walkhighlands

Mamores 10 - all ten in one day

Munros: Am Bodach, An Gearanach, Binnein Beag, Binnein Mor, Mullach nan Coirean, Na Gruagaichean, Sgurr a'Mhaim, Sgurr Eilde Mor, Stob Ban (Mamores), Stob Coire a'Chairn

Date walked: 19/09/2020

Time taken: 13.5 hours

Distance: 41km

I arrived in Scotland 2 years ago and promptly started bagging Munros. Ben Lomond came first, then Ben Vorlich, Stuc a’Chroin, Ben Chonzie, Ben More (Crianlarich) etc. Progress was slow during the first year and I started looking at multi-Munro days. Ever since, the Mamores have occupied my to do list as the “Ten Munro Killer”.

Out of sheer curiosity I browsed MWIS on Thursday before the bank holiday weekend in mid-September. The West Highland forecast for Saturday promised clear skies, winds of 10mph and summit temperatures of 11 degrees. The BBC forecast for Fort William was practically Mediterranean! My fate was sealed.

Reading other reports I was confused by the names of the Munros, so I have included a handy list. Going anti-clockwise (West to East from the Lower Falls car park), in order of completion:

1. Mullach nan Coirean – “Summit of the Corries”
2. Stob Ban – “White Peak”
3. Sgurr A’Mhaim – “Peak of the Rounded Hill”
4. Am Bodach – “Old Man”
5. Stob Coire A’ Chairn – “Peak of the Corrie of the Cairn”
6. An Gearanach – “Complainer“
7. Na Gruagaichean – “The Maidens”
8. Binnein Mor – “Big Peak”
9. Sgurr Eilde Mor – “Big Peak of the Hind”
10. Binnein Beag – “Small Peak”

Planning:

Where to start the walk?

A few walkers have started near Kinlochleven as opposed to Glen Nevis. There was no particular reason I decided against this. It just seemed less frequently written about and didn’t feel quite right for me.

Starting in Glen Nevis, which direction to walk in?

Most walkers head anti-clockwise, but there are reports from those who go clockwise. The clockwise route has some advantages. It offers a nice long approach to the base of Binnean Beag, a perfect way to warm-up the legs. It also means doing the two outlying Munros at the start of the walk when energy levels and motivation are highest. Finally, it offers more obvious bail out options between the middle and end of the walk.

However, I went anti-clockwise because I was worried that I would become exasperated route finding and slipping around on the boggy ascent to Binnein Beag in the dark. Nevertheless, I was more excited at the prospect of gaining elevation quickly and watching the sunrise.

What time to start?

Mid-September the sun rises around 7am and sets around 7:30pm. This meant there would probably be 14 hours of good light. That’s roughly how long I expected the walk would take me. I planned to set off at 5am so that I would have a few extra hours of light at the end of the day.

Food and drink:

For the walk alone I brought
- 3 snickers bars
- 4 packets of energy gels
- 4 breakfast bars
- 3 medium sized samosas (my local shop had run out pork pies)
- Medium sized packet of salt and vinegar crisps

*One more savoury snack would have been even better!

- 2L platypus and 0.5L bottle of water. Once on the ridge, there are two obvious places to refill, the Lochan at the base of Sgurr an Lubhair (on the approach to Sgurr A’Maim) and the Lochan at the base of Sgurr Eilde Mor.


The walk

I drove up from Edinburgh on Friday afternoon. It was a beautiful bronze evening; the mountain tops ahead were holding on to the last of the sun. I parked at the Lower Falls car park and walked towards the start of the trail to look for a spot to camp. I took a right turn in front of the white cottage and followed a stream. After just a few minutes I came across a perfect flat patch of grass near the water. For the rest of the evening I drank whisky and watched an extraordinary display of stars. Amazingly, there wasn’t a single midge to keep me company.

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My alarm bell rang as soon as I fell into a deep sleep. I had tossed and turned, suspicious of the noise of boulders rolling down the riverbed. I packed quickly, drank some cold coffee and hit the trail at 5am exactly. It was pitch black. Most people seem to veer off the main path early and turn left to cut across the East side of the ridge to Mullach nan Coirean. This would probably have saved about 30 minutes walking time. However, I chose to stick to the main path (well… loggers’ road actually) instead. My heart was pounding, and I listened out for every sound in the darkness, so the wide road was comforting. The sign posting on the road is good, but I needed to watch out for a path to the left where the proper ascent began.

The early portion of the climb, after the turn, was beautifully maintained with perfectly placed stair-like boulders. After a while, the path became boggy and tougher to spot, but overall navigation wss simple as I followed a deer fence. Around 6am I was high enough to see bright orange streetlights from Fort William and the silhouette of Ben Nevis gradually exposed itself. The temperature was perfect, and I felt a gentle breeze cooling me down. Euphoria had set in at this point. I shook off any remaining jitters and grinned the rest of the way up the ridge, which was simple walking.

