything up following them with gloves and my arctic buff – I found I was warm enough to be honest apart from possibly my legs which were just clad in my trusty Ronhills. I toyed with the idea of putting my featherlight overtrousers on as these are windproof but decided I didn’t want to wreck them scrambling on rough sandstone rocks.

We didn’t hang around but set off along the ridge – me finding that you really mustn’t get close to anyone with a walking pole as, when they aren’t using them, they swing the points alarmingly close to the following walker’s face! I couldn’t imagine taking a walking pole on the likes of Liathach though as you really need your hands a lot of the time…

We were in mist at this point so I left my camera in my pack. We plodded easily and relaxedly along the ridge and I wondered why I’d found it so scary last time. The answer to that, of course, is that I’d completely wound myself up beforehand!

At the summit we stopped for a break and the ridge started to clear. I whipped my camera out for the rest of the walk. I’d really brought it for the pinnacles anyway…

liathach-am-fasarinen01
The way ahead – the Am Fasarinen Pinnacles

As you can see from the photo above, there is a quite some steep drop down to the start of the pinnacles. As we set off down towards them, my heart sank. It was exactly my least favourite ground to descend – a steep, loose scree path which, due to the ongoing dry weather, was very dusty so looser than normal. Below us was a huge and nasty drop into Coire na Caime.

The people ahead of me got further and further ahead as I slowed almost to a crawl – I really have no confidence on such ground. In the end, Lynne who was behind me, asked if I wanted someone-or-other to go in front of me. I said yes please as I much prefer someone to slide into. A guy came around me and I realised it was one of the guides. I told him I really didn’t like this section and he was a great help staying just one step in front of me and helping me down the worst bits.

Soon the path started to traverse levelly across towards the grass before the first of the pinnacles. I said I was fine to continue on my own now and the guide left me to concentrate on the others.

Before the pinnacles really started there was a long grassy section which I’d seen from Coire na Caime and thought looked easy – it was.

liathach-am-fasarinen02

liathach-am-fasarinen03

liathach-am-fasarinen04

After this, a couple of really confident guys headed off on their own for the first of the pinnacles. The guides explained that this particular one was pretty exposed and difficult and that we could either bypass it or go over it. The infamous bypass path at this stage is very easy and safe indeed so all but three went around to the next gap. I resolved to try not to miss any more out though. I have to admit that, when I turned round to look back at the first pinnacle, the descent looked fairly nasty!

Lynne, myself and another lady went experimentally up the next pinnacle whose ascent was very easy and, one by one, peered down the descent. None of us were sure so we waited for the guide. Only perhaps one person took the bypass around this one.

The guides came up to join us and said it was a very easy descent even if it did look a bit forbidding. It was really a set of fairly wide steps – there was quite a drop down the sides though. The guides went down to strategic places to help us down…

I found I was okay really. The one section where I met one of the guides, I would have taken what looked like easier ground to the right but, as he was waiting there, I decided to continue down the steps. He suggested my left foot on the next hold but I preferred my right so used that. I then found I needed my left foot on it to progress so did a quick ‘climbing’ foot swap. He was impressed so I told him that I do actually climb but that I’m nervous off the rope (which is true nowadays – and also for many other climbers I know). From there they pretty much left me to get on with it – they knew I’d call for them if I needed them.

liathach-am-fasarinen05steps

I have to say that I wasn’t finding any of the exposure scary – in fact I wasn’t really bothering to look at it. Occasionally I’d look down to Glen Cottage far away in the valley 3500 feet below us – I found I didn’t care. Nor was I finding any of the scrambling hard – I really have come on a lot ๐Ÿ™‚ It was good to be with a group who knew the route though as, often, it isn’t immediately obvious.

There were some pretty steep downclimbs but, after the ‘steps’, you were pretty much in a gully or suchlike. Either way, there were such good holds it wasn’t worrying at all. My long legs and huge reach were proving very helpful. Here is Lynne and the others at the foot of one of the downclimbs…

liathach-am-fasarinen06

I thought this next pinnacle was our final one of ‘Am Fasarinen’ itself – the Munro Top I’d done before. Anyway, it wasn’t – this is actually quite a few pinnacles but lined up behind each other so you can’t tell.

liathach-am-fasarinen07

I’d seen this picture in many of the books and have never been able to see a way up it. I said as much to one of the guides and he assured me there was a completely easy route.

liathach-am-fasarinen08
a couple of shots looking back…
liathach-am-fasarinen09

We then rounded a corner to the secret way up – a gully on the side of the pinnacle which was pretty much over the drop. I thought the scenery here was very interesting and wasn’t at all worried.

liathach-am-fasarinen10

I took a different route up this section – further right than the actual chimney – I thought mine was possibly easier – it was right for me anyway… I decided a photo down the chimney of the following scramblers would be good though…

liathach-am-fasarinen11

There was then an easy romp along the top of flat rocks for quite a way…

liathach-am-fasarinen12

Followed by a further drop and then the real Top of Am Fasarinen – my old buddy from last year – I was pretty glad to see him again…

liathach-am-fasarinen13

liathach-am-fasarinen14
Looking back at the previous descent

It was a pretty easy scramble up Am Fasarinen (even if it doesn’t look it)…

liathach-am-fasarinen15

With another look back from his summit – you can just see the scrape of our nasty descent from the first Munro going down the middle of the scree cone behind…

liathach-am-fasarinen16

It was nice to be back on Am Fasarinen-the-top but we didn’t linger. I bounded down pretty confidently being on familiar ground – much happier this time now I wasn’t on my own and knew what to expect. Soon it was all over and we were having a break on wide, firm, grassy ground at the start to the climb to the second Munro of Mullach an Rathain.

