I find it useful to book accommodation for my first night as it guarantees a good start to the walk, I stayed at the Cruachan Hotel at around £100 a night with breakfast. The campsite in Glen Nevis was an alternative but the weather hadn’t improved as yet and it was getting dark around 7pm. Without the days exertion to put me to sleep early a hotel just seemed the best option.
I arrived in the town at about 4.30pm, and nipped to Morrisons for a few extra additions to my fresh food stock before checking into the hotel. Parking was a challenge and the Covid measures stripped the public areas of any relaxing vibe they might have had, though my room was nice, having just recently been refurbished. I ate in the bar area from the adequate if uninspiring menu and learned that Fort William was full, I’d been lucky to find a vacancy apparently.
The next morning, after misunderstanding the breakfast menu and ending up with only half a meal I repacked my pack and drove to the first carpark in Glen Nevis, a few miles short of the ‘final carpark’, the one by Polldubh Cottages. Feeling very guilty because I didn’t have any cash for the ticket machine, I read my guidebook one more time and headed for the forest track. Payment at the carpark is optional but they recommend £4 for a day, I’m used to machines with debit card options which explains why I didn’t pay, I shuffled off hoping no-one would realise the car would be parked for three days.
I cursed the weather for a while as I ascended through the woods, the report that had nudged me Northwards had changed from ‘great’ to ‘can’t see a damn thing’ overnight, my only consolation was that there was still no rain to speak of and the weather from tomorrow onward was still looking ‘great’. With visibility severely limited above 600m I was resigned to bagging tops without views.
The track stopped abruptly before a steep watery gorge and I thought I could make out the expected footpath continuing up its left-hand side. It was overgrown, steep and slippery in places causing me to doubt that it was a path at all. I retraced my steps back to the track and hunted for the path that I must surely have missed. I didn’t find it so had another go at the imaginary one I thought I could see.
When it became untenable, I decided it was pointless going back again to the track, I could see that on higher ground it was more open, with less foliage to get in the way. I turned ninety degrees left and climbed out of the gorge with some difficulty, once out I took a rough bearing of the summit of Mullach nan Coirean and continued upwards. After ten minutes or so I came across the real path, I had obviously missed its start but was thankful to be finally on it – it would help me find the summit in the mist.
I was passed by another hiker who disappeared into the mist ahead of me with disturbing ease, I played the ‘age card’ in my head, and his daypack versus my backpack – albeit an ultralight one. I met him again on the summit and we moaned about the lack of views. It was nevertheless satisfying to be on the first Munro after just over two hours, it was 10.15am and most of the day was still ahead.
I weighed my pack before leaving the car – with everything, guidebook, camera, water and food for 4 days it came to 26 and a half pounds (around 12kg), a weight that wouldn’t slow me down.
I took a precautionary bearing as I left the summit cairn, it’s all too easy to lose a path when it tracks over rocky ground and visibility is poor. On route to Stob Ban the visibility remained poor, but I found my way without a problem arriving just before 12. I paused on the summit for a chocolate bar and a drink before following in the direction two runners had taken earlier, the path was clear and distinct but after a few minutes they reappeared coming towards me, the path to Sgurr a Mhiam starts down the main path but quickly cuts down to the left, with just a few yards visibility we had all missed it and I was reminded not to blindly follow other people, and not to blindly follow a path!
The next section drops down to a small tarn, it was raining now so I had put my waterproof jacket and over-trousers on, it wasn’t bad but it was definitely wet. At the tarn I stopped for lunch because I was getting hungry, it was a gloomy experience which I kept short. After the tarn the path ascends steeply to a ‘cross road’ of paths, to the right was Sgorr an Lubhair, previously classified a Munro it no longer made the grade, my guidebook suggested going up it anyway to get the views, I would do this on the way to Am Bodach, but for now I turned left and headed over the ‘Devil’s Ridge’ to the summit of Sgurr a Mhaim.
I found the traverse to be quite tough with some short exposed sections, it had the feeling of sheer drops on either side even if I couldn’t appreciate the reality because of the cloud. It took me till 2.15 to get to the summit, where the only thing to do was turn back. I reached the ‘cross roads’ again and considered camping – there was flat ground and a deep pool of water, the trouble was it was only 3pm, too early to stop. Knowing I would be camping high whatever happened water would always be a consideration, I therefore filtered 3 litres from the pool so that from now on I could stop and camp anywhere and have enough water to get me through.
