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Daybreak in the Mamores

Daybreak in the Mamores

Postby J888ohn » Tue Oct 20, 2015 5:08 pm

Route description: Stob Ban (Mamores) and Mullach nan Coirean

Munros included on this walk: Mullach nan Coirean, Stob Bàn (Mamores)

Date walked: 17/10/2015

Time taken: 4.75 hours

Distance: 13.55 km

Ascent: 1118m

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4.30am is a god awful time to get up in the morning. Unfortunately due to something i hadn't experienced for a while called a social life :lol: the only way I was getting out to enjoy some munro bagging in this glorious weather was to get up at this time and to head to the shortest walk of unclaimed summits I had left, which was Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean.

I thought I'd have a chance at seeing the sun rise from the side of a munro if I started out this early so by 5am I was on the road up to Fort William. The blessing of driving at this time in the morning is no frickin caravans doing 30mph or less so I made it in 2 1/2 hours to the car park at Achriabhach. Unfortunately the dream of a sunrise had gone too as when I'd reached Rannoch Summit on the A82 I could see the battle between light and day on the horizon in the east. When I arrived the fog was thick in Glen Nevis but the light was growing quickly and the head torches were dumped in the boot of the car as they were no longer needed.

It was cold too when I started walking at 7.40am and I'd dithered on full thermals or not. In the end I'd decided just to go with the thermal top which was a good decision as when I cleared the fog after 15 minutes or so the temperature was quickly rising and I soon lost the jacket and the fleece and was warm enough in just the thermal top. I walked out of the car park (which you have to pay £3 for the pleasure of parking in, nothing says welcome to Scotland more than charging people to park in what is little more than a forest clearing :( ) and walked along the road to just before the bridge over the river. I took the first path on the right before the bridge, not the one signed river walk or something like that, went through the deer gate and followed the very eroded path into the Glen. I remembered this as the exit path from the Ring of Steall last year but it seemed much more eroded. The terrian kept changing from stony to boggy to grassy to muddy which meant my new boots were going to get a good test and I guess my "comfort return guarantee" was gone as I wasn't allowed to return them with any dirt on them. Quite how I was supposed to assess their comfort without getting them dirty was a concept lost on the sales guy at Go Outdoors......... :roll:

DIdn't take long to get above the clouds and I was disappointed I had missed the sunrise however I remember watching a program about Colin Prior where he said the best time to photograph landscapes was in the rising or setting sun so I pushed on to try to make the ridge in this light. The view back in to the Glen was amazing with the rainbow colours on the horizon above a soft sheet of fog and the first light hitting the side of the hills.

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First rays hitting the summit of Stob Ban

Unfortunately my good camera decided to stop working and just would not focus so I had to resort to my camera phone for the entire trip, something which bugged me the entire day given the conditions I ended up in! The path is easy to follow most of the way up Coire Mhusgain and pretty much follows the river.

I must've been tired cause I kept on hearing a noise that I thought was cows (which I thought was wierd given how high up I was) and it only dawned on me after 5 mins or so it was the Stags calling. This time last year I was doing the Ring of Steall with Big Tommo and heard the same thing. It's bloody intimidating and really does sound like a rampaging herd of angry cows! At least last year I knew that I had Big Tommo to sacrifice should we be attacked (or worse depending what the Stags are calling for :wink: :lol: ) this year I was alone and vulnerable. They had the high ground and it sounded like an attack was imminent. I had to use my wit and cunning to get out of this. Realising I was screwed if I had to resort to my wit and cunning I unsheathed my walking poles and decided in the event of an attack I would wave them about frantically like an Olympic fencer who had had too much caffeine to scare the beasts off!

Towards the waterfalls the path does get narrow with a steep drop off to the right. Just as I crossed the stream at grid ref 152 667 I was met with a huge slab of rock to get up. It was well over my 6ft 2ins height, sloped and wet. Fortunately there are a few foot and hand holds and getting up it wasn't too much bother. The ground is then flat and boggy at the top of the waterfall and the path veers off to the left to climb the slope up to a much more substantial path. At this point a huge Stag appeared on the ridge right in front of me silhouetted in the rising sun. It looked magnificent but my limited zoom on the phone couldn't capture it :(

The sun was now rising quickly and was catching the rocky north eastern face of Stob Ban. Many reports have commented on the similarities between this and Torridon and I concur. The rock was grey and scarred and looked impassable but beautiful in the morning sun. The path took me away from this to a low point in the ridge between Sgurr an Lubhair and Stob Ban.

