Hills: Stob a' Choire Liath Mhor, Spidean a' Choire Leith, Am Fasarinen and Mullach an Rathain
Date: Friday 28th June 2019
Company: Myself, Ann-Marie and Michelle
Distance: 8.8km, Ascent: 1290m
Time: 8Hrs 45Mins

When the mountain weather forecast is exceptional, e.g. 10mph winds, no cloud, excellent visibility and chance of cloud-free Munros almost certain, it is worth setting out to do exceptional hills; less exceptional hills can be undertaken on less exceptional days. As such, I checked out my list of remaining hills required to complete a second round of Munros and Liathach leapt-out of the list suggesting "climb me".

My one and only previous ascent of Liathach was in August 2004, a walk/scramble I undertook myself on another fine day. Liathach is after all both a beauty and a beast of a mountain best avoided in bad weather.

On the evening previous, I posted-up a message to FB to see if any friends would like to accompany me. Despite the short notice, Ann-Marie and Michelle opted to abandon plans to ascend Ben Macdui to instead traverse Liathach. Good choice!

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

We set off walking around 6.45 in already exceptional weather. We would be undertaking the standard traverse going east to west starting from the A896 about 50m west of the Allt an Doire Ghairbh. Once beyond the electricity poles, we stopped to take our first photographs of the mountain.

Liathach from start of walk:

The ascent into Toll a' Meitheach is via an excellent well-engineered path. It is however relentlessly steep. We therefore stopped several times during the ascent to catch our breaths and to soak in the views.

Ascent into the Toll a' Meitheach:

During the ascent I was able to judge our height thanks to knowing the surrounding hills and their heights. We were soon above Seana Mheallan, a 437m Marilyn. Beinn Liath Mhor, Sgorr Ruadh and Maol Chean-dearg all looked superb.

Looking across to the hills of south Torridon during ascent:

On reaching the ridge, at a height of 833m, we stopped for a break. We decided not to head east to also ascend the Munro Top, Stuc a' Choire Dhuibh Bhig. I ascended this Munro Top on my previous ascent and as the wind was forecast to increase in the afternoon, I was keen to get the pinnacles behind us while the winds were still light.

Onto the ridge, looking back towards Stuc a' Choire Dhuibh Bhig:

As we began our traverse of the ridge, while the views to the south were great, the views to the north were outstanding - Beinn Eighe, Baosbheinn, Beinn an Eoin, Beinn a' Chearchaill .

Stunning views to the north:

Before long we were ascending over and in between boulders to reach the summit of Stob a' Choire Liath Mhor, our first Munro Top.

Ascending Stob a' Choire Liath Mhor:

We didn't stop at the summit of the Munro Top instead continuing on towards the Munro. The descent from Stob a' Choire Liath Mhor involved some very easy down-scrambling on Cambrian Quartzite. The bulk of the scrambling yet to come would be on Torridonian Sandstone.

Short downclimb from Stob a' Choire Liath Mhor:

The ascent of Spidean a' Choire Leith was again via lots of quartzite. On reaching the summit of Spidean a' Choire Leith, our first Munro, we stopped for a good break.

View from the summit of Spidean a' Choire Leith:

Ann-Marie and Michelle at the summit of Spidean a' Choire Leith:

The ridge ahead out to Mullach an Rathain via the Am Fasarinen pinnacles:

Michelle at the summit of Spidean a' Choire Leith:

I then continued on a short distance to check out the descent route and was soon again joined by Ann-Marie and Michelle. The descent from Spidean a' Choire Leith was not particularly pleasant. Lots and lots of quartzite boulders. There are a couple of paths heading down through the boulders, we didn't take the most eroded one but instead followed a fainter one.

Descent from Spidean a' Choire Leith:

Looking back to the unpleasant descent from Spidean a' Choire Leith:

The Am Fasarinen pinnacles now lay ahead. On reaching the first of the pinnacles, I was keen to get straight into scrambling and sticking to the ridge line. I think if one were to ascend and descend all the pinnacles, the traverse would take quite a long time and the scrambling would get harder than Grade 2.

And now the fun begins, the Am Fasarinen pinnacles:

After downclimbing the first of the pinnacles, we followed the by-pass path for a short distance but decided to then stick to the ridge line as much as possible including ascending to the summit of Am Fasarinen. The bypass paths below look vertigo-inducing and are no place for a slip. Better to keep hands and feet on rock!

The summit of the highest pinnacle ahead:

Looking down to Loch Coire na Caime and across to Beinn Dearg:

Heading for Am Fasarinen:

The scrambling on Torridonian Sandstone was simply wonderful. The rock was dry and grippy albeit rounded compared with the quartzite at the Munro summits. We had our hands on billion year-old rock. This is quite old until you realise the Lewisian Gneiss further north is about four times older.

Looking back to section of down-scrambling:

The ascent of Am Fasarinen involved the longest secion of scrambling; there are however lots of good holds.

Scrambling up Am Fasarinen:

On looking back, we could see we had already traversed more than half the pinnacles section. The Am Fasarinen pinnacles section is not long in distance.

Looking back towards Spidean a' Choire Leith:

Ann-Marie and Michelle atop one of the longest sections of scrambling:

Looking back:

We were now already approaching the summit of Am Fasarinen, a Munro Top, and highest of the pinnacles.

View of the ridge ahead out to Mullach an Rathain:

On reaching the summit of Am Fasarinen, we stopped for a short break. Adrenaline was flowing but we could see easy ground ahead beyond the final section of down-scrambling.

At the summit of Am Fasarinen:

Mullach an Rathain:

Final section of scrambling on the pinnacles:

The descent from Am Fasarinen was not difficult and there is a good path to follow.

Looking back at the descent from Am Fasarinen:

Looking back to Am Fasarinen:

Beyond the Am Fasarinen pinnacles, it is hands-in-pockets type walking out to the second Munro, Mullach an Rathain. It was a relief to have the scrambling behind us but at the same time, I would have enjoyed the scrambling section to have been longer in duration.

Onto easy ground:

Looking back to Spidean a' Choire Leith and the Am Fasarinen pinnacles:

The Northern Pinnacles of Liathach look scary in comparison to the Am Fasarinen pinnacles. I have not done these but think the grade is possibly Moderate?, with quite a bit of loose rock. Think I would feel more comfortable using a rope for these.

The Northern Pinnacles of Liathach:

Looking back:

There were lots of smiles on reaching the summit of Mullach an Rathain, our second and final Munro of the day. We had successfully completed the Liathach traverse, especially good for Ann-Marie and Michelle who had not previously undertaken much scrambling.

At the summit of Mullach an Rathain:

Michelle and Ann-Marie at the summit of Mullach an Rathain:

After another break at the summit, we carried on west for circa 100m before following a steep and very-eroded path downhill. Walking poles are really useful for this section. After descending maybe 300m, we reached the start of a well-engineered path which we followed out to the road.

The descent from the ridge, like the initial ascent onto the ridge, is steep and relentless. The descent was ardous due to the heat; it was 30C at the roadside and not much less coming down the mountain.

Looking back during descent from Mullach an Rathain:

On reaching the road we thumbed a lift back to the starting point getting a lift literally within one minute of reaching the road. Massive thanks to the individual who stopped to give us a lift back along the road, and good luck on doing the Aonach Eagach.

On returning to the Beinn Eighe car park, where I had parked-up my van, it was nice to see a stag with Liathach behind. It was however not nice inside my van which had reached an unbearable 39C inside. I therefore started the engine and run the air-conditioning for a while to cool it down.


Thanks to Ann-Marie and Michelle for joining me on a day I am sure we will all remember for some time. Liathach, what a hill .