Liathach by-pass path ? A past Rescue on Liathach.

I have climbed this Jewel of Torridon often but sadly not recently. I have had so many adventures winter climbing and introducing young Mountain Rescue Troops to this mountaineers , mountain. It has two Munro’s and 4 Munro tops. To me it is easily is one of the finest mountains in Scotland. I had a few friends running it last week when it was wet. They know the mountain well but had not been on the path that bypasses the pinnacles. One said it was very eroded and is always wet and caee is needed. As walk Highland states a slip can be fatal. It’s worth reminding folk of this. The pinnacles do require require scrambling ability and are a safer way to go. Over the years I helped a few on the Pinnacle’s who needed a safety rope. In winter I saw a lone Walker trying to traverse below the Pinnacles he had no axe or crampons. I had gone up a gully so I had two axes and gave him one. It was a scary experience but I got him off the hill safely. He was a lucky man.

Liathach

Liathach is rated by many mountaineers and hillwalkers as Scotland’s finest mountain, challenged only by An Teallach and the Cuillin of Skye. Its traverse is an expedition that will be remembered forever.

From “Well-trodden but very steep terrain throughout. There is mild rock scrambling en-route to the ridge, and some awkward bouldery terrain along it. The Am Fasarinen pinnacles involve some trickier scrambling, and the alternative bypass path is very exposed. The descent from Mullach an Rathain is also very steep. If unsure, hire a guide.”

The traverse path – photo Al Swadel

Worth noting if bypassing the scrambling !

“The sight ahead should set the pulses racing, as the next section of the ridge is riven into the famous Am Fasarinen pinnacles. If all these are traversed along the crest there is a conseridable amount of exposed scrambling to negotiate.

The path photo Munro Moonwalker.

Alternatively there is a path which traverses along natural shelves below the pinnacles on the south side to avoid the scrambling, but it is sensationally exposed, particularly at a couple of spots where it also tends to be wet.

Photo Ilona Turnbull of the ground at the path.

A slip here could be fatal, the path is fairly eroded in places and cuts across some steep ground. I have done a few searches in the gullies and below the path that at times I was pretty scared to be there. It seems to be getting worse as it erodes and I my mind and others “This is a case of sticking to the ridge crest” I cannot emphasise that if on the path you must be careful.

The traverse path – photo Al Swadel.

I loved exploring the Corries and sadly did for several fallen climbers over the years. In my first year in the Mountain Team at RAF Kinloss a young member of the Air Training core fell of the pinnacles into the corrie. This was the late 70’s it was winter and the team Leader Pete McGowan got down to him by descending a steep gully. There were no mobile phones then. What involved was a 12 hour rescue by ourselves to get the young lad off the hill. Those who were there will never forget Pete’s bravery at descending after the young lad. He kept him alive till we got down to help, Getting a stretcher into that Coire was not easy the weather turned nasty but we got him off in the wee small hours. He did make a full recovery. After that I tried to make sure I knew safe descents into these huge Corries and a route out carrying a stretcher. This is from that report.

At 1230 on the 8 Jan 1977 whilst training with RAF Kinloss MRT a 16-year-old cadet fell from the Am Fasarinen  pinnacles on the Liathach ridge NG 25/925576. He was located by the RAF Kinloss Team Leader 800 feet lower down on the North side of the mountain in Corrie Na Caime. This was about 1230 that day with head, face and arm injuries.

This wild side of Liathach and an awful place to fall and a huge carry off in poor weather.

This wild side of Liathach and an awful place to fall and a huge carry off in poor weather.In these days the radios were poor and the Storno VHF radios in the poor weather low cloud snow and rain were not effective. It took several hours to gain communications. (There were no Mobile phones in these day and the radios were basic) A helicopter managed to drop a stretcher with two men but due to the impending darkness and air turbulence on the East side of the peak.  ( there was no night vision goggles in 1977 and the helicopter was immense in getting the two troops and stretcher in to an area nearby.

The stretcher reached the casualty at 2100 and after a 5 mile carry off in extremely difficult terrain in darkness the casualty reached the car park and ambulance at 0430! From here he was taken to Inverness Hospital. (The accident happened at 1230 one can only imagine the time spent waiting and he could not be moved due to his injuries) When I became a Team leader I had to argue that the winter hills on such Mountains was not the thing to do.

These are still a huge areas despite modern technology. In the Corries you have poor communications and in the winter climbing there still gives you a sense of exploring. The Big walk in from sea level add to a day as does the tricky terrain to get off a route safely. Yet I have incredible memories of the sandstone pinnacles, the big ice routes and the adventures on this great peak.

Any photos would be appreciated I seem to have lost many of mine.

Comments as always welcome .

Al Barnard “Interesting call out there with Big Kev Hewkin and Daz Steatham. A guy had fallen to the south side 20m down. Facial and hand injuries, but most concerning was the fractured femur.
The casualty, a doctor, was as hard as nails. Remained conscious throughout. Splinted and packaged, secured on tenuous anchors, he was then extracted (which was exciting) by the winchman, Trev Preece with the aid of his J knife. Safely on to R137s wire and swiftly away to hospital. Later that evening, back in uniform, I got a b@#$¥$king from some SNCO Aclown in Forres Tesco for not wearing socks, which had got lost in the locker room scrum!”

Liathach – Photo Ilona Turnbull

Special thanks to Munro Moonwalker and Ilona Turnbull for the photos .

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Books, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Liathach by-pass path ? A past Rescue on Liathach.

  1. al barnard says:

    Interesting call out there with Big Kev Hewkin and Daz Steatham. A guy had fallen to the south side 20m down. Facial and hand injuries, but most concerning was the fractured femur.
    The casualty, a doctor, was as hard as nails. Remained conscious throughout. Splinted and packaged, secured on tenuous anchors, he was then extracted (which was exciting) by the winchman, Trev Preece with the aid of his J knife. Safely on to R137s wire and swiftly away to hospital. Later that evening, back in uniform, I got a b@#$¥$king from some SNCO Aclown in Forres Tesco for not wearing socks, which had got lost in the locker room scrum!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. al barnard says:

    Interesting call out there with Big Kev Hewkin and Daz Steatham. A guy had fallen to the south side 20m down. Facial and hand injuries, but most concerning was the fractured femur.
    The casualty, a doctor, was as hard as nails. Remained conscious throughout. Splinted and packaged, secured on tenuous anchors, he was then extracted (which was exciting) by the winchman, Trev Preece with the aid of his J knife. Safely on to R137s wire and swiftly away to hospital. Later that evening, back in uniform, I got a b@#$¥$king from some SNCO clown in Forres Tesco for not wearing socks, which had got lost in the locker room scrum! Tread carefully and remember where you put your socks.

    Like

  3. Tony B says:

    Another great piece Heavy …brings back some great memories, and some sad ones from my time at KMRT …. and after in left KMRT …will email you with the story cheers Tony

    Liked by 1 person

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