The Infamous Liathach Ridge in Torridon

Jul 26, 2018 | Munros, Scotland's Mountains

Unlike any other set of mountains, the Liathach ridge in Torridon is regarded by many as one of the best mountaineering spots in the UK. It’s a Munro experience unlike any other and is a hike that will remain etched in your memory.

Liathach is a massive hunk of rock with eight tops, two of which are classed as Munros. The ridge is approximately 5 miles (8 km) long and the slopes fall down the mountains on either side in a series of sandstone steps.

It’s a piece of beauty which can be marvelled at from two of its neighbouring ridges – Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe. The trek is a combination of hiking, scrambling and walking.

I highly recommend you get this hike on a clear day because the views are staggering. Not only of the surrounding mountains but of the Liathach ridge itself.

 

Contents


Munros Climbed


  1. Spidean a’ Choire Leith – 1055 metres (3461 ft) – SPIDYAN-A-COYLAY
  2. Mullach an Rathain – 1023 (3356 ft) – MULLAK-AN-RAHIN

Liathach is the name of the ridge and is pronounced LEER-ACH in Gaelic.

What is a Munro? Need more information about Scottish mountain classification? Check this out.

Getting There


Follow the A835 west towards Gairloch. 20 miles before Gairloch you’ll take a left at the small village of Kinlochewe. This is the A896 towards Torridon and is single track.

Continue along this road for another 8 miles where the starting point is a small layby on your left, a few hundred yards before Glen Cottage. Here you can see the exact starting point on Google Maps.

Difficulty


If you’re an inexperienced hillwalker/hiker then this isn’t one I’d recommend you tackle alone. There are some tricky rocky scrambles and plenty of exposed ridgewalking throughout.

It is by no means impossible and just requires extra care on certain sections. The terrain from the roadside up to the ridge gets extremely steep with lots of loose rock. I do believe that a lot of the guidebooks classifying this hike as ‘only for pros’ is an exaggeration.

Once on the ridge, some of the route has two options – the main ridge or a bypass route. The bypass paths avoid the toughest scrambles but they are still extremely exposed. Below, left is the bypass while right takes you up onto the ridge.

a bypass path on Liathach ridge
The main rock climbing and scrambles are on the spectacular Fasarinen Pinnacles – a section of the ridge between both Munros. These offer some exciting clambering up moderately inclined rock faces interesting geological formations. For the less confident or those who just don’t fancy it, a clearly marked path passes the south side of the Pinnacles and avoids the bulk of the scrambling.

Duration & Length


Duration: 5 – 8 hours

Length: 6.5 miles (10.5 km)

viewranger screenshot of hike
Ordnance Survey Map for route: Explorer 433.

Where To Stay


The nearest places to stay are Torridon and Kinlochewe. If you’re staying in the area then I also recommend the beautiful Gairloch.

The Hike


Start off by leaving your car in the layby at the foot of Liathach. Merely from the roadside, what you’re about to hike looks daunting. A lot of it seems completely vertical.

The path starts to climb steeply and stays this way for a significant period. The first mile of the hike is the steepest section of walking all day and took me the best part of an hour.

The path crosses the Allt an Doire Ghairbh river early on and sticks to the right of it as you pass a couple of minor waterfalls. The terrain will begin to look more forbidding and vertical but the path eventually veers to the right, avoiding the cliffs ahead.

liathach ridge rock face
Don’t worry, the clearly marked path avoids this vertical rock face
There is a bit of straightforward scrambling but the path always remains clear. There are even some steps giving you a decent foothold as you come into the Coire Liath Mhor.

It’s here the path takes a sharp right and continues all the way up to the ridge. A couple of sections are punishingly steep and there are plenty of loose rocks on the sandstone face.

Keep going until you reach a cairn marking the first ridge and the first of the day’s sensational views.

While the real route heads left, I decided to slightly detour to the right to get some photos of northern Torridon. It didn’t disappoint.

views over Torridon
Now you see why I recommend doing this on a clear day?
After taking in your sumptuous surroundings, head left at the ridge. At first glance, you may think the first peak is the day’s first Munro but you would be mistaken.

The first two peaks make up the Munro top of Stob a’ Choire Liath Mhor. The third and furthest away is Munro number one!

view of the first Munro
Two tops and then the first Munro
It’s worth bearing in mind that thus far, exposure is at a minimum. This ascent to the first Munro is probably the most ‘relaxed’ section of the hike.

