A traverse of Liathach

In this short photo essay, Rob Lovell shares his day out traversing Liathach in a recent spell of good weather.

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‘Free to get out in the hills on Monday?’ came the text from my friend Sam a few days before. The forecast was stellar, but the pile of work on my desk weighed heavily on my mind (not to mention the logistics of organising additional childcare). ‘Possibly,’ I responded, ‘what are you thinking?’ My phone buzzed again, ‘Liathach ridge traverse.’ Sometimes opportunities are too good to miss – and this felt like one of them.

We set off from Inverness at 5am, hoping to make good enough time to ride the bikes back up Glen Torridon still in daylight at the end of the day. After a coffee in the Beinn Eighe car park, we made our way up the path between Liathach and Beinn Eighe, our plan being to ascend via the north-east nose, head to the top of Stuc a Choire Dhuibh Bhig, and traverse the ridge to take the normal route down from Mullach an Rathain.

We broke off the path as alpenglow spread across the horizon and a bank of cloud drifted into the glen. We were travelling light, so I had my larger camera with me. Some days it stays at home, as I like the feeling of being liberated from the need to capture every moment, but today it was on hand to fully hinder our progress.

Setting the peaks alight, the sun rose in slow pursuit of a wonderful crescent moon, the frost on the heather taking on an orange glow before we bathed in glorious winter sun.

We donned crampons for the scramble through the rock band and onto the first top, then took a steady wander along the ridge, enjoying wide-ranging and deep conversation. We took the bypass path on the Am Fasarinen Pinnacles – simply enjoying being out – and stopped frequently to take in the spectacle that only the North-West Highlands can deliver.

Reaching the summit of Mullach an Rathain, we paused before the final grind back down to the valley below. Our original plan had been to drop the bikes at the Beinn Alligin car park for a full east-to-west traverse, but riding back up the hill into a headwind from the normal descent was quite enough, and we were pleased with our decision to curtail the traverse at the final Munro.

One thing I love about days out with Sam is the quality of snacks he comes prepared with, and this outing did not disappoint. The day ended back in the Beinn Eighe car park, sitting in the van with good memories, weary legs, a cup of tea and a fine spread of crackers, cheese and fruitcake – plenty of fuel to get us back down the road.