Wednesday 30 May 2012

Sgurr Choinnich Mor

Part 1

The campaign to redress the driving/walking imbalance that has been evident over recent months got off to a rather acceptable start the weekend before last. (I wish I could claim that it's been the remarkably clement weather that's led to a delay in posting about it, but as ever, it's bone idleness on my part. Coupled, in fairness, with a wee bit of sunshine-related gardening opportunism, which is at least an outdoors activity.)

So, Glen Neviswards we headed - we, on this occasion, being me, Andy and Gordy. We were bereft of dugs, largely because the snow & ice conditions were still a bit of an unknown factor in the expedition, and research did indicate that the last wee stretch to the summit became fairly steep and narrowish. In that setting, a combination of crampons, skiddy dugs and tangly leashes is something that everyone was keen to avoid. As it transpired, it wouldn't have been an issue, but every day's a school day, as they say.

I have to confess that this was my first trip to Glen Nevis - or at least my first trip as far up the road that leads to it. I suppose it's objectively quite odd that a fairly regular Scottish hillwalker, pushing 50, has never seen the Steall Falls, but I like to think that's just another aspect of my unconventional, surprising yet appealing personality.

Say what, now?

There's a school of thought that the stretch through the gorge is the best 30 minute walk  in Scotland, and there may be some truth in that. For a straightforward description of what awaits, this description hits the spot rather well.

More than once, the water-scoured random patterning of the topmost section of the gorge actually made me stop in my tracks:

But probably the main attraction is still the Falls, which pop into view pretty much as soon as you pop out the gorge:

I also quite liked the view back the way, as it happens. Even the unwary must sense a...narrowing:

 My photies of the waterfall are neither here nor there compared to all the other places you can see them online, so when I come back to this, I'll concentrate on the onwards route up the hill.

Oh, and I'm not even going to attempt to offer any observations on the ruins at Steall, when there's this quality of stuff floating around t'internet.

(It's nearing midnight, and pouring with rain here the now, so that means no gardening tomorrow. I'll maybe be able to finish this instead. Try and contain yersel's.)


Part 2

The gardening gods decreed that a limited number of bedding plants were to be allocated pot space today after all, so again blogging plays second fiddle. Every raincloud, eh?

To return to the matter at hand, in effect, you're following a fairly obvious path, taking the high road when there's a choice, all the way along the glen until you spot an obvious right-angled bend in the Water of Nevis which has been burbling along merrily throughout down on the right. This marks the spot where you start ascending towards the skyline. To put the routefinding beyond doubt, you should start the climb immediately after the short eared owl takes off from the undergrowth.

The intended target has by now come into view, anyway:

There seem to be various options, but if there is a path all the way, it escaped our attention for lengthy stretches of the walk. The route we were following suggested that the easiest going was to be found by heading up and over Sgurr Choinnich Beag (on the left in the photo above), and experience suggests that's probably sound advice, which we would have done well to heed. We actually made a very very gradual rising traverse towards the bealach between Beag and Mor, and a combination of steep heathery slopes and soft snow patches meant it was rather tortuous going. Still, the views back towards the Mamores were opening out, at least:

And Sgurr Choinnich Beag was starting to look sort of steep and grizzled, as more of it came into sight:

And more of it:

Added aeroplane!

The Aonachs were looming beyond SCB:

And loomier still:

Up on the right though...

...was the object of the day's exercise. A 650 foot ascent from the bealach, according to Ralph Storer's book, which - although I paraphrase - also described the last wee stretch thus: "The ridge narrows between steep drops to give a feeling of great height...the summit is a rooftop eyrie."

I've definitely never been in an eyrie before, but the good news is that even this feartie found it entirely tolerable. I was indeed able to hing around at the top long enough to take a couple more pictures!

The Alexander Brothers break into commemorative song at the summit
The onward route to the grey Corries. Hmmm. 

And aye, even though the way ahead was clear enough, it didn't look like anyone had trodden across that intervening ridge for quite some time, and there was certainly no risk of me troubling the scorers in that regard. A retracing of steps was the order of the day. It's still a fair clip back, right enough, especially when you've got half an eye on making it home to see the Champion's League final, but one can always make time to investigate the wire bridge at Steall en route back to the car.

My investigations didn't involve me setting foot on it, needless to say, but do have video evidence of Andy displaying what a piece of cake it actually is. My phone's currently having a cyber tantrum though, so I can't share the footage quite yet. As I said earlier, try and contain yersel's.


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