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A Summer Highlight - Grey Corries Summit Bivvy

A Summer Highlight - Grey Corries Summit Bivvy


Postby andygunn23 » Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:59 pm

Route description: Stob Ban (Grey Corries)

Munros included on this walk: Sgurr Choinnich Mor, Stob Ban (Grey Corries), Stob Choire Claurigh, Stob Coire an Laoigh

Date walked: 28/06/2018

Time taken: 17 hours

Distance: 25.3 km

Ascent: 1936m

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A Summer Highlight - Grey Corries Summit Bivvy

My original attempt at the Grey Corries 3 back in October 2016 ended in a bit of a fail. We reached 850m only to nearly be blown off our feet, it was honestly verging on impossible to walk – not the conditions you would choose for any walk, never mind a ridge walk. That day also resulted in me actually paying attention to mountain wind forecast for all future outings (blessing in disguise maybe). Interestingly the only reason we attempted the Grey Corries was that the Ring of Steall was inaccessible due to the 2016 landslide, however when I finally got around the completing the Ring of Steall I had (at the time) my best summer overnighter out in the hills. Now finally returning to the Grey Corries, this time with an alternative longer route, to also include Stob Ban, the Ring of Steall may no longer be my best summer outing – this certainly offered some stiff competition!

After a rather long 4-day working week I set off from the office to arrive at the start of the Grey Corries Walk by roughly 20:00. Last time I had attempted the Grey Corries my pal Andrew drove so I wasn’t paying particular attention to the quality of the track beyond Corriechoille... This time I was unsure if the Polo would make it to the start. In hindsight unless you are one of these people who may or may not be in a romantic relationship with your car, just drive at 5mph, avoid the gigantic potholes and you will be fine.

I will try not to focus on the weather too much but holy cow it was hot, like insanely hot. I can’t find the exact temperate records, but my car was showing 30 degree Celsius at 20:00 – this was the 28th June 2018 if you want to fact check (not fake news!).

After a quick chat to two walkers who were spending the night in their campervan before some epic sounding route to Fort William I set off and headed for… well I headed for the clegs. After a quick Google to find out if clegs had one “g” or two I am now informed it is only the females that bite – possibly a moral to that story…

Green & sun everywhere
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As I was walking I swear the creepy looking “wee minister” had put a curse on these hills; the weather was perfect, my body was in full working order, but I was having a horrible time of it. Midges are bad but the clegs this particular evening were worse than any midges I had ever experienced. Thankfully I was just able to walk quick enough to avoid them clouding around my head but the pace was uncomfortable and even stopping for a photo, or a slight incline allowed them to catch-up. The only resolution was to walk along using the rolled-up map to beat myself / swat them away and swearing at them became a commonly used last resort, obviously there was no way I was putting on trousers or a jumper – typically stubborn and Scottish.

With the excellent weather and long days, I did not have a firm plan for where I would sleep, the tiny Lairig Leacach Bothy or a bivvy on top of Stob Ban were my two preferred options.

Approaching the Lairig Leacach Bothy
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I arrived at the Lairig Leacach Bothy at 21:30 precisely. No, I don’t write notes or have a particularly good memory, I just recently found the “time taken” section of Flickr… fascinated. I decided if the bothy was empty I would spend the night there purely to escape the clegs, plus it had already been a long day pretending to work, just waiting to get into the hills! The bothy was empty but after just two minutes away from the clegs I decided they weren’t really that bad and what a waste sleeping inside would be on such a beautiful evening. Wise decision in hindsight.

The two I met at the start recommended heading up the Coire Claurigh rather than the Walkhighlands recommended ridge of Stob Ban, they seemed to be confident in their recommendation, so I chose to heed their advice.

The Coire Claurigh & my bed, Stob Ban rising highest
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This was going to be my last good water supply for some time, so I got a good amount into my system and finally bit the bullet and put on my detachable trouser bottoms to fend off the clegs, by this point it was obviously far too late. The walk up Coire Claurigh was definitely the right decision, although I imagine it could be quite boggy at times?

Some of my favourite photos looking back towards Sgurr Innse and company.
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I reached the bealach between Stob Ban and Stob Choire Claurigh well after 22:30 but my decision was never really in doubt – I wanted to bivvy at the summit of Stob Ban. Fortunately the clegs had almost all but gone, unfortunately I had walked quicker than planned so was beginning to feel very tired.

I made a bit of a mistake going up the scree of Stob Ban and ending making the ascent 10 times harder than it needed to be. Confident enough everyone else would be back at the cars I decided to shout myself some words of encouragement with the occasional expletives thrown in amongst for good measure.

Much to both our surprise I met another fellow walker, also bivvying about 40m away from the summit cairn of Stob Ban. Unsure who got the biggest fright but I hope he didn’t hear too much of me making a bit of an arse of getting up Stob Ban… We chatted briefly, realising we both had a near identical plan but didn’t spend long as I think it was clear we (especially me) were ready for sleep.

I set up bivvy right next to the summit on uncomfortable ground, which had a slight angle. This provided one of the most unusual sleeps.

My bed (22:57)
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As you can see from the above photo, although close to the edge I had a good couple of metres clearance and a number of very large boulders that would prevent any disastrous movement throughout the night.

All things considered, I think my brain spent the entirety of the night on high alert, meaning anytime I got into a good sleep I would dream, due to the slight slope, that I was rolling off the side of a cartoon hill before waking up. I was glad there was a full moon all night which meant I didn’t feel obliged to take the tripod or attempt any astrophotography because I when I woke I only just had enough energy.

