Ring of Steall
Ring of Steall is the number one classic hike in the Mamore range, and a famous hike in the entire Scottish highlands. The hike runs over 4 Munros (mountains >3000 feet) and a number of other unranked peaks. One of the peaks, Sgorr an Lubhair, used to be a Munro, but was withdrawn from the Munro list some years ago.
The summer/autumn hike does not truly challenge the experienced hiker, but head for heights is required when passing over the An Gearanach - An Garbhanach ridge, as well as the famous Devil's Ridge between Sgorr an Lubhair and Sgurr a' Mhaim. Nevertheless, the hike is a splendid walk up and down ridge peaks on narrow ridges, with fantastic views all around. In winter, this hike is obviously very serious when snow/ice narrows the already narrow ridges. As such, ice axe, crampons and experience is needed for a winter hike.
The Ring of Steall denotes a number of peaks forming a horseshoe around the An Steall waterfalls in the Glen Nevis valley. The "ring" can be hiked in either direction, but I suggest to begin with An Gearanach, with the Devil's Ridge always in view, puzzling your mind. If you begin with Sgurr a' Mhaim, you have an "evil" hike up to the 1099m summit on a steep ridge.
Ring of Steall from An Gearanach (summer/autumn)
The four of us clearly went along well with the owners of the Glenmorven
guest house, Colin and Anne Jamieson. Colin mentioned that he had wanted to
do this hike for several years, so Colin and me planned the hike for a day with good
weather forecast. July 19 was such a day, and we quickly hiked from upper
Glen Nevis parking, crossing the wire bridge and An Steall waterfalls.
A british filmcrew was shooting scenes in the waterfalls, and as we started
on the hike up to An Gearanach, we noticed that the filmcrew had put a bridge
across River Nevis, that would have saved us two river crossings.
The hike up to An Gearanach is 800m+ straight up, and Colin truly enjoyed his first cup of tea on top on the summit. I've never been much of a tea man, but just by looking at Colin, I immediately fancied the concept. The sight of the day (nature excluded) was when Colin's cap lifted and took a solo flight at least 10m up in the air. I wasn't able to count all the rolls and complex moves of the cap, but it was truly a sight. The summit is steep on all sides, and for some odd reason, the cap landed just below us, and could be safely retrieved.
I wasn't aware of any narrow points on the way to An Garbhanach, and was a little surprised when we entered the narrow section. The passing didn't offer any problems and we could continue our hike over Stob Coire a Chairn before taking a well deserved break on Am Bodach. On the way down Am Bodach, Colin expressed that the drop from the summit to the ridge was quite extensive, in a "glad-I-don't- have-to-do-that-again" manner. On the way up to Sgorr an Lubhair, I noticed that Colin's fleeze jacket was missing, and Colin had to hike Am Bodach once more. I offered to take his backpack up to Sgorr an Lubhair, and wait for him there. I was lying down on Lubhair, with bare feet in the grass, having the time of my life. I felt a streak of bad concience when I saw this little dot in the horizon, on the way up Am Bodach. 45 minutes later, Colin joined me on Lubhair, and it was absolutely time for tea.
Devil's ridge was interesting, but not very challenging. I guess we've both seen worse. I strongly considered hiking high on the narrow section, but I wished I had fewer items in my backpack. As I tested the large boulders, it just felt too awkward with a large backpack. After a steep climb up to Sgurr a' Mhaim, it was time for the last cup of tea on this hike. Then, the evil hike down to Forest Walks could commence. This ridge is evil either direction. Your knees will take serious beating on the way down. 7 hours and 20 minutes after we left the car, we arrived the upper Glen Nevis parking area (the 45 minutes fleeze jacket search and rescue not included). Back at the guest house, and according to traditional Scottish hospitality, I was two pints of Tennants Lager down before I could get my hiking boots off. Boy, did that beer do stuff with my brain....
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