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The Mamores – when the Devil was on his holiday
by old danensian » Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:19 pm
Munros included on this walk: Am Bodach, Mullach nan Coirean, Sgurr a'Mhaim, Stob Ban (Mamores)
Date walked: 12/10/2010
Time taken: 8 hours
Distance: 16 km
Ascent: 2730mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
After topping out on the eastern six during an earlier foray back in August I’d got four more to reach before completing the Mamores’ set. The plan was to finish the day with the Devil’s Ridge, building up the anxiety / curiosity / trepidation (delete as appropriate) as the day progressed. Reports vary on the challenge it presented: whatever the outcome, it seemed a fitting finale to my two day dash north.
With the prospect of an absolutely stonking day ahead, something was inevitably going to threaten to take the shine off the day – and it only took a handful of yards from the road to crop up. Any hopes of a gradual ascent by zig-zagging to the lower reaches of Mullach nan Coirean’s north east ridge were scuppered by the health and safety threat of tree felling. Whether it was active work or not: who knows, I wasn’t going on a trudge to find out. Anyway, the diversion directed walkers to a path that rose alongside the Allt a Choire Dheirg and the edge of the forest. Still shrouded in mist, it glistened with an autumnal festoon created by the labours of countless spiders. But gradually you became aware of views emerging and the clouds falling away below.
After a while, about forty five minutes or so, the deer fence blocked access to the hillside beyond and heralded a right turn and the beginning of a steep gruelling hour. A direct line to the crest of the ridge, alongside the fence all the way, was the only way forward, or rather upward. Once there, if you ignored the plethora of signs that make that part of the ridge look like start of roadworks on the M6, it all became worthwhile: great views across a cloud-shrouded Glen Nevis, Fort William and beyond; relief that you weren’t sharing the tourist path with countless crowds on the Ben across the valley; and a steady slope to the top of Mullach nan Coirean ahead – with even more to come.
With the summit reached, the views to the south opened up and the winding ridge to the east was there to ponder and work out the day’s route. With a gentle walk along the high level path towards Stob Ban, the batteries could be recharged while still making ground.
A bit of a kick is need to get up the final steeper slopes of Stob Ban, but as the ground rears up and the interest increases, what you are doing with hands and feet takes the mind off gulping lungs and straining muscles. In the end I was glad to have endured a bit of effort being expended – it was my 50th Munro so it felt like something significant had been achieved as I passed the pinnacles that fall away to the left.
A bite, and drink and rare thirty minute rest, meant that I felt OK to go over Sgurr an Iubhair and round to Am Bodach before heading back to go over the ridge and on to Sgurr a Mhaim. The path skirts nicely round to the south of Iubhair so you don’t have to go over it twice – OK, some things are delectable, but they’re not always worth repeating straightaway.
Again, an easy paced climb saw the top of Am Bodach reached from Stob Ban in just over an hour, the last part being a tortoise race with a couple I’d seen coming up from the other side – they looked far more tired than I felt when they finally arrived, so I was glad I’d chosen to do this Munro from the west rather than the east. From the top I enjoyed tracing the line of my previous visit back in August when Na Gruagaichean, Stob Coire a Chairn and An Gearanach had been reached in the mists.
But now, it was time to finish off the day with the Devil’s Ridge and go over to Sgurr a Mhaim. Once over Sgurr an Iubhair there was the prospect of the final slog, but I was determined I was going to enjoy it, take it easily and steadily, no matter how many people passed me. It was clearly going to be a fine airy stretch to end the day. Where would the Devil be lurking? How will he show his face? Will he be sly and creep up slowly, leaving you exposed and crag fast? Will he be upfront and nasty, confronting you with a teetering exposed challenge to overcome?
So, full of curiosity to know how challenging the “exciting” parts of the ridge were going to be I crossed the first part quickly. There were obvious options for the path along the grassy crest or just below it. The second part holds the interesting bits, a rocky step that leaves you hesitant before realising that the gap can be easily turned to the left and passed a few feet below the ridge. The crest is then regained up a short easily angled ten foot wall tucked in a safe corner, with sturdy hand and foot holds and little worry from exposure. A few yards further on a short wall has to be descended, but from above you can see that it’s ribbed with horizontal ledges that provide the security of a series of steps that are negotiated in a matter of seconds. And then you realise it’s over. All that remains is the final slope to the top of Sgurr a Mhaim. In barely fifteen minutes the ridge had been traversed in the benign conditions of a late afternoon sun, and a couple of safe simple scrambles. I could only conclude that the Devil must have been on his holiday – but no doubt he’ll return when things turn chilly and white.
Once over the top, the remainder of the day was a steady knee joint jarring, thigh muscle burning descent across the white scree of the upper slopes and the spine of the north west ridge. My water supply had run out on the last top, but I relished the prospect of the first water I’d find on the way down – not too far I guessed. How wrong I was. Given the fact that the path follows the spine all the way down into the valley, the quenching of thirst only happened within spitting distance of the car – but my mouth was too dry to do that by then.
The forecast was a little less confident for the next day and low cloud was likely – dry but with dodgy visibility and far less chance of cloud free tops. The last two days had been so good, it would have been a shame to spoil their memory with a day thrashing about in the mist again. So, with my tired legs being grateful of such a pathetic excuse, I headed back south.
by Stretch » Sat Oct 23, 2010 12:06 am
by LeithySuburbs » Sat Oct 23, 2010 12:33 am
- mountain coward
Our last planned sunny return to the Mamores ended in clag
They really are corking hills though
by old danensian » Sat Oct 23, 2010 10:18 am
MC - the hands were used on Stob Ban when my curiosity lured me towards the pinnacles and I was finding my way back to the path - just a mini detour really. As for the Devils Ridge - from other things you've described you'd have no problem - just an aversion to Sgurr a Mhaim it sounds.
As for Sgurr a' Mhaim, I now call it Scary Vam! I think it was probably okay really but I shot off up it on my own quite early in my Munroing career - up the steep bit you came down. I don't really like that kind of angle of steep at all for descending (from a scary point of view, not knee problems or anything) and was worrying all the way up the hill and back about having to get back down it. In the event, I suppose it was okay really but I can't say I was happy during the steepest bit of the descent - it looked an awful long way down! It's a shame Richard refused to come with me and I had to go on my own - perhaps if I can persuade him next time, by advertising the 'delights' of Devil's Ridge (that ought to work) I may be a lot better on it. He refused as he looked at the angle of climb and said no way - from a laziness point of view!
- mountain coward
Great report. Love the quip about the Devil being absent Excellent inversion and some great pictures of the ridge.
MC, I have got the ring of Steall to do so Maybe we can head up Sgurr a' Mhaim and along the ridge early next year?
By the Way OD, I forgot to say what an excellent pic the cobwebs one is - superb!
- mountain coward