Monday, May 07, 2018

191-197. Binnean Mor (27), Na Gruagaichean (74), Stob Choire a'Cairn (171), An Gearanach (166), Am Bodach (99), Sgurr a'Mhaim (51), Stob Ban (140). 30/04/2018.

An early start when you're packing up camp is never quite as early as you hope with tents to stuff in packs and porridge to eat, but we were away around 8am. We had shared the plateau with a photographer who camped in the distance and was up taking shots of the stunning dawn - I wouldn't be surprised if some appear in a calendar next year!

We found some delicious snow-melt water from a stream as we left the plateau and we looked forward to a day on the ridge. Our route went a little wrong immediately as we tried to contour around a snowfield on the way up the nose of Binnean Mor's subsidiary peak. This turned quite steep and clingy, but we got around it to find a nice path up the other side(!). From there it was a simple climb to the top. We were able to leave our packs on another top before the climbing the last sweeping ridge to our highpoint of the day (9.50am). Completely still, not a cloud to be seen and with Ben Nevis only a few miles away, the views were spectacular.

The sun was beginning to warm us as we made our way to Na Gruagaichean, but not more than a few degrees above freezing, which made for perfect walking conditions. The snow underfoot also remained firm until the afternoon, which was a bonus. We reached this summit (10.30am) barely half an hour after leaving Binnean Mor and were met by more great views to the south of Glen Coe and beyond. We reckoned there would be 100+ munros in sight and I tried to count, but got a little confused by what was what in the Ben Lawers area and gave up.

There was a great little scramble to the narrow west top before descending quite a long way on the ridge to the somewhat lower Stob Choire a'Cairn. Being slightly dwarfed by it's neighbours and at the heart of the ridge, it is one of those peaks with a beautiful panorama. Another great opportunity to leave the packs ensued and we enjoyed the scrambly climb over to An Gearanach (12.25pm). The way was clear of snow, so it was technically easy, but scrambly bits are always fun.

Back to our bags for lunch and we met the first other people of the day, up from Kinlochleven. It was on the walk over to Am Bodach that I noticed my ascent slowing due to the weight of the pack, but thankfully this was the last major chunk with it. There was also quite a lot of iffy snow here on the northern slopes, so it probably constituted the most difficult section of the ridge, albeit still quite manageable. We reached the top around 2.15pm and the views were splendid (as was becoming a theme). We met another party as we descended the west flank and by now were realising that time may be against us for completing all 10 of the munros in this outing, but we didn't need to decide yet.

Another chance to relieve ourselves of packs presented itself just before the 'devil's ridge' on the way to Sgurr a'Mhaim, which was another enjoyable scramble. Again quite easy, but with a good bit of exposure thrown in to make it interesting. The top was reached shortly after 4pm and we decided to just do the one more munro in order to have any chance of finding food later in the evening. Our weary limbs didn't complain at this decision, so we returned along devil's ridge to the final bealach and even got a chance to fill up our bottles along the way from the outflow of a thawing lochan.

A large group of Germans were camping at the bealach who had been exploring the hills over the last few days. The final ascent to Stob Ban was pretty steep, but not as tiring without packs. We were there around 5.30pm and inhaled the vista one more time before tramping all the way down to Polldubh car park, which we reached at 7.15pm. 11 hours, 32km and 1800m of ascent (567 floors, according to my phone).

 Dawn from the campsite. Spot the other tent!

South from BM to NG and Glen Coe beyond

 Wall-to-wall awesome

 The ridge back from AG to SC a'C and AB

 The ever present Ben from NG

 A moment for contemplation after the Devil's Ridge


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