Ring of Steall

An Gearanach, 982m (The complainer)
An Garbhanach, 975m (The rough ridge)
Stob Coire a' Chairn, 981m (Peak of the corrie of the cairn)
Am Bodach, 1032m (The old man)
Sgorr an Lubhair, 1001m
Stob Choire a' Mhail, 980m
Sgurr a' Mhaim, 1099m (Peak of the breast)

Mountain area : Scottish Highlands
Nearest town : Ft. William
Map : OS Map 41
Primary Factor: An Gearanach: 157m+ (Am Bodach)
Primary Factor: An Garbhanach: 15m+ (An Gearanach)
Primary Factor: Stob Coire a' Chairn: 156m+ (Am Bodach)
Primary Factor: Am Bodach: 147m+ (Sgurr a' Mhaim)
Primary Factor: Sgorr an Lubhair: 116m+ (Am Bodach)
Primary Factor: Stob Choire a' Mhail: 65m+ (Sgurr a' Mhaim)
Primary Factor: Sgurr a' Mhaim: 214m+ (Binnein Mor)
Hiked : July 2002
Ring of Steall seen from Ben Nevis

Ring of Steall
seen from Ben Nevis


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 One of the peaks, Sgorr an Lubhair, used to be a Munro, but was withdrawn from the Munro list some years ago.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.

Trail Descriptions

Ring of Steall from An Gearanach (summer/autumn)

Difficulty : Intermediate. A few exposed sections
Risk : Two ridges can be dangerous when slippery
Distance : Approx. 16-17km round trip
Time : Approx. 7-9 hours round trip
Starting Elev.: Approx. 150m


From Ft. William, exit from A82 into the Glen Nevis valley. Drive as far as the valley road takes you, and find parking at the end of the road.

The trail:

Follow the footpath (approx. 30 minutes) until you see a wire bridge on your left hand side, just as the valley opens up and you have the An Steall waterfall in view. Cross the wire bridge (three wires; one for foot and two for arms). This is your first "crux" on the hike. Walk over to the waterfalls and make your way across the falls. There are several options for crossing. Pick up the trail that runs up towards An Gearanach. Another option to the wire bridge is to wade across the River Nevis by the wire bridge. In the summer of 2002, a filmcrew had put a bridge across River Nevis just a little further up. If this one still is there, you don't need to cross the An Steall waterfalls, but hit the An Gearanach trail head on.

The trail up to An Gearanach is steep, but well established. The first really good feeling comes when you enter the summit of An Gearanach and can view the entire "ring" from start to finish. Continue over a narrow ridge (most of the ridge can be safely passed on the lefthand side). The ridge has one exposed point, but just think of the many hikers doing this route every year. If they can, you can.

The trail runs very steep down to the ridge leading to Stob Coire a' Chairn. When you look back, you'll be amazed how steep it really looks. From Stob Coire, the trail descends again before you begin on the relentlessly steep hike straight up to Am Bodach, the Old Man. But despite the steepness, the well established trail gives you the feeling of safety that you would like to have.

From Am Bodach, the trail descends down the point where the trail from Mamore Lodge meets the Mamore ridgeline. The hike up to Sgorr an Lubhair is much more gentle, and soon you have Devil's Ridge in clear view. Most of the trail over Devil's Ridge is well established and wide enough for most hikers. A little rush might run through you as you come to the top of Stob Choire a' Mhail, the highest point on the ridge. A couple of persons can stand comfortably on top, but more will feel too crowded. The most difficult section is down towards the lower point on the ridge. If you choose to follow the high ridgeline, you are in for some scrambling which calls for caution. The technical part is easy. You have to cross over some major rocks, but there is no room for mistakes. The easy way out is to seek a little down on the right hand side of the ridge. A visible trail will show you how to get around the obstacles. This way around is however not particularly wide, so some handhold in the terrain might be called for. A far less complicated, (without exposure) move down to the low point on the ridge completes an interesting ridgewalk.

Now a couple of hundred meters ascent up to Sgurr a' Mhaim will complete the high portion of the ring. Enjoy the views from the 2nd highest peak in the Mamore range. See Sgurr a' Mhaim page for details about this peak. The descent is described on this page, but in short: Two ridges leads up to the summit from the north. Follow the leftmost (western) ridge and exit NW at a large cairn further down on the ridge. This ridge will take you all the way down to Forest Walks parking area, and you have a 3km hike up your car in front of you.

Trip report July 19 2002:

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....

Pictures from the July 18 2002 hike:

Move cursor to read notes, and click on the images to see full version.
Some of the thumbnails may have been cropped to fit the format

The filmcrew by An Steall (243KB) Sgurr a Mhaim from An Gearanach trail (185KB) Binnein Beag and Binnein Mor (260KB) The Ring of Steall (731KB) Colin on An Gearanach (159KB) The Grey Corries (176KB) Ben Nevis and the Aonachs (187KB) Colin entering An Garbhanach (234KB) The An Gearanach/An Garbhanach ridge (217KB) Am Bodach (193KB) Stob Ban and Devils Ridge (167KB) Colin on Stob Coire a Chairn (194KB) Two ridges branch from Stob Coire a Chairn (247KB) Devils Ridge and Sgurr a Mhaim (247KB) View towards East Mamores (321KB) Devils Ridge and Sgurr a Mhaim (158KB) Stob Ban (232KB) The Aonachs (149KB) Am Bodach (176KB) Devils Ridge (201KB) Colin on Sgurr a Mhaim (174KB)

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