Taken from my sleeping bag at 05:52
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I set off leaving the fellow nutter (no offence) to continue his morning routine at 977m. In the full beautiful morning daylight, the descent down Stob Ban's scree was significantly easier than the ascent from the previous night. Given the fact it was only 06:00, I was already in shorts and a t-shirt and was profusely sweating, I was now fully aware that this day was going to be a monster.

Looking back at Stob Ban from various points up Stob Choire Claurigh
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Nearly at the top looking towards Stob Coire na Ceannain
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I had selfishly hoped to get to the Grey Corries ridge before the inevitable rush so I was delighted when I reached the summit of Stob Choire Claurigh to not a soul in sight, with the exception of Stob Ban man, who was now descending from "our" bivvy spot.

The view along the ridge was incredible and I was insanely glad that I had chosen such good weather, it would have been a real shame to do this in the clouds. Before this outing I had read another Walk Report (the name of who wrote it escapes me) but they did the ridge and then retraced their steps backwards. Now I typically do everything I can to avoid an out and back route, but this looked like a great way to experience the ridge.

Unfortunately I was already low on water supply and now that I was able to see the full extent of the ridge from the perfect position, I was pretty confident that in this blistering heat I probably wouldn’t manage anything longer than originally planned.

Summit view (first of ridge second of Stob Coire na Ceannain)
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The main ridge walk from Stob Choire Claurigh to Stob Coire Easain was long but extremely enjoyable, with the only exception of my extreme thirst. With visibility perfect route finding was a total breeze and all the different summits rolled into one memory.

My favourite photos from the ridge
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By the time I hit Stob Coire Easain and was ready to head towards Sgurr Choinnich Mor I was absolutely cream crackered and 100% out of water. I remember strongly considering the option to bail out early to try and get a water source, but I think I also knew deep down I would go for it!

On the plus side Sgurr Choinnich Mor is one fine looking hill, how could I possibly leave it out – I had no plans on coming back here until I have at least finished my first round (or there is a perfect winter opportunity).

Sgurr Choinnich Mor from two angles
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Bit of a scramble
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Nearly there
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The whole ridge from the summit of Munro 4 (Stob Ban looks tiny on the far right)
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I took 15 minutes to rest in the only limited shade at the top of Sgurr Choinnich Mor. I felt exhausted and without considering the distance I had already walked my brain automatically assumed the heat was causing issues. As the weather had been so hot in the preceding week the emergency services had issued numerous warning and advice about heat stroke / heat exhaustion. Thankfully I was still sweating buckets so there was nothing too severe to worry about yet.

I did consider taking the more direct route off towards Allt Coire an Eoin, purely because I could visibly see a nice guaranteed water source, but sense prevailed – it was a bit steep and uneven, I was tired and didn’t fancy breaking an ankle well off the beaten path in this heat.

Spot Stob Ban Man
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Once I was back on Stob Coire Easain I made quick progress heading down towards the forestry works, desperate to finally hit a stream but everywhere there should have been water was completely dried up and there was 10s of sheep roaming about.

Once I hit 600m I was able to find a very, very, very poor water source but I decided if it did disagree with my stomach I should hopefully be back at the car and I would deal with it then… I filled my bottle but only took about 100ml just to get some fluids in. Much to my relief I got a significant faster flowing stream down at about 450m so ditched the existing contents for a fresh batch. It was so hot, even the water off the hills was lukewarm, not that it mattered – it tasted heavenly!

Entering the forestry works
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The final three kilometres along the tracks were gruelling but the shade of the trees was welcomed. I reached a junction warning of tree felling and suggested another 2km diversion. Thankfully since it was the weekend I plodded on, safe to assume there would be no tree felling at the weekend.

Completely forgetting I had taken the Friday off work, and this was actually Friday lunchtime I unfortunately bumped into the gigantic tree munching machine. I am not sure if I had really forgotten it was Friday or just lied enough to myself to convince myself that I didn’t really need to take the longer route. Plus the noise of the tree munching machine echoed for miles so I must have been kidding myself. Slightly embarrassed that the worker had to halt the operation whilst I walked past but at the same time I gave him an apologetic wave so I am sure he forgave me… not that I truthfully cared, I was only 1km away from my car!

Finished – delighted!
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I tanned my 2L bottle of nearly boiling water from the boot of my car and just wanted to melt into a puddle of exhausted and now very sunburnt mess…

It may not have been the longest or most brutal of outings (I have a brutal Walk Report in the pipeline…) but with 25.3km, 1936m of height gain, close to 30-degree heat and the billions of clegs I was someone tired on the drive home.

I mentioned at the start this Walk Report that this may have even been better than the Ring of Steall and take the crown of my favourite summer overnighter. I think if it wasn’t for the clegs and lack of water this trip may have won, but the Ring of Steall was my first attempt at astrophotography so that offered something completely different. After writing this Walk Report I am still undecided, so I will call it a draw – unless someone can argue otherwise!

Again thanks for reading my ramblings! :D

Andy
p.s. How good was the summer of 2018?! (As I am writing this in mid-October, it is safe to say winter is coming!)


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andygunn23
 
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Re: A Summer Highlight - Grey Corries Summit Bivvy

Postby Sunset tripper » Wed Oct 17, 2018 1:07 am

Nice one great pictures. I've had brilliant days out on all these hills as well. I also found the clegs to be quite fierce this summer but worth it in exchange for weather like that.
Cheers :D
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Sunset tripper
 
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Joined: Nov 3, 2013
Location: Inverness

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