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As I made my final ascent to the ridge the temperature dropped significantly and the ground was hard with a severe frost. The sun had not penetrated this part of the Coire yet and this added an extra problem, extremely slippy rocks and one time I was all arms and legs until I planted a pole to stop my fall :shock:

I made the ridge and was instantly warmed by the sun which had just crept over Sgurr an Lubhair and lit up the final approach to the summit of Stob Ban beautifully. I was thankful for this as looking at the final ascent I wouldn't have fancied this if the frost was still there.

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Fog still in the Coire as I made the ridge

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The way to the summit lit by the morning sun

The vista in front of me was stunning. The sky was crystal clear and the most fantastic light blue with a slight rainbow effect where it met the hills on the horizon, the hills were shrouded in a mix of shadow and bright morning light with a slight haze around some of them. I spent a few minutes here soaking it in and taking photos.

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Looking south west

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Panorama of Coire Mhusgain, Sgurr a'Mhaim and Sgurr an Lubhair

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View south east

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The path was obvious on the way up to Stob Ban but gets a bit indistinct as I made my way through the rock fields towards the summit. It's fairly easy to pick it up again if you lose it and due to the terrain isn't too many options apart from going up.

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Rocky terrain to the summit.

I was glad the frost had mostly thawed from these rocks. Had I made it pre-sunrise this would have been very tricky. Just before the summit of Stob Ban I came across a sizable marker cairn which indicated where I had to turn right to go to the summit. Due to the steepness of the rock I could not see what was beyond this cairn until I got to it. The view was just stunning. It was actually better for photos here than at the summit. I could see as far out west in the crystal clear air and I actually said "Wow" out loud I was so taken aback by it.

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View west from the cairn

In hindsight I wish I'd taken another panorama here. The summit was literally a 30 second walk from this point and to be fair I got a cracking view of Ben Nevis and Mullach nan Coirean from there. I have to admit it took me a few minutes to register it was the Ben I was admiring as I sat and chewed on one of my fruit bars, I think it was because I'd never seen it so clear and green! Mullach looked like some sort of ancient collapsed volcano and the route round to the summit was obvious.

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Ben Nevis

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Mullach and the ridge to the summit

I sat here facing the sun letting it warm me. It's amazing how the sun can just instantly make you feel good. Add in the fact I was doing what I love and getting some amazing views and I was very happy with my day so far. Took about 2 hours to reach the summit, probably less if I hadn't taken so many photos! :lol:

I text Big Tommo to let him know how I was getting on and to make him jealous. He had decided to go for a romantic weekend with his wife In St Andrews than come be Stag fodder for me. Big Tommo is unaware of the sacrifice I have decided to volunteer him for and after his reply to my text his position as the sacrificial lamb to the slaughter was confirmed. He text me back that he had just had a delicious full Scottish breakfast whilst I had chewed my almost out of date fruit bar. Expletives deleted........... :lol:

Remember how I said I was glad the frost was gone for the ascent? Well the descent on the shadowy side of Stob Ban was a nightmare! It's down scree and lose rocks which was all still encrusted with the night's frost. I had to be so careful and when I looked at my times per km on the GPS afterwards I was 27 mins a km slower on this section than anywhere else I was having to be so slow and methodical. It was a case of plant the poles, gingerly plant the feet and repeat.

Once off of this the rest of the walk is along a mostly broad grassy ridge around Coire Dearg. No shortcuts here so I felt for a bit like I was walking away from the summit as it was always over my right shoulder. There was nothing difficult or testing here. After the initial loss of height from Stob Ban I was pretty much on easy undulating ground. The reports make mention of a small ridge which requires some scrambling. Don't think small, think blink and you'll miss it. There is a bypass path but it's honestly a few rocks long that don't really require much to get over. No reaching above your head for hand holds or anything, it's pretty much walking over rough ground. Still it broke up the straightforward march across the ridge I was having and I started playing about with my shadow too.