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At 6:30 I tiptoed past a single-man tent to reach the summit of Mullach nan Coirean. After a few photos I needed to crack on, my internal clock was set to 14 hours walking time so I knew I couldn’t hang around. The walk to Stob Ban was an easy stroll, which gave me plenty of false reassurance about the size of the task ahead. I reached the cairn at 7:30, in plenty of time to admire the best of the sunrise. There was another crew of campers here who seemed frustrated, so I didn’t engage much. Perhaps they thought they’d get that moment all to themselves!

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The ridge I came up to Mullach nan Coirean sloping up from centre to left.

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Path to Stob Ban (seen on the right).

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The rising sun pointed out the far end of the ridge.


The walk from Stob Ban to the little lochan was one of my favourite parts of the walk. The initial descent here was steep but the light was warm, and the view of Ben Nevis was breath-taking. I had a spring in my step and felt like I was gliding down. Stupidly, when I arrived at the lochan, I only filled up my 0.5L bottle; I had a good rhythm and didn’t want to stop for too long to take out my platypus. I had also anticipated to come across some water much sooner than I did in the end.

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Gritty but fun bit of ridge took me away from Stob Ban .

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Looking back at Stob Ban (on the right) and the ridge down to the lochan. One of my favourite sections of the walk.


I powered up the zigzagging stalkers path and arrived at the first junction of the day. I dropped off my bag and set off on Devil’s Ridge to Sgurr A’Mhaim. In my opinion, this was the most nervey part of the walk. It only had a few sections of grade 1 (possibly easy 2) scrambling but the sheer drops either side of a very narrow path made it a hair-raising venture. I reached Sgurr A’Mhaim at 8:30 and replenished myself with a few snacks before swiftly heading back the way I came. On the narrow ridge, I bumped into two middle-aged hill-runners in red t-shirts. One of them looked very fit and the other was struggling and noticeably irritated at falling behind. They had a strong West Highland accent, almost as though their words were naturally being carried away with the wind, so I couldn’t understand all of what they said. However, they told me they were doing Tranter’s Round. I later learnt that this is synonymous with Ramsay’s round and named after Philip Tranter who covered the Mamores, Grey Corries, Aonachs, CMD and Ben Nevis in a single trip in 1964. That amounts to 36 miles and almost 21 thousand feet of ascent. I wished them good luck!

On the same ridge I saw a couple coming towards me. My mind played a trick on me here and convinced me that I knew them. I raised my arms in jubilation and shouted, “what the actual ffff…!?”. They reciprocated and we sped towards each other with open arms. Imagine my surprise when I realised that I had no idea who they were. We shared a laugh and I was grateful that they played along.

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Devil's Ridge

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Looking back over Devil's Ridge from Sgurr A'Mhaim. Stob Ban to the right, the demoted Munro Sgurr An Lubhair in the middle and Am Bodach just out of view to the left.

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Onwards and upwards to Am Bodach via Sgurr An Lubhair (the poor peak stripped of Munro status). This was a straightforward part of the ridge that didn’t pose any difficulties. I reached Am Bodach, my fourth Munro, at 9:45. I was just over a third of the way into the trip and I felt optimistic. The low morning sun accentuated the ridge, and I could start to make out the rest of the way. Unfortunately, the descent from Am Bodach lived up to every reports’ description and was an absolute pain. It was steep with loose boulders balanced on scree. I descended like a clumsy giraffe and was in a foul red-faced mood when I reached the summit of Stob Coire A’ Chairn at 10:20 (the photo of me grinning is lying!). It wasn’t a great way to introduce myself to the crowds of early risers who were walking the Ring of Steall.

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This was the next junction. I took a big glug of water, pocketed some snacks and dropped off my bag. I admit, I was disheartened when I looked at the route to An Gearanach “The Complainer”, and I may have complained to anyone I walked past about what on Earth I was doing. I stumbled down from Stob Coire A’Chairn to the bealach and began the scramble (grade 1 /easy grade 2) towards An Gearanach. The crowds were getting thicker and there was some awkward breath-holding covid traffic. Some people took extreme measures to get out of the way on the narrow ridge, which left me questioning their risk assessment. Eventually, I arrived at the village fete that was An Gearanch summit at 10:50. There were at least 30 people there in small groups celebrating their first ascent of the day. Some were enjoying a tinny, otherwise were catching their breath by smoking a joint. The atmosphere was festive. I was a stark contrast to all this. My knees were aching from the two recent descents and I wasn’t looking forward to retracing my steps past the crowds back to my bag. Nevertheless, I took a few snaps, turned on my heel and pushed past wobbly walkers to return to Stob Coire A’Chairn.

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Scrambley section to An Gearanch

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When I got back to Stob Coire A’Chairn, I hid a little out of sight and slumped next to my bag. It wasn’t even noon and I had already done six Munros. I should have been elated but instead I felt knackered. My knees were sore and the grumpy noise my platypus made when I sucked on the tube suggested I would have to ration my water intake. The sun was directly overhead and blasting mercilessly. I sent a whiny text to my friend who normally joins me on these trips but who was away hiking the Camino de Santiago. ”Push through the pain Pankin [my last name]” he wrote back. Those few words had the desired effect. I stretched my legs, hoisted the bag onto my back and marched down (pretty far down actually) the gentle slope to the bealach between Stob Coire A’Chairn and Na Gruagaichean. It’s a big distance between the two Munros and I lost a lot of height but there was nothing challenging about the terrain. There were some pools of water perhaps 30 or 40 metres below me, but I decided against refilling there despite the temptation of the noise of water. Incidentally, I also came across the Tranter’s round fellas in their red t-shirts again. I had no idea how we caught up with each other and either they did not recognise me or, once again, I couldn’t understand what they were saying.

