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Na Gruagaichean - never again!
by BlackPanther » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:07 pm
Route description: Binnein Mor and Na Gruagaichean, Mamores
Munros included on this walk: Binnein Mor, Na Gruagaichean
Date walked: 25/07/2015
Time taken: 7.5 hours
Distance: 15.2 km
Ascent: 1343m5 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
We only had the eastern four Munros left in this range and a big walk, taking in all of them didn't look like a good idea in cloud and showers, so we decided on two peaks only, Binnein Mor and Na Gruagaichean, leaving Binnein Beag and Sgurr Eilde Mor for another day. For the former, I have a sneaky idea to climb it from Glen Nevis and SEM by itself would be a lovely shorter route for an autumn day.
With logistics sorted, we set off from Beauly on Saturday morning. I made sure we packed in waterproofs and hot tea. Weather didn't disappoint us, we drove through a couple of showers... All right, I'm already used to it in Scotland!
But when we arrived in Kinlochleven, we were welcomed by lovely sunshine and blue sky. Fingers crossed, I said, may we keep this smile of fortune for the whole walk!
The morning optimism:
We followed the usual route for these two Munros, up Coire an Lochain first, then to Binnein Mor, traverse along the ridge to Na Gruagaichean, with direct descent to lower Coire na Ba:
Having climbed out of the birch wood, we spent a few minutes admiring (and photographing) the Loch Leven panorama. I think it's one of the most beautiful views in Scotland and though it wasn't the first time we saw it, we couldn't just ignore it!
From a bit higher:
The Mamores were still hidden in patchy cloud, but we hoped the clag would eventually disperse:
The first shower caught up with us when we reached the track to Loch Eilde Mor. We stopped to put on waterproofs, but the rain lasted maybe 10 minutes and we had to undress again Most of the stops we took that day were for taking off/putting on additional clothes Call it mountain catwalk show. Well, the CATwalk part sounds appropriate
Catching the dry moment to film the landscape...
We followed the path to Coire an Lochain, with nice views opening up to the right, over Loch Eilde Mor:
The path divides at the entrance to the corrie, we took the left branch below the crags of Sgor Eilde Beag. The classic view of the higher twin, Sgurr Eilde Mor, was breathtaking, even with cloud in the background:
Binnein Beag looking so close... and so far at the same time...
Paths are well marked and we had no problem finding the right turn into upper Coire a'Bhinnein:
Another shower came and went. With all that rain this year, mountains look very green, obviously the vegetation is thriving! We took another break to gaze up the crags of Sgor Eilde Beag - they reminded me of a giant pipe organ
The path is narrow and towards the end it gets quite steep, in wet conditions care should be taken, but once we emerged on the ridge, it was all wows and ohs
Overwhelmed... looking back into the glen, with Binnein Beag to the left:
The southern panorama, framed in dark cloud, reminded us that the next shower was not that far away!
We stopped and watched as a heavy shower passed by. It never reached us, but moved east along Loch Eilde Mor:
Our second target of the day with the rain behind it...
...but first, we aimed for Binnein Mor (summit seen here to the right), which required some more ascent, but it was easy walking on an obvious path, with spectacular views all around!
My favourite view of the day: Sgurr Eilde Mor with the set of lochans below and the steep cliffs of Sgor Eilde Beag:
Heavy cloud over Grey Corries:
We reached the first top (1068m) and I was surprised, how symmetrical the ridge was. Very similar to An Gearanach when seen from An Garbhanach and for a split second I wondered if we climbed the right mountain!
There was Nevis in the frame, too, the old, majestic Ben and his sidekick Carn Mor Dearg...
...and the Ring of Steel peaks, from above mentioned An Gearanach to Carn a'Mhaim behind it...
Rainy days never say goodbye...
OK, here we go, the summit is only a stroll away. At last a new Munro, after weeks of bagging Corbetts because weather wasn't up to anything too tackling... OK, this wasn't a great day either, but good enough to strike a happy pose!
