walkhighlands

Third time's a charm on soggy Sgurr Eilde Mor

Munros: Sgurr Eilde Mor

Date walked: 26/07/2020

Time taken: 7 hours

Writing a blog post for every adventure you find yourself on, is much easier in theory than it is in real life. Finding the time to actually sit and write about our hikes has three other areas in my life to contend with at the minute; a full-time job, an evening course at Uni and, last but not least, the walks themselves. Thankfully, with Uni finishing up for the festive season and freeing up some evenings, here I am finally getting around to writing this post for a walk which we’d done back in July. Only 5 months behind schedule now! Scott kindly had a go at the Creag Meagaidh report over the weekend, which relates to the walk we did over the same weekend as this one. If you’re patient enough to have read our relatively dull walk reports, with a distinct lack of white-knuckle near-death experiences (thankfully for us), you’ll have seen that we had begun our days off by chasing the better weather, a recurring theme for the next few days.

With Scotland shrouded in yet another gloomy weather forecast, we’d decided that due to being within easy reach of the Lochaber area, we’d have a quick look at the forecast for Kinlochleven. You won’t be surprised by now to hear that there was an incident with a late start a couple of years previously, which meant we didn’t have time to grab this summit during a round of (what was planned to be) the 4 Eastern Mamores. In 2019, we had attempted to make up for this, and set off to bag the hill during a trip to Kinlochleven with friends; but I ended up so hungover that the initial ascent resulted in me hugging a tree for comfort while I heaved my guts up… classy or what?! Safe to say this was another failed attempt as I had to turn back. Third time lucky; this was set to be the day we would finally turn that wee lonely red pin to blue to match its neighbours on our Walkhighlands Munro map.

Since we had an easy day planned for Sunday in comparison to our recent big rounds, we made the most of our time in Kinlochleven spending it in the pub blethering to locals, before we’d decided it was time to turn in for the night. Being quite drunk and having failed to set up our camp before going to the pub, the desire to go out into the rain to set it up now was sadly lacking. So we got the sleeping bags out and reclined the seats as far as they would go and tried to get as comfortable as possible for a night in the car.

Sunday morning arrived with the same miserable weather as the night before. According to the Met Office, there was a decent dry spell scheduled for a couple of hours, which we’d hoped to time perfectly for reaching the higher ground. The day was off to an astonishing start when Scott went for a quick pee, returned to the car, took his trainers off, sat the trainers on his lap, to discover in absolute disgust that he’d trodden on dog shite which was now smeared across his hiking top. Sitting traumatised and bewildered in the passenger seat while demanding baby wipes, I clung to the roof of the car to hold myself up while crying with laughter. Once you get to know Scott, you’ll realise there’s certain things he is very particular (aka grumpy) about. These things include, but are not limited to, keeping his outdoors kit and clothes in good condition. This couldn’t have happened to a better person. Or a worse person, depending which way you look at it.

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Once the hilarity of the dog shite saga was over, the waterproofs were on and we started the ascent taking a quick detour to Grey Mare’s Waterfall, which was roaring through the gorge after the heavy downpour. After following the sign marked ‘Loch Eilde path, the initial ascent is steep; but with any short sharp climb, the reward is that you gain height relatively quickly. The ascent is most definitely worth it, thanks to the beautiful views down Loch Leven already, framed elegantly by the Pap of Glencoe on the left. Stopping briefly at a fast-flowing stream, we took some time out here to brush our teeth. There is something quite magical about being outside in nature, brushing your teeth with fresh mountain water. Once finished here, we continued uphill on what is normally a dry and rocky path. Today the path was more stream-like for the majority of the route, thanks to the rainwater endlessly lashing down the hillsides.

