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Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby J888ohn » Wed Oct 08, 2014 7:26 pm

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: 04/10/2014

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 16.07 km

Ascent: 1380m

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Name - Big Tommo
Rank - Private
Age - Getting too old for this ****
Campaigns - 1 x West Highland Way completion, 40 x Munro summits conquered.


Name - J888ohn
Rank - Private
Age - Also getting too old for this ****
Campaigns - 1 x Kilimanjaro, 1 x Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, 100 x Munro summits conquered.

Their Mission:

To conquer the Ring Of Steall, Fort William on Sat 4th October 2014 and make it to the pub in time for dinner :)

Objective 1 - Get from Lanarkshire to Fort William

Sounds simple but travel never goes well when Big Tommo and I are are involved. I was driving and picked him up about 5pm on Friday. I had the choice of going via Stirling or Glasgow to head north and made the inexplicable decision to go via Glasgow :roll: thinking the M74 will bypass the traffic. Mistake! Stuck in traffic at M74 / M8 merge, stuck again between the airport and the Erskine Bridge, complete standstill on Erskine Bridge so detour via Milngavie, Drymen, Aberfoyle and Callander to join the A84 and finally head north. Including a stop for food in Tyndrum (excellent Fish and Chips and Black Pudding Supper, the food of athletes......... :wink: ) took just over 4 hours to get to the Glen Nevis Campsite. Quick pitch of the tent (God bless the inventor of pop up tents) and a few beers and rum and cokes (athletes remember lol) before bed

Objective Status - Fail (Go via Stirling next time)

Objective 2 - Get up at 0600hrs sharp and start walk at 0700hrs

Mmmmm early mornings are not my thing and I was put in charge of the alarm clock. It duly went off at 0600hrs and was pummeled into silence. Crawled out of my sleeping bag about 15 minutes later and immediately started boiling the water to cook breakfast and heat the tent up. Even left the water boiling once the food was hot in a vain attempt at some makeshift central heating! Took the car right along to the end of the road into Glen Nevis and parked at the large car park.

When you get to the end of the two lane road continue round the left hand bend and follow the single track road all the way to the end. You'll pass the car park where the walk ends too. Word of advice, watch the sharp left hand bend where the road looks like it goes straight ahead. It does in a fashion.......into a hidden rough parking area in which was also hidden a Transit van. Cue last minute braking and turning to stay on the road. :shock:

Started the walk at 0730hrs which wasn't too bad.

Objective Status - Fail (Put someone else in charge of getting up early)

Objective 3 - Cross the River Nevis, Steall Falls and the Bog of Hell afterwards.

Right at the start of the walk from the carpark is this incredibly morale boosting and informative sign........

Follow this path as it climbs and winds along the contour of the hill with the River Nevis crashing and falling through the gorge to your right. It had rained quite a bit the night before so we were getting quite a show. Lots of waterfalls and cool rock formations where the water has carved the rock. Doesn't take long before you come out into a clearing and have this magnificent view in front of you

Glen Nevis with Steall Falls in the background

It's very quiet and peaceful here compared to the roaring noise of the water in the gorge. The only thing that breaks the silence is the falling water of the Steall Falls in the distance. Continue to follow the path and the wire bridge over the river comes into view with the white bothy on the opposite bank. At the junction take the right hand fork and walk down to the stone beach at the bridge. I was official photographer for the day so spent long enough mucking about with the camera to make Big Tommo go first :lol:

The bridge, bothy and falls

Move it Private Pile!


Another moral boosting and informative sign........

Big Tommo made it look easy so I set off. Being 2nd perhaps wasn't the best idea as now the wires had a slight sway. They are not as tight as you would hope and you have to keep looking down to see where you are placing your feet. Once out in the middle all you can see is your feet swinging about on the wire and the river running below you. I had to stop to catch my breath and by this time we had an audience of climbers who had stayed in the Bothy. Made it across and followed the path past the Bothy to the foot of the falls, where the top pictures were taken.

I remembered reading that this would be impossible to cross if the water was in spate. I think we were very lucky. Due to the rain all of the rocks were wet and very slippy. The water was also high really cutting down our options. We spent a good bit of time surveying possible routes before picking one that was one small waterfall above the run off from the falls. Had to take it really easy and Big Tommo ended up dunking his left boot into the water. A good test of his new boot's waterproofing. I was on the opposite side of things and wasn't sure if my boots were still waterproof so that would be a disaster for me. Luckily I made it across without slipping but it is definitely an area to concentrate on. One slip and we would've been pretty sore and could've easily fallen over the edge down the small waterfall to the floor of the valley.

The path is gained again on the other side of the Falls and proceeds downhill back towards the valley floor. No real other way to go due to the cliffs and forest so follow this into the Bog of Hell!!!!!! I've completed 3 Tough Mudder courses and have been subjected to less mud and bog. I think the worst could be avoided if you stick in the edge of the trees but they are really low here and as we are both 6ft 2ins tall that wasn't going to be comfortable. We spent what seemed like an age trying to pick a route through and had to double back a couple of times. It seemed to get a bit better the further we walked into the valley floor but we were still having to jump across large sections and both managed to get our boots caked in mud. Once across this the path begins to climb up a grassy slope towards the northern slope of An Gearanach and the view back into the Glen is impressive.

