Complete Mamore Ridge traverse
by ketzster » Tue Jul 19, 2011 6:10 pm
Munros included on this walk: Am Bodach, An Gearanach, Binnein Beag, Binnein Mor, Mullach nan Coirean, Na Gruagaichean, Sgurr a'Mhaim, Sgurr Eilde Mor, Stob Ban (Mamores), Stob Coire a'Chairn
Date walked: 19/07/2011
Time taken: 13 hours
Distance: 40 km
Ascent: 3900m24 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).
Having attempted the Mamore ridge traverse in September 2006 with another friend I knew that it would be a test of endurance. On that occasion we got dropped off by the taxi driver at the wrong place, idiotically went up Stob Ban first which meant we had to walk all the way out and back again to Mullach nan Coirean, and then ended up running out of water on An Gearnach which resulted in the end of mission. On this occasion I made sure that we carried four litres of water each so that the same thing couldn’t happen again, and of course made sure we went up the correct hill first.
I can’ t say that I was feeling fresh when I headed for the shower at 08.10. Two days earlier we had walked the 43km to climb Ben Avon from Tomintoul (my last remaining mainland munro) and then exhilaratingly raced the funicular train down Cairngorm the next day. This took a grand total of fourteen minutes. We set off at the same time as the last few people were boarding at the upper station and beat it down by about twenty seconds which we were quite pleased with. Dan called that a day off! My legs, in particular my hamstrings, were certainly not impressed by the amount of work they were being asked to do. Dan, to put it mildly, is a bit of a machine. He hates days off and never seems to wear out of energy. I will start a trip well and then after three days or so need a day to recover knowing that then I will be OK again.
We parked the car at Achriabhach in Glen Nevis at 08.35. The weather was showery and there was a lot of water and cloud around, but I still can’t understand how Dan got out of the car and pointed at Ben Nevis and asked ‘whats that?’. He has been up it three times, including once doing the National Three Peaks two weeks earlier. He must have been dazed that day however. After setting off from the car with the clock ticking he suggested upon reaching the Ben Nevis Inn that we should grab a cheeky pint. Bearing in mind it was the first hill of the challenge I thought it was a crazy idea. He still managed to run up Nevis (with me lagging behind again) to catch the others in the group and complete the challenge in 22hrs and 8 minutes, twenty minutes ahead of me and a good hour ahead of everybody else.
After laughing at him for a short while we set off up the track into the forest towards Coire Dearg. I had taken two Anadin Liquitab fast pain relief tablets to try and relieve some of the issues in my legs and for the first couple of hundred metres it seemed to be working, One of the issues facing virtually anybody walking with Dan is that they almost certainly won't be able to go uphill as fast as he can. I can normally handle the pace but on this occasion there was no chance. The path through the forest up the Allt a’Choire Dearg was a total bog from the constant overnight rain. The river was very impressive and had I been feeling fresh I would have said what a wonderful section of the walk it was.
After a short while we headed out of the forest and started to climb steeply up onto the NE arm of Mullach nan Coirean. Dan marched up effortlessly of course, telling me that the Mamore ridge was easy and that we would be back at the car for 16.00 and in the pub in Fort William for 18.00. He is doing the ‘365 Pub Challenge’ where you have to have a pint in 365 different pubs in 365 days so this was obviously very important to him. I liked the idea but I knew that there was no way that it would only take us that long. The way I was feeling I thought I might be going down after the first couple of hills anyway.
The climb up to the arm was a nightmare, with me having to keep stopping to stretch my hamstrings
Every time I tried to push uphill my legs just seemed to feel totally dead. But, as they say down at my running club, ‘when the going gets hard, the hard get going.' I tried to keep telling myself that even though it did seem far too early to be reverting to such desperate motivational phrases. After what seemed an eternity we eventually reached the ridge. Dan was full of beans and ready to march on. We headed south for about a kilometre into the mist and soon reached the summit of Mullach nan Coirean. The difference in our outlooks for the rest of the day could not have been more different. It was 10.19 and I was now about to bring out a saying that would be heard at least a hundred times over the remainder of the day. ‘It’s not possible Dan’ I said while I gulped down a quarter of my water.
