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Ring of Steall and Friends
by garyoppolis » Sat Aug 30, 2014 11:44 pm
Route description: The Ring of Steall, Mamores
Munros included on this walk: Am Bodach, An Gearanach, Mullach nan Coirean, Sgurr a'Mhaim, Stob Ban (Mamores), Stob Coire a'Chairn
Date walked: 23/08/2014
Time taken: 13.5 hours
Distance: 22.4 km
Ascent: 2201m8 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).
"Right, here's it on the map: up the A9 to Pitlochry, turn off towards Rannoch, then catch the last train to Corrour."
"Should make that easy enough."
"We'll camp around Peter's Rock or, if we miss the train, head up to somewhere near this point 737 that's on the 1:25."
"We'll take in these four, then, depending on how we're feeling, camp either here *pointing out spot on map* or head to the bothy for the second night."
"Aye, the second night."
"S**t. I told the Mrs it would be one night."
So, the initial - quite ambitious - plan for Ben Alder and everything that surrounds it had to be shelved in favour of something that would be a little less time consuming. Our erstwhile climbing partner had taken in the Ring of Steall, or a part of it, (a story for another time) some while ago. He now being at sea, literally, we though we might begin by emulating his achievements so as not to exclude him from too many new experiences in his absence. With this in mind, we set off from Bearsden - where I work, not live, I should stress - and headed up to Fort Bill.
Shortly after 2100 we stopped in at a chippy I knew well from my youth for our supper. I won't name it, nor the village it's in, but will suffice to say that it has been, at least since the late '90s, pretty terrible in most respects. A recent refurbishment and a complete change of staff have done little to change this.
We drove, warm suppers sitting on my lap, to the car park at the top end of Glen Nevis and stepped out into the last of the twilight to take our repast.
"Where's my chips?"
"There's supposed to be chips! Aww *expletive*. I'm of a mind to drive back and get my chips."
"If it makes you feel any better, my chips are absolutely delicious."
After one or two delightfully light and fluffy chips I took my haggis, freshly cooked in bright golden batter, and took my first indulgent bite...
"If it makes you feel any better, my haggis is actually a black pudding."
"Serves you right you ****."
Once fed, I began the business of transferring parts of my overnight kit into a daysack ready for the morning. At this point we were approached by a nervous German lad who eventually managed to get across that he'd left the remainder of his family on Sgùrr a' Mhàim at about 1500. He decided to head into the glen and they were going to continue east around the Ring of Steall. It now being a bit before 2200, he was concerned for their welfare. Although it was less than seven hours since he'd left them (well within a reasonable timescale for the Ring), it was well and truly dark and alarm bells started ringing. He'd been at the top end of the glen all day so had no signal, the first suggestion was that he drive back to the field just after the hostel (where most people pick up signal) and try giving them a ring.
Whilst he was away I started doubting the wisdom of my nonchalance. Driving down the glen and back again would absorb about half an hour and a drive back (should he fail to raise anyone) would take up half as much time again. A 45 minute delay? Wise? Well we'd committed to it now and for all I knew he'd just spoken to his dad on the phone who'd told him all was well. As it turned out he reappeared over half an hour later having spoken to no-one.
It was now around 2240 and black as pitch (two nights before the new moon and overcast) - probably time to call mountain rescue. A quick drive down the glen till I got a signal and the call was made.
We drove back towards the end of the road, agreeing between us that we should offer what help we could when mountain rescue turned up.
As it happened, the family - thoroughly knackered and fed up looking - met us at the first bridge after the car park. Crisis over, we started back down the glen again to make another call to cancel the mountain rescue (the German's english being a little too... German).
We eventually found ourselves back at the car park, seats reclined, doss bags out and ready for a decent sleep. It was midnight.
A broken night sleep (heavy rain drumming on a car's roof) and it was time to be up again. A pound-shop instant porridge breakfast later and we were ready for the off. We stepped off at 0710.
