few weeks back, I had arranged to do an overnighter in the Grey Corries with Kev. The plan was to nail two Corbetts and four Munros. I was expecting to have surpassed the Munro century mark on the Kintail trip previously but due to lousy weather, I had abandoned the North Glen Shiel Ridge and I was sitting on 95 peaks. Four Munros in the Grey Corries would put me on 99. Nothing wrong with that but with an awesome weather forecast and an amazing location, it would be a shame not to hit that magic mark. I weighed up the options. Is there any way I could get my count up by one peak? I was not meeting Kev until early afternoon so I could nail a nearby peak before meeting up. Another option would be to extend the walk and take in and additional peak. I dismissed the first thought. With a tough days walking ahead, running over the top of a Munro beforehand, may not be the best of ideas so maybe I could add another peak into the mix?
Stob Coire Easain was close by and could be an option so maybe I could squeeze that in as well. With no early morning peak to climb I could have lie and set off to Tyndrum late morning where I was meeting up with Kev. The weather was amazing with little cloud, blue skies, sunshine and amazing air clarity. We jumped into Kev’s car and headed northwards towards Spean Bridge and then up the track from Corriechoille where we parked close to where the dismantled tramway intersects the main track.
We kitted up and set off up the path towards our first peak. After a couple of minutes walking we came face to face with the ‘Wee Minister’. Apparently, a stone statue used to stand here dating back from the 1900’s and was said to bring climbers and walkers good luck. The stone statue was destroyed in the 1970’s but a wooden sculpture replica was erected in May 2010. The statue is pretty realistic and from a distance I thought for a moment that it was an actual person standing there! After a couple of photographs we continued up the path towards our first target of the day, Cruach Innse. With a height of 857 metres, Cruach Innse would be the first of two Corbetts we were going to climb. There was no obvious path up the mountain so there was no other option but to slog it straight up the side. With the sun beating down and heavy packs on our backs it was a tough climb and I was glad to reach the top.
The Corbetts – Sgurr Innse and Cruach Innse
The views were amazing. The rocky peak of our next mountain, Sgurr Innse looked a dwarf compared to the massive hulk of Stob Coire Easain behind it. To the south-west was the Munro, Stob Ban, our intended camping location for the evening. After a brief pit-stop we followed the path off the top and headed down towards the bealach at about 590 metres and then up to the summit of Sgurr Innse. The summit looked rocky and steep but it was not too difficult to negotiate a route to the top. Once on the summit, we had a big decision to make. Do we take in Stob Coire Easain or not?
As much as I was really keen to hit the 100 on this trip, a climb up to Stob Coire Easain would mean another 600 metres of ascent and then there was also Stob a’Choire Mheadhoin to consider. Located immediately next to Stob Coire Easain there did not seem any point in climbing one without the other. It was already 17.26 and although I felt ‘fresh’ enough to tackle both these peaks, it would have potentially meant a traverse of Stob Ban in the dark. After a quick deliberation, we decided to stick to our original plan and head up to Stob Ban.
We headed down from the summit, taking a line straight to the bothy. The intended route was supposed to take in a feature called ‘The Slab’ but we missed this somehow and ended up scrambling down off the rocky summit. There were a couple of ‘airy’ moments but the descent passed without issue. It was just a case of walking straight down the hillside to the path then and then continuing along to the bothy. Surprisingly, it was empty and after a brief stop we followed the path up the side of the Allt a’Chuil Choirean towards Coire Claurigh and then up to the col where we planned to pitch up for the night.
After the exertions earlier on, the path up was easy and we made good progress, just stopping once to fill out water bottles in the burn. Once at the bealach we were only about 150 metres from the summit and located a flat piece of ground to pitch our tents. Our intention was to pitch up the tents and then head up to the summit but with fine weather and the potential for a decent sunset, I suggested to Kev we delay our ascent until a little later and enjoy the sun setting from the summit.
Night-time ascent of Stob Ban
I put my tent up and settled down to eat some food. This is my favourite part of an overnight trip, when you are sat in your tent and relaxed, taking in the amazing views and enjoying a well-earned meal. I snoozed for a while and at 20.30, we headed out from our tents and set off up towards the summit. Stob Ban is the smallest of the Grey Corries Munros and is detached from the main spine with an 800 metre bealach. The path zig-zags up to the summit top across quartzite rubble and we arrived at the top at 9pm, just in time to watch the sunset to the west. It was an amazing experience and we managed to take some amazing atmospheric photographs. The night was drawing in and Kev headed down but I decided to hang around for a little while longer and enjoy the peace and quiet. Just before nightfall, I also set off back down, the quartzite rubble offering an ‘interesting’ descent.
Once back in my tent, I grabbed a drink and settled down for the evening. It did not take long to fall asleep and at 4:30am I was awake and tucking into breakfast. I peered out from the tent and with a cloudless sky, it was going to be another amazing day. I grabbed a brew and watched the sun slowly rise above Sgurr Innse to the east. Equally as spectacular as previous evenings sunrise it was a privilege to witness this event.
Grey Corries Munros
By 6am we were packed up and ready to take in the three Munros of the trip. Our first peak of the day, Stob Choire Claurigh is situated north of Stob Ban and with the bealach at 800 metres it meant we only had to climb up about 370 metres to the summit. We passed the small lochan where we initially planned to camp and then headed up the south slope to the summit. At this point Kev received a text from him wife. Bin Laden had been terminated by the Americans. We were not sure why she felt the need to send us this information but from this day onwards the trip would now be known as the ‘Bin Laden trip’! We digested the news and pushed on. With amazing views back to Stob Ban we took our time and by about 7am we were stood on the summit.
I looked down towards Stob Coire an Laoigh and beyond towards the Aonach’s and Ben Nevis. The two Munros (Stob Choire Claurigh and Stob Coire an Laoigh) are separated by an undulating 3km ridge that never once drops below 1040 metres and takes in three Munro Tops. With probably the best air clarity I have ever experienced, this had all the hallmarks of an amazing day. I took a few minutes on the summit and my eye was immediately drawn to the North Top, Stob Coire na Ceannain. Connected to the main peak by a narrow, rocky arête, it is the highest of Stob Choire Claurigh’s satellite peaks and looked worth a visit. After my Creag Meagaidh trip, where I also took in all the subsidiary tops including the amazing Meall Coire Choille-rais and An Cearcallach I decided that where ever possible I would also take the tops whilst climbing the Munros.
Kev was not that bothered about the additional top but had no objections that I make the brief detour from our planned itinerary for me to bag the peak. It was only a 60 metre drop and climb back up and although the ridge was exposed in places, the scrambling was easy. I looked back towards Stob Choire Claurigh and over to the second of its tops, Stob Coire Gaibhre. I would have liked to also nail this one as well but it was a little bit out of our way and it would give me an excuse to return to this amazing place again anyway. I dropped back down from the summit and met up with Kev, who was waiting at the top of the ridge. From here we headed back up the summit of Stob Choire Claurigh and over the third of its tops, Stob a’ Choire Leith.
The views were amazing as was the ridge. An advantage of wild camping high up is the fact that you are up on the tops whilst the ‘day-trippers’ are still heading up from the glens. We slowly walked along the ridge taking in Stob Coire Cath na Sine and up onto Caisteil. The name Caisteal probably derives from the amazing crags to the north. We took some photographs and followed the ridge left across a narrow section of quartzite and up above the enormous cliffs. From here it was easy going to the top of Stob Coire an Laoigh. Although we had reached the second of the two Munros, this was not the end of the main ridge. The ridge continues to one more top, Stob Coire Easain. We followed the ridge as it turned sharply right and descended 100 metres before ascending 60 metres to the summit.
The standard descent route goes northwards down a side ridge over the satellite Top of Beinn na Socaich and this is the way we would be returning to the car. But first we had Sgurr Choinnich Mor to climb. Located south-west from Stob Coire Easain it would be just a case of heading to the top and then retracing our steps back to Stob Coire Easain and then dropping down the side ridge. There seemed no point in taking our heavy packs so we dumped them at the summit and dropped down towards Bealach Coire Easain. It was a rocky descent and on a couple of occasions I had to use my hands but there was no exposure so the going was pretty easy.
We crossed the bealach and made the 160 metre ascent towards the summit. We followed the main path as it undulated up the foot of the steeper rocks. Just after the initial steepening, we encountered some awesome rock fissures, deep enough to swallow a person easily and I wondered if any unsuspecting people had fallen down this, especially if a layer of snow was hiding the hole? We followed the ridge, narrow in places, and arrived at the summit. Three Munros down for the day, four in total and my count up to ninety-nine. It was such a shame that I could not have made this my century but I was just happy to be up here in amazing conditions.
We hung around for a while and then set off down from the summit, across the bealach and then back up to the top Stob Coire Easain. I wish we had brought two cars up and left one at Glen Nevis. That way we could have descended the great Back Basin to the north. But I would be back here running some time, no doubt (both the Tranters Round and Ramsay Round take in the Grey Corries) so I could check that out at a later time.
It was a bit of a slog back up the summit but once we arrived up, that was the last of the climbing for the day and it was all downhill from here. Being close to midday, the sun had really intensified and I was glad that we had started early and done the bulk of the walk first thing. We grabbed our packs and set off towards Beinn na Socaich. From here we followed the ridge down towards Leanachan Forest and our route back to the car via the dismantled tramway.
The Allt Choimhlidh dam traverse
At some point we would have to cross the Allt Choimhlidh and we were hoping the path would point us in the right direction. Unfortunately, the path disappeared half way down the peak and by the time we were at the bottom, we were stopped in our tracks by a dam. We would either have to hike back up the river and find a suitable place to cross or traverse the dam. I certainly did not want hike back upstream so we took the second option. There was a good 20 metre drop on the left hand side and I dread to think the consequences if you fell. On the right hand side there was a smaller drop into a pool of crystal clear water.
Kev went first and shuffled across. I followed and lent slightly to the right so that if I did slip then at worse, I was going to get a soaking. To be fair, the pool of water looked really appealing but this was not the time to be frolicking in water so I just lumbered across and climbed up the other side. Once safely on terra-firma we picked up the disused tramway and headed back towards the car.
The tramway was built to facilitate building of the HEP scheme and Aluminium industry in Fort William. Now all that remains are demolished bridges, apparently they where trashed by the landlord to prevent people injuring themselves. Hmmmm. It would have been nice to clear up the mess rather than leave a jumble of twisted metal and concrete. It was about a 5km walk along the disused tramway but our early start meant that it was only early afternoon so we had made great time and I would arrive home at a decent time. It was a shame I did not get to hit the century mark but it was an awesome trip none the less. 🙂