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Northern Pinnacles of Liathach

Spidean a'Choire Leith

My days off this week had mixed weather and mixed success.

First was an attempt at the Cioch Nose, which didn’t get further than the car park for various reasons including sideways rain, waking up late, high winds and a film crew.

The second was a solo of the Northern Pinnacles of Liathach. Graded moderate in the Highland Scrambles North guidebook, this blurs the line between scrambling and climbing. Many people, it would appear, choose to avoid the tricky lower sections of the route opting instead to go and to the fine, airy upper section of the route. Not having done it before I was keen to find out what it’s like.

The walk in is best from the east up Coire Dubh Mor. This is steeper and longer than you’d expect but very rewarding. It has stunning views and is a well kept path, complete with stepping stones for the river crossing. Turning off this and heading into Coire na Caime by small and then larger lochans and hummocked heather gives you a feeling of leaving all traces of civilisation behind. From the loch in the coire you can spy out the line of the route. It’s faint line of weakness up the impressive flanks of Meall Dearg that looks inviting and daunting in equal measure.

The route lives up to the description of “hard at the start” before you gain the clean rock in a fine position. I certainly felt tentative over the moist turf-covered initial section. Being careful and paying heed to the seriousness of the location, I took my time over these initial passages. Once the ridge is gained the nature of the route changes, insecure heather being replaced by airy jumbles of sandstone, and before long the concern had left and the enjoyment of moving over a ridge freely with a light rucksack and only myself for company replaced it. The summit of Meall Dearg came quickly.

Northern Pinnacles of Mullach an Rathain (Liathach)
Northern Pinnacles of Mullach an Rathain (Liathach)

From the col behind, the true pinnacles were obvious as stepped terraces of sandstone. The line up these was much better defined leading me to believe that most people probably take the “easy” (as the guidebook puts it) approach. Taking care for the loose section, but enjoying the position and moves, the pinnaces soon passed as well and before I knew it I was on the summit.

A glance at the watch and a quick snack I realised I’d have time to complete and west to east traverse and do some more exploring by heading down the east ridge. I set off passing the familiar terrain of Am Fasarinen, keeping to the crest allowed me to enjoy the passage of the pinnacles. Over Spidean a’Choire Leith and Stuc a Choire Dhuibh Bhig and I was heading down the eastern ridge.

Spidean a'Choire Leith
Spidean a’Choire Leith and the Am Fasarinen Pinnacles

This has tricky route finding and an exposed position feeling like you’re dropping off the edge of the world. Most of the difficulty is, however, mercifully straightforward with care being taken not to descend too far and get caught by the “damp, dark cliffs” at the bottom. These are escaped be traversing right to scree.

All that remained was heading back for a shower with a smile on my face and another great day in the Torridon hills.

Liathach Summit Selfie
Liathach Summit Selfie

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