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Two tough days in the Mamores and Glen Coe

Two tough days in the Mamores and Glen Coe


Postby Pointless Parasite » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:30 pm

Munros included on this walk: Binnein Mor, Na Gruagaichean, Sgurr Eilde Mor, Stob Coire Raineach (Buachaille Etive Beag), Stob Coire Sgreamhach, Stob Dubh (Buachaille Etive Beag)

Date walked: 12/01/2018

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I've been wanting to visit the Mamores for a long time, with all the promise of bagging four, five or more Munros in a single day. On this occasion, I managed three (upgraded from two in retrospect) but was lucky to even manage that.


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For the first few hours this was a completely unremarkable day. After walking along the land rover track up to Loch Eilde Mor, I turned off to the North, heading towards some frozen waterfalls marked on the map.

Almost every walking trip this year has resulted in me getting wet feet. I'd recently bought some water repellent spray my dad had recommended and was keen to try it out. So far, I'd kept nice and dry, but then managed to step in a deep bog hidden under a snow drift :clap:. I threw a proper shout-out-loud tantrum, throwing my walking poles about and turning the air brown with expletives for the next few minutes. The steep ascent up to Sgurr Eilde Mor and the improving weather managed to calm me down and I soon forgot all about it.

Image
Sgor Eilde Beag by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Sgurr Eilde Mor summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

From the summit I followed the ridge down to the Lochan below:

Image
Sgurr Eilde Mor descent by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Sgurr Eilde Mor by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I was making good time, but the route between Sgurr Eilde Mor and Binnein Beag was very long with a deep snow cover. It was slow, exhausting going, especially when crossing streams where the snow was deepest. To make matters worse, the clouds once more descended and soon the visibility was reduced to 50 m or so. After a while I caught sight through the mist of what appeared to be an immense plain stretching out for miles. Before I had time to work out what it was, I found myself standing right next to what turned out to be the small lochan in between Binnein Mor and Binnein Beag. From here, I considered my options. It was about 1 pm. I figured I could climb Binnein Beag and return in no less than 1 hour. That would mean I would be starting the tough climb up Binnein Mor at 2 pm at the earliest and unlikely to reach the summit before 3 and risk descending in the dark. I was feeling pretty tired after wading through so much snow, so I decided to skip Binnein Beag and make a start on the Sron a' Garbh-Choire ridge leading up to Binnein Mor.

It started out OK, not really feeling like a ridge, more like a standard rocky slope. In fact I wasn't 100% sure I was even on the correct ridge at all. After a while I climbed a series of steep iced-up craggy sections, unsure if I was heading into a trap or if I was on the right route. The ridge then started to level off, with the crags turning to snow and rocks, then just snow. I could see that I was heading towards a high point, then.... nothing. Literally nothing. Up until now, visibility had been poor, but now it was completely zero - my entire field of vision was a uniform off-white colour. I stood there for a few minutes, blinking and rubbing my eyes, as if that was going to help. I looked at my map. Assuming I'd reached the top of the Sron a' Garbh-Choire ridge, I was a short distance from the summit of Binnein Mor, which was due South. I took a compass bearing and starting edging forward into the void. After a while I could just about make out the edge of what looked like a cornice. I followed this for what seemed like an eternity before reaching something that resembled a cairn. This must be the summit of Binnein Mor.

Image
Footsteps on Binnein Mor by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

From here, I just needed to keep heading South on the ridge and ascend the unnamed sub-summit at point 1062. I could then either descend down to Sgor Eilde Beag, then down to the Loch, or head down to the bealach below Na Gruagaichean and descend from there. Climbing Na Gruagaichean was not an option. I was far, far too tired for another Munro and the ridge looked too narrow to be attempting in such lousy visibility.

The ridge to point 1062 turned out to be an ordeal. The wind really started to pick up and the snow was now knee deep. Visibility was still terrible. Throughout the experience I repeatedly tried to climb thin air, stepping up onto non-existent snow and stumbling forward. I was so exhausted I was needing to rest after only a few steps. After a considerable amount of effort I started to approach the top of point 1062, angry that such a strength sapping mountain was so inconsequential that it didn't even deserve a name. From here, I was in "just get me off the mountain" mode and gave up trying to navigate. I walked off towards Sgor Eilde Beag without consulting the map and soon reached the end of a ridge. I thought I could see a trig point but it turned out to be a rock. From here I descended an unrelentingly steep slope, eventually gaining sight of the land rover track leading up to Loch Eilde Mor. At last, the difficulties were over. From here it was an easy descent back down towards Kinlochleven as darkness approached.