Follow the path up and over the two tops before reaching the final climb up to the Munro. The terrain is very bouldery so take your time. The rocks come in many shapes and sizes, jutting out at different angles with no apparent order.

view of spidean a choire leith
Scree covered slope up to Spidean a’ Choire Leith
Congratulations! That’s you at the summit of Spidean a’ Choire Leith, the day’s first Munro. The scary, or maybe adrenaline-pumping, thought is that the best is yet to come.

Take in the views from this summit. Comparable to the beginning of the ridge, not one angle disappoints.

To the northwest, you’ve got Beinn Alligin, an easier but equally as exhilarating ridge walk. To the northeast is Beinn Eighe, the most colossal of Torridon’s peaks.

cairn on top of the first munro
Views from the top of the first Munro!
Take care descending from Spidean a’Choire Leith. The going is steep and very rocky. Stay southeast until you leave the bouldery stretch and find yourself at the beginning of the ridge.

Again, there’s a clear path ahead which forks. Right takes you up and onto the prominent Am Fasarinen Pinnacles, left bypasses the scrambling but is still an extremely exposed walk.

Take a few moments to soak in what you’re about to traverse. The view ahead reminded me of something out of Lord of the Rings with its towering crags and undulating terrain.

view of the famous liathach ridge in torridon ahead
I chose to scramble because I love it, it depends on your confidence and preferences
I’m not going to recommend you choose the scrambling route over the pinnacles, or the frighteningly exposed bypass route. This is entirely your responsibility, as is everything in the mountains.

I chose to scramble and climb the pinnacles because I love that sort of stuff. The route is always relatively clear but there are plenty of rock faces that need negotiating.

Only go with what you’re comfortable with, you can always turn back and take the exposed path if you approach the pinnacles and think they’re too much.

some rock faces on the ridge
There are certainly some precarious sections but it’s not too bad if you are confident and take your time
Once you’re over/past the pinnacles, the route becomes a much more straightforward walk up to the second Munro. Bear in mind there are huge vertical cliffs dropping down to your right – just so you’re aware!

You’ll probably find that reaching the Munro peaks feels pretty insignificant after traversing the epic ridge.

view of the final munro
This final section is obstacle-free, just be aware of the cliffs!
The views from the top of Mullach an Rathain is equally as stunning as the previous Munro, if not surpassing it.

There’s something extremely satisfying about looking back along the ridge you’ve just traversed. You can also enjoy views of Beinn Alligin again to the northeast and the Skye Cuillins to the west.

views from the second munro, mullach an rathain
The stunning views really don’t get tiring
Unfortunately, the descent is almost as steep as the initial ascent. Especially at the beginning.
gravelly slopes down the mountain
From the summit of Mullach an Rathain, head southwest briefly before joining the path going directly south down the mountainside. The path steadily weaves its way ddown the gravelly slope and the going is arduous.

Your knees get a brief interlude at a grassy section between two streams but this is short lived. The path continues alongside one of the streams before veering of to the southwest and all the way down to the A896 road!

final part of descent
The final stretch!
You’ll come out a little over a mile to the west of where you started. I was lucky and got offered a lift almost as soon as I reached the road, something I wasn’t going to turn down in one of the year’s most sweltering days.

Unless you’ve brought two cars or get offered a lift then you’ll have to endure the slog back along the road. The surroundings are spectacular, but nothing in comparison to what you’ve just witnessed.

Nearby Hikes


This part of the country is laden with famous peaks. Along with Liathach, the two most popular are:

Beinn Eighe is definitely the giant of the three but they each offer their own unique experience. If you’ve come from afar (which is likely) then I recommend staying nearby and tackling all three ridges over a few days.

To Conclude


There’s really not much more to say about this magnificent walk. It’s undoubtedly one of Scotland’s finest and I reiterate, you should definitely do it on a clear day. Just take another look at the above photos.

While you do get two Munros under your belt, this hike is all about the ridge. Never have I felt so overwhelmed by the spectacular ridge that I kind of forgot I was bagging two Munros on the way.

The lochan-strewn landscape on show is epic, the terrace-lined mountain itself is mind boggling, the surrounding mountains are not far behind in grandeur….the Liathach ridge in Torridon is one of those walks you run out of superlatives for.

Thanks a lot for reading and please leave any comments in the thread below! 🙂

Share

If you found this useful or interesting - please share :)