Day 15 – 23/7/2010 – Liathach traverse before cycling from Torridon to Poolewe. 6.5 miles hiking, 36 miles cycling.

Route plan for the day’s walking:

Route plan for the day’s cycling:

I was up and packed early in the morning. By 10am, after cycling to the bottom of Liathach and locking my bike in some nearby woodland, I was ready to start climbing. The ascent from the car park was long and steep with a few bits of very easy scrambling. I met two walkers on the way up, and noticed they were refilling with water from the burn. Having never drunk water from a stream before, I enquired as to how safe a practise this was, and they persuaded me it was fine and that I’d regret not refilling when I could because there would be no water on the summit ridge. Being a very warm day (for Scotland), I followed their advice and indulged in very refreshing, icy cold mountain spring water – my first taste of a Scottish mountain!

My tent in the morning, at Torridon's free campsite

My tent in the morning, at Torridon's free campsite

View down Glen Torridon

View down Glen Torridon

View from the steep path upwards

View from the steep path upwards

When I reached the summit ridge, the views really opened out. Leviathan mountains – Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe – stood as isolated giants separated from Liathach by incised valleys. I soon reached the first and highest of Liathach’s two munro tops, Spidean a’ Choire Leith, to witness an incredible panorama. Mountains and hills stretched as far as the eye could see into the distance, interspersed with lakes and valleys. To the west, the sea appeared – The Minch – with Skye ashore and the Outer Hebrides far beyond.

Atop the summit ridge

Atop the summit ridge

View to Liathach's first top

View to Liathach's first top

Mighty Beinn Eighe

Mighty Beinn Eighe

Rocky walking on Liathach

Rocky walking on Liathach

Beinn Alligin and Beinn Dearg (middle distance, L-R)

Beinn Alligin and Beinn Dearg (middle distance, L-R)

View from Liathach

View from Liathach

Liathach, Beinn Alligin and Skye

Liathach, Beinn Alligin and Skye

Stunning Panoramic Views

Stunning Panoramic Views

The end of Liathach, Beinn Eighe behind

The end of Liathach, Beinn Eighe behind

Beinn Eighe

Beinn Eighe

View to the pinnacles of Liathach

View to the pinnacles of Liathach

Vast hill country

Vast hill country

View to Mullach an Rathain

View to Mullach an Rathain

Expansive wild views

Expansive wild views

The mighty bulk of Beinn Eighe, middle distance

The mighty bulk of Beinn Eighe, middle distance

Liathach’s notorious pinnacles looked terrifying from above, ominously looming on the path ahead. I pondered whether to continue, and decided that I would push on, but take the bypass path instead of climbing over the sharp arête. Having been scared witless the previous week on Arran’s A’Chir ridge, I wasn’t prepared to risk any more potentially dangerous scrambling (even though A’Chir was graded as being more difficult).

Dramatic drop off the side of the bypass path

Dramatic drop off the side of the bypass path

Casually peering down the 1000m edge (bike hidden in the trees down there)

Casually peering down the 1000m edge (bike hidden in the trees down there)

The first of Liathach's pinnacles

The first of Liathach's pinnacles

View from the bypass path

View from the bypass path

Dramatic Valley

Dramatic Valley

View back to Spidean a' Choire Leith

View back to Spidean a' Choire Leith

Sheer drops and knife-edge hills

Sheer drops and knife-edge hills

The bypass, although very exposed on the left hand side did not pose too many difficulties, although there were some slightly precarious stretches were gullies had eroded down the mountainside. After the pinnacles were passed, it was a simple walk to the second Munro top, Mullach an Rathain. This brought equally superb views to those from the earlier summit, embellished further by the blue expanse of Upper Loch Torridon, its ragged edges visible below.

Looking back across the pinnacles of Liathach

Looking back across the pinnacles of Liathach

Leviathan Hills

Leviathan Hills

Spectacular Mountains

Spectacular Mountains

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

The ragged sides of Upper Loch Torridon

The ragged sides of Upper Loch Torridon

The descent path down Liathach was pretty horrendous! The path was heavily eroded by wind, weather and years of trampling. It declined steeply on gravel-like sediment, and I was unable to achieve a firm foothold, so crawled using my hands and feet with my back facing the mountainside. After a few hundred metres (which seemed to take forever) something more akin to a proper path appeared and thereafter the descent was straightforward. The walk took about 6.5 hours and was really enjoyable – breaktaking – in the fine weather.

Wild mountains viewed from Liathach

Wild mountains viewed from Liathach

The path down the mountain - see area of scree in top right - that's the path!

The path down the mountain - see area of scree in top right - that's the path!

I returned to my bike and cycled on to Kinlochewe, where I stopped at a garage and treated myself to an ice-cream and some snacks. Some walkers I’d met on the hill earlier were surprised to see me and asked how I was doing. The walk had tired me considerably, and they commented that I seemed tired – they were knackered as well. Despite being exhausted after Liathach I managed to cycle on to Poolewe, 30 miles up the coast. This was a spectacular route, filled with dramatic mountain vistas – such as Slioch towering over Loch Maree – and scenic coastal views later on. I would have appreciated the views more had I not been so tired! My reason for persisting in the evening was that I was determined to go the extra distance to Durness on the North Coast of Scotland, which I had heard would be a spectacular journey (albeit two days’ detour). I therefore wanted to make as much progress northwards as possible before dark.

Loch Clair

Loch Clair

Slioch towering over Loch Maree

Slioch towering over Loch Maree

View over Loch Maree

View over Loch Maree

View over Loch Maree

View over Loch Maree

With no charge on my phone, I was forced to look for a telephone box in order to ring home. At Gairloch I found a payphone, but BT are absolutely useless: their box would not accept coins, and when I tried to pay by card I found that there was no card slot; furthermore when I tried to ring an operator the phone was inoperable! I gave up, and kept going along the coast. At Poolewe I stopped at a campsite, and although I was intending to wild camp somewhere, I thought I’d better go to the posh campsite so I could do my laundry and charge the phone. At £8.20 it was the most I’d had to pay for a campsite on my trip so far, but I was in need of fresh clothes and a comfortable night, in any case.

After I’d pitched up, some kind caravanners invited me inside for a cup of coffee and cheese on toast! Luxury! I told them all about my adventures and showed them my pictures. Apparently they had overtaken me earlier, up the hill from Gairloch. It was great to have some company, and their kindness really made my day (and alleviated any grievances I’d had at paying the campsite fee).

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One Response to Day 15 – 23/7/2010 – Liathach traverse before cycling from Torridon to Poolewe. 6.5 miles hiking, 36 miles cycling.

  1. Ann says:

    Fabulous photos – I would think that it really made that climb worthwhile.

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