A day of two halves!
An 11.30am start was borderline late but the Rugby World Cup quarter final was on and the English part of the family wished to see that, with an English win under their belts the hills beckoned. A family outing: two adults, 12 year old son and 10 year old daughter so it was a reasonable challenge to be up and down before it was dark at 7pm. We usually hit the mid point on the times given ................ so at 6 to 8 hours I reckoned at 7 hours we would be back at the car for 6.30pm with half an hour of daylight to spare; no problems!
We followed the Walk Highlands route to the letter. It’s very accurate indeed with really good descriptions of the key points. There is a clear path the whole way, not at all hard to follow with some options where it’s a bit wet - more of that later.
We set off with just about as good a day as October can offer; some low cloud hanging on the top of Ben Nevis but every thing else was clear to see. The sun came and went on the way up and it was hot work getting up to the clear open belach. Stob Ban really is a top class sight as you get closer, standing high and proud with craggy cliffs on its north face. But reaching the belach was worth the effort in itself. The Paps of Jura were standing out in a slightly hazy sky, that’s a long way in my book. The Mamores were at your finger tips with the hills of Glencoe beyond. Blackwater reservoir shining brightly. As classic a mountain view as you could wish for.
The final push to the summit of Stob Ban was another thirty minutes; the views were keeping the protestations of the younger walkers unbelievably quiet. Three hours dead to the summit wasn’t too bad a effort. The views could hardly be improved on. Already there was a couple who as we arrived at the belach were leaving the summit of Sgurr a’ Mhaim over the Devils Ridge to Sgor an lubhair and on to Stob Ban. They were going like the clappers, probably as rapid a pair as I’ve ever seen on a hill. Oh to be twenty something again!! First half of the trip complete, and really couldn’t have been improved on for an October day.
We left the summit where a cold wind kept us moving and the second half commenced. Text book weather change in a few minutes, wind strengthens, cloud descends and rain starts. Views vanish and all of a sudden children’s smiles vanish as well! We’ve decent kit so it on it went and lunch that was delayed ten minutes ago with a breezy “we’ll find a nice spot down there” was required. Energy boosted off we set to Mullach nan Coirean. After the steepness and exposure on Stob Ban it feels a much more gentle affair but as the cloud came and went blinks of the corries below reminded you that it was still a striking mountain in its own right. The change in rock colour really is very striking as you go between the hills. From the white silver of Stob Ban you change to red and pink in what seems like a few metres. Fleeting glimpses of the West Highland Way below to the south raised that (to me at least) unanswerable question: why would you walk in a valley when you can bestride the peaks? We reached the summit in another hour; three hours down from there?! The cairn is an impressive creation at the summit.
As you leave the top on the northern ridge you quickly loose height on a solid path. Quick going. Then we had one of those classic moments as the cloud cleared and Stob Ban came into view: Dad: “you were up there just over an hour ago”, daughter: “no I wasn’t we haven’t walked all that way in that time”. Dad: “yes you have”, daughter: “really”! It’s always better when they impress themselves!!
The solid path continues off the rocky ridge to a grassy ridge and then gets wet and stony. The new forestry fence is a clear target. We heeded the walk highlands route advice and ignored the stile and kept left of the fence. The path got wetter and stonier and steeper. Past a second stile at a corner of the fence and also heeded the advice and kept left; and the path got steeper and stonier and wetter. It was just plain horrible going down that path, the only consolation being it was much better to go down than it would have been to come up. At the third stile we crossed over the fence into the forest and to a thankfully much more solid path. Onwards down the hill and onto the road and back to the car. Three hours ten minutes from the summit of Mullach nan Coirean so a walk time of seven hours ten and rapidly darkening skies.
A really good walk, I’d even say a classic. It had all you could ask for: striking mountains, striking views, a bit of weather (!) and a challenging walk some steep, some gentle and some grotty!
We had considered the SMC The Munros book route ie the reverse of what we did, thankfully we didn’t do do that. The climb to the final ridge up to Mullach nan Coirean would have been brutal. Take my advice: don’t even consider doing it that way around!!
Some photos will follow, if I can get the technology to work.
Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.