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Stob Ban (Grey...and occasionally Sunny Corries)

Stob Ban (Grey...and occasionally Sunny Corries)


Postby naepace » Wed Oct 24, 2018 3:58 pm

Route description: Stob Ban (Grey Corries)

Munros included on this walk: Stob Ban (Grey Corries)

Date walked: 24/09/2018

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 18 km

Ascent: 852m

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In order to get a week off at the same time, I had managed to engineer my mate Wullie onto the same nightshift at work as me. Seemed like a good idea at the time but as the post nights week off edged nearer, the sun decided it would head off in the opposite direction ! MWIS was not looking good and neither was the longer term outlook. However, as we neared the weekend a wee glimmer of hope appeared as I refreshed the MWIS page, Monday, and only Monday, was looking hopeful, 'mixed' was putting a pretty positive spin on things, but at least there was a slight chance of clear tops inbetween the drifting showers, we decided to give it a go. The only issue was Monday morning was coming at the end of seven straight nightshifts, and to get to any 'new' Munro meant we were looking at a 2 and a half hour drive, minimum. Wullie offered to do the driving, a guaranteed white-knuckle ride was immediately assured, he does not take the Google maps estimate as a guide of the time to a start point, more of a challenge. His estimates are based on an 80mph average speed whether the road is a poker straight motorway or curvier than Kim Kardashian, post Christmas dinner. Did I mention that he also appears to suffer from some form of driving induced Narcolepsy whenever he is behind the wheel for more than about 20 minutes ! As we screeched round the Inveralmond roundabout onto the A9, I couldn't help but think that a blinfolded traverse of the Aonach Eagach ridge....with my boot laces tied together....would harbor a lesser chance of incurring a life threatening injury than this particular journey. However, despite my misgivings, and Wullies 'nodding dog' routine for the last 15 minutes, we made it to the start of the very rough track from Corriechoille alive and kicking....ish.
The pot-holed track up to the parking spot at NN255788 was actually not too problematic, the majority of the hazards were easily avoided, that was until we found the track blocked by a couple of landrovers about a kilometre from the accepted parking spot. As we focussed on whether it was possible to somehow drive around the obstacle we were suddenly aware of a tweed clad, shotgun weilding fella, charging across the moorland towards up. He didn't appear to have anything in his pocket and he cetainly did not look 'pleased to see us' ! Turns out he just wanted to let us know that he, and his party of deer stalking clients, were just finishing off 'sighting' their rifles and would soon be on the move and out of our way. Wullie saw this as an opportunity and began to engage him in conversation, channelling his inner 'Tarquin' he began discussing his long held desire to engage in a bit of the old deer stalking.....it would make a welcome depature from his usual Facebook variety, I mused as I sat there bewildered by their developing bromance. As I started to think that Stob Ban was about to become Wullie's personal 'Brokeback' mountain rather than simply his 130 oddth , the penny finally dropped ! He had mentioned on the way up that the start point on the track is only the start point because of a locked metal gate which prevents you driving the full length of the pass. All this talk of 'land management' and 'responsible culling' was simply Wullie's attempts at currying favour with the 'Estate' in an attempt to gain access to the 6km track beyond the gate which runs between the Grey Corries on the right and the impressive looking Corbetts of Cruach Innse and Sgurr Innse on your left, before eventually reaching the tiny Lairig Leacach bothy which marks the start of the climb proper.

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Lairig Leacach bothy, Stob Ban proudly protruding beyond.

Realising that his hunting party were heading back to their landrovers, the ghillie bid us farewell with a hearty cheerio and motioned at us to follow them up the track. Get in !! In our best Smokey and the Bandit, convoy fashion we were soon heading up the rutted track past the small parking area about 400m from the gate (you know, where the plebs walk from). In no time we reached the fabled metal barrier, such was the hype and level of significance we had afforded this particular gate, I half expected to be waved through by St Peter himself ! As we sat idling behind the landrovers we watched on smuggly as a young, 'studenty' lookin chap in Hunter wellies and and an ill-fitting wax jacket, alighted from the lead landrover and opened the gates. Wullie, I thought. You sir are a genius.
The second of the landrovers began to creep forward, before displaying an impressive burst of acceleration as it roared through the gate. Before Wullie had even got a chance to release the handbrake and get his motor in gear, said student fellow, without ever making eye contact, slammed the gate shut and applied the mother of all padlocks before leaping onto the back of the now moving landrover like some kind of Barbour clad Mad Max. The subsequent expletives were both numerous and varied as we began the mortifying reverse back down the track to the parking area (you know, where the humiliated plebs walk from). Wullie, I thought. You sir are a *$&#@*. As for the 'Gatekeeper' I hope against all hope that he was Christened Sebastion Smithieson Smythe about 3 years before he developed a severe and most debilitating speech impdeiment !
Parked up, booted up, and badly in need of sleep we were eventually on our way, buoyed slightly by the fact that the only dark clouds in the area seemed to be locally isolated ones generated solely by our mood.