I was probably a bit mentally scarred as well by the aborted attempt five years earlier. I was going to have to walk a long way to get to the top of An Gearnach from here and that was when the day would really start for me. We messed around with the compass for a while (North on my compass these days seems to be pointing South so it could be catastrophic if I messed it up) and headed through the mist towards Stob Ban. My legs seemed to be OK on the flat and downhill so this was a lot more enjoyable and I was able to keep pace with Dan ‘Steam Train’ Jones along the ridge. Every time we came across a little cairn, Dan thought he was at the top of Stob Ban. For somebody who has done over sixty munros you would have thought he would know that it is never quite as easy as you would like it to be. I knew of course from previous experience that it was quite a long walk to Stob Ban. After about half an hour we were at the very rocky slopes that lead to the top. Having thought my problems may have been behind me I soon hit the brick wall again and Dan was off up into the mist ahead of me. Fortunately I knew that neither of us had any faith in his map reading skills so he would have to wait for me. The climb to the top didn’t seem to last very long and wasn’t as far as I remembered it being from the previous two times I had done it. After a quick picture on the top
and another chug of water, we headed down towards Lochan Coire nam Misseach beneath Sgurr an Iubhair. This is a very special place for me personally so I was suddenly starting to feel a little bit more energetic. Sgurr an Iubhair was my first munro when I was six and it has since lost it’s munro status, the only one when the lists were re-jigged a few years ago. I can kind of understand why but whilst Dan and anybody else who are climbing the Mamores do ten munros, I was counting eleven.
We marched up the zig zag path to the col between the Devil’s ridge and Sgurr an Iubhair and had our first time check in a while. 12.19 Dan said. He still thought that 18.00 in the pub would be realistic. Before Sgurr an Lubhair we needed to make our first detour of the day to Sgurr a’ Mhaim along the Devil’s Ridge. We left the bags at the col and whistled along the ridge at a decent pace.
Briefly we had a view of An Gearnach
It didn’t seem as airy as I remembered it being along the ridge but we had been on Skye earlier in the week so that probably had a bit to do with it. After a short scramble at the Bealach a Chip, which Dan seemed to manage to get himself into a slight mess on, we climbed the remaining 100m and had munro number three.
Lunch was now on the agenda and we tried to get back to the bags as soon as we could. This was when I found the heart of my problem with my hamstrings, On the middle of the ridge I started massaging the back of my leg to try and get some circulation going and found a huge lump the size of a golf ball on the inside of the muscle. I believe in massaging they call it a knot. After rubbing the muscle fairly vigorously and poking around at it, I seemed to relieve a lot of the swelling which allowed me to get a bit of rhythm going, Considering Dan is a doctor you would have thought he would have more tricks up his sleeve than to suggest that the wholesome lunch I was about to endure would cure my problems. We reached the bags at 13.09 and I pulled out the Brioche rolls and Quorn peppered beef slices (one of the awful parts of being veggie) while Dan had his Ginsters pasty. The Quorn combination, despite sounding absolutely tragic, wasn’t completely awful and after another two Anadin and a few salted crisps I was ready to go. The climb up to Sgurr an Iubhair doesn’t take very long sadly and after explaining to Dan the significance of the hill, I had a moment with the top whilst I was laughed at.
I knew now that the next three hills couldn’t take us very long if we wanted to complete the ridge. The climb to Am Bodach was definitely the easiest ascent of the day and the best I had felt all day-so much so, I even managed to steal a march on Dan briefly.
At the top we met a couple with a dog which made us temporarily lose our concentration, well me anyway as Dan was just following wherever I told him to go. The couple had come up from the Kinlochleven side and we followed their steps down. After about 50m I said to Dan that I remembered the path being very steep and rocky and nothing like the grass we were walking on to Stob Coire a’Chairn. We returned to the top of Am Bodach and corrected my mistake by heading North off the top instead of SE like we had ten minutes earlier. This time the path was steep and rocky as expected and in the rain it was quite slippy. A good sing-song of football and dart chants kept us going however and before long we were heading up Stob Coire a’Chairn. A short time later Dan was celebrating his fifth munro of the day. I thought time was now pushing and was starting to worry that if it got late we would be in a bit of trouble as we had left the headtorches in the car. As it turned out the time was only 14.43 and after accusing Dan of meddling with his phone so that I felt better (I spent a long time checking it) we headed for An Gearnach. The cloud cleared briefly to point the way ahead to the impressive top of An Garbhanach, the point where the water trouble had started five years earlier. As I was in such a state of delirium from dehydration that day I remembered the rocky ridge as being incredibly exposed but on this occasion, despite it being wet, it proved to be very easy. We didn’t hang around on top of An Gearnach as we had left the bags at the bottom of An Garbhanach and it was time for a Cadbury’s Boost, which for some reason seemed to make me feel worse.
