It was a fantastic day in the mountains, we were fortunate to have Neil Pratt from 360 Degrees Outdoors and some of the staff from Abernethy to guide us for the day.It was a route that pushed me physically – I was sure my knees were going to fall off on the descent! We all took on the route prepared for wintery conditions – winter boots, crampons and axes. In the end we had no need of them, but I was happy to carry the extra weight and take the additional discomfort in my feet over the prospect of being on the ridge circuit and coming across a section that required equipment I may have otherwise left in the car!
The first challenge on the walk is the wire bridge to cross the Water of Nevis. The wire bridge consists of 2 wires banded together for your feet to balance on, with 1 wire elevated either side for your hands to keep you steady – I would have enjoyed the bridge a lot more if I had put my camera in a drybag and I wasn’t worried about frying it if I fell in!
After we had all successfully navigated the awesome wire bridge (a few folks did opt to wade across instead), we next faced up against some boggy ground and a river crossing – a few wet feet this time, but nothing major that we had to worry about!
After successfully crossing the various water hazards, with only a few wet and muddy feet, we met with our first real ascent of the day, an almost 800m ascent of the flanks of An Gearanach. This was a bit of a slog. We did take a few stops on the way up, with some stunning views over the South Face of Ben Nevis and of the ring of Steall itself.
We all exhaled a massive sigh of relief when we reached out first summit of the day, An Gearanach. We knew that the route was far from over, but it was nice to be done with the steep ascent for the time being.
Upon departing An Gearanach, we knew we had to pick up the pace, and were relieved that the immediate part of the route was mostly descent, although it was a fairly exposed descent that meant we had to take care. I have to admit, scrambling is my favourite part of mountaineering, navigating up and down rock faces, finding the different routes through and across, taking in the exposure you get when you are perched on a narrow rocky route high above the mountainside, its awesome! The section over the top of An Garbhanach was a fun wee scramble, nothing too tricky, the descent from An Garbhanach was a little bit trickier, but still very much on the fun side of scrambling, not quite hitting the nervy side yet!
The Ascent to our 2nd Munro of the day was thankfully not too challenging, we made it to the summit on good time and good cheer – although we could see the route ahead was about to start pushing us again and we were aware that the weather was forecast to be starting to close in on us in the not too distant future.
The next section of the route involved a fairly placid descent, before another steep ascent up the flank of Am Bodach, our highest point for the day. My legs were starting to feel the strain, and I ended up towards the back of the group from this point on, a source of disappointment for me as I would rather be at the front and have peoples faces in my photos! I’m working hard on my fitness though so that I don’t end up a weak link like that in my photographic process on the mountains!
Our next section of walking took us over Sgurr an Lubhair, a Munro top, along the Devils Ridge and to the summit of Sgurr a Mhaim, our fourth and final Munro for the day. It wasn’t the most challengingly technical part of the route we had done, but a few folks were starting to feel it in their legs by this point. We took a steady pace over Sgurr and Lubhair, cracking jokes about the upcoming Devils Ridge. The Devils Ridge turned out to be less impressive than its name suggested! It was still a fun part of the route, with some descent scrambling to be had though. The weather was starting to get a bit more….Scottish….by the time we got to the Devils Ridge, the clouds were pretty much on top of us, and it wasn’t going to be long before we would need to be fully kitted out in our shells.
Upon reaching the summit of Sgurr a Mhaim, Neil very kindly produced his hip flask full of Glenmorangie for us to celebrate with, it had been a long day, but so fulfilling. We had a quick pit stop for food and water, took our summit picture then began our descent. Pretty sharpish after starting down, the rain started pretty heavily so we all fired on our shells, even when the rain stopped we were glad of the protection they offered from the wind! The descent was fairly punishing on our already tired legs, I know I wasn’t the only one requiring a few stops on the way down to rest my legs, especially my knees. Thankfully, the Abernethy minibus was parked at the lower carpark to take us to the upper one where all our cars were, no one really fancied the walk between the 2!