After my coffee and biscuits, I took some photos of where we’d been…

liathach-am-fasarinen17

liathach-group09

liathach-group11

liathach-group07

And the view down the back across Coire na Caime…

liathach-group10

liathach-to-ben-alligin
Beinn Alligin

and the way ahead…

liathach-group01

and my old adversary Meall Dearg which, incidentally, one of the guides thought you needed to do rock-climbing to reach – not many people seem to have figured out the gully approach from Coire na Caime…

liathach-group12

Bye, bye Am Fasarinen – you never know, I might be back, chest permitting…

liathach-am-fasarinen18

We then packed up and set off for the easy wander to the second Munro…

After a quick photo call on the summit, we then had the dreaded steep and loose descent into Coire Tuill Bhan. This had been advertised in the itinery as a ‘fun scree run’ down the corrie. Lynne and I agreed that we weren’t about to do any scree running and we were going to walk down in a careful fashion!

coire-an-tuill-bhan-descent
film shot from another visit

I wished we were going my usual and favourite route down the western ridge…

liathach-group13

or this ridge route from it…

liathach-group14

I was very cautious during the descent down the steep scree and held half the group up once again. It wasn’t scary this time though as you wouldn’t do more than slide a way down the corrie – there wasn’t really anything to fall off this time. The guides assured me it was stone-pitched lower down and that the path-menders were at work this very day. I said I wished they hurry up and finish it! It seemed ages before we reached their firm steps! We all made a point of thanking them for their excellent work.

Nice views across to the Glen Carron peaks, especially the pointy Sgorr Ruadh…

liathach-group15

At last, the steep descent was over and we just had grass remaining with some rock steps. I had a look back up – you couldn’t really see how horrid it was though…

liathach-descent-corrie

I was impressed by the colours on these oily rocks…

liathach-oily-rock

The final part of the descent was pretty wearing on our tired legs and I was glad to reach the road at last. I made sure I kept walking around gently as, with the end of the walk finishing abruptly at the end of the steepness, legs are sure to stiffen if you don’t cool them down gently. We’d done a car shuffle and so all we now had to do was wait for a lift back to Lynne’s car a mile or so back at the original carpark. I really didn’t fancy a mile of pounding up the road so was glad of this – hard roads at the end of the day do nothing for my legs!

A great, but tiring, day out and I was elated my chest had done so well! ๐Ÿ™‚

For those who remember the fuss from the Cromasaig B&B owner who insulted me on my blog after my Beinn Eighe post, I might have got my own back on this visit. A guy was chatting to me in the bar after Liathach and said he was staying there while doing the Cape Wrath Trail – I told him to ask for his breakfast at 0930! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Stats: 8.5 miles, 4264 feet of ascent

Advertisements

Actions

Information

37 responses

16 11 2016
Simon Howlett

Looks like a very challenging walk, Carol. Doing it with a guided group seems to be the safest option. I’ve yet to do a Munro – would attempt something a little easier to begin with!

Will be at the Sands Centre on Sunday in an attempt to sell some of my prints! Hope to see you there.

Like

17 11 2016
mountaincoward

Remind me where the Sands Centre is again please?

Definitely not a first Munro option unless you’re very gung-ho (like Richard can be)!

Like

17 11 2016
Simon Howlett

It’s in Carlisle.

Like

14 11 2016
Paul Shorrock

Hi Carol, just catching up on posts that IO haven’t had time to read. Sounds like you had a great time – you’re in danger of having to surrender your Mountain Coward badge ๐Ÿ˜‰

Like

14 11 2016
mountaincoward

well I probably am when I’m with a guided group – I’m not sure how I’d have been on my own…

Like

13 11 2016
tessapark1969

What a difference a couple of years makes. If we ever get to this one I suspect we would use a guide too.

LOL re B&B revenge ๐Ÿ˜„

Like

14 11 2016
mountaincoward

I don’t suppose the guy did ask for the 0930 breakfast unfortunately but it would have been very funny ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve certainly come on in the last couple of years but I’m not sure I’d have really enjoyed it without the guides.

Like

9 11 2016
45degreesmc

A true classic – well done

Like

9 11 2016
mountaincoward

Thanks – I’m debating about doing the Aonach Eagach ridge the same way now!

Like

8 11 2016
Blue Sky Scotland

Great photos Carol. Not set foot on Liathach for well over 10 years but I remember the traverse well. Someone was killed scrambling on the pinnacles the same day we did it so we all had troubled dreams in the tents that night thinking about it afterwards. Always an Impressive mountain. .

