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Enjoying the wilderness of the Eastern Mamores

Enjoying the wilderness of the Eastern Mamores

Postby J888ohn » Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:36 pm

Route description: Sgurr Eilde Mor and Binnein Beag, Mamores

Munros included on this walk: Binnein Beag, Binnein Mor, Na Gruagaichean, Sgurr Eilde Mor

Date walked: 14/07/2015

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 19.9 km

Ascent: 1663m

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I'd had quite a week. My profession was being torn apart in the media. Most of the commentary in the broadsheets and respected media was justified, well researched and balanced. Anything in any of Rupert Murdoch's outlets and their competitors was designed to do these things only; stir up tension, create fantastical and poorly researched stories and headlines to sell their papers which quite frankly are only good for stuffing your wet hiking boots with at the end of a long hike, and even then i hate giving over cash for them.

Then came the Internet trolls, the people who are all too happy to jump on the tabloid bandwagon and slag of my profession yet don't have the guts to put on the uniform and see what we have to do and see every day. They're the ones that waste our time calling us to do something about Senga doon the stairs who has given them a dirty look yet are quick to call me and my colleagues murderers. That really hit me. You can't win with these morons but it was still getting to me. 7 days straight of long, tiring shifts culminating with a final 8 hour shift that became 14 hours. I needed an escape, I needed the Munros.............

I'd been eyeing up the Kinlochleven munros and had been waiting for a good weather day. Tuesday thankfully looked great so I managed to get out of bed early, packed the car and Mountain Mutt and I were off on another adventure.

The A82 from Tyndrum to Glencoe village is, in my opinion, the finest piece of tarmac in Scotland. It's a drivers dream (unless you're stuck behind a caravan) and has the scenery to take your breath away. Unfortunately it also has the idiots who overtake anywhere and on one occasion it was so close to a head on smash in front of me (on a corner just before a big straight! :shock: ) I was already preparing my operational statement. Thankfully the southbound car wasn't going as fast as it could've been and the northbound idiot made it. As I drove up into Rannoch Moor the cloud as low, almost foggy. This did not help my mood. I was expecting a clear day. However I started to feel the sun on the right hand side of my face and thought this was a bit of cloud inversion. It was, and as I turned the left hander where you get the first view of Glencoe I was greeted with the most amazing sight. The cloud was low around the mountains, the sun was making the big Buachaille sparkle with it's silvery white rock and Glencoe was looking green and splendid in front of me. Unfortunately I was on my own and Mountain Mutt hasn't mastered photography yet so you'll just have to take my word for it :D I felt tingles down my neck, my mood was getting better already.

This was a bit of a last minute trip and I hadn't done as much research as normal. I'd read a few of the Walk Highlanders reports and the 4 munros would take anything between 8 to 11 hours. I quite like Petr Dakota's reports (among many) as he is a fan of the multiple munro days and adds on extra to already established routes. He'd taken 8.5 hours and I'd set myself a target to see if I was as fit as him and therefore manage his routes. My lack of research caused a problem before I'd even stopped driving. Where on earth was the church in Kinlochleven I was meant to park at?????? Fortunately the waterfall is signed from the main road so I followed that and found the parking.

Mountain Mutt and I set off at 9.40am. I followed the sign to turn to the right for Loch Eilde Mor however my mind was wandering, as were my feet and I missed the crossing of the river and believe I was heading along the low road to the lochside. I realised a few hundred metres beyond and had to double back. Once on the right track the climb out of the village to the hillside is steep and tiring. The path is very eroded from walkers and water running down and it's difficult to know which is the proper path. My mind wasn't on it either and I was pushing too hard just thinking about time rather than enjoying it and pacing myself. Once out of the forest the view back to Kinlochleven is impressive.

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By this point the erosion to the path is lessening and it gradually becomes one stone path which undulates towards the junction with another path to the Loch. I met my first fellow climber here and had the usual chit chat. He was a lovely guy who was going for Binnein Mor before getting the bus home. At this point I wasn't enjoying it and starting to think about doing no munros and heading home. I didn't tell him this but he came out with some wise words which changed my mindset and gave me focus on enjoying the day and not bothering about time.

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Looking towards the junction with the path scarring along the side of Sgor Eilde Beag

I stopped looking at my watch and started looking around. Mountain Mutt was having a great time as there were no sheep or deer to chase so he was off lead. As I gained height Loch Eilde Mor and the Blackwater Reservoir started to appear with the Glencoe hills behind it. The path up to Coire an Lochain is good but it was quite boggy and wet in places. A good test of my new boots.

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As I came into the flat area of Coire an Lochain I had indeed had a change of mindset. I was lost in the wilderness enjoying the freedom, stress release and the views. I was laughing at Mountain Mutt running from stream to puddle waiting for me to throw something in for him to chase, there wasn't a sound apart from some bird calls and my first target was right in front of me, Sgurr Eilde Mor.

