Before starting the description of the walk, I want to say a little about “Munros” and “Bagging Munros”
A Munro is a Scottish mountain with an elevation of more than 3,000 feet (914 metres), and you can ‘bag’ one by reaching the summit. They are called Munro after Sir Hugh Munro , who first published the list of the 283 highest mountains in Scotland in 1891.Today, the official list of Munros contains 282 peaks. I use the phrase “Munro” to apply to any peak over 3000 feet in the UK and Ireland, but technically those outside Scotland are known as “Furths” and number 34. So it’s a challenge to climb every one and made the more challenging by living as far from Scotland as is possible and still be in the UK! So, when I have a chance to walk in Scotland, I like to get the “biggest bang for my buck” in walking Munros.
The Ring of Steall, which is near Fort William in Scotland, gives a chance to complete 6 or 7 Munros in a day. But to be honest this is a real stretch for one day and a more realistic number is 5.
It is important to remember that this is a very hard circular route of ca 10 miles (it can be made shorter, depending on the options you chose, as we shall see). It does involve a certain amount of scrambling, some ridge walking and long steep ascents/descents. You need to be prepared for all weather conditions and the likelihood is that this walk will take about 8-10hrs depending on your fitness levels. It goes without saying that you will be a competent map/compass user and be equipped with the right navigation aids. You need to take water and food to last the day, plus extras in case of emergencies. I tend to do this type of walking in June/July – as the daylight is long in this part of Scotland and the midges have not yet become a major irritation.
We had a clear blue sky the second day and walked up Ben Nevis in shorts and T shirts, needing sunscreen and sun hats! I was able to take the panoramic shot of the ring of Steall from the top. The day we walked the Ring of Steall it started out cold, wet and with low visibility, so be prepared!
We began our walk at a lay by on Glen Nevis Rd at the Polldubh falls about 1.5 miles from the Glen Nevis car park. This gave us direct access to the footpath leading up to Stob Ban (White Peak). The intention was to do the hardest/steepest climb first and enjoy a more leisurely walk down through Glen Nevis at the end of the walk.
Starting at a few metres above sea level, the walk follows the stalkers path which ascends Coire a’ Mhusgain (corrie of Shellfish) to reach the col between Stob Bàn and Sgor an Iubhair (Peak of the Yew) before climbing steeply up the eastern ridge to the summit at 999 metres
As we continued our walk upwards, the visibility reduced further and we missed out on Stob Bàn’s most striking physical characteristic- the crags on the north eastern face, with shear falls to Coire a’ Mhusgain some 400 metres below. These crags give the mountain its classic pyramidal shape.
There is a longish scramble up towards the top but not too technical and I would say is a “grade 1”.
At the top we toasted our success with a “wee dram” from the local distillery. Our tradition is to toast each Munroe with a drop of the local whiskey in the case “Ben Nevis”. We then made our way back towards the col. The weather was starting to clear and we had more glimpses of the sheer walls of Stob Bahn and down the valley to the car.
We then walked up to Sgurr an lubhair, where we had lunch and debated our route. We could have chosen to head for Sgurr a Mhaim (Rounded Hill) and travers the infamous “Devil’s Ridge” – a narrow exposed ridge walk, but as this would only bag us 2 more Munros (3 for the day). Please note for some reason Sgurr an lubhair is not classed as a Munroe, even though it is 1001metres high. Don’t ask me why, but it’s not! We decided to head for Am Bodach (Old Man) and at 1032 metres the highest climb of the day and celebrated with a well deserved dram.
There is then a steepish descent through scree which needed some care, followed by a fine walk over a wide grassy ridge, towards Stob Coire a Chairn (Peak of the Corrie of the Cairn). As we crossed this section, we could hear raptors crying to our right, but just out of sight. We were sure this was a Golden Eagle and a chick.
To our left we started to see through the clearing low cloud the magnificent valley formed by the horseshoe ring of the mountains we were walking on. We were also starting to see Ben Nevis appear out of the gloom.
We started the ascent of Stob Coire a Chairn and reached the summit of 981 metres after some light scrambling. By now the mist and low cloud had all but gone giving way to a sunny day and allowing us breath-taking views of the path in front of us, along the ridge which narrows to the dramatic, rocky arete of An Garbhanach (Rough Ridge) at 975 metres. Crossing this ridge is a fairly straightforward if somewhat exposed scramble. There is a path worn into the rocks just below you if you need respite from the elements, but it does have one or two points where you need to cling on as you round jutting boulders!
We now reach the final Munroe of the day An Geranach at 982 metres. We were now having spectacular views across Glen Nevis to the top of Ben Nevis, Aonach Mor and down towards Fort William. The descent, whilst steep in places, was not unduly difficult, aided by the amazing views of the woodland and falls of the River Steall. Eventually you arrive in the glen with the River Nevis in front of you, which you do need to cross.
This area reminded me very much of an Alpine scene – grassy valley floor, steep wooded sides and beautiful views leading away to the left and right. A good place to stop and rest after the excursions of the last hour or so’s descent. We arrived at a time when the water levels were low and the water was not in spate, so it would be possible to cross here. We watched several people do this, but be warned the water is freezing, the rocks slippery and the water still over ankle deep, so be prepared, or bear left and take a different approach to crossing the river.
As you walk down the glen with the river on your right you will come across the boulder strewn bottom of the Steall falls. These falls are reputedly the second highest in Scotland and standing at the foot gives a quite impressive view of the scale and force that the water can generate here. Some careful navigation of the boulders is required in order to cross. Apparently it is a little easier to cross further down and the Steall meets the Nevis. You then come across a steel cable bridge for the crossing of the River Nevis. It’s a little daunting at first, but once you are on the bridge you realise it is quite stable, not that high and you have some tremendous views up the valley.
As you continue on the path down the Glen you find yourself on a popular footpath to the Glen Nevis car park. On your left you start to sense and then see a fierce cascade of water. After a mile or so you come to the Glen Nevis car park. To get back to the car at Polldubh falls, continue on the tarmac road for a mile or so or cross the river and walk down through some pretty woods on the southside of the river.
So, all in all a successful walk -5 Munros crossed off the list, 6 if we could count Sgurr an lunhair, a stunning ridge walk and magnificent views.
Distance: 10 miles
Duration: 8 to 10 hours
Parking: Postcode PH33 6SY
Free parking at Glen Nevis Rd at the Polldubh falls