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I Got By With a Little Help From My Friends

I Got By With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby ScotFinn65 » Thu Jan 09, 2020 10:42 am

Route description: The Ring of Steall, Mamores

Munros included on this walk: Am Bodach, An Gearanach, Sgùrr a' Mhàim, Stob Coire a' Chàirn

Date walked: 04/08/2018

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 17.8 km

Ascent: 1925m

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This was day 8 of my maiden Munro voyage. I was feeling a little more confident with my experiences of the past week, however, today I was aiming to tackle the Ring of Steall.

WARNING! Longish read ahead. :crazy: But pictures below :D

I had done a lot of research on this one but it seemed the more I planned, the more nervous I became.

This would be my first graded scramble and I was not fully sure what to expect. Some of the advice and reports said it would be much easier than the reputation. Some of the videos with the fish-eye effect made the drops look vertical and caused me some sleepless moments. I was more apprehensive about An Gabharnach than the Devil's Ridge as the ridge walks do not bother me in the same way as exposed scrambling. However, it was decided I was going to do it!

The weather was the same as it had been for the last few days, cloud covered summits and occasional rain. I started off in the car park right at the end of Glen Nevis road at the upper falls car park. I knew this would result in a road-walk at the end but decided that this direction would suit me best.

As I got ready 2 men appeared at the car park at the same time. As we walked along the glen path beside the Water of Nevis, I asked if I could join them for the walk. They were happy to put up with me but said they only wanted to bag An Gearanach and then return by the same route. We continued along the nice forest path through the trees until the view opened out toward the meadow and Steall Falls.
The path exiting the forest beside Water of Nevis

I had read a lot about the Steall Falls itself and couldn't wait to see it. I was not disappointed. I started to get that rush again that walking in the natural environment brings. I can understand how doctors are starting to prescribe outdoor walks for different kinds of ailments. :D
Me and the Steall Falls

As we proceeded, I found my companions for the day were a bit "special". I mean this in the nicest possible way. They were like a comedy duo that had worked together for many years. They had their timing off to perfection and played off each others comments and actions like a couple that had been together all their life. I have to say these guys were FUNNY :lol:

First up on the challenges for the day was the Steall bridge (or even steel bridge :crazy: ). Many reports state this was horrendous and was the worst part of the day. Others just take it in their stride. I guess I was somewhere toward the latter. The ropes were a bit bouncy but at no time did I feel uncomfortable or like I was about to lose control.
Steall Bridge

Steal Bridge and Falls (an me)

The first challenge safely negotiated, it was quickly on to the second, crossing the burn under the falls. After watching the others cross, I learned where the good stepping stones were and (with the aid of my trusty poles) I managed to avoid a dooking. It was only half an hour into the walk but already I had a couple of experiences that were adding to the great feelings of the day. The next one was literally just around the corner.

I had read a little about the next one but in the context of the challenges of the day, I had not paid to much heed to the dreaded bog before the real climb started. However, for me this was more challenging than either the falls crossing or the bridge. One of the other guys decided to go first and tackled it "head on", literally. He just decided to run across as fast as he could. I suppose the idea would be that the momentum would carry him over the surface. Unfortunately for him, it did not work that way. As the upper body gained momentum and the lower limbs sunk knee deep in the bog, there was only one outcome. Down he went!. Well ! This supplied his comedy partner with all the material he needed for the next hour or so. Not remembering that we still had to cross yet :crazy:

We found a easier place a little further away toward the river and then started the real ascent of An Gearanach. It was more of a slog than I expected. The path twists and turns up the side of the hill, eventually joining the north shoulder leading along an easy ridge to the summit crest.
The ridge leading to An Gearanach summit

So far the stalkers path led up the sheltered side of the hill. Now on the summit, the wind and occasional showers were starting to be felt a little more. There were no clear view around the Ring or over to The Ben but still some decent views between the patches of swirling clouds.

I had to decide now if I would go on alone or return with the two guys I had travelled this far with. Due to the weather (and fear of the up coming scramble on my own) I was thinking just to go back. The clould was lifting from the summits now and again but there were not many clear views of the Devil's Ridge so far. Usually they came when I didn't have my camera out :crazy:

One of the guys was telling me that I would regret it if I did not take on the rest of the journey. He made the case that I had done half of the ascent for the day and a fair bit of the distance. He promised that I would enjoy the rest of the walk and pointed out that Stob Coire a'Chairn "was just over there" :roll:

I was still trying to make my final decision when another lone walked appeared on An Gearanach, heading in the same direction. He was a bit apprehensive about the scrambles too and we agreed to proceed together.

