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Grey Corries live up to their name

Grey Corries live up to their name

Postby J888ohn » Sun Sep 27, 2015 10:09 pm

Route description: The Grey Corries

Munros included on this walk: Sgùrr Chòinnich Mòr, Stob Bàn (Grey Corries), Stob Choire Claurigh, Stob Coire an Laoigh

Date walked: 22/09/2015

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 26.8 km

Ascent: 1535m

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Attempt number 2 this year of booking a cottage close to the mountains for a week and get some bagging done. Torridon didn't work out too well in May but the forecasts were looking favourable for the start of this week at least. The wife confirmed she was going spend Tuesday relaxing in the cottage which meant I had the opportunity for a long day, the Grey Corries it was then!

The problem (and blessing!) with cottage holidays in remote areas is the lack of Wifi and Mobile Data signal which meant I only had the BBC's ever reliable :lol: weather forecasting on the TV to depend on rather than my favoured MWIS forecasts online. Still how wrong could they get it? Tuesday was apparently going to be a nice sunny day. What could possibly go wrong? :roll:

I'd read in both the Walk Highlands and Cameron McNeish books that the access road was rather potholed and tricky to get the car up so had taken my mountain bike along as a back up in case the car had to get abandoned somewhere. Turns out it wasn't too bad and a pretty standard rough Land Rover track that I was happy to bounce the wife's car up :lol: Couple of bits I had to line up one set of wheels with the middle and another set on the edge of the road to avoid taking out the sump in the ruts but managed to get the ole Ford Focus estate up and down the track with no damage. As I was planning to do the four in a day I parked the car at the rough parking where the descent path from Sgurr Choinnichh Mor comes out of the forest, which is just down the track a couple of hundred metres from the rough parking at the old railway path.

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Car Parking spot

I was the only one there and set off just before 8am. The cloud was hanging low around the hills but I hoped the sun that the ever accurate BBC had promised me would burn this off. I followed the Land Rover track up hill, past the old railway, through the big gate and past the wee minister which scared the bejesus out of me because I'd forgotten about him and had been trying to sort out the straps on my bag instead of looking where I was going! :shock:

It's a fair walk into Stob Ban, my starting point for the day. The Land Rover track continued the whole way to the Bothy and kept gradually gaining height which wasn't such a bad thing. I think if you were going for Stob Ban alone and were a competent mountain biker I'd give cycling in some serious consideration. It was about 7.5km to the Bothy, with about 350m of ascent along a good trail.

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Part of the long walk in

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Stob Ban behind the bothy

I had a look in the Bothy and its actually pretty cosy and well equip with double wooden bunk beds, chairs and a fire. Someone had even left some firewood and powdered milk. I followed the path past the bothy and across a wee stream. It was now a pretty standard hill path with the odd boggy bit. Not too far on from the bothy is a small cairn on the right which showed me the way up Stob Ban. This is a bit overgrown but easy enough to follow. If all else failed I could pretty much see the summit the whole way and it was a very obvious ridge to follow to it. Just before the final pull to the summit the path flattened out and turned south to go round the minor summit marked 769m on the OS maps to the east of Stob Ban. I'd imagine here on a good day the views out to the Mamores would be amazing. Unfortunately I was now getting hit by some pretty gusty wind and the cloud was falling so enjoy the next two pictures as these were my last views for about 6 hours.......

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Looking east towards Loch Treig

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Final view of Stob Ban and the ridge to Stob Choire Claurigh

The final climb up to the summit was steep but short. I was now immersed in cloud and could only see the immediate area around me. It was a very wet and cold wind too so time for the full winter kit to come out of my bag.

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Summit of Stob Ban

I used the cairn as a windbreak and considered my situation. I was very much alone here as I was the first walker off from the parking and the Bothy guest book hadn't been filled in since the 16th of Sept. I was now going off GPS as I had to join Stob Ban to Claurigh and knew I had some steep tricky scree to contend with before route finding on the ridge. I pondered just going back and calling it a day however the thought of missing out the three and having to come back ate at me. I had a walk round the summit and easily found the path off down the scree on the northern side. The weather wasn't too bad, I was able to walk without getting pushed around in the wind and I had the gear and supplies to survive the weather. I also thought if the worst comes to the worst I can make it to Claurigh then just head back to the car from there. So off I went down the scree!

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Path off Stob Ban summit to the scree

The guides aren't kidding about this! It's very steep and loose on the way down. The path zig zags it's way through but I had to watch every step. Now and again there was a boulder field to contend with too. This rock was wet and slippy and quite loose in places too. I was glad to get to the bottom of it and tried to get a pic to show how steep it was.

