Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Highlands trip day 4: Ring of Steall, Mamores

Today's plan is to do the "Ring of Steall", or at least a good part of it. We park at the lot at the Lower Glen Falls and then follow the (nice, following the river) trail up the glen a ways before rejoining the road for the last bit to the Upper Glen Falls lot. From here it's a really nice path through woods and the Nevis Gorge that opens dramatically onto a hanging valley with the dramatic Steall Falls at the end. Wow! The trail takes us across the meadow then off to the right to a river crossing with a great wire bridge. We, of course, both opt for this rather than taking our shoes off. We aren't bold enough to do it together, but alone it is entertaining enough. :-) Once across the river the trail leads us across some boggy ground (bit of forest tramping here to avoid it) before getting to the foot of the shoulder that will lead us up to the first peak of the day, the An Gearanach (982m). Before heading up we take a short break to clear up space on the memory card (oops), have a small snack, and enjoy the views.
The first part of the trail up isn't particularly pleasant: lots of tight switchbacks and quartzite gravel in the trailbed that squeaks unpleasantly when walked on. Still, the views are nice. As we go higher things improve: the switchbacks stretch out and the footing becomes more normal. After crossing under the peak's buttress we come out on another shoulder and into some decent-to-heavy wind. We find a reasonably wind-sheltered spot for another short food break with a view, put on hard shells and gloves, and then continue up the last 150m to the peak. Boy is it windy!
Up top the wind drops off a bit, but we still don't do much of a break aside from the requisite one to appreciate the views. From here we have a great overview of the entire "Ring of Steall" around the Allt Coire a'Mhail valley. Very nice! We continue along the ridge, which narrows down some and has some light scrambling, head over the next peak (An Garbhanach, 975m), down into a saddle on a steep path, up to Stob Coire a'Chairn (981m), down into saddle, up to Am Bodach (1032m), take another food break out of the wind, down into another saddle, then up to Sgùrr an lubhair (1001m). We are amazingly alone up here: we've seen a total of two other people since coming up on to the ridge. What a difference to the day before! On Sgùrr an lubhair we decide that continuing to the last peak of the ring (Sgùrr a'Mhaim) isn't necessary, so we head back down the southerly ridge to a saddle. Turning right takes us down, down, down through the lovely valley Allt Coire a'Mhusgain (very, very reminiscent of Switzerland, though you'd be 1500m higher there) that ends at the Lower Glen Falls parking lot where we are parked.

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