I took a bearing again and climbed to the summit of Sgorr an Lubhair then headed for the broad ridge linking me to Am Bodach. Just as I left the summit the clouds parted exposing some great views across the valley to Stob Coire na h Eirghe. A yellow jacket headed towards me just as the clouds cleared, I exchanged photographs with its owner. The views were good and although tired it seemed I was rewarded for sticking with it throughout the day.
The ascent to the summit of Am Bodach was straightforward although the cloud was back, I reached it a little before 4.30pm. I was now resolved to finding a camp spot and as I descended to the saddle with Stob Coire a Chairn I could see an area of relatively flat ground to its left-hand side, there was no water but I had my three litres.
The cloud was blanketing the summits but the saddle was under it and I could see down into the valley. The best piece of ground I could find wasn’t quite level but I would make do, I pitched the tent just after 5pm satisfied at climbing four Munros.
The evening and night passed without incident, the weather alternated between pretty gusty with rain and still without, the wind died down during the night – either that or I was asleep. There was still plenty of cloud about at first light but also significant breaks presenting wide ranging views. The threatened midges hadn’t materialised.
After a hearty breakfast and a much-appreciated coffee I packed up and was walking by 8am, just 40 minutes later I was on top of the next Munro, Stob Coire a Chairn. I turned my phone on and got a weather forecast which still said ‘great’ for the next few days.
If I’d wanted to complete all the Munros on the ridge I’d now tackle An Gearanach which is a side shoot from the main ridge like Sgurr a Mhaim the previous day, however I had been over this one a few years previous when bad weather had forced me off the main ridge – I went over An Gearanach and continued down the dodgy path into the safety of Glen Nevis.
No need to do that again – the weather was brightening up and I was getting some great views of Loch Leven especially as I made my way along the ridge to Na Gruagaichean, which I reached at 10.15am. I stopped for a drink and a few snacks, I took a lot of photos, I could see the full length of Loch Leven and ahead to Binnean Mor. I could also see a few people making their way up, they must have set off from Kinlochmore this morning, a photographer was making his way towards me and we exchanged our routes for the day.
The ridge from Na Gruagaichean drops then rises to a secondary top half-way to Binnean Mor, another ridge then links you to the rocky summit. It’s a bit of a pointed summit made up of large boulders, not a great place to linger. The guidebook describes the route to the summit from the other direction i.e. it describes my descent route as if you were coming up it. It’s a steep rocky ridgeline that ‘looks worse than it is’ and involves a bit of scrambling and route finding.
I inched out over the top of the ridge to take a look, but it falls away so steeply that I could only see fresh air, it would be difficult for me to find the correct route down and I bottled out. Looking around the summit I saw that I could lose some height by dropping North and it looked like a reasonable descent following a grassy route just below the rocks that formed the ridge line. I chose this as my way down, though I can’t say it was easy, it was very steep and slippery in places so it was an uncomfortable experience.
I was funnelled by the terrain into a steep gorge which was a difficult section, then after this I cut left onto a grassy slope, this was steep too and very slippery. After a tumble or two I cut back right and crossed an unstable boulder field in order to gain a large flat area about half way down the ridge.
When I finally reached this I looked back up the correct route, a pair of hikers were picking their way up, I could see that the route was OK but I could also see that it may have been a difficult downclimb, especially as there was a slab to the right side of the face which ended in a serious drop – if I had wandered onto that I may have been in trouble.
After a further pathless descent of a steep mix of grass and rocks I reached the lochan at the base of Binnean Beag and ate some lunch, cheese and crackers followed by a chocolate cereal bar, nuts and dried fruit. I also had a large mug of coffee – I was desperate. There were quite a few hikers going to the summit, I left my pack behind a rock and followed them, the ascent was quite easy and with now clear blue skies the views were amazing. A small group were taking pictures of each other with Ben Nevis in the background, I muscled in and got mine taken too.
By the time I returned to my pack I was in a better mood, the crux of the day had been the dirty descent from Binnean Mor, but now I had four more Munros to my name and an easy traversing route to Coire an Lochan and the next one. It was about 3pm.
I arrived at the lochans after an hour, my pre-planned route called for a climb of Sgurr Eilde Mor followed by a long descent to Loch Eilde Mor to camp. The coire was such a good camping spot that I decided I would stay the night, I dropped my pack and hiked up to the summit of the last Munro without it, (the views were fantastic) before retracing my steps back.
