I’d had a bit of a tough previous 12 months since I was last north of the border and somehow I didn’t feel ready when this trip came around. I couldn’t explain what it was. Don’t get me wrong I was excited about the trip and so happy to be off work etc etc…anyway I’d decided to visit the Fort William area initially, basing myself in the glen Nevis hostel, so I could tackle the Mamores and others.
Munros 37 and 38 – Aonach Beag and Aonach Mor 08/07/2012:
With the summer we’d had this year I was doubtful of getting the weather, and therefore the views, I’d been lucky with the last three of my annual trips. This walk started off fine with a great walk through the Glen Nevis gorge. I’d seen others’ pictures of the famous Steall waterfall but the first time you see these iconic Scottish landmarks it’s always much better in the flesh as it were.
The cloud base was low and was meant to stay that way all day. I could see where I needed to go, I just couldn’t see the top. Och well must carry one, they might get it wrong again. I couldn’t find the path I needed to start my ascent so I just got going up the grassy slope. It’s always that little bit more difficult without a path to follow. This image is from the ascent looking back down to the valley floor.
I found the walk up a real struggle and when I entered the cloud it had started to drizzle so I was forced to put on the waterproofs. My route was going via Stob Coire Bhealaich and not being able to see my target was a real problem as I couldn’t judge how long I had to reach it. I eventually made the ridge line around Coire a Bhuic and the sheer drop off was pretty scary, more so because all I could see was the cloud. It felt a long way down. I followed a good path all the way round the edge of this drop.
The low cloud was a real nuisance and I was desperate to get some views, however, my luck had deserted me today. I eventually reached the summit of Aonach Beag but didn’t stop as there were no views and there was a biting wind. In fact I had left it too late to put my gloves on, my hand were freezing and I had to go through the pain everyone knows as they slowly warm up.
I found the good path which leads all the way to the summit of Aonach Mor. I reached it seconds before a couple of walkers who had come up from the north side. We had a natter about the lack of views and what else I’d got planned for the next few days. When I said I was hoping to do Ben Nevis via the Carn Mor Dearg arete one of the guys suggested just doing the Carn Mor Dearg summit as the arete is best saved for a good day when you have views of Ben Nevis’s north face. I had already done Ben Nevis on three occasions so this might be a good idea.
My descent from this mountain was via a steep path on the western slopes. The top of this path is apparently marked by a small cairn so I was hoping I didn’t miss it in the cloud, I really didn’t fancy retracing my steps as it seemed a long way to have to go. Luckily I had a rough GPS point where the cairn would be so by searching around for a bit I soon found the path. I’m glad I found it as the slopes on this side were very steep and a path would give me the reassurance I needed to get down.
Once down into the valley it was a long walk back to the car. I eventually came out of the cloud and this image shows the view back up the part of the valley I’d already come down.
There were some large boulders in this valley, no doubt either placed there by some ancient glacier or just rolled down from one of the mountains.
I was glad I managed to get these two bagged but really disappointed with the lack of views. They are meant to be stunning and I could feel them there just behind the grey horrid clag.
Munros 39, 40, 41 and 42 – An Gearanach, Stob Choire a Chairn, Am Bodach, Sgurr a’Mhaim 09/07/2012:
Today would be a walk I’d been looking forward to for quite a while now. It would see me bag the four Munros which make up a route collectively known as the Ring Of Steall. The weather was meant to be better in the afternoon so I didn’t start too early, hoping the sun would do it’s job and burn off the low cloud.
I parked in the same car park as yesterday and walked the path through the gorge to the Steall Waterfall again.
This time I headed towards the river and came to the famous three wire bridge which spans the river. I didn’t find it to be a problem but it was bouncier than I was expecting. Once across I had to cross a river directly under the waterfall and that was fun, a bit noisy though. Once across I soon picked up a good path which would lead me all the way to the summit of An Gearanach. The cloud was still low at this point so no views were to be had again.
I didn’t linger so carried on along the narrow ridge to An Garbhanach. I was disappointed about the low cloud but happy there was also no wind as the ridge is quite narrow in places and there is some slabby rocks to scramble across. I dropped down the other side and ascended up to Stob Choire a Chairn in what seemed a very quick time. Still no views but I was ever hopeful the weather men wouldn’t let me down. I seen the path off the summit so carried on but soon it didn’t feel right. You know when you get that feeling you should be going the other way. I retraced my steps back to the summit and took a compass bearing like I should have. Oops, I found the correct path this time.
