Mamores ridge: mixed fortunes & avoided an epic
by simcc » Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:29 am
Route description: The Ring of Steall, Mamores
Munros included on this walk: An Gearanach, Binnein Beag, Binnein Mor, Na Gruagaichean, Sgurr Eilde Mor, Stob Coire a'Chairn
Date walked: 22/04/2018
Time taken: 12 hours
Distance: 25 km
Ascent: 2300m13 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
The Mamores! They’ve been on the list for a bit, so as I had the opportunity to come over (I live in The Netherlands btw) for work earlier this week, I thought this would be a good chance to add a couple of days to the itinerary and enjoy these glorious hills. The forecast throughout the week had shown positive Celsius temperatures on the summits, so it seemed that winter was passing and I was hoping enough snow would melt to be able to give this a good early summer season go. The plan was to get up to Kinlochleven by 2-3 PM and do the lot in a day and a half. Now I know some crazy folk out there try and do the whole ridge in a day (a very long day). But I didn’t fancy the pain and conditions were forecasted to be mixed (both weather and ground). So, a day and a half it was going to be.
I flew into Edinburgh on Saturday morning nicely on time, but then had a horrendous wait at the car hire (well over an hour). Also, picking up supplies took longer than expected. This all led to me getting into Kinlochleven not much before 5 PM. But seeing as Saturday was showing Scotland to be able to be a place of sunshine, I wasn’t going to let this deter me. So off I set determined to walk until sun down and make the most of the good weather (and also reduce the distance for day 2).
So off I went…
Some great views back over Loch Leven on the way up.
Coming up to Coire an Lochain, the first major snow remains could be seen close up, with the Lochan still covered in ice and snow.
So, passed that all and headed up to Sgurr Eilde Mor. Great views to be had there, especially of my next target, Binein Beag.
By this time, it was already getting pretty late and I was constantly trying to guess how far I could get in the remaining light. At this point I thought the top of Binnein Beag by 8:30 PM could be doable.
As I passed the Lochan at the foot of Binnein Beag, I dumped my pack before heading up, this was to be my overnight camp location. Finally got to the top of Binnein Beag about nine-ish. A bit of a stoney slog, but good all the same. The sun had already gone and going back down, it was getting pretty dark.
Then time to set up camp, refuel and get to bed… finally at about 11 PM I was ready to sleep.
The next day started at 7 AM in good spirits. The weather was still not bad, but I knew worse was forecasted. Set out at 8:15-ish and almost directly met one of the only people I was to see all day. A chap heading up to bag a single Munro that he was missing: Binnein Beag.
I pondered the best route up the North side of Binnein Mor, as the gully was all filled with snow, as so was much of the rest of it. I finally settled on a route from the East. Half way up I realised to my annoyance and disbelief that I had forgotten to fill up my water bottles… how stupid can you be!? I was heading for the stream when I met the chap lower down, and after the nice chat, had forgotten that I was en route to water. Luckily, I found a waterfall further along, and filled my water up at the top of that… a pretty cool place. But I was relieved, because I was high enough that there were no surface streams any more.
So, on and upwards to Binnein Mor. Before long I had my head in the clouds and the drizzle had set in. Visibility was very poor, often below 50 metres. The ridge was still pretty snowy for long sections. I actually missed the top in the heavy cloud cover and noticed about 30-50 metres later when I started to descend again against my expectations. A quick check on the GPS confirmed I had already ‘bagged’ it (I never use GPS to navigate, but I do like to sometimes confirm locations, esp in poor visibility).
The next section to Na Gruagaichean was more of the same: rain, sleet, wind, patchy snow and cold.
To Stob Coire a Chairn, again much the same, although less snow, which probably makes sense as it’s at a lower altitude and it’s the position in regard to the dominant winds and North.
By this time I was really hoping to bump into someone and felt a bit miserable. WHAT!? This never happens to me on mountains, even when I’m soaked through and tired, as I was now. I knew that the only thing keeping me warm was the fact I was moving and that movement was just about producing enough warmth to counteract the conditions.
Coming down off Stob Coire a Chairn towards An Gearanach, I spotted two people walking in the same direction a couple of hundred metres ahead of me. I saw them a few more times, but after An Gearanch, they proceeded North to Glen Nevis, while I turned back.
Over to An Gearanach (and the top An Garbhanach) is where things started falling apart (although the conditions had already started that earlier). The scramble on the way there was fine and enjoyable. BUT, by the time I hit the summit I was cold… The pace of movement cant be sustained when scrambling and I wasn’t producing enough warmth any more. Heading southward again, back to the main ridge, I realised that I was in that area before one gets in trouble. I was soaked through, had just changed into a spare set of clothes, but the weather was doing its best to soak these too. I was on my last pair of spare gloves, and was starting to move less well. I noticed this on the scramble back down.
This was the point when I decided that it was time to be sensible and put ‘emergency plan A’ into effect: find the quickest way off the ridge and back to the car. I was adamant I wasn’t going to be a mountain rescue call-out victim, just because I still had to tag some more hills (which I probably couldn’t make by sun down anyway, due to the slow going as navigation in the sometimes dense cloud was taking longer). It was about 1 PM by this time.
I decended South by Allt Coire na Ba, and between two and three hours later reached the car park again (4 PM-ish). On the way down, as I exited the cloud and things got warmer, you find yourself questioning the necessity to ‘cop out’. But I kept reminding myself of the conditions higher up and forced head over heart that I had made the right decision. As the saying goes: the hills will always be there another day.
A little later I also realised that this could be a blessing in disguise, as when I do return, I will hopefully be able to enjoying the views!
PS: if anyone happens to find a black & yellow buff on Meall Ghaordaidh, it’s mine! . I lost it the day after.
by Alteknacker » Thu Apr 26, 2018 11:20 am
I also had lack-of-water troubles when I did the round - very easy to forget, and as you say, there's precious little water up on the ridge.
I'm sure you made the right decision to come off when you did: if one can't warm up when one's moving, I think that's definitely a warning sign. Also a good decision because it means you'll have to come back, hopefully when the weather's a bit better!
Interesting that you say you were eventually soaked through - wasn't your waterproof gear "waterproof"?
by Phil the Hill » Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:20 pm
Sounds like you made the right decision to bail out. The Mamores are always worth another visit.
by the bearded wanderer » Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:58 pm
by simcc » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:32 pm
the bearded wanderer wrote:Sometimes you just need to know when to stop. Safety first. I attempted pretty much the same last July and only managed 4 leaving the Ring of Steall etc for another day. I camped in the exact same place and even in horrible weather it’s a fantastic spot. I had bad weather and equipment failures but was happy with my first proper wild camp. I wasn’t so happy with my trudge down Glen Nevis to get the bus home
It is indeed a fabulous place!
I considered coming up Glen Nevis, but in the end chose the approach from the South, as I believe Glen Nevis can get very boggy.
And indeed safety was my concern. I did find myself questioning if it was really necessary to pull out as I trudged down the glen. But when that pendulum of risk starts swinging, then it's often best not to wait to see where it stops, just in case.
by the bearded wanderer » Sat Apr 28, 2018 12:37 am
Aborted a winter walk in February and on the route down everything cleared and doubted my decision - but as with yourself it was the right call at the time. The hills ain’t going nowhere
by yokehead » Sun Apr 29, 2018 12:28 pm
I have a soft spot for Na Gruagaichean and even have its snowy atmospheric ridge as my screensaver, from a memorable trip a few years ago when I was fortunate in being able to gain its summit but had to abort my planned continuation to Binnein Mor. But I was there again last year and what a fine place this is.