The Bog of Hell is in the immediate foreground

Objective Status - Pass (albeit with wet and muddy boots)

Objective 4 - Conquer An Gearanach.

The path climbs quite steeply up the side of An Gearanach and pretty much zig zags it's way up. It seemed to take ages and every check of the GPS was demoralising as we seemed to be getting knackered and not gaining much height. The cloud was also low and one of the reasons we had set off early was that the forecast was for the morning to be good but the afternoon to be wet and miserable. The Aonachs and Ben Nevis are right behind you here and you get a good view down the mouth of Glen Nevis.

The Aonachs in cloud

View out of Glen Nevis into the sun

This view gave me some confidence that the weather would clear and the wind was blowing it in our direction. Note to self - don't give up the day job and become a weather forecaster as it started raining. Lightly at first but then it was a scramble for full waterproofs. This however was Mother Nature;s last punishment as this passed and the cloud lifted as we approached the summit of An Gearanach and gave us fantastic views of the ridge ahead.

The Ring of Steall from the summit of An Gearanach

Selfy on summit of An Gearanach

It was freezing up here and I was glad I'd made the tactical decision to put my thermals on. Thermometer was saying 2c not including wind chill.

Objective Status - Pass :D

Objective 5 - Get over An Garbhanach and onto Stob Coire a' Chairn and Am Bodach

To get off of An Gearanach we had to negotiate our way over the rocky ridge of An Garbhanach. There is an on and off path but we found the best way to get over the worst of the rocks before the descent was to scramble along the top of them. It's not too exposed here but the rocks are very uneven so easy to twist an ankle. Pick up the path before the main descent (I think the proper nutters could continue on top of the rocks) and it's a simple task of desending then ascending onto the top of Stob Coire a' Chairn. the views were now expansive across the Mamores. To the right was the rest of the Ring of Steall with Am Bodach looming large in front of us and to the left was Na Gruagaichean and Binnein Mor. There is an obvious path linking these two to the Ring and they could be added for an extra long day.

Looking back to An Garbhanach and An Gearanach

Stob Coire a' Chairn

I have to admit to a slight navigational error here (not like me :roll: ) I thought Stob Coire a' Chairn was An Garbhanach, therefore not a munro and we soldiered onto Am Bodach and it was only when I looked at the elevation on the GPS I realised my mistake.

Am Bodach from Stob Coire a' Chairn

The path all along the Ring is easy to follow apart from the final ascent onto Am Bodach. When we reached the bealach between the two we looked up and though "where the hell does this go? Surely not straight up through those rocks!" It does. It zig zags through the rocks getting steeper all the time with a couple of big steps. Just before the summit it is pretty much big rocks and scree you are walking through but it doesn't last for long. From the summit you can see right along the rest of the Ring towards the Devils Ridge and Sgurr a' Mhaim.

Objective Status - Pass with work needed on navigation skills........

Objective 6 - The Devils Ridge and Sgurr a' Mhaim

Before the ridge we had to get up and over Sgurr an lubhair. It looks like a munro, it has the height of a munro, and by this stage of the walk the ascent up the side of it certainly felt like scaling a munro, but it isn't a munro :?: From here we had a great view back to the previous 3 summits and the ones behind them.

An Gearanach, Stob Coire a' Chairn and Am Bodach in the foreground

From Sgurr an lubhair we got our first view of the Devils Ridge to Sgurr a' Mhaim. I've got to be honest from this angle it didn't look very impressive or tricky. I was a little disappointed. After reading all the hype this looked quite frankly like a doddle.

Devils Ridge and Sgurr a' Mhaim from Sgurr an lubhair

Whilst here we got our first views of the magnificent Stob Ban. It looks superb from here with all the deep gullies running from the summit. The cloud was whipping around the summit making very atmospheric photos

Cloud breaking over Stob Ban with Loch Leven poking through

Getting closer to the Devils Ridge it started to look a bit rockier but there was even sheep walking along it! When we looked at it just at the start with the peaks and troughs right in front it did look intimidating but there is a path the whole way which can clearly be seen in the pic below.

Me at the start of the Devils Ridge

Don't be afraid of this. It's nothing major. I've done the CMD arete and the Forcan Ridge and this is easier than both. It is steep on both sides put the path is easily a couple of feet wide and can be walked along with no issues (bearing in mind we had a good sunny day, cold with light winds and great visibility.) I'd imagine in the wet, cloud and wind it would be more of a challenge. The final climb up to the summit of Sgurr a' Mhaim is steep again but we kept pausing for breath and to admire the views. The whole Mamore range was visible to us here and it was spectacular.