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Looking back to Stob Ban

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The "ridge" is the small collection of rocks just below the middle of the picture

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Is this a full Spectre??????

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Or am I being followed?

The final climb to the summit of Mullach is steeper than it looks from a distance but it only took me a few minutes to get up it and was met with the huge summit cairn and more amazing views. I was about 3 1/2 hours into my walk now so the sun had risen higher which meant I could get photos to the east where I had all the Mamores laid out in front of me. Instantly I saw the appeal of doing them all in a day but even I, and readers of my reports will know I like a multi munro challenge, couldn't see how it could be achieved without running a lot. Got to enjoy the view though :D

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The Mamores

Meall a'Caorainn kind of spoils the view south west over Loch Linnhe.

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However I did get my first complete view of Ben Nevis including Meall an't-Suidhe which made it look colossal!

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The way down was actually quite rocky and narrow in places as it followed the curvature of Coire Dearg to the north then east. Here I met my first people of the day who were doing the walk in reverse. I had considered this until late the night before I had read someones report who said the route was boggy and pathless so I'd decided to leave this until the end, plus I thought I'd get better sunrise pics from Stob Ban.

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The ridge down to the forest

Once off the rocks it was easy going down the grass. I came across a closed stile across the fence which the Forestry Commission sign said they hoped to open at the end of forestry operations on 30th June 2015............

The path continued down the left hand side of the fence in a north westerly direction then turned north eastish to essentially drop down the contours head on! The fence and forest is clearly marked on the OS map as is the path on the side of it. This descent was torture. What is it with the Mamores and torturous descents? It's steep, rocky, very boggy, slippy, muddy. You name it, it has everything to annoy the most hardy munro bagger. Just before I reached the Allt a'Choire Riabhaich I saw the diversion sign over a stile. I swear the person who devised this route must laugh every time he / she thinks about it! Thankfully now I had a nice walk through an old Beech / Birch (I can never tell the difference) forest, then a not so nice felled area and back into a pine forest for the final walk out along the forestry tracks to the road.

4 3/4 hours for 2 munros, I'll take that any day. Plenty of time to get home and get the glad rags on for my night out and a day full of wonderful views and memories to tell everyone about. This is definitely one of my most enjoyable walks and I was so glad I forced myself to get up early to catch the morning sun. :D
Last edited by J888ohn on Tue Oct 20, 2015 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Daybreak in the Mamores

Postby Petr Dakota » Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:19 pm

You had really a good day with all the great views John :clap: :clap:
Satisfaction for your previous fogy trip in Grey Corries :wink:
Beautiful photos...well done ! :clap:

I have great memories from there as I added also the Sgurr a'Mhaim & Sgurr an Lubhair with the great Devil's Ridge, but I had very misty and wet condition between Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean...so happy to see the views now by your fabulous photos :clap: :D
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Re: Daybreak in the Mamores

Postby J888ohn » Wed Oct 21, 2015 6:30 pm

Thanks Petr. Definitely made up for my previous grey day but can't always have good weather. Was so glad I made the effort to get out early but that seems to be your speciality! Lol.
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Re: Daybreak in the Mamores

Postby Alteknacker » Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:44 pm

Awesome pics! :clap: :clap: :clap: Saturday was obviously the day to be up in the Highlands!
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Re: Daybreak in the Mamores

Postby kev_russ » Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:50 pm

Braw 8)
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Re: Daybreak in the Mamores

Postby Silverhill » Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:54 pm

What amazing weather you had for these two. Worth the early rise I’d say. :D
I remember being quite chuffed getting up that huge slab of rock quite easily. Only to discover that the path didn’t got that way at all. :roll: Apparently some sort of path has now been established.
I like the shadow selfies on the rock! 8)
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Re: Daybreak in the Mamores

Postby J888ohn » Thu Oct 22, 2015 7:29 pm

Silverhill wrote: I remember being quite chuffed getting up that huge slab of rock quite easily. Only to discover that the path didn’t got that way at all. :roll: Apparently some sort of path has now been established. 8)

We're not the only ones that have went that way, there is a path of sorts now, more a collection of footprints to follow! I didn't remember seeing any other junction of paths so I've no idea where that higher path comes from.
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