Day Three in Glen Nevis - The Ring of Steall

Route: The Ring of Steall, Mamores

Munros: Am Bodach, An Gearanach, Sgurr a'Mhaim, Stob Coire a'Chairn

Date walked: 04/05/2011

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 16km

Ascent: 1700m

It was our 3rd morning waking up in Glen Nevis Campsite. It was 5.30 and already light. Luckily it had not been as cold as the previous nights so we both managed to get a bit more sleep. The 2 days previous to this had seen us (the wife & I) tackle Ben Nevis via the CMD arete and ascend the very under looked mountain Buachaille Etive Beag in Glencoe.
And it was on the 2nd day that the wife suggest that we try The Ring of Steal. Now this was something I have always wanted to do but for one reason or another just never got round to it.... But now with the wife's added confidence after doing the CMD arete and with the prospect of another glorious day it was decided that we would give it a go.......
We were in no rush as we knew we had a good15 hours of daylight at least, so we had breakfast and made our way down to the end of the road in Glen Nevis. Before we set off I had a quick check of the map and realised that there was a 2.5km walk back along the road to the car, so I decided to take our crocs with us and stash them in a bush near where we would join the road at the end of the descent from Sgurr a Mhaim. This was to be an in-genius bit of fore-thought and I would highly recommend anyone doing this route to do the same. We left our crocs in a bush next to the bridge at Achriabhach....
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Car Park

We got to the car park which has enough space for at least a dozen cars... We finally started walking around 8am and headed up the path through the woodland. The river which flows down the glen has obviously been flowing for many a century as the perfectly smoothed rocks are testament to. You can also tell how high this river must have been at one time.
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Water worn bedrock

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First view of Steall Falls
Before too long we had come out of the woodland and made our way to the bridge. Due to the lack of rain we had had for the past 3 weeks the river was easily crossable without tackling the bridge but we both decided to give the bridge a go.
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Ready to get on the bridge - Not that we really needed too..
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Getting across the bridge
After crossing we made our way passed the Steall Hut and over to the Steall falls. Although it was quite impressive I imagine when there has been a fair amount of rain the falls are very impressive. We could also tell that the ground round here is normally very boggy but again we were lucky on this occasion.
We finally found the path which lead us up to the first summit of the day An Gearanach. The path is fairly well made if not a little hard going at times, but the views we had made up for it. It was also blisteringly hot as we were out of the wind here..
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A gorgeous view down the glen
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Quick check of the map on way up to An Gearanch

We could see Ben Nevis pretty much all the way round, which in some strange way felt quite comforting. Almost like an old friend looking over us.
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Ben Nevis, looking over us all day

The path up to An Gearanch seemed to take forever and it actually took us 3 hours to get to the summit from the car.
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The route ahead....
A few photos later and we headed on to the 2nd summit of the day Stob Coire a' Chairn. At first this seemed straight forward but there was a fair bit of scrambling involved to reach the summit.
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Long way to go.....
We got to the top and decided that we would get to Am Bodach and stop for lunch. The descent from here was not the easiest but made for a much more interesting descent than the normal trudge....
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Am Bodach

On reaching the col between these 2 summits I had to stop and rearrange my boots. I should point out at this stage that I bought a new pair of cushioned insoles just 3 days before and used them on the previous 2 days walking with not a great deal of issue. Unfortunately the problem was the insoles slipping on descent and crunching up my toes. A quick look at the map and I realised this wasn't going to be the last time I had to rearrange my insoles... I had bought the original insoles with me but they really aren't comfortable on a long day and didn't want to put them in this early. After a quick rearrangement we started the scramble up to Am Bodach. This is quite a nice scramble. There is a fair bit of loose rock here and I don't think I would enjoy descending it as much but the ascent was quite good fun..
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Scrambling up Am Bodach
On reaching the top we noticed 2 cairns.
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The summit of Am Bodach...??
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Or is this the summit...??
A quick check of the map and I decided that the southern most cairn was the summit. This was a great spot for lunch.
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Letting my feet get some air......:-)
The wind which had been gusting on & off all day seemed to not blow at all here. And we had great views down into Kinlochleven.
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Loch Leven
And the Blackwater Reservoir... It was 1.30pm by this time. I couldn't quite believe it had taken us 5 1/2 hours to get here.. I didn't feel like we were going that slow but there was another couple at least 1/2 hour behind us who overtook us and managed to finish approx 1 hour before us, so maybe we weren't going as fast as we thought... I didn't really care to be honest as the day was so enjoyable I would quite gladly spend all day up here....
We descended from Am Bodach and after another re-arrangement of my footwear made our way up to the summit of Sgurr an lubhair. As we made our way up a guy was on his way down, and he was in a bit of a hurry... As he jogged passed us in his Scarpa Manta's (ouch) I recognised him from the drive in, in the morning. Not far from the campsite we had passed the same guy on the road walking along... Not sure which route he was on as when had passed us as he had come from the direction of Kinlochleven....!?!?!
We soon reached the beginning of the Devils Ridge..
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The Devils Ridge
Along this route you don't really get an idea of how steep or ridge like it really is. And reading a few reports the night before there weren't too many scary comments about it. So we approached it with vigour and confidence... There appeared to be a path passing the ridge lower down to the left, but we decided to go along the top as much as possible.....
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A lot more exposed than I thought......

