Friday, 7 August 2009

43,42: two wee gems in the Mamores

Sgurr Eilde Mor and Binnein Beag    7th August 2009

Third day running of good weather!  Anne was ready for a rest day, so that meant I could do a Mamore traverse - starting in Kinlochleven, with Anne driving around to pick me up in Glen Nevis.  And so the plans were laid.

Looking back down on Kinlochleven from 300m up the path
At 10.40am, I was deposited in the car park in Kinlochleven, and set off up through the woods.  The initial maze of paths was a little confusing, but soon I was on one which climbed steeply up out of the village to the north east.  It was hot work, climbing 300m in the first kilometre, with the sun shining overhead!   The path soon emerged from the woodland and onto the open hillside, and the gradient decreased making the going a bit easier as I passed around the north flank of Meall an Doire Dharaich.

Soon the path reached a cross-roads at the landrover track from Mamore Lodge to Loch Eilde Mor.  My way was up the good stalkers' path that we had descended 2 days earlier, coming down from Binnein Mor.  Before long, I was climbing more steeply up below Sgurr Eilde Beag, and into Coire an Lochain.  Leaving the main path, I struck across to the right over easy springy turf towards the pyramidal Sgurr Eilde Mor's south west corner.

Sgurr Eilde Mor from Binnein Mor (left)

(below) looking north through Coire and Lochain to Binnein Beag, with Aonach Beag in the distance across Glen Nevis

I was already at 750m, so the summit was only 260m above, but it was a stiff climb!  A steep ascent on bouldery ground, with a series of short steps, the final one leading out onto the summit at 1010m.  An excellent viewpoint all around: to the east, a wide expanse of moorland and lower hills;  to the west, the Mamores - Binnein Mor dominating the foreground;  to the north, the conical peak of Binnein Beag (right).

(left) view from Sgurr Eilde Mor's west ridge, where I stopped for lunch, looking across to Na Gruagaichean (in the distance) and the grassy ridge linking Binnein Mor (to the right) and Sgurr Eilde Beag (on the left).

By now it was 1.30pm and time for lunch, so I chose a dramatic perch on the west ridge, a couple of 100 metres from the summit, overlooking the lochan below - a perfect spot! 
looking down from my lunchtime perch to the weird shaped lochan 250m below
After a 20 minute rest, it was time to head off down the hill, using a scree slope to drop rapidly down to the stalkers' path through the coire below.    A series of zigzags led down to a crossing of the Allt Coire a'Bhinnein at 630m, then the path followed a steadily rising series of curves around the flank of Binnein Mor, and up to the lochan between Binnein Mor and Binnein Beag at 740m.  

Binnein Beag (above) is a perfect little cone, with evenly steep slopes all round.  A good path led me steeply up through bouldery ground to the small summit area, where I was glad to have a seat (15.25) and a cup of coffee.  Unfortunately, a short shower arrived there a few moments later, so it was cagoule on, and shelter behind the (small) cairn.

Which way down?  I decided to head directly down in the direction I was aiming - towards the north west.  This proved a little hair-raising down a steep scree-filled gully for a hundred metres or so, until the slope eased off.  A return to the lochan might have been wiser!

On the summit of Binnein Beag, with Binnein Mor behind (right)

Easier gradients lay below, and a steady descent over grass and heather brought me down to the Water of Nevis, just crossable on boulders, then up the other side to join the (surprisingly boggy) path through from Loch Treig.  

(left) looking back up to Binnein Beag from the Water of Nevis

A rapid 3-mile walk, and soon the Steall meadows were in sight, with the Steall Falls in full flow (below).  

Anne had just timed her arrival perfectly, so we walked together down through the woods to the car park.  

2 Munros.
15km walk.
1300m climbing.
7hrs 20mins. 

A wonderful day's walk over two delightful little Munros 
.... which turned out to be the last outing of the 2009 season, with work and other holiday plans during September and October. 

It has been a good year - 22 new Munros - my equal highest total in a year - and the target now within reach!  Compleat in 2011?


posted 03/10/10

Thursday, 6 August 2009

44: Unexpected difficulties in Glencoe

Sgor na h-Ulaidh     6th August 2009

A changeable day - should we climb or not?  Still undecided, we drove round to the Glencoe visitor centre, and had a wander round the exhibitions and nature trail.  About 11am, the cloud showed signs of lifting off the tops, so we drove a short distance along the A82 and parked in a layby near the start of the way up to Sgor na h-Ulaidh) peak of treasure), my final Glencoe Munro.  I had climbed all the others 30 years earlier, from SU camps in Glen Etive.  Somehow, this one had been missed.

Aonach Eagach
We had fine views across to the Aonach Eagach (notched ridge) on the north side of the glen, but our target today was a more modest one, Glencoe's easiest(?) Munro, hidden behind Bidean up a little-frequented glen.  

The approach began easily up the tarred road towards Gleann-leac-na-muidhe house.  However, the owners clearly didn't like their privacy being invaded by walkers passing in front of their windows, so had set up a by-pass path, signposted round a boggy field, joining the track again beyond the house.  Access rights?  

approaching Sgor na h-Ulaidh

We followed the track for another mile or so, until it degenerated into a path alongside the burn.  The original plan had been to ascend Aonach Dubh a' Ghlinne, then on to Stob an Fhuarain (peak of the spring) and complete a clockwise circuit, but the path led us on up the valley towards the foot of Sgor na h-Ulaidh, so we decided to do the circuit in an anti-clockwise direction.  The path wasn't great, and we found it hard going - maybe tired legs after yesterday's walk in the Mamores.  We continued up grassy slopes to the right from the valley towards steeper ground leading towards the summit ridge.

