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High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Above

High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Above


Postby andygunn23 » Wed May 24, 2017 8:27 pm

Route description: The Ring of Steall, Mamores

Munros included on this walk: Am Bodach, An Gearanach, Sgurr a'Mhaim, Stob Coire a'Chairn

Date walked: 06/05/2017

Time taken: 24 hours

Distance: 16 km

Ascent: 1863m

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High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Above

Since taking up hill walking the Ring of Steall has become one of those walks I have sidelined, strictly only to be completed / enjoyed in good visibility and not simply just bagged. I can't think of a better way than to take a full 24-hours to complete the 4 munros on the Ring of Steall.

A taster for what my next my next 24-hours contained (hint, not much sleep)!
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Having already bagged Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean last year there was always the temptation to complete the remaining eight Mamore munros in an epic day out. Whilst I love a challenge, I have read a few walk reports from those who have completed such a challenge and, although incredibly impressive, most sounded like a bit of a race against the hours of light in the day!

The 282 (ignoring the Scotsmans recent nonsense :lol: ) hills that make up the list of munros could quite easily be related to a roast dinner - some can be completed quickly and not savoured, these being your broccoli and carrots. This means your Ring of Steall is the roast puddings - these should always be savoured and enjoyed to the full! :wink: :lol:

3.5 hour after leaving Aberdeen I had arrived a the Lower Falls car park and set off towards the summit of Sgurr a'Mhaim by 09:45. It was a scorcher of a day and before long I started to regret the overnight backpack - even with all the lightweight nonsense these bags still take their tole!

On route up Sgurr a'Mhaim looking back towards Fort William.
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It was a Saturday, and it was sunny, so I fully expected the route to be quite busy but it appeared I had set of slightly later than most. Not really a problem when I knew I could fling my tent up whenever I was ready for a snooze.

Looking up Sgurr a'Mhaim - I found this to be a killer of an incline!
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With almost guaranteed clear skies at night I had been doing some homework on astrophotography - or in normal talk, taking pictures of the sky. I had borrow a miniature tripod (weight saving and all) little Joby of a thing :lol: .

Quick practice with Joby looking towards Ben Nevis.
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For clarity, the brand name of the tripod is Joby...

Slightly closer to the summit of Sgurr a'Mhaim.
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Now I can't quite remember if that was before or after the brutal "scree of doom" section. That might just be an over exaggeration but it definitely made the summit more welcome!

From the summit of Sgurr a'Mhaim looking towards Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean featuring some of these impressive "UFO clouds" :shock: :lol:
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From the top looking along the Devil's Ridge towards Am Bodach (the one on the centre left).
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Some people giving a nice bit of scale to the ridge.
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Back towards the first summit of the day. Look at all that scree!!!
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Let me touch on The Devil's Ridge (that's not a dangerous euphemism :shock: ) but I must admit I was slightly underwhelmed by the whole thing. It's just when a name contains "Devil's" I expect to be clinging onto some incredibly exposed sections but ultimately I guess it comes down to one mans Am Bodach being another mans Everest.

Still a pleasant section, right enough!
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With so much hours in the day my plan on where to camp came down to a few factors; when I was too tired, when I found a spot (preferably with some remaining snow for water); and where the view would be the best.

Views from the summit of Am Bodach.
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Now that I had reached my second munro summit of the day I decided a little break on my tired wee legs wouldn't go a miss. Before long, and after accidentally falling asleep in the sun, I made the decision this was going to be the end of my day :lol: .

After unpacking my luxury living quarters.
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I had a total of eight hours from arriving until, my favourite part of camping out in the hills, the sunset! I remember it being eight hours because I did absolutely nothing except watch the few clouds float across the hills and it went numerous times quicker than eight hours in work (and there wasn't even a free lunch waiting for me!!) :lol: :lol: .

Dinner time. Pasta cooked with some of the last remaining snow, featuring numerous loose blades of grass...
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After dinner, the early morning rise was beginning to affect me so I decided to go for a quick 3 hour snooze before sunset. This is when I realised I should really have put some suncream on my face :lol: . It felt like I was a little radiator in the tent! Fortunately I was able to get a couple of hours in dreamland before my watch woke me up and told me to go spectate!