The ridge to Na Gruagaichean:
Zoom to Devil's Ridge:
There was plenty of weather about, cloud over the neighbouring mountains moving quite fast and we knew, we would encounter rain sooner or later, so we pushed on to the summit while it was still dry Many other walkers started arriving, including one chap who was doing the whole Mamores Ridge (I'd never even dream about such route). We sat down by the cairn and enjoyed cuppa & sandwich, watching the cloud move to cover the top of Nevis. Kevin was happy to do a new Munro, no. 192 - he's nearing the magic 200!
Despite the crazy fronts moving around, we managed some nice photos on the summit of Binnein Mor. It's a spectacular viewpoint, especially towards Sgurr Eilde Mor...
...and to Binnein Beag. The Grey Corries on the horizon and another gloomy shower passing by:
I can't wait to bag the last two Mamores, especially Sgurr Eilde Mor with all those lochans around it, it looks steep from every angle, but hey! I like a bit of a challenge!
Speaking of challenges, we definitely had some challenging weather chasing us! As soon as we returned to the 1062m top, more rain arrived, this one lasted much longer. We wrapped up in waterproofs and slowly made our way along the narrow connecting ridge to Na Gruagaichean. In good weather this rocky, scramble-ish traverse would be a delight, but the rain was so heavy we couldn't see a thing It started to ease off as we reached the second summit of the day. We lingered on for five minutes, hoping for a clear spell, but it wasn't to be.
Wet cat on the top of Na Gruagaichean, my Munro no. 178:
View west from Na Gruagaichean:
Showers over Loch Leven:
It was still raining when we began to descend from Na Gruagaichean. We knew it was steep but we never knew how bad it would be lower down... To start with, we traversed to Leachd na h-Aire, the 880m southern shoulder of Na Gruagaichean, so far it was easy walking on grass and occasional rocks:
From the end of the shoulder, we turned west and aimed for Coire na Ba, as suggested in WH walk description. To begin with, there was a sketchy path and the slopes, though steep, were not too waterlogged, so we managed all right. So far, so good.
That's the way down, honey!
Down to 600m, we walked out of the rain. At last, some sunshine! Views were great, too, and we considered it a nice ending of a wet day...
...until we hit the steeper ground below us. The steepness itself wouldn't be such a problem, but the soil was so wet, we were sliding in the mud like on skis! I called it a success that we managed to stay upright! We had to slow down significantly. Thank heavens the rain was now gone for good!
The final 100m was the worst - wet, slimy, steep and overgrown with high bracken. By the time we reached the deer fence, we were both exhausted. A look on the map, and we decided we didn't fancy following the fence all the way to a gate. The track into Coire na Ba was only 20m below us in a straight line, so we climbed over the fence, praying it wouldn't fall under us (it felt wobbly to say the least!). Somehow, we succeeded in overcoming this final obstacle and reached the track. I dropped down to my knees and kissed the ground. Dry and solid at last!!!
Honestly, if we return to Na Gruagaichean, I will NEVER EVER descend this slope again!!!!!!!!
Finally, we followed tracks and paths back to Kinlochleven. We were knackered when we arrived back in the car park, but it was well worth it. The nasty descent aside, this was a brilliant pair of hills, superb views and some fantastic ridgewalking, such a shame the rain spoiled some of it, but on the positive side, we captured some interesting weather phenomena, the passing curtains of rain and descending cloud included. 1300m of ascent may seem like a lot but I didn't really feel it was that much, as the way up is on excellent paths. In better weather we would have spent more time exploring tops, maybe we would have added Sgurr Eilde Mor as well, but in given conditions, I think the Kinlochleven trip was a success. Meow!
In my next story me & Kevin will celebrate our respective Corbett centenaries on the wonderful peaks of Sutherland.
by jamesb63 » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:15 pm
I really enjoyed the walk UNTIL I came to the descent off Na Gruagaichean !!
