Thursday 20 June 2013

The Mighty Liathach

Last year I sampled the delights of Liathach but not the complete ridge. I had Dawn with me and she wasn't keen on tackling the Am Fasarinen Pinnacles, so we turned back after the first major summit.

Reading about these pinnacles conjures up all sorts of nightmares in your head but what would it actually be like?

Liathach From Loch Clair
After 15 minutes of very strenuous up-hill walking, I realised I had left my camera on the back seat of the car. The air quickly turned blue as I told myself off. It took me three minutes to get back down to collect it and another 15 to get back to where I was. Sam quite rightly sat and watched with a smile on his face.

It was a real slog up to the ridge, The sun was out and the gradient was very steep, so much so that at times it was almost vertical. There are plenty of hand holds and the climbs are short, but rather exposed as you get higher. We reached Corie Liath Mhor about three quarters of the way up and paused to catch our breath and take in some liquid. From the corie several male Ring Ouzels could be heard singing, but they proved difficult to spot. 

The view from the ridge, for me at least, is absolutely spectacular. At the point where the path meets the ridge it is quite narrow, which can make you feel a bit wobbly while you try to take photos. 

Glacial Wasteland
We headed to the eastern summits first, which afforded us great views towards Beinn Eighe and back to Spidean a Choire Leith - Liathach's highest summit.

Sam Heading Towards Liathach's Eastern Summit

Spidean a Choire Leith (the one with snow on it)
We re-traced our steps back to the point where we had originally reached the ridge. From there we carefully walked and scrambled our way over the first two peaks and then up to highest point of the whole route. All three summits were a mass of Quartzite boulders. The challenges ahead from the highest point looked daunting but not insurmountable. The Am Fasarinen Pinnacles were partially hidden, so was the way down to them.

This is the View From My Finishing Point Last Year and This Is the Same View That Greeted Sam and I this June

The route down to the pinnacles was very steep and littered with boulders and scree that was very loose. For me this was harder to descend than the pinnacles were to traverse. 

Sam Sizing Up the Pinnacles
The main challenge on the pinnacles was not being able to see how far you had to down climb before reaching a secure footing and also the extreme exposure. From the pinnacles you could look straight back down to the small car park where the cars looked like toys. On one part, due to loosing the route over the pinnacles, we ended up on the narrow path which works its way just under the pinnacles and this is even more exposed than being on the pinnacles. 

I noticed a very peculiar rock formation whilst on the path under one of the pinnacles. Liathach is often described as being a sleeping Leviathan, well could that be the foot of a monster showing in the photo below or just my imagination? The foot or talon was holding up a massive amount of rock. As you can see there is a great deal of erosion underneath the pinnacles.

Monster Feet
Sam Needed a Rest After the Pinnacles
Looking Back Along the Pinnacles
From the pinnacles it was a straight forward hike along the ridge to the second Munro - Mullach an Rathain. A Ptarmigan did its best to avoid my gaze, but I spotted a slight movement and managed to creep up on it  and confirm its ID. We planned to have a tot of whisky at the top, but we were run off the summit by a herd of mighty Scottish Midges. We ended up having to have the whisky lower down the mountain.

Looking Down on the Northern Pinnacles From Mullach an Rathain
The way off the ridge was via a very steep path made of loose rock and soil. We remarked that it was relentless but eventually we got back to the road and the reward was a 2.4 km road walk back to the car park.

It was a great adventure, but perhaps not one I'd want to enjoy daily.