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The scree path down

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Me looking not too impressed with the descent

Now for route finding on the ridge. It was pretty wide and flat here and there was a good path to follow. Obviously this was not that uncommon to link in Stob Ban with the other Grey Corries. I only started to lose the path as I had to walk across some large granite slaps next to a small lochan. This is the lochan to the east of where it says Coire Rach on the OS map. Now I was slightly worried as I wasn't really wanting to do a route 1 pathless ascent of Claurigh in this weather. I peered about and saw a path travelling west along the north shore of the lochan. Not the direction I wanted to go in but I decided to follow it to see if it turned back to the north.

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Granite slabs and the lochan

Luckily it did turn north again just at the far north western corner of the lochan and this turned out to be a good stony path up the side of Claurigh.

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Path up from the lochan

This was easy to follow and with the weather not easing I was glad of it. I still hadn't made up my mind what I was going to do at the summit so kept plodding uphill. I'd changed the route on the GPS to the WH Grey Corries one (excludes Stob Ban) and was getting closer to that so was happy...........until the path disappeared in yet another boulder field close to the summit. :roll: I say disappeared but it's just as likely that I lost it in the mist and boulders as I was surveying how to get to the summit.

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Where did the path go?

This was uncomfortable. I couldn't see where I was going, I was on a pretty steep boulder field, I knew the summit was above me and over to the left (west) but the GPS track was in front of me to the north. I decided to climb north west through the boulder field which was now getting steeper and had some lovely wet, slippy grass / moss thrown in just to make life even more interesting :shock: I could see around me that I was near / on a fairly broad ridge and certainly the wind had picked up into my face so I was out from the protection of the mountain. "Just don't do anything stupid", I though, "and take your time!"

After a good bit of climbing up this boulder field I made the summit. Weirdly the wind had died down now and I was quite comfortable sitting here eating some lunch and pondering my next move. There was a decent wind break shelter which doubled up as quite a comfortable seat.

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Summit of Clauigh

Sometimes (others will say most of the time) I am my own worst enemy on the hills and hate to be beaten. I knew if I completed this route I would be on 130 munros, a nice round number (seriously I was thinking this, I really don't know why :crazy: ) and I was up here so might as well keep going, plus I had the reassurance of being back on the GPS trail. Again the path off the summit was easy to find anyway and although a bit narrow and exposed was flatish and grassy so how hard could it be??????? :lol:

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Path off Claurigh continuing south west towards Laoigh

Famous last words.........it gets harder, much harder..........rockier to start with, then narrower, then bigger rocks, then windier. Sigh................. At least the ascent / descent wasn't too much and I remembered reading that the route rarely dropped below 1000m along here. The mist made everything look super errie and maybe it was best I couldn't really see what was coming and just took it as it came. I decided to just take pictures of the many rock formations I had to go over / round or just avoid. There is an obvious path most of the way and even over the rock fields it's a simple case of going up and over, to go to the right or left would result in a very rapid descent! I was able to see far enough ahead that I had a rough idea where I was on the ridge but arriving at number 3. Stob Coire an Laoigh was relatively easy. Not much ascent / descent so I guess it must be the distance between the summits that makes this a munro :?: Even then I checked the position on the GPS and then cross referenced it with the map to confirm I was there. The following pictures are some of the rock formations I encountered on the way.

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Summit of Laoigh, loving the view yet again....

Having reached Laoigh I felt quite pleased with myself. I'd navigated what appeared to be a very tricky, very narrow at times rocky ridge in awkward weather. Nothing for it now but to head to Stob Coire Esssian, the junction summit, and assess what to do from there. I got there without any great hassle, it's not far from Laoigh at all however here the wind was howling and for the first time I was getting pushed sideways. Sorry no pics here as it was too windy and my camera was starting to dislike the moisture in the air. There is a large cairn and the paths are obvious, turn left to go to Sgurr Choinnich Mor or turn right to head out of the mountains and back to the car.

I turned left to go to Mor and soon after this had a moment which I really didn't enjoy. I think the path splits in two just after the junction (I noticed this on the way back from Mor) and with so much to think about here I followed the right hand fork and ended up dropping down a really steep scree and boulder field. The path disappeared and I was left on this slope with the limited visibility and the wind still howling thinking something wasn't right (you'll see the wiggle in the GPS trace at the start of the report). I didn't remember reading anything about this in the guide books and I was about 50m off the GPS track. I know this can be inaccurate at times but deep down I knew something was going wrong. Yet another decision I can't explain (maybe a wee bit of adrenaline / fear was clouding my decision making) but I headed towards Mor in an upward diagonal direction across this nightmare terrain towards the GPS track. This wasn't fun and I gingerly placed my feet and hands to make sure I didn't slip. I made it back up onto the ridge where I was meant to be and sat down for a moment to ponder. That was quite a big whoopsie and I was now considering just going for the car. I was about 1.6km from Mor and the terrain on the ridge was the trickiest yet. There was one big table shaped rock ahead which I had to essentially cuddle to get round and through the gap. I sat, gathered my thoughts, let the adrenaline ebb and decided "just stay high and take your time, if the wind and terrain continues just can it and turn back."

