More specifically, Stob Choire Claurigh, and Stob Coire an Laoigh. And more importantly, the ridge between 'em.
Our first attempt at this pair back in April had fizzled out rather, when the absence of winter ironmongery and the presence of a goodly helping of late-lingering snow persuaded us to steer clear of the ridge. That experience had at least told us that the start of the walk, or at least the initial ascent from the Lairig Leacach up onto Stob Coire Gaibhre is steep, lengthy and very very wet underfoot.
|Spean Bridge from the lower - lowest, in fact - slopes of Stob Coire Gaibhre|
That section, accordingly, was never going to be the highlight of the day, but on a positive note, I was largely able to disregard the less appealing elements thereof, what with my mind wandering towards thoughts of quite how narrow the ridge itself was going to be. I've said on here before that part of the reason I particularly enjoy Ralph Storer's route descriptions is that he always gives a heads up for the nervous walker, and there were a couple of observations in his book for this venture that had piqued my reluctant interest. Just before the summit of Stob Choire Claurigh, he says, "the rocky terrain and the exposure give this last section of the ascent a serious air that may discomfort the sensitive".
|Looking from Stob Coire Gaibhre across the Lairig Leacach to Cruach Innse|
It was, however, fine. Even for me. I'd venture to suggest that in anything other than the dry, windless, frost-and-ice-free conditions that we enjoyed it might have been rather less than fine, but hey - we'd been saving this one up for a day with good weather. And even our plans sometimes come together.
|The north top of Claurigh|
|And again - the optional top of Stob Coire na Ceannain on the left|
|Looking back down from the north top|
|That's the bit with the "serious air" !|
As you near the summit of the first Munro, the vista that unfolds becomes quite remarkable. You might be there to walk the ridge that links the Grey Corries, but you're treated to the sight of ridge upon ridge upon ridge.
As Mr Storer puts it: "...your reward awaits. And what a prize it is: a glorious two mile ridge walk along the spine of the Grey Corries to Stob Coire an Laoigh. Prepare for hillwalking at its most inspiring."
He's not wrong.
From Stob Choire Claurigh (1177m), the roll call goes Stob a' Choire Leith (1105m); Stob Coire Cath na Sine (1079m); Caisteil (1106m); Stob Coire an Laoigh (1116m) and then down the way via Stob Coire Easain (1080m). You're undeniably quite high up for quite a wee while, and the fun never stobs. :0)
|Stob Ban, looking a bit titchy at only 977m|
|Clambery stuff on Stob a' Choire Leith|
|Looking back along the ridge|
|...and forward to Stob Coire Cath na Sine|
|...and back again...you get the idea!|
|Onwards to Caisteal|
|He was on his own with this one, as you can imagine.|
It was something of a surprise that we met so few other folk out on the hill, given the weather conditions. there was a party of four RAF Mountain rescue chaps who were at the summit of Claurigh at the same time as us, but being the fit hardy souls that they were, they had come up via Stob Ban, and continued all the way to Sgurr Choinnich Mor. At a fair lick, it has to be said. (Indeed we were subsequently overtaken by one of their number as we plodded up the interminable forestry track towards the car. While we plodded, he was jogging. Our air defences appear to be in safe, and jolly fit, hands.) Apart from that though, I only counted another five or six walkers crossing our path all day. A far cry from Beinn Eighe, which can't really be any more accessible than the Grey Corries.
It took us three hours to get to the top of Claurigh from the car; a leisurely two more to the summit of Laoigh...and a rather miserable two and a half hours of slippery boggy descent to return to the starting point. It's not a walk that saves the best for last. The walk out fades from memory quickly enough though; pushed away by the recollection of the views from up high. It certainly felt that we could see the whole of Scotland, and I'm not sure there were many better places in the country to be last Saturday.
|Sgurr Choinnich Mor from the summit of Laoigh...|
|...and the Aonachs, with Ben Nevis behind...|
|...and the ridge, from end to beginning.|
There's also a rather unexpected bonus to the trip. Once you're up as far as Stob Coire Gaibhre, there's really very little more in the way of height to be gained. The wee section from there onto the north top of Claurigh is a bit of a pull, I suppose, but the terrain is interesting enough to take that out the equation, and from there...I genuinely never noticed any further ascent. That's definitely a first between Munros in my experience. Whisper it, but if I go back (and I fully intend to) I'd be tempted to do a swift about turn at Stob Coire an Laoigh and head back down the ascent route. And if that's not a ridge recommendation, I don't know what is.