A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Mamores Munros

6-8 October 2018
Guided days on the Mamores range of Munros.. Johnny Walker was leading....

It's a shame that so many walkers hang up their boots as soon as the leaves start to turn and the nights lengthen. OK, the weather can be fickle in autumn, but on a good day the light can be magical, the colours deep and evocative, and the views extensive in the clearer air. Such a day was had on Saturday as we tackled the eastern Mamores of Na Gruagaichean, Binneins Mor and Beag and finally Sgurr Eilde Mor.

Day 1 - Eastern Mamores

The day started with a visit to the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall in Kinlochleven, and then followed the stalker's path up into Coire na Ba and the bealach at 783m where we turned ESE to the first top of Na Gruagaichean, 'the maidens', at 1036m. The main summit is a little further on down a dip and over some easy quartzite scrambling at 1055m. The next summit was Binnein Mor, reached by a high-level promenade over an intermediate top simply named on the OS map at P1062m and then a delightfully narrowing ridge where we greeted a number of other happy walkers soaking in the views - maybe the autumn message is getting out there after all?

After a snack and some photos of our next objective Binnein Beag, nestled as it is behind the massif like a giant rocky jelly mould, we took the unlikely looking ridge N, which after some airy but very easy scrambling leads down to the head of the coire that takes you back eastwards. After bypassing the wee lochan, the team dumped their bags (I always carry never know), and then made a sharp ascent up the rocky path to the summit, where we could see the encroaching showers that always seemed to miss us down one valley or another....grand!

The onward path to Sgurr Eilde Mor loses a depressing amount of height, and the fact you regain it quickly due to the steep ascent after the Allt Coire a'Bhinnein is not always appreciated, and certainly wasn't today! I so often do this hill in winter, so I am not used to seeing all the excellent paths that wind around the area, and in this case on to the West ridge and the summit, but we were most grateful for them, tired as the legs now were. The fast ones cheered and encouraged the last ones to the summit in a great show of team spirit, and we took our last photos before setting off on the indistinct bouldery decent.

Here one of our party, much fitter and faster than the rest revealed that they didn't have a head torch, as 'they had not planned on being out that long'. Of course, on a group walk, we can only move at a pace conducive to the enjoyment and capability of all, and it is still important to bring everything on the kit list. They elected to go ahead, (as they often had all day), but this time extra quickly to avoid darkness. I was not concerned, as I knew this individual was competent, and also was using a GPS – The thing is, they didn't really know the best way down, and as darkness fell, sensibly chose to remain on the longer track rather than the more gnarly path as the rest of us took. Apparently they could see our head torches on our careful and steady decent, but had committed to the more circuitous track down, so had to carry on. I was relieved I must admit when they appeared some 20 minutes after we got back to the cars, as they had been a good hour or so in front!

Anyway, all is well that ends well, and I quote 'a lesson was learned'! What a day. Yes, it was almost 12 hours, but for the vast majority it was conducted stoically with beaming smiles as view after wonderful view came and went, the clouds, sun and rock conspiring by the minute to produce spectacular floods of autumnal colour; you just had to keep alert to catch the change. A real gem of a day, which I believe will stay with us for a long time.

Day 2 - Change of plan

But so will Sunday. For altogether different reasons! Our plan to tackle the Ring of Steall had been thwarted by a forecast of torrential rain and 50-70mph SW wind. What to do in those conditions? Well, a much more bijou team (whittled down as we were by the rigours of the day before and the pessimistic forecast) decided upon a hit-and-run attempt on Stob Ban up and down the lovely (normally) Coire Mhusgain. My word it rained. And then rained some more. And more. And blew a hooly. We set our goals conservatively, and as each one came and went, we realised that with care we were going to make the summit. It was a first real testing mountain day for one of the group, and they dealt with its challenges admirably, even smiling occasionally! ;) These are the type of days best enjoyed in retrospect, in the dry, with a dram in hand and an audience to listen to your blethering tales. I look forward to doing the blethering.

Day 3 - Western Mamores part 2

So one more day to go in the long weekend. The plan had been the Western most munros of Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean, but of course Stob Ban had been done. Once again the forecasts were not favourable. MWIS was giving heavy rain, poor visibility and wind varying from 50mph early on to 80mph later in the day. The others were less fierce, so we chose those! ;) I moved the start time an hour forward, and the stalwart pair of Mike and Emma, (the only takers for the day oddly enough!) and I set off with a certain amount of trepidation from the Lower Falls again. But it was one of those days - OK, we had hee haw views, other than the brooding pinnacles and gullies of Coire Dheirg looming out of the mist, but the wind just held off and held off. Indeed, although it rained, it was a mere spit compared to the torrents of the day before. Even the infamous boggy lower section wasn't that bad. We congratulated ourselves on the summit in probably less than a 15mph breeze....we had made the effort and had been rewarded. We wasted little time at the huge summit cairn though, and wisely so, as the weather came in as we made it back to the car park, and within minutes it was a proper squall. Result!

So a weekend of two halves - The superlative long day on Saturday and the two challenging typically 'Scottish' days on Sunday/Monday. You never know what you're going to get in our mountains, especially as the year wears on, so the adage of 'plan, plan but be flexible' certainly held true. Possibly 'type II' fun at times, but still fun nevertheless. Well done to all for pushing their respective envelopes at times....just think how much character has been built!

More photos by Johnny Walker are here on Flickr.

More photos of the first day by Johnston Orr are here on Flickr.

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© 2018 Steven Fallon