11 hard miles over rough and exposed terrain, on well-worn paths (most of the way). You will need a head for heights, and not worried about undertaking some difficult scrambling. Navigation skills are an absolute must, especially in cloudy conditions and beware that the quartzite on Spidean a Choire Leith can be treacherously slippery in wet conditions.
Liathach is a monster of a mountain and is regarded by many as one of Scotland’s finest mountains, and on par with its near neighbours the Cullins on the Isle of Skye and An Teallach. It is a challenge not for the faint hearted and will require a good head for heights, but you will never forget your traverse of this wonderful mountain.
This walk is on well trodden bouldery paths, and as it starts from near enough sea level it instantly takes you up exceedingly steep terrain, which is maintained throughout the route. Scrambling and some mild rock climbing will be required before you reach the ridge, and once on the ridge there are some sections of very exposed walking, so please ensure yourself and all members of your group are confident to tackle this type of terrain. If in doubt, take an experienced guide with you.
Assuming you dont have two vehicles, the best starting point is the tourist information centre in Torridon on the junction with the A896, as once you finish the traverse the last thing you are going to want to face is a walk up a long road on weary legs. So best to get it over with first! From the car park walk up the road towards the glen. On your left you will see a mass of scattered boulders. These are known as the Celtic Jumble and offer some 97 lines of interesting bouldering. After about half a mile you reach stands of scots pine, after which glen torridon starts to enclose around you with the impregnable walls of Liathach on your left and the smaller slopes of Sena Mheallan on the right. After a further one and half miles, you pass a lonely cottage and shortly after this you cross a cattle grid and reach a small park cark which marks the start of the route up the mountain. This is steep ground and the route will now follow the Allt an Doire Ghairbh, which tumbles out of the Toll a Mheitheach – a corrie high up on the now towering walls above you.
The path winds up the east side of the burn with growing steepness, but provides ever improving views of the Glen as you stop to catch your breath. After approximately 450m of steep climbing the path enters the unexpectedly big bowl of Toll a’Mheitheach. The well worn path continues up the corrie before making a sometimes scrambly traverse rightwards, making use of the stepped nature of Liathachs sandstone to gain some height and to help you find your way through some steep terrain. Eventually easier-angled slopes lead to a gap below Liathach’s eastern-most summit, Stuc a choire Dhuibh Bhig. A straightforward scrambly ridge now leads you up the final 70m to reach its summit cairn at 915m cairn and you can celebrate your first top of the day.
The views from here are awe inspiring. Beinn Eighe’s shattered quarzite ridges can been seen to the north-east and to your west now lies the view of the precipitously sided spine of Liathach. Once you’ve finished taking in the view, retrace your steps to the gap and climb the rough ridge on the other side to reach Bidean Toll a’Mhuic, with its large quartzite cairn. Descend the other side and its now only a climb of 120m from the highest summit of the day – Spidean a choire Leith at 1055m (3456 feet). But this is rough walking, as the peak is a chaotic jumble of square quartzite blocks, but the views from the summit are well worth it and it is a grand place to sit and recharge your energy supplies with lunch.
Great care now needs to be taken on the descent from Spidean a Choire Leith, especially if you find yourself in misty conditions. Always remember that on Liathach what might look like an easy scree-descent from above probably has several unseen cliffs in the way. So if visibility is poor take a compass bearing from the summit. You now need to head southwest along a ridge of steep boulders, the path being not always obvious. Do not be tempted to head off down the enticing SSE ridge – this ends in a huge cliff. In addition to mist, take care if conditions are also wet, as the steep quartzite blocks become as slippery as ice! The path is usually visible by worn rocks and the occasional cairn as it makes an exposed descent above the impressive hollow of Core no Caime. The famous pinnacles of Am Fasarinen now grow increasingly impressive as you lose height. The route now presents you with two options, and which either you decided to take is going to have your pulse racing and heart pounding. If you decide to undertake a direct traverse of the pinnacles you will have to negotiate some moderate to hard rock climbing & scrambling in exposed terrain, which for the next kilometre is relentless and exhilarating . The second option is to take the path with traverses beneath the pinnacles to avoid the scrambling. But this path is eroded and totally exposed, so you really will need a head for heights! It is treacherous in places especially where it crosses a couple of gullies, and you will be relieved when it rejoins the ridge just past the last pinnacle (to which you can do a quick detour for a stunning view).
Its now time to catch your breath, and the ridge ahead which offers no difficultly leads to the summit of Mullach an Rathain, at 1023m. This is a wonderful viewpoint and provides a fine view of Beinn Alligin to the northwest, with the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides visible on a clear day. The path now descends down Mullach an Rathains broad west ridge, high about Loch Torridon. After about 1km, you pass the head of a huge scree-gully on the left. This can provide you with an express route back to Torridon village, but it will not be at all pleasant and on tired legs, the scree is horrible. A much more pleasant, though longer option is to head down along the broad easy ridge to the subsidiary peak of Sgorr a Chadail and then descend down the relatively easy slopes to the north. You then pick up the well-trodden path down Coire Mhic Nobuil as it crosses the Abhainn Coire Mhic Nobuil and eventually comes out onto the road. It is now a good 4km along the road back to where you parked your car, but it weaves its way through some lovely old stands of Scots Pine and the views over Loch Torridon are wonderful and will take your mind off of the distance.