The Lochaber Traverse: an epic walk in brilliant weather

Munros: Aonach Beag (Nevis Range), Aonach Mor, Ben Nevis, Carn Mor Dearg, Sgurr Choinnich Mor, Stob Choire Claurigh, Stob Coire an Laoigh

Date walked: 08/06/2013

Time taken: 16 hours

Distance: 31.7km

Ascent: 3079m

We set off to walk the Lochaber Traverse on Saturday 8 June, and what a day we had!

James from LochaberTaxis.com collected us from The Clan MacDuff Hotel at 4am (the only time we were bothered by midges all day) and took us to Spean Bridge, and then on up the Land Rover track from Corriechoille towards Loch Treig. The track is a bit rougher beyond Corriechoille Lodge, but not too bad, and James fairly hammered along it in his fully-laden 8-seater taxi. He dropped us just after 4:30am where the track crosses the line of the dismantled tramway, and where there is a parking place for several cars (NN 255 788). I was surprised and impressed to find 2 cars parked there already.

After "team photos" (taken patiently by James), and the usual group "milling about" as we all got ready, the GPS tells me we actually started walking at 4:48am. The weather was perfect and we were in great spirits.


The map shows the track we took. We began by continuing on the Land Rover track, before heading on to the open hillside.

LT_Track.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

A long slog up grassy slopes followed, enlivened by seeing a Wheatear (which was quite alarmed by our presence) and first the Aonachs ...


... and then the Grey Corries appearing. Here they are in the background behind Pat, Kenny and Alastair:


On reaching the ridge, we got great views of Coire na Ceannain, Stob Coire na Ceannain and the rest of the Grey Corries.


We made our way along the ridge and it seemed to take forever until we reached Stob Choire Claurigh, our first Munro of the day.


We continued along the ridge with clouds coming and going a little


and then reached Stob Coire an Laoigh, the 2nd Munro of the day


After Stob Coire an Laoigh, Robin, Kenny & Pat, who had been walking much faster, moved on ahead in one group, while the rest of us made up a second group. We had lunch on Sgurr Choinnich Mor, our 3rd Munro.


One of of the descents (I think from Stob Coire an Laoigh, but it may have been from Sgurr Choinnich Mor) was a bit rocky, awkward and slow. Watch out for it if you walk this way.

We made our way on over Sgurr Choinnich Beag to the bealach below Stob Coire Bhealaich & Aonach Beag. If I did this again, I'd probably contour round Sgurr Choinnich Beag to the south as reaching subsidiary tops was not our aim. From the bealach, Duncan chose to head down into Glen Nevis and back along the river while Alastair, Jeremy, Alastair & I headed on to Stob Coire Bhealaich.

The trickiest part of our day followed.

Broadly, we we set out to follow (in reverse) a GPS route I downloaded from here on the Mud and Routes website. I was conscious this was a route, not a tracklog, and with waypoints every 100m or so, it could not possibly show a path up the jumbled, steep slopes of Stob Coire Bhealaich. Further, there was enough snow on the ground to limit our options, so we just took what looked like the straightest clear line up the ridge. There was only one really tricky part, a climb of perhaps 20-30m where the ground was steep and crumbly. Just when the slope meant you wanted the firmest of hand and footholds, it seemed that everything gave way whenever you touched it. But we made it up without mishap, and were very pleased to see a straightforward path ahead.

As we progressed up Stob Coire Bhealaich we met a solo walker (Robin from Livingston - please get in touch if you ever read this!) who we had first encountered as he came up from Glen Nevis to climb Sgurr Choinnich Mor. He had seen our struggle on Stob Coire Bhealaich from below and chose to go up through Choire a' Bhuic to the bealach between Sgurr a' Bhuic and Stob Coire Bhealaich, and then along to the main ridge up to Stob Coire Bhealaich and Aonach Beag. I think Robin made an excellent choice and I would follow his route if I came this way again!

There were great views on The Mamores and Ben Nevis as we walked up Aonach Beag


And, in due course, we made it to Aonach Beag, our 4th Munro


At this point, I headed on to Aonach Mor with Alastair (my son), while Alastair (my brother-in-law) & Jeremy made for the bealach between the Aonachs and CMD.

At Aonach Mor, Alastair & I again met Robin from Livingston who kindly took this picture of us on the summit cairn. Our 5th Munro of the day, and Ben Nevis still some way off ....


We walked with Robin back along the summit ridge but couldn't keep up from the point where the path turned down towards the bealach and steepened. Robin disappeared ahead of us at amazing speed while Alastair and I slowly picked our way down the steep, slippery path. It is about 400m down from the Aonach ridge to the bealach and we found it tortuous, slow and generally unpleasant. But we got safely to the bealach where we met up again with Alastair & Jeremy and were just in time to watch Robin heading up CMD. And to see two fell runners run down CMD.

Alastair & Jeremy went down from the bealach into Glen Nevis and back along the river. (Later, they again met Robin who gave them a lift back to our the Clan MacDuff Hotel. Thank you Robin!)

Somewhat chastened by the scrambly, crumbly experience on the way up Aonach Beag, and not encouraged by what I had seen of CMD and Ben Nevis still to come, I also thought it a very good idea to go down. When I suggested this, my son said: "Dad, I came here to climb 7 Munros and I am determined to do it." So, we set off up the ridge to CMD.


