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Ring of Steall (scrambling via NE ridge of Sgurr a'Mhaim)
by IainMacG » Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:57 am
Route description: The Ring of Steall, Mamores
Munros included on this walk: Am Bodach, An Gearanach, Sgurr a'Mhaim, Stob Coire a'Chairn
Date walked: 23/09/2020
Distance: 16 km4 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
... and the planning left me slightly unhappy at the standard route since it involves an unsatisfying bit of road walking in Glen Nevis and that it wasn't a totally satisfyingly purist 'ring' (albeit the most realistic one for most and hence why the always excellent WalkHighlands publish it), ie starting and finishing at Steall meadows. So consulting my scrambling in Lochaber guide led me to a better option (albeit one for those happy with bit of scrambling action): an anti-clockwise round starting at finishing at Steall meadows - in/out via the gorge - with a cunning route to access the NE ridge of Sgurr a'Mhaim.
The forecast was spot on.
So parked at the head of Glen Nevis car park (no having to schlepp up here from lower down for me!) and up Steall Gorge to the meadows. Across the wire bridge to the hut and then forge off right up a steep burn through birch woodlands to reach the start of a shallow bealach at about 420m alt. Beautiful views back over Steall meadows and the falls.
Then cut left traversing across fairly easy ground with a faint path (whether fellow intrepid scramblers or merely deer or sheep I don't know!). Up an obvious rake. And then scrambling up an exposed nose towards a flattening in the ridge. Which, given that it was all just a bit wet from the previous day's rain, all felt a bit nervy!
The end result of this cunning route was access to secluded and rarely visited Coire nan Cnamh (the corrie of the bones!). The eeriness of the name enhanced by the booming roar of stags rutting. The coire also contains an amazing bit of folded rock - you can see the result of immense forces having bent the rock.
And this coire then gave access via a bit more scrambling to the excellent NE ridge of Sgurr a'Mhaim. One 'Bad Step' up a gendarme on the ridge and then some lovely ridge walking to the summit. At 1099m it would be fair to say I was feeling it in the legs already.
Then across the Devil's Ridge - fairly tame in summer if you have a good head for heights. But I wouldn't want to trip there!
Up Sgurr/Sgor nan Iubhair - was briefly a Munro too which only emphasises that this Ring involves a lot more than 'just' 4 Munros; in fact there are really something like 7 or 8 summits to go over!
And then continuing over Am Bodach (The Old Man!), and Stob Coire a'Chairn - some steep scrambly descents.
Finally leaving An Garbhanach and An Gearanach (The Complainer - I imagine you would if you had to ascend it from Steall, that would be a slog and you would be complaining!). And the best was saved for last because the scramble up and summit ridge of An Garbhanach is excellent - fairly 'airy' scrambling across a ridge of excellent rock.
And then descending down on tired legs back to Steall - thankfully mostly on excellent stalker's paths which do a great job of zig-zagging!
Navigate the very very boggy ground before the Falls, cross the funky wire bridge again and then down the beautiful gorge with a sense of satisfaction that the Ring was in the bag.
by Sunset tripper » Fri Sep 25, 2020 3:35 pm
- Posts: 2090
- Joined: Nov 3, 2013
- Location: Inverness
by Bmg99 » Tue Sep 29, 2020 11:41 pm
Reflecting on our trip when we got home I did start wondering if going anti clockwise was a "better" route and if the faint path behind the white hut which heads off through the birch trees actually leads anywhere. Thanks for posting this route, will definitely keep it in mind for when we try the ring again.
by skullhead » Wed Sep 30, 2020 10:36 am
by IainMacG » Thu Oct 01, 2020 12:42 pm
I can post some more detailed topo pics if route not clear...?
Bmg99, I'm not suprised! That was a hot day - I was out on the eastern Mamores (Binnean Beag and Sgurr Eilde Mor) on the same day. And got caught in that same car crash. The tailback from the Connel Bridge was something else huh?
It's a pretty waterless high ridge. My route had the advantage that I approached via a high coire so I drank a full half litre water bottle at last burn before I headed to ridge and loaded up two to take round (500ml + 750ml).
And yes, personally, I think anti-clockwise is superior - whether via my scramble or normal way. The route up An Gearanach is a real slog and I think better as a descent (although haven't tried standard way up Sgurr a'Mhaim!). Additionally going anti-clockwise gets big Sgurr a'Mhaim out of the way and saves the best scrambling on An Garbahanach till last.
PS if you've still to do the last two you can do them in another ring with Stob Ban! Big day though!
Cheers Skullhead - glad you enjoyed it!
by jmarkb » Thu Oct 01, 2020 1:20 pm
IainMacG wrote:although haven't tried standard way up Sgurr a'Mhaim!
That's also a grim slog - with added quartzite blocks/scree near the top! An interesting variant is to take the normal route (in ascent) to about 670m, go left along a shelf and follow the old stalkers path (marked on the 1:25k map) round into Coire Sgorach and finish up the top part of the NE ridge. The N ridge of Stob Ban followed by the Devil's Ridge to Sa'M and down this way is a good circuit, but does not make for efficient bagging.
by IainMacG » Thu Oct 01, 2020 9:46 pm
I used a description from Scrambles in Lochaber.