This is how to enjoy a sunset!!!
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With no clouds and the sun setting, the temperature quickly plunged well into the low single figures. Thankfully for me I had my radiating cheeks to keep the tent warm :lol: :lol: . I set another alarm for 00:30 where I could get my first attempts at shooting the night sky.

As soon as I woke up it was clear the moon was far too bright and was probably going to impact my limited ability to photograph the stars! Nevertheless I spent the next ninety minutes running about like a lunatic across the summit of Am Bodach trying all different techniques in an attempt to get that perfect photo. Only after a few photos I realised that down below was one of the wildfires around Kinlochleven - although devastating (and probably highly avoidable) it was a sight I never thought I'd get to see, and in some respects it was quite a spectacle.

The moon...
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The fire :( :shock:
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Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the land basking in the moonlight :D .
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Moon so bright meant the head torch was nearly useless but I had fun experimenting anyhow.
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That ended up being one of the quickest 90 minutes of my life and I learned a lot more about my camera than all the YouTube tutorials combined. Going forward it just means I have another vital piece of preparation to check before heading off into the hills - the cycle of the moon!

I went back into the tent (still glowing) and attempted to get back to sleep. A combination of adrenaline and the wind rattling my tent meant I struggled to get much more shut eye :crazy: . I am starting to think that upgrading to a 750g tent is far more noisy than my previous 3kg beast! Still I think I will just take the earplugs the next time and take advantage of the reduced weight.

The best view to make coffee and breakfast!
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All fuelled up and tent packed away. With it still being super early it looked like I had the ring all to myself 8) . I felt like I'd spent enough time on Am Bodach :lol: :lol: , so I set off towards Stob Coire a'Chairn.

The mornings challenge - I love first light in the hills!
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It started off as a rather steep descent down Am Bodach - started to appreciate why those arriving at the top the afternoon before all looked so jiggered :clap: :lol: .

Look back towards Am Bodach.
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Brilliant, some proper scrambling (there is an easier detoured route).
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Far quicker than I had expected I had managed to bag Am Bodach and An Gearanach - all that remained was to descent to what I had seen as the final challenge, the "bridge" :roll: .

Final views along the Ring of Steall.
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The weather had been incredible since I set off, so an inversion would have been magical. Unfortunately it never quite materialised and appeared to be halted in its tracks by the Ben.

Close and still spectacular.
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Nearly down!
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A rather "dry" Steall waterfall, will need to come back after some severe rain!
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The final challenge, made even more challenging with the 10+ people watching from the tents!
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Thankfully no unexpected splashes and I was back on the main path to head towards the Upper Falls Car Park. Without the two car trick this time it meant a walk along the single track road all the way back to my motor.

Gentle reminder...
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On route back to the car.
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Some of the wildlife.
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I got back to my car nearly 24 hours after setting off, a little more sunburnt, sweatier, smellier, tired and sore. Although it may have only been another 4 munros completed I would recommend anyone else doing the Ring to spend as long as you can. Take it slow, enjoy the views and try and do it when you have visibility to enjoy the surrounding sights!

This outing probably overtakes all others in becoming my favourite overnight expedition and it is definitely one I will do again. Hopefully this year we get a good dumping of snow, if so, this is top of the list!

Thanks again if you've read this far! It may look like it sometimes, but trust me these don't take 30 minutes to write :lol: :lol: .

(Already completed an outing in Torridon whilst drafting this so that should follow sometime soon!)

Cheers,
Andy :)


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andygunn23
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby rockhopper » Wed May 24, 2017 8:37 pm

Smashing stuff - great to be high enough to get sunset and sunrise too :thumbup: A set of hills to which I must return some day having seen rather little in the clag :roll:

PS Earplugs - useful regardless of the tent quality :wink: - cheers :)
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Wed May 24, 2017 9:03 pm

Fantastic report and photos, looked amazing, definitely worth savouring :D . I hope I don't have an audience when it comes to The Steall Bridge, I'm bound to fall in :lol: :lol:
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby Mal Grey » Wed May 24, 2017 10:28 pm

Wow. That's how to do an overnight camp.

