Saturday, 18 January 2014

Central Trinity and the Traverse of Liathach

  Looking back down on the Northern Pinnacle of Mullach an Rathain after soloing Central Trinity Gully (II*).

The sound of my alarm fell on confused ears, waking me to the unwelcome sight of the inside of my car. I woke groggy and disoriented, a fifteen minute nap in a lay-by near Achnasheen making me even more tired, not less. The day before in the Cairngorms had been long and satisfying, but I just needed more sleep.

For the first time ever I drove into Glen Torridon without feeling a spark of excitement. Mist clung to every slope, and a dull ache in my legs and dull light on the hills were making me uninspired. As I slogged up the Coire Dubh path my mind was on the last time I'd been here rather than what this day might bring, and I just wasn't feeling it. I didn't really have a plan for what I might do, but I half-heartedly kept going towards Coire Mhic Fhearchair.

An hour later and I wasn't any more enthusiastic. That was until the cloud shifted and I saw Mullach an Rathain.

The view which changed my mind - the Northern Pinnacle of Mullach an Rathain. 

I can't remember the last time my mood changed so rapidly. For two years I've drooled over the Torridon section of my climbing guidebook, fantasising about coming up here to solo winter routes. And here I was, with no thought that the day might include me climbing on Liathach, looking at a snow-filled and cloud-free Coire na Caime.

Central Trinity is behind the central and highest of the pinnacles, on the sunlight left face.

The Dru Face.

I forgot about being tired, my yawns and aches irrelevant because I was about to go climbing on Liathach. A niggling voice told me that a day which had started off on such a wrong footing might just end up being one of the best.

Upper Coire na Caime.

Looking towards Beinn Eighe.

The routes that I always want to climb the most are usually beautiful and natural lines. Central Trinity Gully might only be a 1 star grade II, but it's a route I've really wanted for ages. Its setting and position on Liathach is totally stunning, a prominent line going straight up to the crest of the beautiful Northern Pinnacles.

The Trinity face. Central Trinity is the right hand of the two prominent gullies in centre-frame.

But would it be in condition? It felt mild on the endless approach to the remote Coire na Caime, and I could see many of the gullies didn't look quite complete. Two hours later and I realised I wouldn't be able to tell whether Central Trinity was a goer until I was stood almost underneath it.

300ft of snow and two ice pitches later, and I was stood on the crest of the Northern Pinnacles grinning ear to ear. I'd never climbed in Torridon in winter before, and the views were off the scale. Sitting on the summit of Mullach an Rathain, I reflected on how much ascent I'd done in the last two days and gazed along the length of the ridge traverse. It looked mighty appealing.

Looking towards the ridge crest, realising it looked too good to resist.

So after briefly thinking "you are going to be sore tomorrow", I set off to do the Traverse of Liathach as well. This was the real prize…a route on the Trinity face followed by the ridge traverse is up there with the very best winter mountaineering days it is possible to have in Britain. The fact that 3 hours previously I'd had no intention to even be on this mountain felt pretty surreal.

Looking back along the ridge traverse to the Northern Pinnacles.

Evening light settling on Beinn Alligin.

The traverse is a 3 star classic, and a route I'd fully intended to come to do in the future as an objective in itself. Doing it after a climb in Coire na Caime turned yesterday into one of my best ever days in Scotland, even more so because I'd not been that enthusiastic about even getting out my car. Today I've spent resting and eating, and for the first time in quite a while I've not got itchy feet.



  1. Well done James. Liathach is one of my favorite memories of all that I have from Scotland. Last year we did hiddwn gully and then traversed. It was wonderful.

    1. Cheers Stephen, yes I remember your blog post. What a place!