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Sgurr Eilde Mor

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Binnein Beag behind Coire an Lochain

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I was so lost in the wilderness that I hadn't realised I'd wandered miles off the GPS :roll: On the OS map there is a good path marked to the south of the lochan. It's not really, it's an on off erosion of the ground from where walkers have been. I had planned to tackle the southern side of Sgurr anyway so wasn't bothered about my latest navigational error. The climb up Sgurr is steep, gets steeper, then they throw in some boulder fields on steeper ground just to make life interesting. Mountain Mutt wasn't loving the boulders so had moved over to some grass slopes on the right. I decided to follow him as a Collie with a broken leg was not going to be an easy situation to get out of here. I'm guessing the rocks had sharpened his claws to talons as he certainly had no trouble on the extremely steep grass! Thank god it wasn't wet but I traversed back to the rocks as I wasn't keen on a slide / tumble down that slope!

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View west from the side of Sgurr

The summit itself is quite flat and large with a good stone cairn. The views were fantastic. I had my next two targets in view, Binnein Beag and Binnein Mor and could see Na Gruagaichean behind them. Nevis and the Aonachs looked superb in the north and I'm reliably told that the pyramidal one to the east (ish) direction was Schiehallion. Is there a munro where this one can't be seen????

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Beag (r) and Mor (l)

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Now for the way down. Mountain Mutt is good at sniffing out paths and there are two here. One down the scree slope which is the up / down route the Walk Highlands GPS wants you to go, or there is a narrow arete which does appear to have a path on it.

P1020312 (640x480).jpg
Looking to the arete with Mountain Mutt thinking about it.

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I looked at the arete. Didn't seem too daunting (my wife may disagree with me when she sees this report) but I had to consider the dog and opted for the scree. Don't be fooled into thinking this was the easy option. Several falls later (one which ripped my trousers and another which bashed my hip, hence the reason I'm sitting typing today and not back out :roll: ) and i was dropping back down towards the Lochan where the path is easy to follow towards the crossroads which is clearly marked on the map. Simple job of turning right here and following the well trodden path down to the river and back up the other side towards Beag.

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Path up towards Beag

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Scree slope which claimed my trousers, my hip and my pride.....

The path climbing up from the river to Beag is very wet and boggy until about 700m. It's pretty much a stream in itself. After that it's just a stone path up to the Lochan between Beag and Mor. Beag looks small and easy all the way until this point. Then you look up and think "****". It's just a big, steep mound of loose rock that has to be clambered up. There were people who had left their bags at the Lochan but I decided to take mine as I like to give Mountain Mutt and I water and food at each summit.

P1020315 (640x480).jpg
Up to the summit of Beag

There is a zig zag path through the rocks that you can see in this photo. Amazingly once I started going up I lost this and found another less used path a little more to the east :lol: It's a slog, there is no sugar coating it. I had to just keep going until I hit the summit where there is another stone cairn and a big wind shelter. Met another walker up here, an older guy who was only doing Beag as he had missed it out before. He had came up from the Glen Nevis side which he said had been pretty boggy. Beag also gives you an ideal view of Mor and the possible routes up it. It also shows you how much bigger Mor is and I was knackered after Beag. Had a good break here and it was the first time I checked my watch since before Sgurr. 4 hours in. Pretty good going and plenty of time to get the four. Considering how close Mor was with Na Gruagaichean behind it, it would be silly to walk round it to get back to the car. Might as well go up and over! :D

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Summit of Beag. Stupid dog refused to turn round.

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Mor from Beag

I sat and studied Mor. I couldn't remember what routes other Walk Highlanders had taken and GPS didn't cover this bit. Centre looked a bit suicidal, left looked fun but rocky (could Mountain Mutt make it?) so I decided to go up to the right of the two small Lochans then up the grass slope on the far right of the picture to the Gualann a' Bhinnein Mhoir.

Needless to say I found the zig zag path back down Beag (I sometimes wonder why people ask me to lead them into the munros considering my many navigational lapses :wink: ) which was scree and slippy but not too bad. I saw another guy coming up the way I had so didn't feel quite so bad about losing the path :roll:

To line up for my assault on Mor I followed the path that leads to Glen Nevis for a short distance until it crossed a small stream. Then I just went in a roughly south west direction aiming for the right hand side of the Lochans. Success!!! I got to where I wanted to be for once! :clap:

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Bauer looking up and wondering how we were getting up that

