Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Ring of Steall and The Devil's Ridge

Devil's Ridge V
The Devil's Ridge, looking back to the top of Stob Coire a' Mhail. Two walkers descending.

A Devilishly Good Walk...

Munros: #106 - #109
Date: Monday 2nd May 2011
Distance: 17.1km
Time: 8hrs 40mins (lots of sunbathing & general summit loitering)

Time for a big round to coincide with the glorious May weather.

I was a bit apprehensive on a couple of sections. Most of it was OK though. I actually had good company now and again on the way round from the two folks you can spy in some of the pics. The guy was from Glasgow and it turned out I taught his nephew!

Glen Nevis to An Gearanach... 

Parked at the lower falls carpark (£3) and walked the tarmac at the start of the day. I dodged the wire bridge (I hate bridges like that) and the dry spell made the stepping stones useable. The Steall falls was a bit slippy and I imagine a real problem when there's a lot of water in them.

Steall Bridge
Steall Bridge.
Steall Falls
Steall Falls.
After the Steall Falls, a small boggy section soon turns into a brilliantly constructed stalker's path, which gains height rapidly. It surprises with the way in which it effortlessly propels you up some very steep ground with its ingenious design.

Steall from Above
Steall from Above.
Ben Nevis and Steall
Ben Nevis and Steall.
Approaching An Gearanach Summit
Approaching An Gearanach Summit.
An Gearanach Summit
An Gearanach Summit.

An Gearanach to Stob Coire a' Chairn...

The way forward from An Gearanach leads to the top of An Garbhanach. The path stick right to the crest of an impressive ridge for most of the way and then suddenly its poles away as it swings over the left hand side of the ridge and its hands on rock time for 50 foot or so. Very airy, and I found myself using 3 points of contact most of the time. The path then veers back to the crest of the ridge and then descends very steeply down a loose face.

Steall Panorama 1
Ring of Steall from An Gearanach.
Onto An Garbhanach
The Ridge to An Garbhanach.
An Gearanach
An Garbhanach descent.
An Garbhanach Descent
An Garbhanach descent closeup.
The ascent of the next Munro seems almost trivial after the previous one and very shortly I arrived at the summit of Stob Coire a' Chairn. According to my camera data, there was 70 minutes between summit snaps but that doesn't take into account the extensive breaks on each summit I was taking. Definately less than an hour between summits then.

An Gearanach from Stob Coire a' Chairn
An Gearanach from Stob Coire a' Chairn.
Stob Coire a' Chairn Summit
Stob Coire a' Chairn Summit.

Stob Coire a' Chairn to Am Bodach... 

After Stob Coire a' Chairn, there's another descent to the next bealach and then the ascent of Am Bodach is a scramble. Poles away again. A bit loose but good fun. Reminded me of the scramble up the butress on Stuc a' Chroin but seemed to be about twice as long. As well as the summit cairn, there's another cairn to the South East. Well worth a short detour for the views down to Loch Leven.

Am Bodach
Am Bodach from Stob Coire a' Chairn.
Bidean Nam Biam
Bidean Nam Biam and the Aonach Eagach ridge from the summit of Am Bodach.
Loch Leven from Am Bodach
Loch Leven from Am Bodach.
Am Bodach Summit
Am Bodach Summit.

Am Bodach to Sgurr a' Mhaim via the Devil's Ridge...

From Am Bodach, there's two obstacles that stand in your way before you reach the final Munro of the day. The first is the ex-Munro of  Sgurr an lubhair. Sgurr an lubhair was briefly a Munro between 1991 and 1997. Even though it doesn't make the list these days, it still needs crossed..

Steall Panorama 2
Ring of Steall from Am Bodach.
Devil's Ridge from Am Bodach
Devil's Ridge in Profile.
Devil's Ridge from Sgurr an lubhair
Approaching the Devil's Ridge.
Steall Panorama 3
Ring of Steall from Sgurr an lubhair.

The second obstacle is the Devil's ridge. The ascent onto the ridge is off the top of the ridge slightly to the left and very benign until you hit the top of Stob Coire a' Mhail then wallop, you're suddenly onto the top. Narrow, and with a big drop off each side, and its not level - its up and down.

I must admit to getting a touch of Elvis leg for a few seconds when I saw what lay ahead. Down in the dip, there's a huge jumble of rocks which you have to detour round. There's a bypass path to either side. The right hand side looked horrendously exposed and traversed along a narrow path before rejoining the top of the ridge. I took the left-hand detour which was still exposed but there was a narrow chimney which I could face into and regain the ridge quickly.
A brilliant bit of ridge but I wouldn't contemplate it on less that a perfect day - not in the wet or ice or wind. Most of the route is ok but there's some places where I wouldn't to trip over my bootlaces..

Devil's Ridge I
Standing on Stob Coire a' Mhail, the higest point on the Devil's Ridge.

Devil's Ridge II
Close-up of path along Devil's Ridge. The 'interesting' section is bottom centre.
Devil's Ridge IV
Looking forwards along the second half of the Devil's Ridge and Sgurr a' Mhaim beyond.
Devil's Ridge V
Past the exposed section, looking back to the top of Stob Coire a' Mhail. Two walkers descending.
Devil's Ridge VI
End of the ridge. Looking back along the Devil's Ridge from the slopes of Sgurr a' Mhaim.
Steall Panorama 4
Ring of Steall from Sgurr a' Mhaim.
Sgurr a' Mhaim Summit
Sgurr a' Mhaim Summit. Sunstroke on its way!

The final descent off Sgurr a' Mhaim was a killer - it's the full 1,000 metres and steep. I guess the sun finally got to me on that last stretch and the legs were rather rubbery when I got back to the car...

Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis Summit.
North West Ridge of Sgurr a' Mhaim
North-West ridge of Sgurr a' Mhaim
Glen Nevis
Glen Nevis