plus SE Top & East Top
Stob Ban - 999m
Saturday 25th June 2011
Weather/Conditions: Cloud and sun, no rain. We had temperate weather in Glen Nevis, then cool mist on the ridges of Mullach nan Coirean. The cloud opened at twilight on the summit of Stob Ban to give some incredible scenery.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 17.9km / 1300m / 5h 05m
A Glen Nevis round had been talk for a long time between Dougie and I, but one week the forecasts hinted at the arrival of good weather over the weekend. A call to Dougie turned an idea into possibility and we made plans. When the idea began turning to reality, I carried uncontainable excitement, but the forecast changed and MWIS reckoned more cloud would come than I'd hoped. Most concerning of all, they included risk thunder. Dougie and I planned to start on the Friday but pushed this back to Saturday, which would give us generally good weather with a dip on the second day (Sunday).
What the weather was up to never really concerned me, but the thought of lightning did. Actually, the thought of lightning on the Mamores was frightening. And then my mind ran wild and I wish it hadn't.
I met Dougie in Glasgow Queen Street station Friday early lunchtime. Though nerves were running wild, having someone to chat to eased the worries. Dougie and I got on the train; took the last two bike spaces (it was busy) and began the ride to Fort William, a journey which had skinned me of just over £40. Whatever the outcome of our trip, it was good to finally be on our way.
The weather was a bit grim on the way up, but I thought back to the forecast which had said better weather further north. Sure enough, when the train pulled into Glen Spean, the skies opened out and the sun shone into the valley. The game was on! So we went to Morrisons first and bought four days of food, drank tea in the coffee shop (saw Tom - that was funny) then cycled down Glen Nevis. We had a lot of gear to leave at the Youth Hostel, which they kindly allowed us to leave in the drying room - just things like spare clothes and other bits and pieces unneeded for the coming walk.
And then we began cycling down Glen Nevis when I suddenly realised: we had no matches or lighter for the stove! Back to the Glen Nevis shop for us: we managed to pick up a couple boxes of matches and then were on our way, cycling down to Achriabhach where we left our bikes in the trees.
Finding our way up Mullach nan Coirean
One of the more confusing areas to navigate through is the forests at the foot of Mullach nan Coirean. We approached it without really knowing how to get through. But as we locked the bikes up a couple guys walked down the track: they said they'd been up to the mullach and gave us advice on getting through. It is easiest to follow the zigzagging forest tracks, then cut off just short where the track bends inward to cross a stream. We thanked the guys for the information and set off. The beginning was taken very easy, I was trying to comprehend the size of what was to come, but nothing came. Just getting up to Mullach nan Coirean seemed like a huge effort in itself and it was hard to believe that 31 Tops would follow it.
We located the turn-off cairn and struck up through the debris of felled trees. Slow plodding was all it took. Our efforts were rewarded with immense views across Glen Nevis, but still - my gut was in turmoil. I wished the forecast hadn't said risk thunder for the next day when we were high and exposed on the Mamore ridge. And I was annoyed that I was letting it affect me. But what could I do about it? I needed to acclimate to the new conditions and maybe only then would I find some peace of mind.
Mullach nan Coirean onto Stob Ban
We followed a row of fence posts up Mullach nan Coirean which turned into a rocky ridge leading us up to the summit, which was enveloped in light, passing cloud. We came upon five ptarmigan here. At the summit a chilling wind blew so we moved on, initially in the wrong direction towards Meall a' Chaorainn but correcting our course eastward, across the two east Tops which seemed to take an eternity. The far eastern Top was the more interesting of the two, with some hands-on sections and nice pinnacles. And then we went onto Stob Ban, our last hill of today followed just as it grew dark.
I'll admit that my mood was getting dark at this point. So many thoughts, so many things to think about. It was a bit of a shame considering how much I'd looked forward to this trip. The reality was it was just the thought of thunder the next day. The exposure on high ridges in those conditions terrified me. I kept mulling it over. And like many of these things, my hours of worry were unfounded and unnecessary.
But if mountains have the power to crush your ecstasy into the ground, they can also pull it back out again. Because as we climbed Stob Ban, we glimpsed a small clearing here or there and then the cloud lifted completely. Clouds rushed around and below us, flying over ridges and collapsing into vortices in the corries. The mountains were black silhouettes, Ben Nevis an untouchable, enormous bulk. Chalky pencil lines of red signalled the last light of sunset. Our joy went through the roof. We turned around to see the summit of Stob Ban immediately behind us. A curtain had been pulled back, the entire scene revealed. Anxiety disappeared, I phoned home to share it with them too. I was a happy man for the rest of the evening.
We descended Stob Ban in semi-darkness. Our intended campsite was down by Lochan Coire nam Miseach, a place I was happy to pitch having seen a photograph in the Inverardran Hut. It looked a nice place and the loch outflow also works as a water supply for walkers short on liquid. In last light we put the tent up, we crawled inside and settled down for a nights sleep. The first patters of rain fell as I zipped the tent door shut for the final time.
From my diary: "...in tent now. 1.20am. I need sleep! For hopefully rest of Mamores. Feel good, happy not anxious. It just started raining. Great 2 be in sleeping bag. Had tea + oatcakes."
North from Stob Ban
(0.00) 6.55pm Achriabhach
(2.40) 9.35pm Mullach nan Coirean
(3.10) 10.05pm M.n.Coirean SE (Munro) Top
(3.35) 10.30pm M.n.Coirean East (Corbett) Top
(4.10) 11.05pm Stob Ban
(5.05) c. 12.00am Lochan Coire nam Miseach campsite