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The Mamores – when the Devil was on his holiday

The Mamores – when the Devil was on his holiday

Postby old danensian » Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:19 pm

Munros included on this walk: Am Bodach, Mullach nan Coirean, Sgùrr a' Mhàim, Stob Bàn (Mamores)

Date walked: 12/10/2010

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 16 km

Ascent: 2730m

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When I unzipped the tent doorway in Glen Nevis to greet the day, I celebrated at the view I was confronted with: nothing. I could only just see the lurid orange of the adjacent tent, never mind the boundary hedge on the other side of the field. An inverted cotton wool day beckoned.

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.

Diversion at Achriabhach

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.

Cobwebs in forest

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.

Glen and Ben - in and out

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.

South from summit of Mullach nan Coirean

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.

Pinnacles below summit of Stob Ban

Mullach nan Coirean from Stob Ban

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.

Eastern Mamores from Stob Ban

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?

Devils Ridge and Sgurr a Mhaim from Sgurr an Iubhair

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.

Step on ridge
Short wall on ridge
Ribbed wall to descend

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.

Descent from Sgurr a Mhaim

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.
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Re: The Mamores – when the Devil was on his holiday

Postby Stretch » Sat Oct 23, 2010 12:06 am

Another doozy OD, some fine pics in this report and good details about the Devil's Ridge.
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Re: The Mamores – when the Devil was on his holiday

Postby LeithySuburbs » Sat Oct 23, 2010 12:33 am

Another fine set of photos and report Old Danesian 8) . My fav from this batch is Mullach nan Coirean from Stob Ban - perfectly captures the essence of this part of the highlands :D .
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Re: The Mamores – when the Devil was on his holiday

Postby mountain coward » Sat Oct 23, 2010 2:40 am

Yeah, some superb pics there - especially thankful for the detailed ones of Devil's Ridge in case I ever want to try it (although I wasn't keen on Sgurr a' Mhaim really so may not want to do it again). I was a bit confused about where you needed hands on Stob Ban's ascent from Mullach Nan Coirean - we went in the opposite direction and all I can remember about the descent from Stob Ban was a scree zig-zag that wasn't very steep?
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Re: The Mamores – when the Devil was on his holiday

Postby kinley » Sat Oct 23, 2010 9:31 am

Some cracking pics there - esp the inversion 8)

Our last planned sunny return to the Mamores ended in clag :(

They really are corking hills though :)

Re: The Mamores – when the Devil was on his holiday

Postby old danensian » Sat Oct 23, 2010 10:18 am

Yes, the view back on Mullach nan Coirean was very evocative - looking at the photo again, it's like a extinct volcanic crater rather than anything glacial.

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.
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Re: The Mamores – when the Devil was on his holiday

Postby mountain coward » Sun Oct 24, 2010 2:39 am

Ah okay - I was wondering about the pinnacles as I didn't remember seeing those either. I loved the Stob Ban to Mullach nan Coirean walk.

As for Sgurr a' Mhaim, I now call it Scary Vam! :lol: 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!
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Re: The Mamores – when the Devil was on his holiday

Postby monty » Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:45 pm

Great report. Love the quip about the Devil being absent :lol: Excellent inversion and some great pictures of the ridge. :D

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?

Re: The Mamores – when the Devil was on his holiday

Postby mountain coward » Mon Oct 25, 2010 12:47 am

But I only walk at a normal speed! :lol: And I really can't get going at 5am either! :o Thanks for the offer though :D

By the Way OD, I forgot to say what an excellent pic the cobwebs one is - superb! :D
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