As I approached the coire I noticed a tent sized shelf adjacent to the path and decided it was a better place to camp than the coire floor, I retrieved my pack and pump filtered 3 litres of water before climbing again to the ledge I’d spotted. Camping here would keep me in the evening sun longer and there was less likelihood of midges, it was close to the path, but since it was now well after 5pm I didn’t anticipate seeing many hikers – which turned out to be the case.
Dawn revealed another beautiful day, I left camp at 07.50am and instead of following my original route down to the loch I contoured in a North Easterly direction which was the shortest distance to the floor of Glen Nevis. I swung to the right as soon as I could because I was heading for Stob Ban on the other side of the glen, this was unfinished business from a few years ago when I’d completed the full ridge from Ben Nevis through to the Grey Corries and Stob Coire an Laoigh, but I had left out the ascent of Stob Ban because I hadn’t realised it was a Munro.
Without a path to follow the going was soggy and steep in places but I eventually reached the river at 10.15am, it was just about knee deep, I crossed it in bare feet as I hadn’t brought any river crossing footwear.
My next move was a mistake, I plotted a course that intersected a path that runs along the valley to the right of Stob Ban, my idea was to use this to gain some distance quickly then strike for the summit when I was adjacent to it. This turned out to be longer than expected and seemed to be going on forever, eventually I judged my position and turned left, climbing steeply up the side of the mountain and eventually intersecting the summit path coming from the North East.
I now think a faster option would have been to simply climb the front of Meall a Bhuirich then follow the ridge line to the summit of Stob Ban.
Anyhow, I eventually reached the top at 1.30, 3 hours from the river crossing. I ate some lunch and contemplated my next move. I hadn’t really planned a route for the next stage but vaguely thought I’d head East, pick up two further summits this side of Loch Trieg and then skirt the Southern tip of the loch which would give me access to another three Munros on the other side of the glen.
I now factored in how long it had taken me to get to Stob Ban and realised that I couldn’t travel very far East on foot as this was taking me too far from where the car was parked, and even getting to the two nearest Easterly Munros looked like a full day. I was already about 8 miles from of the car park, and could leave myself with more than a day just to get back.
I decided my best option was to head back to the car, and Fort William today, stay overnight then use the car to relocate East to the car park just before Fersit, from where I could see a two-day route that would take in all five Munros I’d had my eye on.
I descended from the summit and picked my way down the valley following Allt Coire Rath, again this was probably a mistake, I chose this route because there was a definite path down from the summit and I’d done it previously, remembering it was OK, but a faster exit would have been to follow the ridge to the end at Meall a Bhuirich then pick my way down the steep end section.
Either route off the mountain brings you onto a wide flat area from which the Waters of Nevis sprout, its very boggy and slow going, there’s a path but its indistinct in places and seemingly not maintained at all, consequently its marshy in places and hardly a path at all.
As I moved down the glen the path gradually improved, to the point where I could make good time, which was just as well because time wasn’t on my side. I passed the campsite near the Steall Hut and contemplated staying there but the pull of some decent accommodation was too much and I carried on to the carpark, which I reached at ten minutes before seven, it had been an eleven-hour day.
Not that it was over just yet, I drove into Fort William back to the hotel I had used previously, but it was full. The main road into Fort William is jam packed with B&Bs and hotels, I drove the full length of it and every one was showing No Vacancies. I drove into town, which was the same story, finally I drove out on the A82 and found a hotel with a vacant room, I’d call it ‘mid-range’ but the room they gave me had just been refurbished, it was small but had everything I needed.
After a frankly poor breakfast I checked out and went to Morrisons to restock my fresh food. I then drove to the Fersit carpark, which was busy, but I got the last spot. It was another great weather day and I joined a number of other hikers on the path to Stob a Choire Mheadhoin.
The route up is straightforward with little route finding required, I reached the summit at 12 noon and stood for a few moments drinking in the views, it was very blustery. The next Munro of the day, Stob Coire Easain is visible and only half an hour from the first summit, most hikers will retrace their route back to the carpark after the second summit, but I would be heading down the South East ridge and descending into the Lairig Leacachm before following it to the southern tip of Loch Treig. I could see the route off, it looked like a narrow ridge from my vantage point.