After collecting the bags we headed for the col between Stob Coire a’Chairn and Na Grugaichean across the Bealach a’ Chada Riabhach.
Suddenly, behind me I heard a chirpy voice say ‘why don’t we just WALTZ up there instead’. I turned round to see Dan pointing back up Stob Coire a’ Chairn and laughed at what seemed to me at the time like a very sadistic comment. I wouldn’t be waltzing anywhere soon and the suggestion made it seem like Dan was finding it all too easy. I was looking at the map and knew from a distant recollection of doing the Eastern three mamores about fifteen years ago that they were a long way, and I could also see the climb we had to do back up from the col to reach the top of Na Grugaichean. We reached the 783m col and psychologically I knew I was going to find the next section really tough.
It must have been the slowest I had walked up anything for years and years and I could tell Dan was getting frustrated. I kept looking at the map to check whether we were nearly there. Eventually the western top at 1041m came into view. As relieved as I was to get there the drop before the real top was annoying. I did to my surprise find the climb back up to the main summit quite exciting though as it bought back a sudden memory of me sitting on the scree on that exact slope as a kid. I remembered how scared I was then and my parents trying to help me down. It seemed so stupid to me now. Of course Dan looked very fresh on top and was raring to carry on even though I kept saying it still wasn’t possible.
My boots were filled with water by now and I knew we were coming to the section where my memory of the hills was very vague. All I knew was that I’d be walking with wet feet for a very long time. There wasn’t much height loss along the ridge to Binnien Mor. We left the bags on the South Top at 1062m and headed out along the ridge north. As this was quite a flattish walk it was one of the easier sections of the day and after about twenty minutes we were on top of hill number eight and I was beginning to believe it might be possible. We rushed back to the bags, gulped down another quick brioche roll and Quorn slice (even carnivore Dan enjoyed his Quorn slice), and headed own east towards Sgurr Eilde Mor.
We lost a lot of height at this point and dropped out of the mist. It was then that I think the size of the task remaining hit Dan-he wasn’t quite the same afterwards. I had turned the map over heading down the slopes towards Coire an Lochan and suddenly realised that Binnien Beag was a lot harder than even I had thought. I had thought that Sgurr Eilde Mor and Binnien Beag were connected but Sgurr Eilde Mor is of course out on a limb and you have to drop down further into Coire a’Bhnnien to get back to Binnien Beag. Our friend had texted us the night before saying that the drop was big but I couldn’t remember it so we just ignored him and dismissed him as a wimp. I was panicking a bit by now, a real ‘my heart says but my head says’ moment. We were at the furthest point from the car and it was 18.20. Above us on one side rose the steep slopes of Sgurr Eilde Mor and on the other lay the route home which seemed to be blocked by the lump that was Binnien Beag. We had a conversation, albeit brief, about what to do. I think I wanted to go back-it was too late. I knew physically I could get by but the weather wasn’t great, we had no headtorch, no phone signal, not much food and we were totally soaked through. But more important than any of those...the showers on the campsite shut at 23.00! On the other hand, as Dan said, we might never get to where we had again so it was a one off. He also thought it would only be twenty minutes up and down Sgurr Eilde Mor from the loch so it stood to reason he wanted to carry on. So up Sgurr Eilde Mor we went. It wasn’t very difficult as the rocks seemed easy enough to move on but it was more like forty minutes up and down. I had a broken man moment on the top
but getting down was easy and we collected the bags at 19.00 and headed for home. The drop into Coire a’Bhinnien wasn’t as bad as expected and I was now trying to work out timings. ‘An hour to Binnien Beag, hour and a half to the upper Glen Nevis car park from there, half an hour to the car after that, shower for 22.45 etc’. The path round into the col between Binnien Mor and Beag was at a nice gentle gradient and we made fairly good progress. We reached the little lochan at the col and started up the steep slopes of the final munro on our trek. No way were we giving up now! I very suddenly got a strong urge for a Special K Red Berry bar even though I had never tried one before. I knew Dan had thrown a couple into my bag at the car. I think it's one of those moments neither of us will forget. I shovelled through my bag to find them and I can honestly say that at that moment nothing had ever tasted so good. Revitalised, I caught Dan up and upon reaching the top of Binnean Beag we decided that it was time for a Rafael Nadal style celebration. It was a great moment.
