Liathach via the South Ridge of Mullach an Rathain Walking

Liathach is without question one of our finest and fiercest mountains, and the traverse of the massif from end to end gives you a grade 2 ridge scrambling adventure that's up there with the best. Taking in two Munros, several subsidiary tops, and the famous pinnacles of Am Fasarinen, it's an exposed and committing route, but one on which some of the more difficult sections can be enjoyed or avoided depending on the team's abilities. Though it's perhaps most commonly done east-to-west, the reverse direction allows for an optional start via the South Ridge of the western Munro, Mullach an Rathain. With a less-trodden feel than Am Fasarinen, this enjoyable but slightly more serious scramble extends the day's hands-on entertainment, to give you more of the feel of a mountaineering journey.

Am Fasarinen and Mullach an Rathain  © Dan Bailey -
Am Fasarinen and Mullach an Rathain

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Detailed description

NG9134655403 Cross the road and take the path north, weaving uphill through rocky outcrops on a long steep climb into the shallow sloping corrie of Toll Ban. The toothed upper crest of the South Ridge of Mullach an Rathain is now visible above. Cross and re-cross the burn, then leave the main path to bear left onto the broad pool-pitted shoulder at the foot of the ridge.

NG9126156838 Traces of path lead uphill to the lowest rocks of the scramble. From a large block, move left and go up a grassy depression, then follow your nose up indistinct ground to a point where a grassy corridor runs up between two lines of rock; the rounded arete on its left side gives good scrambling. Beyond a level section, the ridge rises steeply to the upper crest. A path of sorts zigzags up the broken ground to reach the narrow, bouldery crest. Pass left of a little pinnacle, then climb airy rock steps, with some suspect holds, to the base of a larger tower. From the corner on its left side step up and left - crux - then scramble more easily to reach the grassy neck where the ridge abuts the main hillside. Walk north-northeast, soon joining the main path up scree to the summit of Mullach an Rathain.
Loch Torridon from high on the South Ridge of Mullach an Rathain  © Dan Bailey -
Loch Torridon from high on the South Ridge of Mullach an Rathain
© Dan Bailey -, Jul 2022

NG9119057698 Follow the ridge-crest path southeast and then east in a spectacular position above the crags of Coire na Caime. Pass just south of a broad top (worth a quick detour), then loop around the head of a gully to reach another little summit. Ahead are the pinnacles of Am Fasarinen.

NG9221357410 Descend into a little col. If you want to take the traverse path along the south flank of the pinnacles (quite cool in itself, but not the same class as the crest) then here's the place to join it. Sticking with the crest, tackle a couple of small towers (avoidable on the right), then climb to the summit of Am Fasarinen itself. Descend and re-ascend to a level section on the ridge, then go down an eroded gully on the right side (take care for stonefall) before trending back left to the crest and descending into a low col. The next big pinnacle can be climbed more or less direct, or skirted to its right. More little towers follow, each of which can be climbed or avoided to the right. The scramble finishes on a final short but strikingly narrow arete. Now follow the rubbly path up onto Spidean a' Choire Leith.
Looking east from Spidean a' Choire Leith  © Dan Bailey -
Looking east from Spidean a' Choire Leith
© Dan Bailey -

NG9293657975 Continuing east, descend the steep boulder-strewn ridge to a col, then climb the rocky Stob a' Choire Liath Mhor with a little light scrambling on the way. The ridge continues in spectacular fashion onto a lower top. Descend rocks and scree to reach a narrower section of curving crest, with some easy but airy scrambling. At the col before Bidein Toll a' Mhuic, look out on the right for a cairn marking the top of the descent path.

NG9389158075 Steep and quite badly eroded at the top, this path makes a devious descent south then southwest, passing between tiers of crag to reach the sloping floor of Coire Liath Mhor. Now easier underfoot, the trail continues down beside the cascading burn, meeting the road in Glen Torridon about 3km east of your start point. It's a quick and scenic tarmac stroll home.

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