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With damp feet, we soon arrived at the Landrover track which we popped over to reach the fairly sizable cairn marking the continuation of a good path which contours the slopes in a north-easterly direction and at an easy gradient. The last time we were on this path was in our early hillwalking days, where I distinctly remember struggling to get across the Allt Leacann na Fair and Allt Coire nan Laogh. Given how wet the ground was underfoot, I was a bit apprehensive about what conditions the rivers would be in. That apprehension was soon diminished and despite the fast-flowing water, both were relatively straightforward to manoeuvre across. Scott, on the other hand, struggled to get across in a bid to keep his feet comfortably dry; leaving me feeling smugger than I should have that he was the one holding us up for a change.

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Both across the water we continued on the path, traversing the steepening slopes of Sgor Eilde Beag, while gaining a gradual but noticeable height above Loch Eilde Mor. It really is a gorgeous location, with excellent views of the Blackwater reservoir and the faint scar of the West Highland Way leading your eyes to the South where the peaks of Glencoe linger in the landscape. Unfortunately, the views were accompanied by vast amounts of virga and thick vertical mist moving in our direction which only meant one thing – heavy rain. It was approaching lunchtime and as the weather had brightened up slightly we’d decided to stop at Coire an Lochain, a high level lochan at 750m altitude spanning across fairly sizeable bealach. Just as we’d found a sheltered spot from the biting wind, it inevitably decided to change direction and brought with it a hail shower. It was exceptionally cold and probably the least enjoyable sandwiches I’ve had on a hillside so far, as the wind seemed to be swirling violently with a distinct lack of obvious direction across this minor plateau between the tops. This meant that no matter where we stood, our faces were being battered with hail regardless. The area seemed surprisingly exposed at first but became more understandable when we noticed that the ground drops away to a lower height. This created a vast openness across Glen Nevis to the Grey Corries, uninterrupted until it reached the higher peaks of Glencoe in the opposite direction.

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Cursing the Met Office forecast, we headed on as swiftly as we could from our lunch spot. Moving further from the lochan to gain the northwest ridge, the wind reprieved slightly - which is more than can be said for the rain. My waterproofs had clearly exceeded their threshold by this point, seeing as I was soaked through to my knickers. Thankfully a 260m climb on the sheltered aspect of the mountain helped prevent the falling of any body temperature, keeping me relatively happy. We bypassed an equally sodden man on his descent, who chanted ‘We must be mad, eh, to be oot in this?!’ with a big grin on his face. Laughing, I agreed, before continuing up the strenuous scree slope. It feels as though the gradient gets steeper by the minute until you appear, very suddenly, atop a narrow ridge with the ground falling away magnificently to Coire an Lochain below. Safe to say, arriving on the ridge, the gusts returned and almost knocked us off our feet accompanied by the inevitable wind chill urging us on to reach the cairn as quickly as we could. Standing at the summit cairn, the weather had blown my waterproofs up so much they had now become reminiscent of a big pair of pantaloons. That was plenty for us and we trotted back along the ridge, Scott heading to the end to capture the dramatic aspect of the landscape. I, on the other hand, headed onto the path we’d come up as quickly as possible in order to get some shelter.
The steep scree slope which was arduous on the ascent was now worth its weight in gold as we made good time with some mild scree running – always more enjoyable than the ascent if you get the technique right for a fast descent.

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We followed the path out to reach the Landrover track where we opted to head for a drier return into Kinlochleven following the good track round to the derelict Mamore Lodge. The sun had come out now, warming us up nicely. 15 minutes were spent sauntering around the grounds of the lodge, daydreaming of the potential of a building of this stature in such a grand location. After coming back to reality, we headed down the back of the lodge along a tarmac road in awe of some of the majestic trees in the forest. Soon enough, we’d joined the West Highland Way which took us down into Kinlochleven Village, where our dry clothes and obligatory Irn-Bru awaited our return.


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2020

Trips: 6
Distance: 165.5 km
Ascent: 5591m
Munros: 15


Joined: Jul 14, 2020
Last visited: Jan 17, 2021
Total posts: 19 | Search posts