I said my fair-wells and thanks to the 2 guys that had taken me this far. I really appreciated their; company advice and most of all their banter. I am still grateful to them convincing me to continue as they were completely right and the day turned out one to remember. I packed the poles away and put the phone in the pocket and started off toward An Garbhanach with my new companion (Ty).

At this point, there are no pictures. I wanted to be completely hands-free and concentrate fully. As mentioned a couple of times I was apprehensive and as the scramble approached, I got really nervous. :shock:

As we started away from An Gearanach, we could see a lone "walker" coming from the Stob Coire a'Chairn direction. It was clear that his pace was bordering on the fjell running speed. When we came to start An Garbhanach, we took the route below the crest, on the left. This leaves me with the opinion that we probably didn't do the scramble proper but more of a by-pass route.

As we started this route the lone walker was already on the crest and heading over to An Gearanach. By the time we came to the true by-pass and figuring out whether to change to the crest or transverse full left, we were advised from above to just work out way around to the left. It was already the lone walker returning from An Gearanach taking the full crest scramble at an unbelievable speed. He was working on doing the full Mamores 10 and was on a tight schedule :crazy:

There was a little hands-on work but nothing major and no airy drops below my feet, which I was dreading so much. At this point, I was reminded of what an old man told me on my 3rd day Munro walking....... He described this by-pass perfectly and the severity of the route was nothing to worry about. I started to realise that these small snippets of advice from the experienced people would be invaluable. It was already clear that Ty's pace was far faster than mine and it might be the case we would separate as the walk went on. He was younger and far fitter and bounced up the inclines while I was blowing out my ar*e :wink:

Anyhow, I made it past what I expected to be the worst part of the day and was really delighted. As I reached the bealach on the way to Stob Coire a'Chairn, I looked around to see where I had just come from and got the camera out again, much relieved and quite proud.
An Gearanach & An Garbhanach from Stob Coire a'Chairn

The ascent of Stob Coire a'Chairn was not too bad but I noticed again that my pace was pretty slow. I generally believed I am quite a reasonably paced walker, on the flat, but I was beginning to learn that hill fitness and keeping the pace on the inclines is quite another business indeed.

We stopped that the summit of Munro #2 of the day and the views opened up for a few seconds to allow glimpses of the eastern Mamores (no speed walker in sight :lol: )
Binnien Mor and Binnien Beag from Stob Coire a'Chairn

Onward and downward. We headed to the next bealach which was quite easy a walk but I started to notice that the ascent of Am Bodach would not be so easy. The clouds were still coming and going and the full path was not clear yet but I knew this was going to hurt.

However, something else grabbed my attention just before the ascent started. I had never wild camped before but the notion to to this was something that was starting to appeal to me. There in the bealach, a little lower down for shelter was a whole group of campers that were obviously still going to spend the night up here. Fantastic I thought, I want to do that !
Wild Campers at the foot of Am Bodach

At the right hand side of the photo above, you start to get a feel for the angle of ascent for m Bodach from this side.

As we progressed up the zig-zag path, it was feeling quite long and I was beginning to feel the pace. My companion was way ahead of me now and taking the ascents in his stride, where I was struggling along at a more leisurely pace. The zig-zag track seemed to go on forever....... but eventually I reached the summit of the 3rd Munro of the day.

I was happy to sit down here, on the sheltered side of the cairn for a bite to eat and some liquids. Ty had decided to wait for me and I was glad of company at the summit before we negotiated the clag to the next part of the round.
Not sure if Am Bodach or Stob Coire a'Chairn summit cairn (confirmation would be most welcome)

As we proceeded off the summit of Am Bodach, we met two fjell runners who were doing a recky for the Salomon race that would be happening soon. They had come straight up from the Kinlochleven side and done the Devil's ridge side first. They were swithering whether to continue through the rest of the round or just drop back down. They decided to drop back down. They had given us some advice on the next stretch of the walk and how to avoid the crest of the scramble if we wanted.