Hold on a second, where had this wind suddenly come from..??? There had been gusts coming and going for most of the day. Nothing major, just the sort of wind where, when its blowing it makes you quite cold but as soon as it stops it's really hot, making it a day of jacket on,off,on,off etc...... But this wind seemed a little different. Almost as if the devil was blowing himself... I suddenly lose a little confidence. Suddenly this ridge seemed a lot longer and more exposed than the CMD arete and the path to the left almost inviting.. The wind was so strong here that it was difficult to stand upright.. Strangely, the wife didn't appeared to be vexed at all. Of course I didn't let on that I was starting to feel a little intimidated by the whole thing.... We came across one section where the path seemed blocked by a huge boulder. There was a path just below it which seemed the better option. So I took it. The wife feeling unperturbed fancied going straight over the boulder but I persuaded her not to. Which in hindsight was probably a good idea as when we got to the other side of this boulder there didn't really seem a safe way off it.. We pushed on, with the wind seemingly getting stronger. Almost like it was trying to blow us off. Luckily the ridge starts to broaden and as we reach the final ascent of the day the wind practically stops... We look back at the ridge and both feel quite happy with ourselves that we got across with no major problems.
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Looking back at The Devils Ridge
With both of us being new to ridge traversing I'm quite proud that we have managed to get 2 of Britain's best done in 3 days.
After the adrenalin rush of crossing the ridge both of us become very fatigued almost instantly.. I felt like a kid coming down off a sugar rush. I had only brought with me 1.5 litres of water and that was almost gone. And with nowhere to refill I was starting to feel dehydrated.... We made our final climb up to the quartzite filled summit of Sgurr a' Mhaim.
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Finally on the last summit of the day....
We had a good 10 minute rest before we decided to descend. Before the descent we had one last look at what we had conquered.
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Looking back on the days route......
It seemed like days ago we were in Glen Nevis. The sky remained blue all day providing us with one last panoramic view. We really had been lucky these last 3 days...... :D
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Ben Nevis still looking over us

We find the cairn on the northern spur and make our descent.
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Cairn marking the descent of Sgurr a Mhaim. Great view into the Glen
There is a lot of scree at the top of this mountain which made for a quick, fun descent at first but that soon came to an end and we found ourselves following a well walked path back to the road. The descent took 2 hours as the wife's knees were hurting. It's normally me with the dodgy knees but mine were oddly feeling fine..... :)
We eventually made it back to the road. I found our crocs, which was an absolute god send.... :D :D :D
I filled up my sigg bottle in the river and we decided to walk along the track south of the river instead of the road, knowing that there is a bridge about half way. After only about 600m the path starts going up.....
'What, sod that..!!' so we decided to cross the river. What seemed like a good idea at first soon ecame not such a good idea... The water was freezing and although it was quite pleasant at first it soon became cold...... We got across and the cold water actually made my feet feel a lot better.....
The walk from here back to the car seemed to take forever and so it was approx 11 hours after we started we finally reached the car. Where upon I realised I had parked adjacent to everyone else and was taking up 3 spaces...Ooops.
We drove back to the campsite feeling very happy but sad that this was to be our last day here.
Although I only live 2 hours from Fort William I rarely come this way... I think that may just change......

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Comments: 8

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Activity: Munro compleatist
Mountain: Ben Macdui
Place: Anywhere above 600m
Gear: My Buff
Member: Mountaineering Council of Scotland

Munros: 74
Corbetts: 13
Grahams: 4

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Trips: 8
Distance: 131 km
Ascent: 8682m
Munros: 14
Corbetts: 1

Joined: Jan 28, 2011
Last visited: Apr 03, 2019
Total posts: 21 | Search posts