Distance 12.4km | Ascent 1665m | Scramble rating Grade 2 | Go there on a dry, windless and snow-free day. Under winter conditions it’s a whole different beast.
In case you’ve not been paying attention, Scotland is rammed full of mountains. With so many on offer, it’s only natural that many are jaw-droppingly spectacular. But even amongst the very best of Highland offerings, Liathach ranks as one of the most spectacular. Its sculpted Torridonian sandstone offers a deluge of scrambling and climbing options amongst the buttresses and terraces, and conveniently the route that offers the best balance of difficulty, exposure and excitement takes a full traverse of the massif – including its two Munro summits and three of its four Munro Tops. It’s a long route, and the hardest obstacles take it up to a Grade 2 scramble, but it’s also one of the most rewarding in Britain. Here’s how to get up close and personal with ‘The Grey One’…
Having two cars gives you more options, but assuming you just have the one, the parking area near Glen Cottage (NG935566) is the best place to leave it. From here, a rough and often eroded path leads up through Toll a’ Meitheach, steepening as it climbs to the bealach on the ridge between Stob a’ Choire Liath Mhor and Stuc a’ Choire Dhuibh Bhig.
For the sake of completion, an out and back to Stuc a’ Choire Dhuibh Bhig is worth the minor detour. Packs can be dropped to speed the journey, which is definitely worth it for the views of Liathach’s sprawling neighbour Beinn Eighe.
Back at the bealach, the westward path takes you up and over the twin peaks of the second Munro Top, Stob a’ Choire Liath Mhor. The going is bouldery and awkward in places, but nothing too technical. A short descent and tough re-ascent finishes on the top of Spidean a’ Choire Leith – Liathach’s summit at 1055m. From here the best section of the ridge is laid out ahead of you.
A descent south-west from Spidean a’ Choire Leith’s summit brings you to a narrowing of the ridge and the start of the Am Fasarinen Pinnacles – here’s where the real scrambling begins. Confident scramblers can enjoy the challenge of tacking the crest of The Pinnacles direct; it’s an airy endeavour, but the scrambling is superb. A bypass path to the south means this toughest section can be avoided, but even this is narrow and highly exposed in places.
Beyond The Pinnacles, the technical ground is all behind you. A gradually ascending path climbs and curves right over the course of a kilometre to the summit of Mullach an Rathain. This high point offers phenomenal views of Beinn Alligin, Loch Torridon and the Isle of Skye; but the most impressive view is that of the ridge you’ve just traversed.
The return to the car is not a brief journey. The descent via Toll Ban is steep and unrelenting until it arrives at the road, from where there’s 2.5km of tarmac between you and the car, providing plenty of opportunity to admire the southern flank of Liathach and reminisce on the day’s adventure.