The incline was feeling quite modest now, after the slog up Am Bodach and the top of Sgor an Iubhair was not feeling much of an ascent. The Munro status and subsequent relegation to "Top" seems to be a subject of much comment but it seems easy to recognize that the re-ascent (particularly from Sgurr a'Mhaim level) is not sufficient to justify a separate Munro (IMHO :( ) From here, the clouds parted once more to tease me with a peek at Stob Ban (surely to make it certain that I would want to make that a future challenge. Such a fine looking hill from this vantage point)
Stob Ban from Sgor an Iubhair

Next on the way was Stob Coire a'Mhail and the start of the Devil's Ridge. It was here we met another couple of gentlemen who had ascended from the opposite direction and just completed the ridge. The imparted some final words of wisdom before we started on our way.

Myself and Ty then made final preparations for the ridge proper and started along the narrowing path in the clag. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the day although I could not get the full visual effect due to the weather. The path was clear and never too difficult or airy. This tied up with the real advice we had received and contradicts the reputation somewhat, particularly the name "Devil's" ridge. It was wonderful. 8)
The start of the narrow ridge walk to Sgurr a'Mhaim

Apart from the downclimb at one point and a small scramble back up from the by-pass on the left, there were no real difficulties. Just an incredible walking experience.

Starting up the last incline to Sgurr a'Mhaim was exhilarating! The adrenaline rush from the ridge coupled with the sense of completion that would come from the final summit was quite overwhelming. The last ascent was not too bad at all and I believed all the main challenges were behind me as I looked back at the ridge one last time.

We reached the large summit cairn and took some photos (lost all pictures from this point).
Sgurr a Mhaim Summit Cairn.JPG
Sgurr a'Mhaim Summit Cairn

Then started to head toward the path that eventually leads toward the car park. "Eventually" being the key word. :crazy: I had read the reports about the scree path exiting NW from Sgurr a'Mhaim but thought that surely walking downhill cannot be so bad! In my view, IT WAS !

After a reasonably long hill day with almost 2000m of acent, my knees were not ready for the never ending path toward the river. It seemed to go on for such a long time, twisting and turning. It even felt as energy sapping as some of the ascents during the day (probably a I was already tired.

Passing the final flatter stretch before the bridge, the path was still a little rough but now to going was easier than the decent. The final leg of the journey was the riverside walk back to the upper car-park. This is annoying and if I was to do it again I would consider this at the start of the day (leaving the car at the lower falls car park instead). Just my opinion :o The walk itself was quite pleasant and we stuck to the fine track on the south side of the river, to avoid the hard tarmac and danger of the narrow road. This is very nice and relaxing cloure to the day. Finally crossing the river by a footbridge and a short walk up the road back to the car park. I said my good-byes to Ty and we headed our separate ways.

I was relieved to reach the car as this was my longest walk and greatest ascent, to date. I was so satisfied with myself and really feeling a sense of accomplishment. Well done Gavin :clap:

For this, I have to thank the 3 guys I shared the walk with. Particularly for the encouragement to continue from An Gearanach, when I would certainly have turned back if I was on my own. I also own a debt of gratitude to Ty for sharing the rest of the round with me. Particularly when it was clearly evident that I was slowing him down and he could have finished an hour earlier if it wasn't for him taking breaks and waiting for me to catch up. For these and for the pleasant company all the way around, I will aways be grateful. Thank You :clap:

The next day was always planned to be a recovery day and after 8 days walking, I think I deserved it. Considering this was a Saturday and I was staying in the Clachaig, Sunday certainly was a recovery day (if know what I mean :sick: ).

The last 2 days of my trip the weather got a little worse and I spent them on low level walks and around some towns villages I had never visited or hadn't been for years. My legs thanked me for this :lol:

I packed my bags and headed back to Edinburgh for the flight back to Finland. I loved my first experience of the Scottish hills and the Munros in particular. I have a lot of great memories about the routes and scenery but also about the people I met and the experiences I have gained. For now it is return to work and family life in Finland. However...........

I'LL BE BACK :wink:

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Re: I Got By With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby WalkingBear » Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:02 am

A good read :D Some nice pictures even if weather not best :?
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Re: I Got By With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby Sunset tripper » Mon Jan 13, 2020 7:56 pm

Great stuff and a great circuit. :D
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