By 12.30 I was on the summit of Stob Coire Easain and took a bearing of the ridge I intended to follow, I could see now that it wasn’t a narrow ridge at all, despite the left edge being a cliff the right side was broad and gently sloping, cheered by this I set off enthusiastically, the day was bright but the wind was strong.
Most of the ridge was great, a fantastic walk, I could see a track from time to time which gave me confidence that there was a route off the end of it down to into the valley. Towards the end the ground steepened and without a path at this point the best route down wasn’t obvious. I plumped for a way down on the left, which was the way I wanted to go anyway, but I had to change direction a number of times to avoid rocky outcrops and a tough looking ravine.
Eventually, I reached the bottom and sat slightly up the valley side, by a stream for lunch. I felt really good, there was no indication of a route off Easain but I had correctly assessed it as ‘do-able’ from my map – and then did it, which got me motivated for the next section.
By contrast the walk to Loch Treig was harder than expected, I was still descending but the path petered out and there were a few very steep sections to negotiate, I basically went round them but not without a few false starts.
When you reach Loch Treig there’s a derelict house and some walled fields, there were two tents already pitched, one looked deserted and was a basecamp type, the other was a backpacking model (Hilleberg Akto) belonging to a guy who was lying out in the sunshine. There’s a big inlet river to get across, which looked OK for fording but my map showed a foot bridge behind the house, I asked the backpacker how I could get to it and it turned out I needed to hike back for 1/4mile to a footbridge that would get me to the building, then go behind it to find the main footbridge over the inlet.
It was easy enough and I carried on along the estate track that was signposted the East Highland Way. I was heading for Beinn na Lap and followed the track until I could see Corrour railway station in the distance, it was possible to camp next to the track somewhere but it certainly wasn’t pleasant, so, despite it getting late I headed for the summit. My map showed a tiny tarn just below the summit and a larger tarn about 45 minutes further on.
Without a path the going was quite heavy but I plodded on until I gained a broad ridge and found the path to the summit used by hikers coming from Corrour. From the vantage point of where I’d left the estate track there’s a cairn on the skyline, which looks fairly close – well, this isn’t the summit – in fact its not even close.
I eventually reached the summit at seven minutes past six, it was another nine-hour day. The tarn was pretty marginal, the wind was blowing and there was no cover, there was still the option of going on, on the plus side it meant a descent (and so out of the wind) and it looked like a bigger tarn on the map. On the minus side it was already late. I decided to stay where I was, just below the summit of Beinn na Lap, I walked around the tarn and selected a spot in a slight depression which was the best option against the wind.
The wind dropped later in the evening anyway, and the sunset was fabulous.
Today started like yesterday ended, with brilliant sunshine and a bit of wind. The next section required a cross country hike to Chno Dearg, involving a descent to the valley floor and steep ascent up the other side. I passed the second tarn on the way down and realised I’d made the right choice camping on the summit, it had much less water in it even though it was shown as bigger on the map, this was because great sections around the perimeter were dried up. Although dried on the surface they may not have held my weight, making getting to the water a real adventure. Even though I use a filter I still don’t like taking it from marginal sources.
I reached the stream at 9.30, about one and a half hours after leaving camp, it was easy to cross. A direct ascent of Chno Dearg was out of the question as it would take you up cliffs and rocky outcrops so I headed due North which would allow me to gain height gradually then reach the top of a ridge about half way to the summit.
The going was OK, but there was one bit where I found myself exposed on a rocky outcrop where the scrambling was getting harder the higher I went so I ended up retracing my steps and found an easier route that bypassed the steep sections.
The last bit was a bit of a slog but I made the summit at around ten past eleven, the wind was blowing hard but the views were spectacular. I managed to eat a chocolate bar and a few crackers but the wind took away the fun.
The route to Stob Coire Sgriodain comprised a short descent followed by a longer ascent which seemed to take ages, but I reached the summit at 12.30. The views of Loch Treig from here were superb, but I didn’t linger, I was keen to finish.
The path from the summit traces the edge of cliffs that dominate the valley above Loch Treig giving the hiker amazing views of the loch below. The initial sections of path are easy to follow but there were times on the descent that I lost the path completely only to find it again much further on. It’s also a long descent, it took me about two and a half hours, the lower sections are pretty boggy and not in the least bit pleasant – or perhaps I was just tired.
I reached the car at 3pm, after five days hiking and 15 Munro summits bagged