As I descended a wonderful thing happened, the clouds started to break up and I could soon see my next target was totally clear. That was better, it’s so much nicer to be able to see your route. And it looked incredibly steep. I ascended Am Bodach by it’s steep rocky north-east ridge, it was not too bad and I suppose the good thing about being steep is that you gain height quickly. Before I knew it I was at the summit and looking over the mountains to the south to Loch Linnhe.
A great spot for lunch and time to look back at the summits I’d just done which were now clearing of cloud, maybe I should have started even later. I pressed on not really wanting to leave and soon made the top of Sgurr an Lubhair, which has trouble holding onto it’s Munro status. It is certainly high enough but it’s close proximity to other summits means for some strange reason it isn’t currently a Munro – very odd. Well if it ever gets it back it’ll be another one bagged.
This is taken looking back at Am Bodach.
I could now see the complete Ring Of Steall so thought I’d try a panoramic shot of those I’d done so far.
Next on the list was Sgurr a’Mhaim, however, to get to it you have to walk The Devil’s ridge. This is a narrow ridge with a tricky obstacle in the middle where you have to either scramble over some toppled rocks or swing around them over what could be a long fall – I was nervous but the fact that the cloud have gone and there wasn’t any wind I was also confident.
I reached the obstacle and tried the scramble over the top but in the end decided for the swing around the rocks as it looked safer. Certainly gets the heart pumping for a few seconds but it was all over way too quickly. The ridge continues to be quite narrow, I imagine getting caught on this ridge in a strong wind would be a bit of a nightmare. This is looking back along part of the ridge before the ascent of Sgurr a’Mhaim.
The final hike up Sgurr a’Mhaim was hard work but once I reached the summit I was well chuffed – I’d completed The Ring Of Steall. I stayed here for a little while taking pictures trying not to disturb the other lone walker who seemed a bit annoyed at me disturbing him from reading his book. The walk down seemed to take a long time but I eventually reached the road where I was hopeful of a lift back to my car from a fellow walker who may be passing – no such luck!
Munros 43 and 44 – Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis (sort of) 10/07/2012:
Having checked the weather forecast the previous night I was not hopeful of getting many views today and, therefore, I was still undecided about whether to tackle the Carn Mor Dearg arete which leads up to Ben Nevis. The walk in from the North Face car park and the ascent up to Carn Mor Dearg provided no views whatsoever so my camera stayed in my bag most of the day. The pictures I did take were not worth keeping as the low cloud and flat light gave no definition to anything around.
I reached the summit of Carn Mor Dearg and the cloud didn’t feel like it was going to move, there was hardly any wind. I had been denied the fantastic views of Ben Nevis’ north face cliffs. It was a difficult decision now because I knew that if I didn’t do the arete it would be very unlikely that I visited it in the near future as I know I’m the sort of person who would rather do the other Munros first before revisiting any I’ve already done. With a big sigh I decided not to do the arete. I walked back to the car and decided I would tick off Ben Nevis as being bagged as I have done this mountain three times in the past from the ‘tourist’ route.
My planned walk for today was the eastern Mamores of Sgurr Eilde Mor, Binnein Beag, Binnein Mor, and Na Gruagaichean. I parked in Kinlochleven and had to don the waterproofs straight away as it was raining hard. I started the walk but got lost in the woods trying to find the path I wanted which would lead me to the open ground and my first target.
I think I found it and was on my way when something weird happened. I stopped, looked around, wiped the sweat from my brow, swatted away a few midges and my shoulders drooped. I didn’t want to be here. I couldn’t believe I was saying it but I wanted to go home – to Bristol.
I stayed there for at least 10 minutes with two voices in my head, one saying “Carry on, once you reach the open ground it won’t be so bad”, the other saying “Why are you doing this, it’s raining, you’re not going to get any views today, it’s going to be a long day in the cloud”. Unfortunately I knew the latter would win, and it did big time. I decided I didn’t want to complete the Munros anymore and after tonight I’d be going home.
I walked back to the car with the positive voice saying “What are you doing, you love walking in the hills, you will regret giving up. The weather for the end of the week is for it to improve”. The negative side of my personality was not listening and by the evening of the next day I was back in Bristol feeling utterly miserable
I still don’t know what happened that day and why my negative side won the battle so easily. I was thinking it was one downside of walking alone, no back up to give me the motivation I needed to carry on, as well as the miserable weather, and the fact that all along I’d had the feeling of not being properly prepared this time.
But now as I write this I’m determined to get back up to Scotland next year to bag some more mountains. I feel my walking ‘mojo’ has returned and I’m sure next year will be a better venture.