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Not a bad view from the car park

Off we went up the track and through the pedestrian access gate. More expletives. In much the same way as I've no idea if a hooked fish feels any pain, I've no idea if a metal gate has feelings, but if they do this particular example's self esteem will be in definite need of a pick-me-up. From previous posts you'll recall that I am occassionally joined by a wee creepy and weird looking old man on my walks, Webby couldn't make today's excursion but about 10 minutes into the walk we bumped into his twin ! Now, I'd seen plenty of pictures of the 'Wee Minister' from others' blogs and online pics but for some reason I didn't expect him to appear so soon. I don't mind telling you his sudden 'appearance' as we rounded the corner certainly jolted me from my sleep-starved reverie. I was bloody relieved that this had not been one of my solo, stupid 'o' clock, start walking in the dark adventures, I kid you not, I'd have keeched my drawers !! If you don't want a history lesson, now would be a good time to hit the scroll button to the summit pics lol

Here goes, According to the plaque, the wooden replica replaces stone a statue dating from the 1900s, and is that of the Reverend John McIntosh. However, local opinion is that the statue is more likely to be that of a Dr. Thomas Chalmers who was the first Moderator of the local Free Church of Scotland. The statue was removed by the wife of John McIntosh when he was away during the First World War and relocated to the church grounds above Monzie Square in Fort William. It remained there until 1968 from whence it was removed to Glen Spean, where it quickly became a local attraction. The statue was thought to bring good luck to climbers and walkers alike on their route to the Grey Corries. Unfortunately, the stone statue began to disintegrate and was eventually removed in the 1970s. The statue was resurrected in May 2010 by the Glen Spean and Great Glen Tourism Marketing Group as a wooden replica with a donation box for the Lochaber Mountain Rescue.

Whoever he is, was, or is meant to be, the odd looking effigy, well loved local attraction or not freaked me right the hell out. 'Bring me good luck' ? I thought he had a look on his craggy old coupon that suggested he'd rather offer me up as a some sort of Pagan sacrafice ! To be fair I have had an irrational fear of any kind of statue since watching too many episodes of Doctor Who with those terrifying 'Weeping Angels' !
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I was not for hanging around, a few pics rattled off and we were quickly on our way along the track again. It was now that I again experienced that all too recent sinking feeling...Yes, we should have brought the bikes !! The miles of track layed out ahead of us looked ideal for a wee jaunt on a mountain bike and as usual would have provided a wonderful relief for the weary legs of any Munro Bagger on their return journey.....Not that any of that would have a mattered a jot if they'd only let us through that *&$%@#* gate.....I know, let it go....let it go.
In actual fact the walk along the glen was pretty spectacular in it's own right and provided plenty of interest as we quickly ate up the miles. The weather continued to be pretty decent, the worst we had to deal with was only the briefest of showers that blew through almost as quickly as it had come. Just over the hour mark we were greeted with the sight of the two landrovers, casually parked up right in front of the bothy. Another perfectly directed boot in the 'Mee-Maws' from Wullie's ghillie ex and his band of merry men. Demonstrating not inconsiderable levels of self-restraint I managed to resist the overwhelming urge to slash eight, expensive looking landrover tyres. Perhaps the Wee Minister's message of good will to all had rubbed off, or more likely I was too frightened of being seen and picked off with a bullet to the forehead from somewhere high up in the surrounding hills !!

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Excellent views along the length of the pass

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Today's target hill makes her first appearance

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Looking back from the bothy to the unassailable looking flanks of the Corbett Sgurr Innse

While the landrovers silently mocked us with their presence we took a wee break at the bothy and fired into the sandwhiches. I'm not sure that stopping was a great idea, as for the last 6 days this was about the time I would have been sound asleep in my cosy, big scratcher. The Autumnal sun was now shining quite strongly and a cheeky wee kip against the side of the bothy would have been as welcome as a 'return' ticket for a landrover ride back to the car.
After around ten minutes it was decided it was time to begin hauling our weary asses up the mountain. The walk from the bothy begins with the only thing I hate more than a certain locked metal gate (I'm trying to let it go, honestly I am), a bloody ford ! In all honesty the Allt a'Chuil Choirean was crossed very easily, with great big boulders providing well placed stepping stones. In spate I expect it would be considerably more difficult, if not imposible. All is not lost though, there is a dilapated footbridge just upstream, by dilapated I mean ramshackled and down right dangerous looking, which may or may not help you get across. My money would be firmly on 'may not' !
Just beyond the crossing a small cairn indicates the start of a path to the right, aiming for the foot of the ridge which ultimately leads you to the final climb up Stob Ban. The path is quite wet underfoot and it is not the most pleasant ascent, especially when you quickly become caught in the first of a number of brief squalls. It was only as we made our way along the ridge that a spell of more sustained weather hit us. Full waterproofing was now required. Up until now the showers and associated low cloud had been fleeting and the summit had remained tantilisingly cloud free for the majority of the time. In the good spells we had been treated to some great views of the surrounding Munros, with our target hill of Stob Ban looking particularly fine amongst them. However, as I guesstimated that we were less than half an hour away from reaching the summit, suddenly the chances of getting any kind view from the top looked less than promising as we were enveloped in clag and battered by driving rain/sleet. So much for the Wee Minister bringing us good luck.....the freaky looking, waste of good fire wood !!