I got to the end of the ridge lloked down and decided on route 1 straight down
as it turned out I was on 5 points of contact more than once 2 hands 2 feet and 1 A**e
it was horrible but after the weather we have endured most ascents are the same
Still at least you have some nice pics to show for your endeavour
by Alteknacker » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:33 pm
I don't know this area at all, so it's good to read about it.
by KatTai » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:50 pm
by ancancha » Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:00 pm
by malky_c » Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:56 pm
by Sunny Speyside » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:14 pm
I think this is one route that is best done in reverse, a long walk out I know but I found a route up Na Gruagaichean no problem...bit of a lung-buster but not at all difficult.
by Bonzo » Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:19 am
by Mal Grey » Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:51 am
We ascended Na Gruagaichean by that route, on a wet and very, very windy day one winter, keeping to the faint spur to reduce the angle a little. I remember it being steep, but at least it was quick. Descended the same way, as it was too windy on top to want to attempt to navigate down to the next col, we just crawled back the way we came and ran for the pub...
by jamesb63 » Tue Aug 11, 2015 12:16 pm
Bonzo wrote:Quite why people don't use the decent path from the Stob Coire a' Chairn\Na Gruagaichean col that drops in Coire na Ba I'll never know.
That may be all very well if you have only done the 2 but when doing all 4 its a different matter all together
by Bonzo » Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:16 pm
jamesb63 wrote:Bonzo wrote:Quite why people don't use the decent path from the Stob Coire a' Chairn\Na Gruagaichean col that drops in Coire na Ba I'll never know.
That may be all very well if you have only done the 2 but when doing all 4 its a different matter all together
I see your point but having decided on the 'quicker' route on numerous occasions only to find that it's an absolute horror underfoot it can sometimes be less tiring to spend a bit longer on a decent path. Tiredness and rough terrain aren't the best partners.
by BlackPanther » Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:49 pm
Re: the path from the next col - it is marked on 1-25k map, but I think most people assume (as we did) that the route described in official WH walk and other guides as well, is the easiest way off the mountain. Good suggestion would be to mention this option in official WH route as an alternative. If it is a proper, well-worn path, I'll definitely use it next time I do these 2 M's from the south rather than mud-sliding from Na Gruagaichean.
I'd imagine on a dry day and with less vegetation these slopes wouldn't be so bad. Reversing the route, as suggested, is also a good solution. Another option, which we only thought about afterwards, would be to return along the ridge to Sgor Eilde Beag and descend its southern slopes (there is a zig-zagging path) to join the outward route just above Coire an Lochain. This would also involve some steep descent, but on a path it should be less annoying.
As a last resort, one could retrace steps back to the ascent path from Coire a'Bhinnein. Honestly, there are quite a few options here and as my experience shows, the most obvious/most popular is not always the best.
I'm actually known for taking longer routes to avoid dangerous steepness (see my Aonach Beag/Mor story from earlier this year)... It wasn't my intention to cause any controversy with this TR
by jmarkb » Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:41 pm
BlackPanther wrote:Re: the path from the next col - it is marked on 1-25k map, but I think most people assume (as we did) that the route described in official WH walk and other guides as well, is the easiest way off the mountain. Good suggestion would be to mention this option in official WH route as an alternative. If it is a proper, well-worn path, I'll definitely use it next time I do these 2 M's from the south rather than mud-sliding from Na Gruagaichean.
The upper section is a reasonable old stalker's path: lower down in the coire it gets a bit boggy. Slightly annoyingly, it takes a big detour leftwards and actually gains some height on the long traverse: it's possible to cut off the whole big zig-zag on steep but straightforward grassy slopes. It's nice to include the NW top of Na Gruagaichean: it looks a bit intimidating from the main summit, especially in winter, but it's actually straightforward.
BlackPanther wrote:I'd imagine on a dry day and with less vegetation these slopes wouldn't be so bad.
Yes, I've been up that way a couple of times in winter and it's been fine, if a bit of a grind - think you were unlucky with the soggy conditions!
by BlackPanther » Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:47 pm
We didn't consider the lower top of NG, simply because it was raining cats and dogs when we were on the main summit, we just wanted to get the **out of there
by jmarkb » Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:50 pm
BlackPanther wrote:We didn't consider the lower top of NG, simply because it was raining cats and dogs when we were on the main summit, we just wanted to get the **out of there
I sympathise entirely