Progress to the top was quicker than expected. Alastair and I had our last meeting with Robin as he descended from the summit, and we were soon there ourselves, on Carn Mor Dearg, our 6th Munro.


And so to the CMD Arete.



Not ideal to first make its acquaintance after 12 hours of walking, but we made our way round without incident and then scrabbled our way up the boulders and scree to the Ben. Mission accomplished - here's Alastair on the Ben Nevis summit cairn using the trig point as welcome support:


Well, not quite mission accomplished, because we still had the slog down the Pony Track. We left the summit at 6:30pm and were surprised to pass hundreds of walkers still coming up the track. Most, but not all, were in one or other "3 Peaks" group, but we were still surprised it was so busy so late in the day. We ran out of water and I filled the platypus with snow thinking it would quickly melt against my steaming back. But it didn't, so I resorted to cadging water from other walkers who were very generous. We then got our fill at the Red Burn where it crosses under the Pony Track a few hundred meters above the "half-way lochan".

And, at last, we reached the Ben Nevis Inn at 9:11pm to find Robin, Kenny and Pat waiting with a welcome pint!

Here's a picture of Kenny, Rob and Pat when they were at the summit of Ben Nevis, the 7th Munro of the day, a couple of hours earlier:


And here's Pat the Giant, still at the Ben Nevis trig point, but now with only some really wee guy for company ...


A brilliant day out in the high hills in perfect weather. My thanks to Alastair for keeping me going, and to all who shared it with us.


Some thoughts on the distance walked and time taken, and on route options, follow below, along with acknowledgements to those who helped us plan and complete the Traverse.

Tracklog: the file attached here is a simplified track with 545 points as the full tracklog has nearly 4000 points and, at 739KB, it is larger than the maximum file size Walkhighlands can accept. PM me if you would like the full file. Loading the tracklog into Quo v2 gives me this summary:

Lochaber Traverse Actual Route Summary.jpg
Walk stats from Quo v2

I've taken the DTM (Digital Terrain Model) distance and ascent from above as the measures of our walk (because they flatter most!), though I suspect they are a bit exaggerated. When I imported a route into the Walkhighlands GPS Planner it told me: Length: 16.9 miles / 27.2 km Ascent: +2775m. I am sure the truth is somewhere in between.

Timing: Alastair & I took 16 1/2 hours for the walk. However, our initial speed was set by the group; I think we'd have done it in around 14 hours had we been on our own. I could imagine doing it in 12 hours if I were pushing on, but never in 10h 4m which is the Naismith estimate the Walkhighlands GPS Planner gave. Very aggressive! More like running, less like walking and perhaps an indication that the true walk length is closer to the Quo v2 estimate than that of the GPS Planner.

Route Options: I have some unfinished business in Glen Nevis. 11 years ago I walked the Mamores in a day, and I've now done the Lochaber Traverse. 17 Munros bagged, but not Stob Ban in the Grey Corries. If I were to attempt the Lochaber Traverse again, I'd aim to add Stob Ban to the walk we did. I'd follow the suggestion of Graham Jameson and go up Stob Ban first after an even longer walk along the Land Rover tack to Loch Treig and go on to climb Stob Coire Claurigh from the south.

There's a bit of internet chatter about missing Aonach Mor to save some distance and because it is a bit boring. I'd always include it as it is a quick and easy walk along the ridge to the summit of Aonach Mor from the bealach below Aonach Beag.

Acknowledgements: in planning our walk from 400 miles away, I took inspiration from James Roddie - A springtime heatwave and a solo Lochaber Traverse - Graham Jameson (as referenced above) - The Lochaber Traverse: the Longest Route to Ben Nevis - and from the route on Mud and Routes also mentioned above. In addition, Mud and Routes put me on to Ken Wilson and Richard Gilbert’s "Big Walks" which I bought 2nd had on Amazon. Many thanks to all.

We stayed at The Clan MacDuff Hotel where service was outstanding. Thanks especially to Angus who left his half-eaten dinner to come and collect us when we were marooned at the Ben Nevis Inn when our taxi was delayed by the traffic leaving Nevis Range and the Mountain Bike World Cup. Breakfast was special too. As standard, Clan MacDuff lets you choose between a 'regular' and a 'large' cooked breakfast. On Sunday we were greeted with "and we know you will all be hungry after your big walk, so if the 'large' is not enough, just say, and we will bring you some more".

Thanks also to Pedro at LochaberTaxis.com for taking our early booking, and to James for collecting us on time and dropping us off as far up the track from Corriechoille as he could reasonably take us.

This trip report is based on a blog I first posted here.

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Comments: 7


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Activity: Munro compleatist
Pub: The White Lion
Mountain: Beinn Bharrain
Place: Carradale
Gear: My walking poles
Ideal day out: A long walk in the high hills with bright weather and some epic, airy ridges (and no midges).

Munros: 19

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Trips: 1
Distance: 31.7 km
Ascent: 3079m
Munros: 7

Joined: May 19, 2013
Last visited: Jun 28, 2016
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