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Ring of Steall and Glenfinnan hills

Ring of Steall and Glenfinnan hills

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jul 09, 2018 9:49 am

Munros included on this walk: Am Bodach, An Gearanach, Gulvain, Sgùrr a' Mhàim, Sgùrr nan Coireachan (Glenfinnan), Stob Coire a' Chàirn, Stob Coire Raineach (Buachaille Etive Beag), Stob Dubh (Buachaille Etive Beag)

Date walked: 08/07/2018

Distance: 73.5 km

Ascent: 5882m

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A disrupted weekend, this one. Allison had been commandeered by her sister to take part (at short notice) in the Great Glencoe Challenge on Saturday. I reckoned we could squeeze in the Ring of Steall as a warm up on Friday then I'd go off and do Sgurr nan Coireachean and Gulvain whilst she was doing the walking challenge. Depending on how her feet stood up to the 26.2 miles we might be able to do something on Sunday. I'd been relieved of last weekend's toothache by a session of root canal treatment at the start of the week, so was hopefully fit for purpose. Drove up to Glen Nevis on Thursday night and parked near the Lower Falls, busy with tourists even in the early evening. We decided to walk up to Steall Meadows and camp for the night, then set off early over the Ring of Steall, so that Allison could meet up with her sister mid-afternoon.

We'd been expecting another warm night, but it had turned a mite chilly by the time we put up Beaky and got ready for bed. I'd brought the super-lightweight Aldi sleeping bags...which proved a little thin for the task at hand. We survived and I was startled to see it was 07.50 when I woke up! Enough breeze to keep the midges away while we breakfasted. We passed a group of campers near the wire bridge. Steall Falls was little more than a trickle - we could easily have crossed the river on stepping stones as it's so low at present, but surely the ordeal by wire bridge is a necessary part of the Ring of Steall :lol:

ImageDSC02082 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02083 by Al, on Flickr

Steall dribble
ImageDSC02084 by Al, on Flickr

The dry weather has certainly eradicated the swamp that usually lies in wait on the low section of the walk - dry boots to start up the zig-zags. Across the valley the Ben shone resplendent in the sunshine. A steady pull up to An Gearanach then a pleasant scramble across the An Garbhanach ridge - pleasant that is except for the larger pack I had on today due to our camping. On to Stob Choire a'Chairn with grand views to Am Bodach up ahead. A really fine day now, some clouds lending character to the skyscape. Enjoyable climb up to Am Bodach, the occasional small patch of snow still evident. Onwards to Sgurr an Iubhair where we stopped for lunch, looking down at the route Allison would be walking tomorrow.

ImageDSC02085 by Al, on Flickr

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Onwards to the Devil's Ridge. Even with my large pack I felt that the Dark Lord must have been in a particularly benevolent mood the day he shaped this ridge :wink: Across to our left, Stob Ban sat majestic, a superb mountain. On to Sgurr a'Mhaim where we met a mum with her geologist son and chatted for a while. On the last 2 summits we'd noticed that new phenomenon, painted stones being left at the top. A pink or blue stone with an inane smiley face and "My name is..." Now maybe if there was a fitting and profound aphorism or a haiku that shared something of the moment with other walkers it would be ok - but the self-promoting banality counts as litter in my book, and - like other types of litter - I remove it. We trotted down the scree slope back to the car park, thankful that we didn't have to walk back up to the Upper Falls. Drove into Fort William and dropped Allison off at the apartment where she'd be staying with her sister, ready for a 4am start to the next day :lol:

ImageDSC02107 by Al, on Flickr

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I planned to head to Sgurr nan Coireachan where I had 3 Sims in addition to the Munro to climb. Wasn't sure how far I'd get, but had taken my bivvy rather than a tent to have maximum flexibility. Parked up at the "viaduct" car-park, thronged by tourists and Harry Potter aficionados. Walked up Glen Finnan, lovely apart from the clegs. I stopped off at Corryhully bothy to make my tea, reckoning that it would be nicer to have some shelter from the sun and the clegs. No-one else was there, although a number of French and German backpackers, probably doing the CWT did walk past. I knew this bothy had electricity but was surprised to see a kettle there. Looks a fine place for a kip.

coireachan.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

ImageDSC02116 by Al, on Flickr

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Back out into the evening sunshine and up onto the well-constructed stalker's path onto Coireachan. My recollection of this hill was coming across from Thuilm in snow/very poor visibility and narrowly escaping being avalanched or walking off into the void as we descended. So it was a relief to have a good path to follow upwards. To the north ran the hills of Glen Dessarry, Glen Pean and Loch Morar came into view as I neared the summit of Coireachan.

ImageDSC02123 by Al, on Flickr

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It was around 8 pm when I got to the summit, the sun making the lochs and lochans sparkle. What to do now? The Sims I had to do were Beinn Garbh and Sgurr an Ursainn (peak of the seal) and involved a 7km /500m ascent out-and-back. I wasn't sure what to do - I was quite tired, but it was such a lovely evening that it seemed a shame to risk missing the views if clag descended in the morning. I dropped down near to the 747m spot height where I found a flat bit of ground near a lochan, left my rucksack and set off for the Sims. I disturbed a few deer who seemed resentful of human intrusion at this time of night. Out to sea, Skye and Eigg lay peacefully on the calm azure waters. What a gorgeous evening. There was a pretty little ridge to follow to the second Sim - Coireachan was bathed in Alpenglow when I looked back. The sun slowly sank towards the sea, bands of pink, orange and red flushed the sky as I retraced my steps. Finding my rucksack, I assembled my sleeping arrangements for the night and snuggled down with a wee dram and some Virginia Woolf on my Kindle. I'd made sure I had a warmer sleeping bag tonight :D