So far, my own summit camps seem to have ended up with me contemplating the inside of a cloud....or falling asleep and not waking up for sunrise...

Great photos, especially your headtorch-and-stars shot.
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby arjh » Wed May 24, 2017 11:19 pm

Well, that was just brilliant. :thumbup:
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby apollo0815 » Thu May 25, 2017 12:44 am

What a smashing report.
On the 8th of May it was possible to cross the river Nevis without using the bridge :) And we could have given you a lift.
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby andygunn23 » Thu May 25, 2017 10:53 am

Mal Grey wrote:Wow. That's how to do an overnight camp.

So far, my own summit camps seem to have ended up with me contemplating the inside of a cloud....or falling asleep and not waking up for sunrise...

Great photos, especially your headtorch-and-stars shot.


Thanks! Lost count of the amount of times waking up in the middle of a cloud :lol: - all part of the adventure I guess!
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby andygunn23 » Thu May 25, 2017 6:33 pm

apollo0815 wrote:What a smashing report.
On the 8th of May it was possible to cross the river Nevis without using the bridge :) And we could have given you a lift.


The water was low right enough but where is the fun in that :lol: :lol: . It was quite early so most people were just arriving at the Upper Falls car park - only added an extra half hour so can't complain in that weather! Thanks though! :clap:
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby andreww18 » Fri May 26, 2017 9:56 pm

what an absolutely enthralling and inspiring report. Breathtaking pictures. Only done 4 and can't wait to get up to these mountains.
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby Sunset tripper » Mon May 29, 2017 12:41 am

Great pictures and a great way to do these hills.
It's a big achievement to do the 10 hills in one day but I think you miss out on so much.
I like your way a lot more. Cheers :D

PS it looks like a wee cartoon characters head you have by your stove. :shock:
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby andygunn23 » Tue May 30, 2017 7:57 pm

andreww18 wrote:what an absolutely enthralling and inspiring report. Breathtaking pictures. Only done 4 and can't wait to get up to these mountains.


Thanks a lot! I know that feeling, after I did my first I was already searching for the best day outings - with this being so accessible it's been high on the list for a long time now!
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby naepace » Tue May 30, 2017 8:49 pm

Fantastic Andy, great read and amazing pics. I would love to have the time to enjoy the hills like that. All my walks seem to be against the clock !
I know what you mean about the 30 mins, some of my blogs take days to write and at the end you go is that it? :crazy:
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby Alteknacker » Tue May 30, 2017 9:42 pm

Great report, and some brilliant photography. I did the 10 Mamores last Thursday, and like you had quite brilliant weather - even a Brocken spectre. However, although it was very enjoyable the time available simply to assimilate the environment was short, so I'm beginning to come round to your way of thinking, and to the idea of doing one- or two-nighters, really taking my time to savour the experience (though it has to be said that a pint of the amber stuff at the end of a long day takes a bit of beating :D ).
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby andygunn23 » Mon Jun 05, 2017 11:55 am

Alteknacker wrote:Great report, and some brilliant photography. I did the 10 Mamores last Thursday, and like you had quite brilliant weather - even a Brocken spectre. However, although it was very enjoyable the time available simply to assimilate the environment was short, so I'm beginning to come round to your way of thinking, and to the idea of doing one- or two-nighters, really taking my time to savour the experience (though it has to be said that a pint of the amber stuff at the end of a long day takes a bit of beating :D ).


Thanks a lot - I just got around to reading your report. Different type of day out but still great! :clap: . When I started off it was a case of doing everything in near race-like fashion. Some just need to be enjoyed (I might start taking a wee hip flask out on these overnighters!) :lol:
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Re: High Camp on the Ring of Steall - Fire Below & Stars Abo

Postby Cantab » Mon Jun 05, 2017 2:44 pm

Cracking report, and wonderful photos, I still treasure the memory of my day around the Ring of Steall, probably in my all time favourite walks. The summit camp is inspirational, just acquired myself a Laser Comp 1 and will be moving north of the border this summer so I look forward to giving it a go!
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