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The ridge to Mor. The whoopsie was on the slope to the right!

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Table rock

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More ridge. Big rocks!

Thankfully as I dropped down to Bealach Coire Essian the terrian eased into a grassy ridge with an obvious path and a few rocks. I still couldn't see where I was going so followed the path. Mor unfortunately has many false summits and I quickly started cursing every one of them. :evil:

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The path and one of the false summits

Eventually after several of these false summits I came across the tiny summit cairn of Mor. The wind had died down again and I was low on energy so sat here and had the rest of my lunch. I had made good time and guessed I had about 8km to go back to the car, including the re-ascent of Easain. This turned out to be a wise choice as all of a sudden I started to feel the promised sun burning through the mist. As if by magic someone thought "he's had enough, lets give him a bit of a view" and the cloud lifted to just about the 1000m mark. I actually remember saying out loud to myself "Well at least I can f*****g see where I'm going now!" :lol:

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Summit of Mor

Again I've ran out of attachments for photos so I'll attach them in a post at the end............

So I came down from Mor and could see clearly now the proper way to go up Easain. I stayed to the eastern side of the ridge up, again making sure I kept on the highest bit and in the better visibility I could see the on off path all the way up. The Aonach's were starting to make an appearance behind me and once I was back in the mist heading towards the summit of Easain again I noticed the double path which contributed to my whoopsie. Again the wind was howling up here and I was having real trouble walking in a straight line so quickly cut straight across the summit and followed the old stalkers path along the top of Beinn na Sociach. Again this was on / off but I just kept walking along the top of the cliffs and the path just kept reappearing. As I had dropped out of the cloud I could now see that Spean Bridge was bathed in sunshine (I would later find out from the wife it had been a lovely day all day at the cottage on Laggan Locks) and the munros to the north of the A86 were clear, typical.

Clearly I have no future as a deer stalker (not that I had tried to start with) as yet again I couldn't even stalk the path :roll: and as I went down the hillside towards the Allt Choimhlidh it was another diagonal, pathless downhill route towards the dam through long grass and fern. Bear in mind you cannot cross the Allt along the top of this dam, you have to cross it before it gets deep at the dam then follow the eastern bank to a stile over the deer fence at the side of the dam. This then dropped me onto the concrete access path to the dam. It was now a scorching day in the glen so I stripped off my winter gear and had a lovely walk out through the forest topping up my t-shirt tan. Unbelievable considering what I had been through.

The walk through the forest was long and undulating. I had to be careful to follow the right tracks as there have been some new ones created for the logging trucks. I kept looking back at the Grey Corries to see if they cleared. They hadn't so I guess it just wasn't to be my day up there. The track took me straight out to the car as planned. 8 hours all in which I was pretty surprised at, I'd planned for at least 10 hours.

It was a good challenging day but I'll be back with Big Tommo and the wife in better weather so I can see all the views I missed!
Last edited by J888ohn on Tue Sep 29, 2015 9:47 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Grey Corries live up to their name

Postby J888ohn » Sun Sep 27, 2015 10:15 pm

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The way off Mor back to Easain

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The way up Easain from Mor

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Still snow on the Aonachs

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The walk down along Beinn na Socaich

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Spean Bridge in sunshine

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Dam at the Allt

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Allt and the glen from the top of the dam

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Nice walk out
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Re: Grey Corries live up to their name

Postby dogplodder » Mon Sep 28, 2015 12:04 pm

That was a gripping read wondering how it would end. 8)

I've not done the Grey Corries on account of other half not wanting me to wreck the car on the approach road. :?
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Re: Grey Corries live up to their name

Postby J888ohn » Mon Sep 28, 2015 3:12 pm

dogplodder wrote:That was a gripping read wondering how it would end. 8)

I've not done the Grey Corries on account of other half not wanting me to wreck the car on the approach road. :?

Thanks dogplodder. Was def one of the most challenging days I've had for a while. The track is ok really, just a slow drive up it in 2nd gear as long as you've not pimped your ride out with lowered suspension and a big exhaust :wink:
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Re: Grey Corries live up to their name

Postby celt54321 » Mon Sep 28, 2015 7:25 pm

that was a good read,hope to do these mid october your pics and report will come in handy.well done looks like an epic. :clap: :)
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Re: Grey Corries live up to their name

Postby Graeme D » Tue Sep 29, 2015 9:23 pm

Well done! :clap: I set off up Leum Uillem from the Loch Ossian YH that day but jacked it in about a third of the way up on account of the weather being pants! :shock:
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