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Banish those winter blues

Banish those winter blues

Postby quinners161 » Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:03 am

Route description: The Ring of Steall, Mamores

Munros included on this walk: Am Bodach, An Gearanach, Sgùrr a' Mhàim, Stob Coire a' Chàirn

Date walked: 23/08/2013

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 17 km

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EDIT: I am sorry but for some reason I cannot upload the photos. To see the photos click on this link: highplacesscotland.wordpress.com

Now I know we are all either hoping for winter to go away or come properly and stop all this wet miserable stuff, but here is a report of my walk on the Ring of Steall last summer to help with the winter blues. Truly special.

Taking advantage of the long summer days is one of my favourite activities, especially as it means I can walk great routes and generally get great views. This trip was to the Mamores for the infamous Ring of Steall and the Devils Ridge.

We set off early and made our way up the west coast to Fort Bill. A short drive from there and we were at the car park. We booted up and headed for the path. Caught a glimpse of this sign, which always makes you feel the fear that little bit more.

We set off up the glen towards Steall Meadows and the waterfall. Once we got to the meadow the panorama opened up and we were treated to an unspoilt view all the way up to the waterfall. It's was pristine and felt really remote and wild. We made our way over the wire bridge and up towards the waterfall.

And what a waterfall - truly spectacular. The pictures speak for themselves.

We couldn't help ourselves but to stop at the foot of the falls and take in some of the magnificence of our surroundings (and some cool photos)

After a short time, we began the steep climb out of the glen and into the heat of the day. Neither of us had realised just how hot it was and even as we gained altitude the heat didn't seem to stop, it just got hotter and hotter. The path was good, the air was clear and there is no better feeling that I had then, although I would have killed someone for a cold drink.

Just as we reached the top of the slope, we turned around and right behind us, almost looming across the glen was a glorious sight.

The Ben was there like an elephant sitting on your shoulder looking fantastic in the summer sun. Someone once told me that Ben Nevis is only cloud free for a handful of days a year, and we were here what felt like a stones throw away on one of those days. Lucky or what? Back to the task at hand and it was but a hop skip and a jump to the top of the first Munro - An Gearanach - 982m. Not ones to dwell on our success, we shot off down the other side taking in the views all around us.

Now, I say 'shot' but it was with a bit of care and caution that we tackled the descent as it was quite scrambly and airy in places - perfect for us as we aren't ones to shy away from a challenge. This was proper scrambling, others have likened it to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, but in my mind, it reminded me of the Aonach Eagach in places. Once we reached the saddle, we realised that we had both drained all the water that we were carrying - not a great situation as we were a quarter of the way through the day and it was only going to get hotter as we progressed. We made a tactical decision to try to find some water from a spring or stream. Not easy at 800m+.

After dropping down to the north side of the saddle, we eventually found water that was running fast enough not to pose us too much of a problem. Dunking headbands and t-shirts into the stream was a quick and efficient way of cooling down and we were able to refill water bottles for the remainder of the journey. Although lesson learnt - when you think you are carrying enough, you probably aren't.

Back on the trail and we were greeted by what looked like an impregnable buttress across our path. From our research, we knew that we could tackle it head on, but neither of us could see the route up it for love nor money. So we made a decision to head over to the saddle on the opposite side of the summit and drop the bags. This was beautifully technical with a bit of exposure thrown in, and all the while, The Ben was looming behind you reminding you that it was still the daddy.

We reached the saddle without too much trouble and dropped the kit. We turned back and climbed the ridge up to the summit of Stob Coire a'Chairn - 981m. This offered us great views into the Grey Corries and the main ridge of the Mamores just stretched off into the distance on both sides - truly epic. But alas, no pictures as I had left my camera in my bag!

A quick jog down the path brought us back to our kit and a bite to eat. We even had snow on the ground here, in August!

After a refuel, we continued around the horseshoe with Munro number three firmly in our sights. The descent was uneventful, but started picking up on the ascent. The ground gets a little tricky, with a few loose rocks as well as the steepening and narrowing of the ridge. However, as you climb, you get that feeling you are in for something special, The Ben looking on over to your right and the ridge narrowing in front of you.

The summit came up on me as quite a surprise, this being the highest point of main ridge, I was convinced we had a little further to go. But we had made in to summit number three Am Bodach - 1032m. After the anticipation growing during the climb, you are rewarded with a view that really shows you the best of Scottish hill walking.

The panorama was spectacular. However, one thing caught the eye unlike any other. The Devils Ridge.

In climbing they would call this the crux of the route, the narrowest, most exposed, most jaw dropping part of the walk. I had been looking forward to this short section the most, and had read up on it before going out. It is as good as people say - sometimes when you really look forward to something, it doesn't quite live up to your expectations, that's not the case here!

We descended down to the saddle and climbed over Sgor an Iubhair - which in my opinion warrants Munro status. At 1001m, it is certainly high enough, indeed at one point it was a Munro but has been declassified. Now to the crux, the descent starts easily down a broad ridge to the saddle and then climbs back and gradually narrows to pretty much nothing. We had decided in advance that where we could be would keep to the top of the ridge and try not to take any bypass paths. The first part was easy enough, up and over with good hand holds.

Then came the part that I found the toughest. A large gap in the ridge that on approach looked like you could just step over. In reality, it is a little farther that just a step, and at only 5 foot 6, my legs aren't the longest! I stopped and had a think about it, and found my way onto a narrow ledge over a significant drop. Heart was starting to race and mind doing somersaults, moving slowly, I found a good hold with my left hand leaving my right side swinging in the breeze. Shuffle the feet along and reach up and round out of sight to find the next hold.

Could I find it? I couldn't even begin to feel it! Now my left arm is starting to ache a little from holding my weight and I am stuck between two rocks 1000m up. One more try, pull yourself into the rock, stretch and reach - there! I found the hold with my right hand and redistributed my weight. With my hands sorted out it was a slightly disconcerting step blindly around the rock and away we went. Definitely lived up to expectations!

From there, it is a relatively easy walk up the quartz covered slopes of Sgurr a'Mhaim to the summit - 1099m. Munro summit number four. Whew! What a day, by this point we were both pretty knackered physically as well as mentally and it was with a little relief that we made it.

The way down is to take the north-west ridge, which whilst steep is not as fatal (apparently it has taken more than one life over the years) as the north-east ridge. Cross the quartz scree and then onto the grass, picking up the path down to the road. A slightly mind numbing 2 km walk will take you back to the car park and salvation after what I promise you will be a thoroughly enjoyable outing.

EDIT: I am sorry but for some reason I cannot upload the photos. To see the photos click on this link: highplacesscotland.wordpress.com
Mountain Walker
Posts: 14
Munros:57   Corbetts:4
Grahams:5   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:6   Hewitts:14
Joined: Nov 24, 2009

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