xOne of the best high-level, non-scrambling ridges in the country, on the north side of upper Glen Nevis, a traverse of the Grey Corries was eagerly anticipated.
An east/west route starts with the highest peak, 1,177m/3,862ft, Stob Choire Claurigh – the latter word perhaps deriving from ‘clamhras’, a reference to the bellowing of stags in rut.
And with stags in mind, stalking in the area runs to 16 October.
Hillwalkers staying to the high ridges during this period, as per the following route, should not cause any disturbance – nevertheless, unless going on the Sabbath, it is important to check matters beforehand by phoning Alcan Highland Estates on 01397 702433.
The plan was for Jimbo, Scott and I to travel in the afternoon for an overnight stop at the Tulloch Station Bunkhouse, then the following day, with good weather predicted, to tackle the ridge, starting with Stob Choire Claurigh. However, a serious accident on the Laggan road had closed the route to all traffic. Rather than face an uncertain wait, Jimbo, the driver, decided to make the long detour via Daviot, Fort Augustus and Spean Bridge. Once there we discovered the Laggan road had been reopened an hour earlier. We did not reach the bunkhouse until 7pm, but were still in time for an excellent meal.
The next day brought the second bit of bad news – the Grey Corries were mist-enshrouded. The forecast did become more accurate later on but by that time we had changed our plan.
From Spean Bridge, take the minor road for Corriechoille, then continue driving on a roughish track to the start of the forest, at map ref 256788. There is a small parking spot near the line of a dismantled narrow-gauge railway, built by the British Aluminium Company while constructing the tunnel from Loch Treig to Fort William.
A forest track climbs through an area of recent felling. After some 300 yards, pass on the right a statue of the Wee Minister (and a box for contributions to the local mountain rescue group). The statue obviously alarmed Jimbo’s Springer spaniels, as they barked vigorously.
The track, which follows the line of the Lairig Leacach, an old drove road, goes south-east for a mile to reach open country; a point by the tree line where the real climbing begins. Ascend south-west by the line of trees on steepish grassy slopes west of the hill’s shoulder, Ruigh na Gualainn. Troubled with flies and midges on these lower slopes, we were relieved to gain higher ground and a slight breeze, albeit by then into the clag. As the gradient eases, a well-worn Munro path gives a good line to reach the northern ridge. Easier grassy terrain leads towards the rounded bump of Stob Coire Gaibhre, from where you head SSW, then SSE, over by-now rough, sparsely vegetated ground.
North of the summit, by a 1,121m bump, is a small stony plateau; a peculiar area rather like a large inverted saucer, disconcerting in thick mist. The final approach to the summit was slow and unpleasant, traversing wet, bouldery terrain.
In the thick mist Jimbo was loathe to let loose his two dogs and in any case, the cold weather gave Scott and I little enthusiasm for carrying on with the ridge traverse. So a quick change of plan (not included in the Factfile) – at first a steep, stony southwards descent to escape the clag and wet, very careful navigation required, then on to Stob Ban, from where it is an easy descent to the track by Lairig Leacach bothy, an excellent resting spot.
Ordnance Survey map 41, Ben Nevis, Fort William & Glen Coe
Track to hillside, then mix of grassy and quartzite slopes
One mile south of Corriechoille by forest, map ref 256788
Recommended refreshment spot
Spean Bridge Woollen Mill