Liathach from Glen Torridon
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Liathach in Torridon

Hillwalking route up Liathach from Glen Torridon

Liathach, "the Grey One", is situated in the heart of the Torridon. The most dramatic of the Torridon Giants, its slopes are composed of terraced sandstone, above which the highest peaks are topped with quartzite blocks. Forboding on first aquantiance, there are however some chinks in Liathach's armour which has allowed rough routes to develop over time.



Route outline


  Map base ©OpenStreetMap
Munros

Spidean a' Choire Leith

Mullach an Rathain

Ascent 1280m (4190ft)
Distance 6km (4m)
Time 3:40hr
Start 4km east of Torridon Village
Grid Ref : NG936566
Finish 1km east of Torridon Village
Grid Ref : NG915554
Terrain
easy hard
Nav
easy hard
Effort
easy hard
Scenery
ok fab


The route up Liathach heads in from Glen Torridon, starting and finishing points 2km apart. Some easy scrambling is to be enjoyed over the exposed Am Fasarinen Pinnacles between the Munros. There is a by-pass path recommended in poor conditions, but this is quite exposed in some bits and errosion has worn the path away in a couple sections making it crossable only with care.

Munro "top-baggers", will be further challenged as one summit, Meall Dearg, is reputed to be the most difficult 3000ft peak on the British mainland, accessed from Mullach an Rathain via the "Northern Pinnacles".



Route map




Route description


1. Getting to Glen Torridon

Liathach above Glen Torridon

Torridon is a small village, some 10miles west of Loch Maree in the north-west highlands. The A896 connects Loch Maree to the village and travels the length of Glen Torridon. This road is narrow and single track for the most part, and being on the NC500 scenic route, can be busy in peak holiday periods !

The hike up Liathach starts from the west side of a burn on the A896, 700m east of the cottage in Glen Torridon, where there is plenty of roadside parking nearby. The route finishes around 3km to the west of the start point.


2. Bidean Toll a' Mhuic

Heading into Coire Liath Mhor

From the roadside, a well constructed path heads steeply up the west side of the Allt an Doire Ghairbh. Head up this path and cross the burn just a minute or two after setting off ! Further up, hands are needed to clamber up a couple of "granny-stoppers", beyond which the path continues steeply uphill as it hugs the eastern side of the burn.

As the gradient easies slighty, the path turns into Toll a'Meitheach , which is a fine spot for a break.

The path leads up to around c400m, from where a rougher path continues through heather, over small loose boulders, then up some fine scree.

Up to the base of the dark sandstone terraces , the path takes a sudden right turn. [I've heard of a possible alternative route heading left from here which makes a direct ascent towards Spidean a'Choire Leith, clambering up wet pathless grass over and between the terraces, but I've never done this.] So right turn and follow the obvious path, worn and steep in bits, up to the ridge near Bidean Toll a'Mhuic , where views open up dramatically.


3. Spidean a'Choire Leith

On Spidean a'Choire Leith looking to Mullach an Rathain

The detour to Liathach's most easterly summit Sgurr a'Choire Dhuibh Bhig is a simple and direct walk from the bealach with only some stoney ground and a little boulderfield standing in the way. The views from Sgurr a'Choire Dhuibh Bhig's summit are superb and well worth the little exttra effort involved.

Back at Bidean Toll a' Mhuic, head westwards and follow a path along Liathach's crest. The crest then travels north-west over the grass and sandstone terraces before turning west and climbing up the quartzite of Stob a' Choire Mhor's eastern top . A little further on, the obvious path continues to Stob a' Choire Mhor's western top .

From Stob a'Choire Liath Mhor, there's a short drop south-west to a narrow nick in Liathach's crest, from where a climb up rough ground and clamber over more quartzite blocks is required to reach the pyramid summit of Spidean a'Choire Leith . This is a fantastic spot to take in superb views in all directions.


