The Mamores. 10 Munros, 3400m of ascent, 21 miles, 2 wild camps and perfect weather. Narrow ridges, rocky summits and views that stretch for miles under a deep blue sky. Scotland at its very best.
The best trips are often those planned at the last minute. The weather forecast was good, I had a client to visit on the west coast of Scotland and unexpectedly I was offered a childfree weekend. Too good an opportunity to miss, especially with a second lockdown imminent. I could find no accommodation at such short notice so I decided on a backpack of the entire Mamores ridge.
Friday night saw me in Kinlochleven with just enough time to walk up to Lochain Eilde Mor before nightfall. I put up my tent in the light of my head torch and watched the stars come out above the dark shadow of Sgurr Eilde Mor, no wind, no rain, just the sound of the stream to send me to sleep.
An early start the next day as I had a long way to go. As I got out of my tent at 6.30am I was startled by a barking above me. I looked up and there was a herd of deer watching my every move. They ran off across the hillside but throughout the day I could hear various herds in the glens below me.
I was on top of Sgurr Eilde Mor by 7.30am and watched the sun rise above a layer of cloud sitting in the valleys. The highest Glencoe hills stuck their heads out above the clouds and to the north I could see Ben Nevis and my next destination, Binnean Beag. One Munro done, nine to go.
I had decided to walk from east to west for many reasons, although everyone else seemed to be doing it in the opposite direction. Firstly, it was a north easterly wind and I prefer the wind behind me. The views would be better looking west towards the sea and also there were two outlying Munros that I was going to do first. I knew that if I left them until last I would not have the motivation to do them and I would curse myself in 20 years time when I was trying to finish the Munros 😀.
Binnean Beag was soon climbed and then I turned my attention to Binnean Mor. This was the highest of the 10 Munros and the start of the main ridge. The main route goes up the north ridge but this looked like hard work and the east ridge looked better from my vantage point on Binnean Beag. By now it was a glorious day, with a hot sun shining from a deep blue sky and I could see for miles. So I went up the east ridge, easy scrambling over rough ground with no path. Nothing too technical and I was at the summit for 11am where I met the first people I had seen all day.
From Binnean Mor I could see the whole of the Mamores ridge opening up in front of me beneath a deep blue sky. To the north was Ben Nevis with its north face coming into view. To the south was the jagged Aonach Eagach ridge and the mountains of Glencoe. To the west was the sea.
On I continued. Over Na Gruagaichean, my 4th Munro, with its loose and tricky descent to a small col on the far side and reascent to a subsidiary summit. Then a long descent down to a col. Here I traversed north to find water which was in short supply on the ridge and I needed to top up. I had already drunk 3 litres of chlorine treated stream water that morning and I couldn’t stomach anymore, so I got my stove out and had a cup of tea and lunch. I’d bought myself a new stove since last week’s trip, a new MSR Pocket Rocket with its own tiny pan, just big enough for one person and I was pleased with it. No more accidents involving stoves.
I left my rucksack at the col before An Gearanach and scrambled along the rocky ridge to the Munro. This was the only bit of real scrambling I did in the 2 days and it wasn’t hard. Without my heavy rucksack I felt like I was floating. Then back to the col and weighed down once more I climbed up to Stob Coire A Chearn, my 6th Munro.
I hadn’t felt particularly tired so far, but the next Munro, Am Bodach, was hard work. It was steep, rocky and loose and I needed a rest at the top, but the end was in sight. I left my rucksack on the col after Sgurr an Lubhair and started out along the Devils Ridge. This was a narrow grassy ridge, nothing too technical but very exposed. I reached Sgurr a Mhaim, the 8th and last Munro of the day, then turned round and retraced my steps along the ridge to my rucksack. All that remained was to drop down to the Lochan where I was planning on spending the night. I reached camp at 5.30pm after 10 hours of walking and 2200m of ascent.
It was another clear, starry night. I could see the milky way above the dark shadows of the mountains and below were the lights of Fort William. Part of me wished I was down there with a beer, a shower and someone to talk to. I did have some whisky to enjoy though, some Dalwhinnie that a kind client had given me earlier in the week. One of the best I have tasted for a long time.
I was woken at 3am by the sound of voices in the dark. Footsteps walked past and someone said “We’re still going at 4km per hour”, then all was quiet again. I tried to figure out why someone would doing the ridge at 3am. At 4 km per hour they would be finished by lunchtime which seemed a complete waste of daylight hours. I slept again until dawn.
Next morning was clear and dry with a beautiful cloud inversion over Glen Nevis. I only had 2 Munros and 450m of ascent to do today and I was feeling remarkably fit after the previous day. The path up Stob Ban was steep over huge quartzite blocks but the view from the top was magnificent with Ben Nevis appearing over the tops of the clouds. A truly great weekend to be in the hills.
The character of the ridge changed completely after Stob Ban with grey quartzite giving way to rounded hills of pink granite. The last few miles along the broad ridge to Mullach Nan Coirean passed too quickly and soon I was on the 10th and last Munro.
I descended to the south over rough, pathless ground, mainly grass and heather, with views over to Loch Linnhe, until I reached the West Highland Way far below. Here I lay on the grass for a while in the morning sun, listening to the stream and the gentle wind, looking at the mountains and the blue sky. There are some moments in life that I wish I could bottle and keep for ever. This was one of them. I slept for a while and then continued down to Kinlochleven.
Copyright of all text and photos, Jane Ascroft 2020