The gorge, which I first walked when I was about nine, seemed to pass pretty quickly - I think my expectation of the length was calibrated on the first passage and hasn't been altered since. The bridge is well enough known but the bog deserves this mention: there's no way round it that keeps your feet clean. The best policy, with the full day in front of you, is to stomp on through regardless; you shouldn't sink in much above your shins and you'll have dried out pretty thoroughly before long.
The path, to use the old cliche, "gains height quickly", although it's well made and shouldn't prove too troublesome. An important note is that where the path, on the OS 1:25,000, touches the western ridge and then doglegs back under the crags, the true path actually turns up the crest of the ridge towards the summit.
As your first view of the hanging valley opens up, with Sgùrr a' Mhàim to the front, a white cairn marks the turn up the slope.
All the day the cloud blew on and off and revealed some pretty spectacular views, including this one up upper Glen Nevis.
We came on the summit of An Gearanach at 0930, a respectable time we thought. A quick move along the ridge followed.
The summit of Stob Coire a'Chairn was reached just within the hour, which pleased us, and we headed on to Am Bodach.
The summit of Am Bodach was reached by 1130 and we stopped for our lunch for about half an hour. One of the things I've always wanted to see is the view to either side of the Mamores at the same time, having seen each in isolation more often than I can remember. The top of Am Bodach did not disappoint.
The Ben however, kept itself resolutely in the clouds.
Sgurr an Lubhair followed in pretty short order and views opened up to Stob Ban and the west.
Sgùrr a' Mhàim
We set off along the Devil's Ridge, not finding it too devilish, and made the top of Sgùrr a' Mhàim almost bang on 1400, seven hours after setting out.
not so devilish
The bad step
My thighs by this point were cramping up pretty badly and I was feeling the effects of the climb. However, a bit of a stretch on the summit and I felt well enough to crack on. We headed on towards Stob Ban.
The bealach on the way to Stob Ban
We met two nice chaps coming down on the way up who shared some of the whisky Aaron had and advised us we still had quite a way to go. The climb is pretty steep but the summit is soon reached. We managed it by about 1600.
The Lairig Mor from Stob Ban
Looking back to the east
Looking down the glen
The final summit
The final ridge is long, although not too arduous, even after so long a day and the last summit comes up in what feels like pretty good time. Although my knees were really feeling the strain by this point. We were on the top by 1745.
Looking back at the day's walk
A pretty tortuous descent, stopping to stretch my legs as I went, followed. We linked up with the forestry track before two hours and at the first dogleg a path through the trees takes a more direct route to the road (see route map).
A quick jaunt up the road, my muscles appreciating the chance to stretch out to a full stride, and we were back at the car at 2038, the best part of 13 and a half hours after setting out.
A big day, a long day, but full of fantastic and constantly changing views.
Another route I'd recommend, especially since from Sgùrr a' Mhàim onwards there's plenty of options to cut the walk short and head down to the road if it all seems like it's getting a bit much.
All in all, thoroughly satisfying, especially since I can now look up the glen I looked up most of my formative years and know I've traversed its iconic ridge.
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by chickadee » Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:28 am
by jepsonscotland » Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:29 am
Some nice ridge walking there with some cracking photos.
I'm looking forward to these ones now.
by Silverhill » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:44 pm
by J888ohn » Fri Sep 05, 2014 2:50 pm
by Huff_n_Puff » Fri Sep 05, 2014 6:48 pm
Great photos, really don't think I'm up for all six hills in a oner, but there's inspiration here ... as well as the usual perspiration
by ancancha » Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:16 pm
Will be next year now though.
Liked the rest of the photos and report as well, very entertaining
by garyoppolis » Wed Aug 26, 2015 6:12 pm
I meant to put this up at the time but I don't think it would let me:
by teaandpies » Thu Aug 27, 2015 2:40 pm
I have my eyes on this prize. This is the exact walk I want to do
Some excellent images there