Panorama of the Mamores from summit of Sgurr a' Mhaim

Fort William from Sgurr a'Mhaim

Looking back to the Devils Ridge and Sgurr an lubhair

Objective Status - Pass with disappointment over hype of Devils Ridge

Objective 7 - Descend, get to the car and then the pub

We'd completed 4 summits in 5 hours. The Walk Highlands guide says the walk takes 9 to 11 hours. At this point we were bemused as to how. The simple answer is the descent and walk back to the car. It took 3 hours!!!!!!!!!!!! (and we weren't hanging about.) We followed the guide and took the ridge off of Sgurr a'Mhaim heading north west towards Fort William. At first the descent is down a path through loose scree, very similar to the Tourist Route down Ben Nevis. This is easy going and you almost ski down it which is very gentle on the feet. After that it reverts to the standard rough stone path that zig zags down the steep slope. We could see the car park we would eventually come out at all the way down and it never seemed to get closer. Plus we were heading away from the car in the original car park. There were sporadic showers breaking out all down the Glen which were cool to watch. This gave us an amazing rainbow over the Glen towards Ben Nevis.


The zig zags were never ending and eventually we passed through a deer fence and dropped across a grass slope (which was now going boggy) and joined the path that leads to the car park near to Achriabhach. All that is left is a walk along the road back to the first car park, a meer 2.5km or so. By this point Big Tommo's legs had had it and he found it easier to jog up the undulations in the road whilst I could finally break out my big stride.

Car picked up, back to campsite for shower and change then hit the Glen Nevis Restaurant for a hearty meal and a few more beers and rums. Got chatting to a group who had been on the Ben for a charity walk. They said they had been hit by low cloud, rain, hail and snow. They couldn't believe our pictures when we were just across the Glen from them. Just goes to show how varied the mountain weather is over a small distance.

Objective Status - Most definitely a pass with reward of hot, hearty meal to replenish depleted energy

Mission Status - Success. Mission complete and another 4 Munros bagged bringing the total to 104. :D

The RIng of Steall is an awesome walk with amazing views so save it for a good day. Don't be afraid of the Devils Ridge, it's easy as long as you don't mess about. I recon it would be a good one to try to build up confidence on ridges. We both agreed the first bit of the walk across River Nevis, Steall Falls, the Bog of Hell and An Garbhanach is by far the most fun and challenging bit of the day.
Last edited by J888ohn on Wed Nov 19, 2014 12:59 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby Fife Flyer » Wed Oct 08, 2014 8:50 pm

Cracking report, love the military concept (being ex military) :clap: :clap:

Still one of my favourite walks, agree about the bogfest - need stepping stones or something :wink:

Overall - PASS :clap:
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby neilist » Wed Oct 08, 2014 8:58 pm

Very entertaining report on a classic route. really enjoyed that. Aonach Eagach next?
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby Sgurr » Wed Oct 08, 2014 9:54 pm

J888ohn wrote:Age - Getting too old for this ****

Talking through your hat.

But it reminds me that this was the first set of hills someone asked "Do you mind me asking how old you are?"

Maybe it's the sort of circuit where you start to look tour age.
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby J888ohn » Wed Oct 08, 2014 10:23 pm

neilist wrote:Aonach Eagach next?

Been trying to build up the confidence for that for years. Keep on saying next year lol. If I can find someone crazy enough to do with me I'll do it.

Thanks fifeflyer. From the bridge onwards it just felt like an absolute assault course so came up with the idea while I was walking.
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby Johnny Corbett » Wed Oct 08, 2014 10:36 pm

Great stuff private, a very enjoyable read and a bit differant :D
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby Silverhill » Wed Oct 08, 2014 11:35 pm

That was a great read! :D
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby big tommo » Thu Oct 30, 2014 9:32 pm

When we doing Aonach Eagach mountain Goat 1 lol :D
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby razzah » Fri Oct 31, 2014 12:39 pm

Great report - enjoyed reading this :clap:
I'm looking forward to this walk!
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby dogplodder » Sat Nov 01, 2014 9:26 pm

Good report and pics! You can avoid the wire bridge, wet rocks at foot of falls and most of the bog by continuing on the path up the river and crossing where it's shallow beyond the falls. Not such a sense of achievement but less hassle. 8)
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby Alteknacker » Sat Nov 01, 2014 9:37 pm

A really entertaining read. Pass with distinction!!! :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Sun Nov 02, 2014 3:13 pm

Great read ... great photos ...

... now dare I :?: :?:
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby tomyboy73 » Thu Nov 13, 2014 10:51 pm

Great read, well done on wrotm
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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby dawnfoth » Fri Nov 21, 2014 7:13 pm

Great Report! I have yet to do this and appreciate your comments about the Devils Ridge. Maybe I shall wait for winter after all. Well deserved of winning. Loved the way it was written. Well Done :D

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Re: Private Pile, get off Nature's Assault Course!!!

Postby Old Bill » Thu Jan 26, 2017 2:33 pm

Great report chaps!! I'm quite tempted, but not sure about clambering over those rocks on my own! Let alone that bloody bridge! :-o

But it's funny having a pub as the final destination really helps spur you along! hehe

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