Like

8 11 2016
mountaincoward

God that would be awful! Did you see it happen or just see the helicopter or just hear about it afterwards? That would certainly give me nightmares too!

Like

7 11 2016
M.Barrett

This is one traverse I’d love to do. Been on my wish list for some time. Great photos and well done for completing it.

Like

8 11 2016
mountaincoward

If you’re at all wavery about it, I can heartily recommend Steve Fallon’s regular guided group walks up there – he usually makes a 3 day thing of it and does Beinn Eighe (which you don’t really need a guide for), Ben Alligin including The Horns, and Liathach. You don’t need to go with him all three days though – you can just book a single day like I did here…

Liked by 1 person

5 11 2016
underswansea

PS I also don’t own any nylon and down clothing because of snags.

Like

6 11 2016
mountaincoward

I suppose now I’ve started walking in Scotland I do own some man-made stuff which I would never have bought for walking in England – but I found in Scotland, the weather was so much more severe, I had to go out and buy ‘proper’ walking clothing instead of making do like I used to. But I don’t own any down and never will – windproof generally does okay for what I’m doing – doesn’t have to be really warm stuff.

Like

7 11 2016
underswansea

Everything I own is of the wool and canvas variety. It’s heavy, but I don’t hike like you do. I just bought a new coat after many years. The zipper and snaps must weigh ten pounds by them selves. It seems to keep me warmer in our dry cold winter nights. It’s all about the layers. Take care. Bob

Like

7 11 2016
mountaincoward

I swap to wool when it gets really cold – I bought a Norwegian jumper and it’s great. I also have some Icelandic wool ones and they’re even warmer. Haven’t got anything canvas though… except my Dad’s old tent ๐Ÿ˜‰

Like

8 11 2016
underswansea

By the way. Did you let the cranky inn keeper know you went back up his mountain . . . on one crutch?

Like

8 11 2016
mountaincoward

LOL – actually this was the next one to it – but that would be very funny!

Like

5 11 2016
underswansea

Sounds like a great trip. Incredible looking stone at the top.

Like

6 11 2016
mountaincoward

When you get to the pinnacles, they’re lovely sandstone – the peak we slithered down was quartzite which isn’t very nice – it looks very pretty but fragments a lot and is slippery in the damp.

Like

5 11 2016
smackedpentax

Well done you! It does look a bit of a beast – your photos are superb too ๐Ÿ™‚

Like

6 11 2016
mountaincoward

If I’d known how easy the pinnacles were, I’d have taken my film Olympus Trip35 and would probably have liked the results better – I only took the digi-camera as I was worried about not having free hands or a comfortable spot to stop and change a film.

Liked by 1 person

5 11 2016
surfnslide

It was my nemesis for a while. Two failed attempts in full winter conditions, led astray by a mate who tried to breach the ramparts on the east ridge by some nasty gullies. I’ve since worked out reaching the ridge by scrambling up the end of the ridge is easy and spectacular. The pinnacles are a superb traverse but I found that long descent back to the road tiresome as well. Great account here. ๐Ÿ˜€

Like

6 11 2016
mountaincoward

There’s no way I’d tackle that in winter! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ I’d love to see anything you’ve written about going up the end of the ridge as I know you can go up that way but don’t know the route.

Like

5 11 2016
Janice Drake

Enjoyed reading that and your photos. I did this ridge a long while ago with my husband and another party member, and the rest of our group said with a small child at home we ought not to take the risk of doing it together…..But of course we all survived perfectly well!

Like

5 11 2016
mountaincoward

Wow! it’s not THAT dangerous! You’d think from that comment they thought you were going to do K2 or something!

Like

5 11 2016
Jim Ruebush

I enjoyed the trip. Thanks for the pictures and commentary.

Like

5 11 2016
mountaincoward

I enjoyed the walk/scramble ๐Ÿ™‚

Liked by 1 person

5 11 2016
McFadzean

Well done, Carol. I take my hat off to you. This is the least fearsome account of Liathach I have read and it’s given me hope. If I get the chance to do it sometime in the future I’ll sign up with Mr Fallon.
Cheers, Alen

Like

5 11 2016
mountaincoward

his group walks are great fun and not expensive so a great way to do that kind of hill

Liked by 1 person

5 11 2016
Gaslight Crime

Very impressive JB

Like

5 11 2016
mountaincoward

It is a pretty impressive hill – just takes a few goes to not let it frighten you off I think

Like

5 11 2016
Mark

So not too scary then? Ideal conditions for it. Good to see Meall Dearg from the ridge. It looks pretty tame but we know better ๐Ÿ™‚

Like

5 11 2016
mountaincoward

Yeah – not sure I’d do that one again!

Like

5 11 2016
chrissiedixie

Wonderful, Carol! And I have to say, you actually made it all sound not too bad and very do-able!

Like

5 11 2016
mountaincoward

It’s certainly do-able with a guided group and the Steve Fallon walk was only ยฃ95 which I think isn’t bad for guiding – it’s because it’s not personal guiding but group guiding…

Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: