Date: Friday 3rd June to Saturday 4th June 2011
Start: Layby near bottom of Devil’s Stairacse
Weather: Started sunny but clouded over later on
Distance: 28 km
Time taken: 7 Hours 30 Mins
Ascent: 1316 metres
Accompanied by: No One
Munro: Meall Dearg (953 metres)
Munro: Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (967 metres)
Munro Top: Am Bodach (942 metres)
Munro Top: Stob Coire Leith (940 metres)
HUMP: A’Chailleach (903 metres)
Corbett Top (Of Munro): Sron Gharbh (873 metres)
Corbett Top (Of Munro): Aonach Eagach Central Top (870 metres)
Graham Top (Of Munro): Stob Mhic Mhartuin (707 metres)
ith decent weather all week and my Munro count on ’99 not out’, it was time to address this matter and hit the magic 100 and then move on. I had always wanted my century to be something special but recent opportunities in Kintail and the Grey Corries had proved fruitless. With the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon close on the horizon and the high probability of checkpoint or two on a Munro I did not want my 100th to be some conquered in the wind and rain without any time to enjoy the feat. (It turned out that if I had waited until the LAMM then my 100th Munro would have been the magnificent Beinn Dearg, climbed in brilliant sunshine with amazing views over to Stac Pollaidh and beyond). It was a ‘toss up’ between Ben Lui and the Aonach Eagach Ridge and after a little deliberation, I settled on the Aonach Eagach Ridge, mainly for the fact that it would give me the opportunity to Recee this section of the Glencoe Round that I planned to attempt, later on this summer or next year (Click HERE for the report of my Glencoe Round attempt). My plan of attack was to drive up to Glencoe early Friday afternoon and park up somewhere near the West Highland Way at the bottom of the Devil’s Staircase. This would enable me to pick up the ridge and take in the Graham top Of Munro, Stob Mhic Mhartuin and the two Corbett top of Munro’s, A’ Chailleach and Sron Gharbh before meeting up with the conventional ascent path that heads up to the Munro Top, Am Bodach.
It was blue skies all the way as I drove up through Callendar and Crianlarich. I dumped the car on a track opposite the Devil’s Staircase and set off up the path towards the bealach between Stob Mhic Mhartuin and Beinn Bheag. Although I was running this route (well as much as I could) and I had travelled light, freeze dried food etc. But I was carrying 2 litres of water in my CamelBak and four 500ml bottles full of additional water. I had no balloons remaining for my balloon bed so I had squeezed my therm-a-rest in the pack as well. Consequently, it weighed significantly more than usual, but it was still ok to run with.
I headed up the Devil’s Staircase, passing a couple of weary ‘West Highlander Wayers’ then cut off from the main path and followed a surprisingly decent ‘trod’ up towards Stob Mhic Mhartuin. At 707 metres it is classified as a ‘Graham Top of Munro’. The view from the top was amazing, especially looking over to the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor to the south-east. My next peak was the 903 metres Corbett Top of Munro, A’ Chailleach. I dropped off the top and ran across ‘boggy’ ground, followed a faint ‘trod’. After 800 metres the terrain steepened and I was forced to revert back to a hike. The terrain was tough but soon enough I was on the ridge.
I took a couple of photos then set off running up towards A’ Chailleach. The going was excellent and I was able to make great progress and within fifteen minutes I had ‘topped out’ and was heading down and around the cliff edge then up 100 metres or so to the summit of Sron Garbh. I really enjoy the subsidiary tops, you do not often see anyone on them and a lot of them are better than their parent peaks. Sron Garbh did not disappoint. With amazing air clarity, the views were equally amazing both north towards the Mamores and south over the Three Sisters. But the best view was west and the amazing Aonach Eagach. You could see the jagged ridge line stretching off into the distance and I was ‘chomping at the bit’ to get up there.
Unfortunately, whilst the skies were clear to the north, east and south, cloud was ominously beginning to build up to the west. I knew that once I was on the ridge, I would be committed and with the time at 18:43 I did not want to get caught out if the weather turned or it went dark before I had time to traverse to the end. I decided to push on regardless. If necessary I would do a bivi on the ridge or one of the summits. I ran down from Sron Gharbh and trotted up towards the summit of Am Bodach and then over the top.
I looked over to the rock pinnacle, The Chancellor. I knew this was a popular photo point but it hardly seemed worth climbing it if I had no one to take a picture of me. It could wait until another time so I headed along the ridge towards the first ‘tricky’ section; a sloping, slabby cliff. Although it was pretty steep, it was not awkward although this would have been a different matter in the rain. I pushed on along the ridge, over a couple of minor scrambling sections then headed up to the summit of Meall Dearg, my 100th Munro. Famous for being the last Munro climbed by Reverand A.E. Roberston when he became the first person to complete all the Munro’s in 1901, he supposedly kissed then cairn and then his wife. Well Emma was not with me but it was my century so I kissed the cairn regardless.
Well was the 100th all that it lived up to be? In all honesty, it was a bit of an anti-climax. The cloud that had been threatening for the last 30 minutes has finally shrouded the summit so I did not even get the amazing views I had planned. I sat down and grabbed some food and chilled out for a while. It had a real feeling of solitude up on the summit and at this time of the day, it was highly unlikely I was going to meet anyone else. I spent a good 20 minutes on the summit and just as I was about to leave, the cloud began to break up. It did not lift entirely but swirled around the ridge. It was a surreal experience and I could have sat there forever but there was still a good section of the ridge remaining, another Munro to climb and then a camping location to find so I decided to push on.
With my 100th out of the way I looked across to the ridge ahead – a series of jagged inclines. I had read about this section, a series of climbs that must be ascended and descended, cumulating in a tricky section entitled the ‘Crazy Pinnacles’. I headed across and although there were times that required a little concentration and some ‘hand on rock’, the reality did not live up to the reputation, even on the downclimb towards the end. But it was great fun none the less. Once this was out of the way, it was plain sailing to the summit of Stob Coire Leith and then Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, the second Munro. I even got to run! The cloud was shrouding the summit top so there was no point in hanging around so after a quick photograph of the broken summit stone I followed the path west off the summit top. I was aware that the path down the Chlacaig Gully to the inn was eroded and dangerous so I pushed further west and headed down a gully further west. Although it was steep in parts, there were no issues and I was able to descend quickly to about 400 metres where I came out of the cloud and was rewarded with an amazing sunset over Loch Leven.
Although it was getting close to 21:30, there was still plenty of light left in the day but I was eager to get camped up and settle down for the evening. I contoured around the hillside for a kilometre and found a great piece of flat ground near a stream, overlooking the Glencoe village and Loch Leven. I got the tent set up, the stove on for a brew and settled down to listen to the brilliant audiobook, ‘I’m here to win’ by Chris McCormack.
It did not seem to get dark for ages and no sooner had I fallen asleep then it was morning again. I had considered tackling the Bidean nam Bian section of the round first thing but I felt shattered when I woke up and grey skies gave me just the excuse I needed to abandon this idea. There was still the matter of 13km’s to tackle back up Glencoe to my car though, so I shoved some porridge down my neck and packed up. The run back up the glen was pretty uneventful and a couple of hours later, I was back in my car and heading south back home.