Then it was up the grass slope. I thought there was a path but this turned out to be loose rock from a land slip or stream which was worse to walk on than the grass. The grass itself was naturally terraced so there was always a foot / pole hold and it was a case of head down and take a route one approach up the slope. There was a triangular rock at the top which I was aiming for. To be fair it didn't take that long but I was fairly motoring up it cause I like to challenge myself on these route one approaches and really get the legs pumping! I popped out onto the ridge which led all the way to the summit of Mor. It's quite wide and grassy where I joined it but gets steadily narrower into a pretty narrow arete towards the summit.The cloud that had gathered on Ben Nevis was now coming over to then Mamores and quickly everything got a bit cloudy. Mountain Mutt and I made the summit although he was sticking closer to me in the cloud and because of the narrow rocky ridge. This was the 3rd slog up a mountain today and now i was starting to feel it big time. I hoped Na Gruagaichean wouldn't be the same. No view at all from Mor this time :(

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Beag getting a little cap of cloud

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Looking back to my way up to the summit of Mor

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Bauer looking totally unimpressed with the cloud

Here I met a guy and his daughter from Dunoon. The guy had completed the munros (I think this is the first completist I have met) and was now walking with his daughter as she had taken up hill walking. He said he hadn't really counted on his second round of the munros but thought he was on about 180. What a legend! :clap: They set off for Na Gruagaichean whilst Bauer and I got fed and watered. The guy said he thought the cloud would lift again but it didn't look like happening anytime soon so we set off for NG too.

This bit of the day was a doddle. The path quickly widens out to a broad grassy ridge with a good path and it's pretty much a stroll to NG (via yet another navigational mishap). I got to a kind of summit with great ease and to be fair did think this couldn't possibly be NG. A quick check of the map and I realised I was just at the turning point of the ridge height marked 1062m on the OS map. The cloud had started to lift again and I got the first view of NG.

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Na Gruagaichean

The final climb up through the rock field isn't too bad compared with the last 3. Met a guy trail running the four in the opposite direction and swapped ideas about how to get down from Mor to Beag. The summit of NG gave fantastic views back over Kinlochleven and to the Ring of Steall. The guy and his daughter were already on their way to Am Bodach, hats off to them! I was done and wanted to get back to the car.

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Am Bodach and the Ring of Steall

This is where I fell out with the GPS. There is a path off NG which takes you to Leachd na h-Aire. From here it directs you to turn right (west) and down the hillside. There is no path here, not even close to one. It's a slog down heather and fern clad boggy, slippy ground. This was annoying and probably more than a bit dangerous if it had been raining. Perhaps someone can advise where the actual path is? To make matters worse it leads to a deer fence with no style or gate which is joined by smaller sheep fences running down the hill. Mountain Mutt will happily jump a sheep fence, not a deer fence. Cue yet another man v Collie wrestle to get him into my arms and over the fence. From here you need to take a blink and you'll miss it path off the road which is pretty overgrown / boggy and probably a tic paradise. This winds it way through the countryside down towards Kinlochleven. I'd completely lost my bearings in here until I rejoined the outgoing path. Back to the car in 8 hours!

I'd started the day feeling down, focused on the wrong things and nearly ruined my walk. 8 hours later I was relaxed but tired, happy, had met some lovely fellow walkers and had had an amazing day out bagging the munros. Thanks to all the people I met. Hill walkers are a unique people. I've never met a sad, unhappy, grumpy or unfriendly one. We always stop for a wee chat with a smile on our face (even in bad weather) swap stories and wish each other a good day on departing. It really is my release from the stresses of life. Plus Mountain Mutt was knackered. I'd finally tired out a Border Collie!!!!!!!

To top it all off I switched on the car and the first song on the Ipod was AC / DC Back in Black. I appologise to Kinlochleven for having that blaring as I left.

Amazing day = Happy John. :D
Last edited by J888ohn on Wed Jul 15, 2015 11:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Enjoying the wilderness of the Eastern Mamores

Postby Alteknacker » Wed Jul 15, 2015 8:23 pm

Great report on what looks from the pics like a really characterful group on hills (which I still have the pleasure of doing awaiting me). :clap: :clap: :clap:

Nothing like a day (or more) in the wilderness for getting one's head back in the right place, eh?
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Re: Enjoying the wilderness of the Eastern Mamores

Postby jamesb63 » Wed Jul 15, 2015 8:34 pm

Nice report and pics :clap:
I had a good look at these today while doing the Ring Of Steall
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Re: Enjoying the wilderness of the Eastern Mamores

Postby Petr Dakota » Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:56 pm

Hi John, nice to read your report and refresh my memories from the great wildlife area... :D :clap: it's almost one year ago when I was there, but still have the fresh feelings from Eastern Mamores 8) :D
Glad that you like my reports :D thank you... I am sure, you are fit :D :wink: I was enjoying the Mamores without any rush as it was saturday, but I am limited by time in week days...Nice to see you are walking together with your wife sometime and with your dog too :clap: It's good to have a company in the mountains and share all the beauty and feelings together in the present time 8)
I wish you great time always in the mountains and keep the passion flow for your walking :wink:
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Re: Enjoying the wilderness of the Eastern Mamores

Postby gammy leg walker » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:41 pm

Another great TR John,I love a good Mamore TR & this certainly is.
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