Image
Descent to Kinlochleven by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

It wasn't until a couple of days later when I tried plotting the route on the OS Maps website that I realised it didn't make any sense at all. I had descended directly down onto the track near the little 's' curve, West of Loch Eilde Mor. If I'd descended from the South face of Sgor Eilde Beag, I would have ended up on the track much further to the East, alongside the Loch itself. If I'd descended the South West face of Sgor Eilde Beag I would have needed to make a long traverse across the Coire nan Laogh, which didn't look right either. The only explanation was that I'd descended from Leachd na h-Aire instead. This could only have meant that I'd actually climbed Na Gruagaichean after all! What's more, looking at other forumer's photos, point 1062 looked to be little more than a minor rounded hump halfway along the ridge, not the horrible craggy, corniced thing I had climbed. On reflection, I think I'd probably reached the summit of Binnein Mor much sooner than I'd thought, and possibly mistook point 1062 for the summit later on. Ridiculous. The first time I've ever unintentionally climbed a Munro :lol:


The next day, I had no intention of repeating my exertions in the Mamores, so picked the much easier looking Buachaille Etive Beag.

Weather looking a lot better:

Image
Beinn Fhada by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Stob Coire Raineach summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Stob Coire Raineach summit view by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Stob Dubh summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

All pretty straightforward so far. I was making good time and didn't feel at all tired, so started to think about climbing another Munro. Last summer I'd attempted to climb Stob Coire Sgreamhach and made a complete pig's ear of it. To cut a long story short, I climbed Stob Coire nan Lochan five times after mistakenly taking the wrong ridge down from Bidean nam Bian in poor visibility. I repeatedly climbed and reclimbed nan Lochan, trying to look for the easy South East flank of Stob Coire Sgreamhach, unaware I was on the wrong mountain entirely. So climbing Sgreamhach today was as much about making amends as simply bagging a third Munro.

I needed to get down into the Lairig Eilde. From here, I could climb the steep slope leading onto the summit ridge of Sgreamhach. I didn't fancy descending all the way down to Glen Etive as that would mean considerable extra ascent. So I took a fairly direct route down from just below the summit of Stob Dubh.

Image
Stob Coire Sgreamhach from Stob Dubh by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The slope was steep and very convex, meaning I could not see the terrain much further than about 50 m in front of me. I found a gully that provided a route down of sorts. Pretty unconventional and certainty not recommended. Once in the Lairig Eilde it was a fairly short climb up onto the Eastern flank of Sgreamhach. I met a bunch of climbers who'd completed the technical North East ridge route. They'd helpfully broken trail for me but seemed to have picked a route through the deepest snow. The climbers had not gone all the way to the summit, so after a while I was on my own:

Image
Stob Coire Sgreamhach summit ridge by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Visibility was poor but much better than yesterday. I could clearly see the cliff edge and keep a safe distance.

As I approached the summit, the weather started to brighten and when I was within a few metres of the top I could see blue sky:

Image
Stob Coire Sgreamhach summit approach by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I seemed to be on the verge of a cloud inversion - right at the very top of the cloud but unable to see anything poking up above it. Then, suddenly, the clouds started to clear:

Image
Stob Coire Sgreamhach summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The cause of so much frustration last year:

Image
Stob Coire nan Lochan by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Brocken spectre by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I had a few options for descending. I could traverse over Bidean and down the route leading into Coire nam Beitheach, descend down to Beallach Dearg and head down the lost valley, or just return the way I'd come, down Lairig Eilde. I opted for the last option as I knew it was fairly safe, even though it was probably the longest way back.

Image
Glen Etive by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Windmills by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

My descent route from Stob Dubh was probably just to the right of the large black craggy section:

Image
Stob Dubh from Lairig Eilde by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Image
Lairig Eilde by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I was back on the main road by 4 pm, ready for the long walk back down to Glen Coe village.


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User avatar
Pointless Parasite
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 67
Munros:78   Corbetts:3
Grahams:1   
Sub 2000:4   Hewitts:115
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: Apr 9, 2017
Location: Sunderland

Re: Two tough days in the Mamores and Glen Coe

Postby dav2930 » Sun Jan 14, 2018 12:37 am

Great report. That sounded a pretty 'out there' experience on the Mamores. Not knowing exactly where you are in a white-out is scary stuff - the main reason I bought a GPS some years ago. Equally disconcerting is, as you describe, trying to tread on thin air because you just can't see where the snow is in the pervading whiteness. Just shows how challenging winter conditions can be. Excellent stuff. :clap:
User avatar
dav2930
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1237
Munros:236   Corbetts:13
Grahams:10   Donalds:37
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:161
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: Feb 13, 2015
Location: Cumbria

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