4. Am Fasarinen pinnacles

Approaching the Am Fasarinen pinnacles

From Spidean a'Choire Leith's summit there are two choices - head south-west following a vague but obvious path which comes to the top of a very large drop, then turns southwards to reach the top of a gap in the crest. Alternatively, and to avoid getting close to the dramatic drop, from the summit head due south (pathless) keeping to Liathach's bouldery crest, which turns south-west to reach the gap . At this gap there are some dramatic rock formations which frame distant Beinn Dearg.

That's the start of the Am Fasarinen pinnacles reached ! The first of the pinnacles is a bit underwhelming and easily avoided by sticking to a by-pass path on a grassy slopes on the south side of the crest.

Beyond the first pinnacle, another gap in the crest is reached and remaining pinnacles can be crossed or by-passed. Am Fasarinen Pinnacles are great fun and not overly difficult to climb over. The rock scrambling is at Grade 2, though definitely easier than that on the Aonach Eagach in Glencoe. Stick to the crests with the linking paths between, but do take care as the pinnacles are made of sandstone and the rock can be crumbly and loose in bits.

If weather is wet or windy, then clambering on the pinnacles is not much fun and possibly dangerous, so taking the by-pass path is to be recommended. The by-pass path for the most part keeps just to the south of the crest, however in some sections it is vertigo-inducing, so great care is needed. There are two points on the by-pass path where the path swings back into the mountain-side and errosion has taken its toll where care is needed particularly if damp or iced over.

The gap beyond the final and highest pinnacle is reached - if you've taken the by-pass path up to this point, its worth aiming up this pinnacle just for a bit of fun as it is fairly straightforward to clamber up, giving a taste of the exposure involved on the rest of the Am Fasarinen crest.


5. Mullach an Rathain

Heading up Mullach an Rathain with Spidean a'Choire Leith behind

After coming off the end of the Am Fasarinen Pinnacles, a small cairn is reached. The rock-scrambling on Liathach (for Munro Baggers) is now over and some will find relief that hands can be put back into pockets for an easy saunter onwards.

A path by-passes a minor summit (spot height of 903m and a good view point) and is then followed over a delightful grassy expanse to the edge above a coire.

The crest then narrows and the path sticks to the ridge crest for the next 500m or so. Another minor summit (spot height 973m, Harvey Maps) can be by-passed, but is worth detouring up to for a spectacular view of Mullach an Rathain and the Northern Pinnacles.

Terrain gets a bit more bouldery for the last pull up to Mullach an Rathain's summit . On clear days Mullach an Rathain's summit is a superb spot to stay taking in the magnificent views over the surrounding peaks.


6. Meall Dearg detour

Looking over Glas Toll a' Bothain to Meall Dearg

The northern satellite peak of Meall Dearg is connected to Liathach's main ridge via a spur from Mullach an Rathain. Called the Northern Pinnacles, this spur, as the name suggests, involves some scrambling and rock-climbing and therefore Meall Dearg is reputed to be the toughest mainland Munro Top to bag !

However it is possible to reach Meall Dearg avoiding the difficulty of the Northern Pinnacles - we took a route at the top of Glas-Toll a' Bothain.

West of Mullach and Rathain's summit, follow a path downhill. After a short distance the path twists through some stoney ground - beyond this, leave it and aim north and drop to a height of around 900m. From here drop into Glas Toll a' Bothain - it's very loose underfoot and much care needed ! We crossed the col to gain the other side, losing a bit of height in the process. A bit of a climb gains a gap just south-west of Meall Dearg's summit , from where a short walk along a narrow crest gains this elusive top.


7. Return

Descending Toll Ban

From Mullach an Rathain's summit , head west for a few metres, where a cairn marks the descent start. This descent is rough and loose on pink sandstone gravel - an excellent scree-run if you like going fast, zig-zagging quickly downhill !

Once grass below is reached, a burn in Toll Ban is crossed and ground thereafter gets occasionally a bit sodden. Expect to get wet feet and mucky legs on the remainder of the descent down to the road.

At time of writing, the NTS are doing path-maintenance on this section of the route.

If you've not arranged transport between start end end points of this route, you'll have walk of around 3km back along the road to the car-park - you'll be able to admire from below the mountain and crests that have just been climbed over.





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