ImageDSC02129 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02130 by Al, on Flickr

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It didn't seem to get dark at all - each time I looked up the sky was still blue. Around 3am the red glow of dawn lit up the hills to the north - I must have dozed after that as next thing I knew it was 6.30 and brilliant sunshine lit the land again. I thought of Allison just setting off on her walk - hoped the day wouldn't be too hot for her. I boiled my water and went to get my cup out - oops: no cup, no coffee. I must have left them behind in the bothy. That wasn't good - my old, battered insulated cup (from the days when drug reps used to give doctors "promotional products") has accompanied me on virtually every summit over the last 6 years and been a trusty dispenser of coffee. Hmm. I had a drink of hot water with my cereal bar and hoped it would still be in the bothy when I returned.

On with the day - I returned to the summit of Coireachan and enjoyed a vista towards Glen Nevis, The Ben peaking above a light band of mist. I slightly regretted not bivvying at the summit where I would have had the full spectacle of dawn to savour, but it would probably have been a bit colder. I headed over to Sgurr an Fhuarain Dhuibh, my third Sim, once again disturbing some deer which were still lying sleeping on the grass. A descent, steep in places, towards Glenfinnan Lodge then back on the track. I popped into the bothy to retrieve my cup - it was somewhat before 9am and I expected to find a few hungover bothyites, but no, it was empty once again. My cup and coffee were where I'd left them on the table. A sigh of relief to be re-united, then back down the track to the car. The car park was still going like a fair, people parking on top of the Police "no parking" cones and a guy in a Landy trying to bring some order to proceedings.

ImageDSC02160 by Al, on Flickr

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I drove a few miles east to get to the starting point for Gulvain. I had absolutely no recollection of this hill, other than when we'd done it before there was deep snow on the linking ridge between the two summits and some double cornicing. Well there would be none of that today. Parked in the layby at the start of the Road to the Isles (although some folk had parked at the beginning of the footpath to Strathan) and set off. Now this would have been a beautiful walk following the Fionn Lighe had it not been for one thing - yep: clegs. Oh they were bad here. You only needed to stop walking for a moment and a whole squad of them clustered around to give you a good biting. The river, shade from the trees and sunshine - perfect cleg conditions. I was fair sick of them after a few miles.

ImageDSC02170 by Al, on Flickr

One of the features of this approach, along Gleann Fionnlighe, is that by the time you've walked the 7km to the beginning of the hill you have gained a paltry few metres ascent, and are still at around 100m. It's a long slog up the remaining 861 to the trig point. And the heat was considerable. Met a couple of solo walkers coming down, otherwise saw no-one else all day. We were into a familiar scenario of "would my water supply last the day" and I was aware of rationing it against the fierce heat as I climbed. At least there was a moderate breeze to lend a cooling hand. At the trig I looked across to the summit, a further 1.3km away. I wondered how many walkers think the trig is the summit and joyfully retrace their steps down. In a rash moment of enthusiasm I'd considered doing a route that went down from the summit of Gulvain onto Braigh nan Uamhachan and onwards to Streap - quite an undertaking and definitely out of the question for today's conditions. I satisfied myself with attaining the summit of Gulvain where I had a coffee in my trusty cup then retraced my steps back. The clegs were not so numerous nor oppressive on the return leg - maybe thay'd gone for a nap.

ImageDSC02173 by Al, on Flickr

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My trusty cup
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Back at the car I considered my options. No wild camp tonight - I wanted a shower after all the sunshine. Loch Linnhe campsite it would be, where the showers are possibly the best of any campsite. I drove along, found it wasn't too busy and pitched then had a welcome wash. I wandered along to the Co-Op in Corpach to get something to eat and drink and sent a txt to Allison to see how she'd got on. All had gone well and she'd met Dooterbang, who was "officiating" at proceedings and had given her and Wendy their finishing medals. She decided she's come along to the tent rather than spend another night in Fort William and said she felt fine after her walk.

Image36818346_2233834666632624_3614706637375275008_n by Al, on Flickr

I drove along to pick her up then returned to the tent to hear the tales of her day. She was chuffed with how her sister had managed (sister not having Allison's level of fitness). She also reckoned she'd be up for a hill the next day. I'd made no specific plans, having finished all the hills I needed in the area. We both thought that Le Petit Buachaille would be a suitable candidate - quick and easy, another two Munros for the tally. It rained a little overnight - rain?? what's that? The forecast for Sunday hadn't been great and indeed cloud was down with smirry rain as we drove through Glencoe. Parked at The Study beside a very beat-up French car and its chain-smoking occupant and set off up the path. I'd been up here twice, both in winter, both times with good visibility, so I didn't mind that we were enveloped in clag today that much. Three and a ahlf hours (including lunch stop) had us up and down and we got home a good deal earlier than we usually do on a Sunday.

ImageDSC02181 by Al, on Flickr

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Twelve to go now - and the Skye meet next weekend - hopefully the weather will do us a favour and keep dry and sunny for that.
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Re: Ring of Steall and Glenfinnan hills

Postby battie72 » Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:18 pm

Wendy's feeling quite privileged getting a mention in a Weaselmaster report :wink: :lol:
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