The way ahead was up increasingly steep broken grass and rock slopes.  One guide book warned of a tricky descent, but it looked pretty straightforward.  We picked our way upwards, until we found ourselves on a steep section of greasy rocks and wet grass.  On a dry day, we would have negotiated this without a second thought, but today we suddenly found ourselves in unexpected uncertainties.

I tried up one way, until a few metres above Anne, then retreated - no secure holds, and everything damp and slimy.  Try again, more to the right.  Same result.  Felt quite shaken.  Maybe we should descend a bit, then make a detour further to the right.  No, this is ridiculous - there must be a way up - it's hardly even a scramble!  Third attempt, and this time we were up and through the tricky bit.  Almost defeated by 5 metres of greasy rock!  

view down summit gully
Above, the way to the summit was easy, with the slope easing until we reached the ridge (with views to the south), then a short ascent up the ridge to our left and on to the summit itself.  The clouds enveloped us as they swept in on a south west breeze.  

The summit itself was too windy for a comfortable rest, so after peering down a gully on the north side,  we found a sheltered nook a short way down the east ridge to eat a sandwich (3.20 - 3.40).  

The clouds swirled around us, giving tantalising glimpses in various directions.

Stob an Fhuarain from Sgor na h-Ulaidh

The clouds lifted again as we made the descent to the bealach below at 860m.  

An easy 100m ascent, passing a tiny lochan en route, and we were on top of Stob an Fhuarain at 4.20.  

The wind had dropped, and the sky was clearing, so time for another rest, cup of coffee etc before continuing along the broad undulating ridge of Aonach Dubh a'Ghlinne.

Sgor na h-Ulaidh from Stob an Fhuarain;  Anne at the tiny lochan
Looking back across to Sgor na h-Ulaidh, the "tricky but" looked completely innocuous - bizarre!

looking up the valley - descended down to long grassy slope to the left
Unfortunately, the pleasant stroll along the ridge had to come to an end as we had to face the 500m unrelenting, gruelling, grassy descent back to the path in the valley below.  

We were very glad to get back on to the track, then round the house by-pass, and back down to the car.  7pm.

1 Munro + 1 Top, 1100m ascent, 11km walk,  7.5 hours

(written 11/09/10)

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

46,45: Na Gruagaichean and Binnein Mor

More Mamores!   5th August 2009

After a week or so at home, and with the weather forecast looking a bit more settled, we headed north once again on Tuesday 4th August - this time aiming to "compleat" the Mamores.  

Caolasnacon camp site on Loch Leven
Where to camp?  The site at Glencoe village looked a bit up-market, so we drove on towards Kinlochleven, and stopped at Caolasnacon.  A lovely spot at the narrowest point of Loch Leven, looking across to the hills.  The grass was a bit muddy, the track down rough and rutted, and the facilities a bit basic, but we were won over by the beautiful location and view.  So... tent up!

Next morning, we were up at 8.30am, and drove round through Kinlochleven, then up the narrow road to Mamore Lodge, which looked rather bleak and forlorn.  Paid the parking fee(!), and set off up the track at 10am.  Nice to be starting at 200m above sea level.

view back to Kinlochleven from high on the zig zag path up Na Gruagaichean

Followed the track, then excellent stalkers' path up into Coire na Ba - surrounded by the steep slopes of Am Bodach to the left, Stob Coire a'Chairn ahead, and Na Gruagaichean to the right.  Soon, we struck up to the right on a poorer path, boggy at first, then improving higher up, which doubled back in a huge zig-zag up the western slopes of Na Gruagaichean. 

Am Bodach from the slopes of Na Gruagaichean
The view across the coire to Am Bodach's steep east face was most impressive.

The path ran horizontally for a while, then eventually steepened, and led out onto a windy bealach at 783m.  It didn't feel like August - more like November!

Superb views all around.

Ben Nevis and CMD behind An Gearanach and An Garbhanach
from the upper slopes of Na Gruagaichean
From the bealach we followed a steep path on loose rock and scree to Na Gruagaichean's NW top (12.45).   Along the short narrow windy ridge, we met a large group of Outward Bound students, struggling along with large packs.  

Passing them, we made the short steep 30m descent into the nick between the NW top and the main summit of Na Gruagaichean ("the maidens").

(right) looking back to the NW top from the nick (windy!) between the two summits

The wind was fierce and surprisingly cold on the broad main summit, so we descended towards Binnein Mor, down the east ridge, to find a sheltered spot for lunch (13.05 - 13.25). 

Binnein Mor (and south summit) from Na Gruagaichean's east ridge

A rocky descent led to the bealach at 950m, followed by an easy walk on grassy slopes over the south summit to Binnein Mor (14.30).  

We wobbled our way along Binnein Mor's summit, an arete of giant boulders, for the view down the north ridge to Binnein Beag.  Excellent views across upper Glen Nevis to Ben Nevis, the Aonachs and the Grey Corries.

Anne on the summit of Binnein Mor
Returning to the south summit, we continued south east to Sgor Eilde Beag, the last top of the day. 

(right) Sgurr Eilde Mor above the bizarrely shaped lochan, viewed from Sgor Eilde Beag 

Once again, we appreciated the superb network of engineered stalkers' paths which criss-cross the Mamores.  A series of evenly spaced zig-zags led us down to join the main path below, which led us south west towards Kinlochleven.  

Off the summits, the wind dropped, and the sun came out for the last hour or so as we followed the path, then track, back to the car at Mamore Lodge.

2 Munros + 3 Tops
13km walk
1150m ascent
8 hours