It was now getting dark slightly and it had been raining quite heavily for about an hour. The time was 20.03 and I was wary of the dodgy compass. I took special care to make sure I got us down safely to the Water of Nevis, my first priority because I thought we could get back safely from there in the dark, even without the torches. The slopes were grassy, boggy and seemed to last forever. The cloud also appeared to be getting lower and I was getting more nervous about where I had led us. To my great relief the Water of Nevis appeared through the cloud and we were then turning our attention to how to cross the river. Dan had gone very quiet which is the total opposite to normal and I was feeling wired suddenly. Without an obvious place to cross the river we just walked straight through the water of Nevis. As though that wasn’t enough we stumbled across what would normally barely be a stream.
Beyond caring about wet feet we steamed down the valley through the water past Steall and didn’t even bother to admire the impressive amounts of water gushing in the Nevis gorge. As Dan said he loves that walk but had no interest at that moment to hang around. We got to the upper Glen Nevis car park at 21.50. The shower was in sight!
It took another twenty or so minutes back to the car at Achriabhach from there. Bizarrely the last two hours were the most energetic I had felt all day and my legs were feeling great. Amazing what adrenaline can do.
In total 13hrs and 47 minutes was required for the round. So much for Dan’s eight hour stroll. He admitted it was the hardest thing that he had probably done. It did make the national three peaks (not a walk that ever really appealed to me but a cracking social event) seem like a complete doddle and the walk is one that I suspect neither of us will ever forget. I’ve now done most of these hills three times and repeated them all but they never seem to lose their magic even though they aren’t remote or at all difficult to climb.
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by dooterbang » Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:42 pm
Took us 20hrs, last 5 hrs in darkness. 4 of us and only 2 torches between us....we crawled down binnein beag. That walk out was murder!! Did love the scree at Sgurr Eilde Mor.
Like you i was gubbing painkillers after the 3rd munro. by the end every step taken was agony for me. Im also veggie by the way
I was only sitting on 20 munros when i did this, had only did a double once.
Dans a bit of a machine eh....be great to walk with him
Fantastic effort and good luck with your final 3 munros.
p.s have you done or know of anyone thats completed the round at mullardoch in one day?
by dooterbang » Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:46 pm
by SouthernUplandKing » Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:55 pm
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by rockhopper » Tue Jul 19, 2011 10:05 pm
Reminds me of a picture in one of dooter's reports, which I'd looked at recently when planning routes, in which he referred to cyborgs - seems very applicable in your case
by ketzster » Tue Jul 19, 2011 10:13 pm
Firstly-that photo dooterbang really is awesome and it must have been amazing to be up on the top of the ridge at that time. Maybe we need to go back and do it all again so that we can experience it!
What is the Mullardoch round? I've not heard about it so would be very interested to learn more. Is it something along the lines of Mullardoch 4 and then all the others opposite like Mam Sodhail etc? If so I'm sure we'd be up for it!
by rocket-ron » Tue Jul 19, 2011 10:15 pm
by dooterbang » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:03 pm
Bit of a biggy for one day
Did the fannichs on Saturday there. Have a TR up - nine foxy fannichs.
by dooterbang » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:05 pm
rockhopper wrote:And I thought messrs dooterbang, sidewinder and monty were off their trolleys...that's some walk even in good weather conditions
Reminds me of a picture in one of dooter's reports, which I'd looked at recently when planning routes, in which he referred to cyborgs - seems very applicable in your case
That you in your early years Rockhopper
by ketzster » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:35 pm
by nathan79 » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:36 pm
I've been looking at doing longer circuits, but I wouldn't even attempt a big circuit like that. I bow down to you.
by Gable Gable End » Wed Jul 20, 2011 9:38 am
by The Summiteer » Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:33 am
by Alan S » Wed Jul 20, 2011 1:45 pm
I have had an eye on this route for a while but thats about as far as i will get
I would be more than happy if i could do this in 2 trips