I reached the first summit of Na Gruagaichean at 12:20. I was ecstatic, seven Munros down! I started to take panoramic photos, I did a little dance to psyche myself up but what was that? Only a short distance away, a steep scramble up and down, was another peak that was a fraction higher than the one I was standing on. “The Maidens” lived up to their name. I got duped! On my way up to the actual summit, I met an elderly man with a severely burnt bald patch. He was a little lost and asked for directions down to the Old Military Road. When he found out I was doing the entire ridge he said “Next time you’re back, you can actually enjoy them”. In hindsight, I was having a blast! The views from here were some of the best, I could see almost the entire ridge snaking in front of me.

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The entire ridge unfolded infront of me

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Route to Binnein Mor


From here, it was a straightforward wander to the highest top of the ridge and Munro number eight: Binnein Mor. I dropped off my bag at the junction to Sgurr Eilde Mor and walked up to the top. I arrived at 13:10. Here again, I came across my gents in the red t-shirts. They were arguing. Clearly, Tranter’s Round was now out of the question and I think they debated about the most dignified way of bailing out. I left them to it.

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The entire ridge exposed itself even more from the top of Binnein Mor

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Looking back from Binnein Mor with the summit of Na Gruagaichean to the right


Eight Munros was a great achievement, I could have picked up my bag, ditched the two outlying Munros and gently made my way down to the valley… It was just a fleeting thought. The outliers were menacing, their silvery bronze scree slopes looked a real nuisance especially for my sore knees. However, my mind was on autopilot and I strolled back to my bag. Dragging my feet slightly, I turned towards the ninth Munro.

To get to Sgurr Eilde Mor I had to get off the ridge proper via a steep stalkers path heading towards a series of lochans. A cairn marked the spot. When I reached the lochans, I squelched close to the water, replenished my water supply and dunked my head under. The world was a much cooler place again!

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Looking on to Sgurr Eilde Mor

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I left my bag by the water and started up Sgurr Eilde Mor. The scree was maddening and with each step I had to overcome a desire to turn around. However, there was a lady walking just a few hundred yards behind me and I couldn’t face explaining myself to her if I did decide to give up. I reached the top at 14:35.

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I slipped down the scree to my bag and embarked on what was another one of my favourite parts of the route. I would love to return to it in winter. From the lochans, a neat path led me down to the stream and then an even neater path, carved out into the gentle Eastern slope of BInnein Mor, took me all the way to a little lochan at the start of Binnein Beag. The final Munro! I fully concede, I was knackered at this point. I just wanted to go home! But, something kept telling me to go on (I remember thinking of the great Donnie Campbell) and I dragged myself up the scree infested mountain. I summitted at 16:00. From here I could see all the way down to the Water of Nevis, my sanctuary! It looked far but on gentle grassy ground. If worst came to worst, I thought could roll down like a child.

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I headed for the 90deg bend in the Water of Nevis


I decided against screeing down the North-Western side of the mountain and retraced my steps on firmer ground instead. I crossed the lochan and began what I thought would be an easy descent to the river. However, what looked like a grassy slope from the summit, was actually a steep and muddy slip n’ slide! With every slip one of my poles would get buried in the bog and, accompanied by an orchestra of profanities, I would wrestle to retrieve it. Give me a chance at the sword in the stone now and I would remove it without so much as a whimper. Finally, I reached the big bend in the Water of Nevis. My sore legs couldn’t be bothered to balance on pebbles to cross the river and instead I waded through the water like a dog through a puddle. It was 17:00. I sat on the riverbank, listened to the gurgling of the river and soaked in the sun, which was still a good distance above the ridge. Looking up, the summit of Binnean Beag seemed an entire day’s trip away and I was proud of my achievement.

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Looking back at the decent from Binnein Beag (the peak the left of the photo)

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A short boggy walk from the river was the main path. At this point it was one foot after the other on a simple flat path. Close to Steall waterfall I started to come across lots and lots of campers and tourists. Their relaxed look and attire were a world away from how I felt. The waterfall itself was beautiful but perhaps the whole grandeur of it was lost on my exhausted mind. The Nevis gorge was exceptionally pretty in the evening sun and I stopped a few times just to admire the rock pools.

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I finally arrived at the Upper Falls car park at 18:30. I had been on the road for 13.5 hours and covered 41km.


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Comments: 13


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Activity: Hill Bagger
Place: Dundonnell

Munros: 61
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 1



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Statistics

2020

Trips: 1
Distance: 41 km
Munros: 10


Joined: Jun 10, 2020
Last visited: Nov 20, 2020
Total posts: 3 | Search posts