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The tiny cairn marking the point at where to leave the track

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Stob Ban and the Grey Corries

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The final pull. No false summits to worry about here !

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Fabulous views over to the Mamores

As we reached the foot of Stob Ban and the final steep pull to the summit the weather cleared and we were back under blue skies again. Given how quickly the weather was prone to changing from one extreme to the other, I was not wasting time faffing about taking off the waterproofs. Still clad in Gore-tex I proceeded to ascend the final remaining couple of hundred metres in record time. Half way up I was bemoaning the decision as I was sweating like a married 'Strictly' celebrity. However, as I popped up onto the summit plateau I was delighted that the waterproofs are also windproof, suddenly it was blowing a real hoolie and the windchill was pretty significant. I look a bit odd in the sun drenched summit photos but you could argue that is the case whatever I'm wearing. Not up for debate was the fact that we had timed our arrival on the summit to perfection. I clearly owed the Wee Minister a grovelling apology on our return. Despite some pretty variable conditions on the way up we were being greeted with amazing views in all directions. The fabulous Easains to the East, the Mamores in the SW, the craggy and impressive looking Corbett, Sgurr Innse to the NE. However, the pick of the bunch was West to the snow capped summit of Big Ben. As always the smartphone pictures make the distant mountains look a lot smaller and further away than the naked eye. I assume it was the first sight of snow on a mountain this Autumn, but Nevis looked magnificently imposing. As much as we'd have loved to linger on the summit much longer, it was absolutely baltic and reluctantly we dragged ourselves away from the summit cairn just as a bank of the blackest of black clouds started to encroach towards us, swallowing up the Ring of Steal as it quickly moved across the sky like something from a world ending Hollywood blockbuster.

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Sun drenched and waterproofed, summit selfie. Ben Nevis in the centre

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The Mamores and the Ring of Steall

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Mamores Pano, photobombed by Indie, Wullie's dog

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East to the Easains with Sgurr Innse on the left

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The now obligatory black n white, red rucksack 'arty' shot

The views back down the glen were simply awesome as we made our fairly rapid descent and despite the portent of doom advancing upon us, I reckoned it would be too hot and sweaty to carry on still sporting the waterproofs. Unfortunately I had completely underestimated just how fast this 'advancing' was taking place. After stripping off I reckon I managed about another 15 mins of descent before the downpour caught up with me. Blunder. Waterproofs back on. Fortunately it didn't last long, leaving a fantastic rainbow in it's wake as it headed off, blown on the strong Westerly wind towards the triangular bulk of the Easains. An old neighbour of mine used to remark that you'll find one of two things at the end of a rainbow. A pot of gold or a f$%#wit trying to chase after one. Now I'm reasonably sure there was no pile of 24 carats at the bottom of the particular rainbow in the photo below, so I'll let you make your own minds up as to whether you think Wullie appeared to be 'chasing' anything in said photo !

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Fabulous views back down the glen to Sgurr Innse

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That is not a Leprechaun, he is just far away!

The showers had made the going underfoot quite damp and any rocks were, pardon my lack of geology education....'they slippy bastards'. A couple of times I had a wee skid before the inevitable happened and I landed with a fair old skelp on what many would argue is my best feature. Surprisingly only my pride was injured and to be fair that has been battered so often it should really have been given a terminal diagnosis years ago ! Tentatively, I successfully made my back down to the bothy where we stopped for the second half of our lunch. The mocking Landrovers were still present and had now been joined by a pair of chained up bikes just to add insult to injury. I felt as if I was going to resent every single footstep back along the glen to the car. The good news was in the end I didn't. The last dozen or so after car came back into view were reasonably pleasant ! All in it had only taken 5 hours to get up and down, which I thought was a pretty decent, post nightshift, effort. Number 98 completed and my thoughts were now turning to where to go for the big 100, any suggestions ???
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naepace
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Re: Stob Ban (Grey...and occasionally Sunny Corries)

Postby bigkeith » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:25 am

Got some good laughs reading that :lol: . Your encounter with the ghillie had me quaking at first - my worst nightmare is an irate tweed-suited grumpy running at me with a shotgun. Glad he turned out to be friendly. Maybe I need therapy. :( Anyway, your report helped me make my mind up to do this with my mountain bike. Cheers. :clap:
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bigkeith
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Re: Stob Ban (Grey...and occasionally Sunny Corries)

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:49 pm

Hilarious, but it did seem mean to tell you to follow only to have the gate slammed in your face. :thumbdown:

Great photos though. :thumbup:
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