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Dodging the scree on Sgurr Eilde Mor

Dodging the scree on Sgurr Eilde Mor


Postby dogplodder » Fri Oct 13, 2017 9:50 pm

Route description: Sgurr Eilde Mor and Binnein Beag, Mamores

Munros included on this walk: Sgurr Eilde Mor

Date walked: 18/09/2017

Time taken: 8 hours

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I picked up Rob and Mary at 6.40 and we drove down the Great Glen heading for Kinlochleven. The road was quiet apart from a string of white vans and the journey seemed to pass more quickly than the return. We parked by the church and were walking by 9.15.

Finding the right path through the woods was no problem as I'd been up it a couple of months earlier with Moira and Evelyn to climb Binnein Mor. That was aborted at the point we got a view of Loch Eilde Mor because they weren't happy about the shifting cloud level and we went to see the Grey Mare's Tail instead. At the time it felt an awful long way to travel just to look at a waterfall but no cloud is without a silver lining and it gave me the idea to suggest a return with Rob and Mary. Mary's first choice was for Binnein Mor but knowing Moira wanted to have another go at BM I suggested Sgurr Eilde Mor instead.

The problem with SEM was the scree. Since breaking her ankle Mary doesn't like scree, but looking at the map I couldn't see any reason we couldn't avoid the scree by going up the south side, rather than the usual approach from the west. So that's what we agreed to do.

Emerging from the trees
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There was no breeze and Loch Leven was perfectly still.

Zoomed to a still Loch Leven
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Once clear of the trees the path gives easy walking over the open moor to reach a vehicle track where there's a left turn followed almost inmediately by a right on to a stalker's path which is initially wet and needs a bit of nifty footwork to avoid the worst of the mud. As we gained height the path became drier and we weren't bothered with any other bogginess after that first section.

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Soon Loch Eilde Mor came into view and a whole panorama of mountains to the south and west.

Loch Eilde Mor with Buachaille Etive Mor centre of horizon
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Loch Eilde Mor, Aonach Eagach ridge, Loch Leven
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At 11.00 we took a break before starting the traverse of the steep flank of Sgor Eilde Beag.

View from our elevenses stop
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At the point where we were warned not to take the path straight ahead but to take the sharp zig zag to the left we deliberately followed the path straight ahead because although it wasn't yet visible that was the line we wanted to take to reach Sgurr Eilde Mor. The path was sketchy but it was easy walking over grass, keeping to the right of a smaller lochan then heading for the south eastern tip of the larger lochan. As we got further into Coire an Lochan the view opened up of Binnein Beag to the north and our target hill Sgurr Eilde Mor straight ahead.

Coire an Lochan is a beautiful place with its lochans framed by shapely hills and I think worth the effort to get to without going any further. But for most of us it's a staging post for reaching summits. We had made good time and as soon as Binnein Beag came into view I checked with Rob and Mary if they'd like to include it. I think Rob was tempted but he said we should stick with our original plan rather than overstretch ourselves.

After a wet summer I expected this approach to be boggy but it was remarkably dry, as was the ascent of SEM.

Binnein Beag from Coire an Lochan
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Sgurr Eilde Mor
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Start of climb with backdrop of Sgor Eilde Beag and Binnein Mor - and Mary with a touch of cramp
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The initial climb was easy, not too steep and with a path to follow. We then lost the path on steep grass and found it again as the going got more rocky. There were a couple of bouldery patches and a couple of short easy scrambles before we topped out slightly south of the summit cairn. We all agreed it was an easier ascent than scree would have been and had no inclination to return by the official route, although the part of the path visible from the top did have a 'follow me' look about it.

Here are some of the views we had on the way up.

South to Blackwater Reservoir and Bridge of Orchy hills
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Aonach Eagach and Bidean nam Bian
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Grey Corries and Easains
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Glimpses of Loch Treig and Loch Ossian - with Schiehallion on the right
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The views from the top were excellent, although the great bulk of Binnein Mor blocks most of the Mamores to the west.

View west from Sgurr Eilde Mor summit (1010m)
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Binnein Mor and Ben Nevis from summit
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Rob and Mary at summit with Grey Corries on left
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Being here with Rob and Mary reminded us of the day we'd had together last July on the Grey Corries. Here's a photo I took of Sgurr Eilde Mor from Stob Ban without any thought I'd be climbing it with them. I like seeing hills from different angles - it makes you feel you know them.

Sgurr Eilde Mor (pointy one) from Grey Corries Stob Ban
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Rob and Mary on SEM summit
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It was good to get this day on SEM with Rob and Mary as they're moving away to be nearer to family and though we didn't know it then it may have been our last walk together. We've shared some great hills - Conival, Ben More Assynt, Sgurr na Sgine, Blaven, Beinn Mheadhoin, Beinn a' Chaorainn, three other Mamores, Spidean Coinnich, Beinn Loine and Ben Tee on the memorable day Mary slipped in mud, broke her ankle and was airlifted off, leaving me to finish the descent on my own. I'm so glad she's made such a good recovery and hopefully they'll find good walking not too far from their new home in Derbyshire.

