White Steall

Munros: Am Bodach, An Gearanach, Stob Coire a' Chàirn

Date walked: 17/11/2012

Time taken: 8.5 hours

Distance: 16km

During March 2012 I managed to get a few days away in the west Highlands. After a good day out from Ballachulish climbing Sgorr Dhearg and Sgorr Dhonuill I got settled into a room at the Kingshouse hotel in Glen Coe.
Whilst there I picked out my next hill walk from the Munro Almanac, by Cameron McNeish, a single hill in the Mamores - Sgurr a'Mhaim.
Seemingly a fine walk, with a little scrambling, I happily completed the route, got a few photos and a little sun-tan, great views and left for home with a satisfied feeling having completed yet another Munro.
I was aware that somewhere in the area there was a circular walk taking in 4 Munros and was therefore dismayed to find that I had spent a great deal of effort on just one of the Ring of Steall!
This left An Gearanach, Stob Coire a' Chairn and Am Bodach, to complete as a trio.
Moving forward November, and getting a day off work, I headed for Stob Coire Sgriodain and Chno Dearg from Fersit, then into Fort William for a bed in a bunkhouse.
At 9.00 o'clock the next day, I was walking through along the 'best half mile in Scotland' according to W H Murray; the path through Glen Nevis on towards the wide open meadow, and on to the 'bridge' over the river Nevis.
Great Bridge

The previous days rain had made the river noisy and white, as the water bounced and battered its way over the rocky bed.
The route at the base of the Steall proved impassable, so after finding another way across the river, I got onto the path that climbed steeply up the lower slopes of An Gearanach.

The skies cleared, the weather improved, as did the views. The view across to Ben Nevis showed that the snow line started at about 650 metres.
I reached the narrowing, winding ridge as the ground beneath my feet turned steadily whiter. The wind got up, the skies darkened and a fresh shower of snow started to fall.
Topping out on the first Munro of the day at noon, I ate a quick lunch and pressed on, into a gloom of disappearing hills, my fingers loosing feeling under the gloves I wore, the ground needing a fixed attention in order to avoid a costly slip.

Approaching Stob Choire a Chairn, I met a group of walkers who had decided to call it a day. Although the snow had stopped falling the temperature remained low, and the climb up to the Munro summit was in total cloud.

Reaching the top, I hesitated for no more than a moment before continuing towards the invisible Am Bodach.
The ridge would give an exhilarating walk in better conditions, however under these circumstances, safety was my main concern. Am Bodach is the highest hill in the round, and I felt the previous days' exertions draining the strength from my tiring legs. At times it seemed the best way to ascend was on hands and knees, fingers searching for safe holds on the snow covered rocks.
After what seemed like an age, the summit cairn appeared out of the mist. For over an hour I had been walking blind, no sight of the mountains around me, barely a glimpse of the ground 20 feet ahead.
Just after I left the top conditions deteriorated.
The route lead towards the top of Sgurr an Lubhair, dropping down to 850 meters. The West Highland Way appeared to the south for a brief moment, then disappeared as quickly as the wind and snow took it in turns to batter me.
At the car I had made a conscious decision not to take the ice axe and crampons I had fished out of my garage the day before, but in my haste to leave I had forgotten my ice goggles.
The wind climbed towards the bealach from the south,gathering speed as it rose so that when it crested the ridge, it did so with violent force.
Mixed in with the wind, speckles of ice flew at me as the snow continued to fall, driving into my face with an eye watering ferocity. Most of my head was covered with a buff and a hood, leaving small parts of my cheeks and my eyes exposed to the elements, stinging the flesh and causing my eyes to water.
Barely able to stand at times, having to lean on my walking poles to stay stable, I pressed on through the blizzard.
Eventually I made it to the top of Sgurr an Lubhair. The normal route from here would be to turn North West towards the Devils Ridge and Stob Choire a Mhail and Sgurr a Mhaim - the final Munro in the Ring. However I had had it; tired, thirsty (my bladder hose had frozen), cold, and wanting to get out safely, I followed my compass west, towards the Lochan Coire nam Miseach.
Still in cloud, still walking without a goal in sight, the daylight failing and turning into in an imposing gloom, I reached the path that leads through the valley, the time now near 4.30pm. The previous few hours had gone in a blur of the wind and the whiteout, leaving an enduring memory of some of the worst conditions I have ever experienced on the Scottish hills.
At around the 600 metre mark, the cloud lifted and a clear line through to the road could be briefly seen, the lights of Fort William shining brightly in the distance.
The route to the road was hard work, the unevenness of the path proving difficult in the dark.
I reached the road then, after a 3km hike, my car. The darkness was total, the stars bright and the air remained cold.
A drive home to reflect upon the day, I can safely say I had earned these Munros.

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Comments: 2

Beinn Fhionnlaidh

Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn Fhionnlaidh
Date walked: 14/10/2012
Distance: 12km
Comments: 2
Views: 2861

Hillside Companionship

Attachment(s) Munros: Mullach nan Coirean, Stob Bàn (Mamores)
Date walked: 25/08/2012
Comments: 5
Views: 2996

Tom Lane

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Activity: Munro compleatist
Mountain: Not Yet Climbed
Ambition: Live Long and Prosper

Munros: 178
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