For the descent I took a line slightly east of where we came up and avoided the rocky down scramble and boulder patches, instead descending on grass with a mix of side stepping and bum sliding. It was fine as a way down but what starts as slightly off line soon puts you in the wrong place. I had avoided the crags and boulders but had left myself with a wide loop of traversing to get myself back to the lochan where we had agreed to meet.

At this point I realised I'd gone too far east
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Rob and Mary followed the line we had taken on the ascent which was a shorter distance than mine but involved scrambling and boulders which mine didn't. I was concerned they'd be waiting for me but we managed to arrive at the same time, crossed the outlow from the lochan and found a nice spot to sit down to have the second part of our lunch which we had to curtail at the top, thanks to the attention of flies (not midges just for a change). Interestingly we weren't bothered by insects by the lochan.

Rob fancying a dip
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Binnein Beag from the lochan
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This time we took a line that led to the stalker's path higher than we had left it and followed the zig zags down to the small cairn where we had left it earlier.

Traversing Sgor Eilde Beag
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As we rounded Sgurr Eilde Beag we met a group of guys pushing bikes up the rocky path. I was surprised as it didn't strike me as the kind of path a bike would be much use on, but it turned out they were coming up here to film each other stunt riding down. I told them they were bonkers and they agreed. Danny MacAskill has a lot to answer for!

Pap of Glencoe, Loch Leven, Beinn na Caillich
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When we reached the vehicle track I said I'd go on at my own speed so I could get a ten minute kip before the long drive home. It's an excellent path from the track to the start of the woods and possible to get a good speed up. It was also lovely to have the view of Loch Leven ahead, looking west towards the hills of Morven and Ardgour backlit by the late afternoon sun. The photos don't do it justice.

Lower down and taken into the sun
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Kinlochleven from above the woods
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Kinlochleven was built at the end of Loch Leven and rapidly expanded in the early 1900s based around the North British Aluminium Company who built a hydro scheme and smelter in the area. With the smelter gone the village has transformed itself into a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts with the eastern Mamores easily accessible and the West Highland Way coming right through it. My friend Jane lived here as a child and said the main problem was lack of sunlight in the winter with one side of the village getting no sun at all. A price to pay perhaps for such a great location and the view down the loch.

Once back at the car I got myself sorted, downed a bottle of water, ate my last sandwich and had a quick snooze. The others weren't far behind and we were on the road by 6.00, except that I had to stop to walk down to the shoreline when I saw the reflections in the loch.

I'm not sure how I'd feel about getting no sun in winter but it's still a stunning place to live.
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Re: Dodging the scree on Sgurr Eilde Mor

Postby dogplodder » Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:03 pm

Loch Leven from the shoreline
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Re: Dodging the scree on Sgurr Eilde Mor

Postby dogplodder » Tue Oct 17, 2017 5:02 pm

I've had a message from Rob (he's on WH but tends not to post) saying he's hopeful that wasn't our last hill together...... so all we need now is some balmy October weather like we had this time two years ago. :D
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Re: Dodging the scree on Sgurr Eilde Mor

Postby shredder » Mon Oct 23, 2017 2:44 pm

Your last photo of Loch Leven suggests you don't always have to go off the beaten track to get the best views! :lol:
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Re: Dodging the scree on Sgurr Eilde Mor

Postby katyhills » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:56 pm

That's a lovely report and a great set of photos. Definitely worth doing on it's own and making the most of a great day, especially when you get the views.
The Mamores are pretty special hills I reckon.
I can understand wanting to avoid the scree, although I was lucky enough to do it at the start of October last year, on a beautiful day, and the scree was nicely frosted, so it was better than I expected! It was only the bit near the top that was awkward - one step forward and two back, so I diverted to the right, onto the grass, and skirted round the end of the little ridge, and up onto the summit path from there instead.
The views are glorious, but you missed one of the nicest by missing the little ridge :wink:

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Re: Dodging the scree on Sgurr Eilde Mor

Postby dogplodder » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:57 pm

katyhills wrote:That's a lovely report and a great set of photos. Definitely worth doing on it's own and making the most of a great day, especially when you get the views.
The Mamores are pretty special hills I reckon.
I can understand wanting to avoid the scree, although I was lucky enough to do it at the start of October last year, on a beautiful day, and the scree was nicely frosted, so it was better than I expected! It was only the bit near the top that was awkward - one step forward and two back, so I diverted to the right, onto the grass, and skirted round the end of the little ridge, and up onto the summit path from there instead.
The views are glorious, but you missed one of the nicest by missing the little ridge :wink:



Yes, I think you're right, we did miss the best view by doing it our way. Is the little ridge above the scree? If so we could have followed the path from the summit at least as far as that point to get the photo! 8)
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Re: Dodging the scree on Sgurr Eilde Mor

Postby katyhills » Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:15 pm

Yes - if you walked from the summit right along the ridge, back towards Binnein Mor/Sgurr Eilde Beag, the last bit is that little ledge/ridge.
It's a lovely viewpoint. although I think the whole summit is fantastic.

It's a good excuse for you to go back though.... :wink:
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