Sgurr a' Mhaim, 1099m (Peak of the breast)

Mountain area : Scottish Highlands
Nearest town : Ft. William
Map : OS Map 41
Primary Factor: 300m+ (Binnein Mor)
Hiked : July 2002
Sgurr a Mhaim seen from Ben Nevis

Sgurr a Mhaim seen from Ben Nevis


Sgurr a' Mhaim is one of the finest peaks in the Mamore range, located central in the long ridgeline stretching from Mullach nan Coirean in the west to Binnein Mor in the east.

The mountain is the 2nd highest in the range (Binnein Mor is the highest) and is in non-winter seasons easily identified by the large grey and white rocky summit. The summit is in sharp contrast to the green slopes down to the adjacent valleys.

Sgurr a' Mhaim can be hiked from a different trailheads in Glen Nevis valley, but the mountain is perhaps better known as the first or last peak of the famous "Ring of Steall" walk. Sgurr a' Mhaim can also be the first or last peak in a similar round trip walk on the western side, which includes the summit of Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean. The Mamore range is a quite convenient place to collect Munros.

Unless hiked from Glen Nevis, the normal route to the mountain runs over Devil's Ridge. This ridge will be covered in the Ring of Steall page, but in short, head for heights is required on this ridge, as there are a couple of exposed sections, There are no technical challenges, unless one insists on hiking the high ridgeline (a path runs below the most complicated section). When icy, the footpath can be dangerous. The high ridgeline involves some scrambling over large rocks with exposure.

There are several ways of directly reaching the summit from Glen Nevis valley. The easiest is from the "Forest Walk" parking area in lower Glen Nevis. Further routes exist in the upper Glen Nevis, near the An Steall waterfalls. One route runs from the An Steall hut directly up the forest (I've never seen graded forest climbs before, but this one should be...). This route can be dangerous higher up, when wet. Another option is to follow the Ring of Steall route up towards An Gearnach before moving into the valley, crossing the stream and join the Sgurr a'Mhaim ridge. Another possibility is to go further into the valley between An Gearanach and Sgurr a'Mhaim and climb up the grassy slopes on the south-east side. back to the upper Glen Nevis parking area.

Trail Descriptions

As south approach is coverend in Ring of Steall page, this document will describe a traverse from upper Glen Nevis, over the summit and down to lower Glen Nevis (Forest Walks). This means you will have to walk 3km

An Steall hut - Sgurr a'Mhaim - Forest Walks(summer/autumn)

Difficulty : Strenuous. Some forest scrambling (!)
Risk : High risk in upper forest when slippery
Distance : Approx. 10-11km round trip
Time : Approx. 5-8 hours round trip
Starting Elev.: Approx. 150m


From Ft. William, exit from A82 into the Glen Nevis valley. Follow the valley road as far as you can get, and park the car. In busy summer months, this parking can get full rather quickly.

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. Another option is to wade across the river. 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 have to cross the An Steall waterfalls to get back to the Steall hut. Crossing the waterfall does perhaps not give increasing comfort compared to crossing the wire bridge.

Go to the Steall hut and go around on the left hand side. You should see a narrow trail that takes you upwards to a section of forest that you might not feel like climbing. A possible alternative is to seek more to the right, where the forest appears less steep. The first section of the forest trail is easy, but more complicated nature is found higher up. You might lose the trail from time to time, and you need to look for it. At sections, you need to move around slabs, using trees and grass to hold on. You immediately understand that this is not a good place to descend, especially when slippery. The final move before you're in safe harbour involves stepping on the root of a birch tree with great exposure beneath, while moving up to safer ground.

Once out of the forest, you still have large rocks in front of you, and you should move to the left (towards the valley) and find a route that takes you into the foothills of Sgurr a'Mhaim. Up to your right you see the ridge that will take you all the way to the top. A stream is found beneath the mountain, in case you need to refill water.

Move onto the grassy ridge, and enjoy the great views of Glen Nevis. The grassy ridge takes you into a large corrie with white rocks. The summit is up to your left, and you can choose between two ridges. There is a trail somewhere on the leftmost ridge, which is the steepest. The best choice is perhaps to move over to the rightmost ridge, and advance safely to the summit.

If you take the rightmost ridge, you will pass the cairn (pile of rocks) that signal the descent path. On the summit, enjoy the full view of the Mamore range, and if time permits, move down south and have a closer look of Devil's Ridge which is just below you. Upon return, follow the rightmost ridge (when seen from below) to the cairn that signals the descent path. The first section of this route is very soft and loose scree, and you slide comfortably down to the grassy slopes below. The remainder of the hike down to the Forest Walks parking area is very steep, but by no means exposed. Your knees will certainly take some beating down this path.

From the Forest Walks parking area, follow the Glen Nevis road back to the upper Glen Nevis parking.

Trip report July 16 2002:

Today's group consisted of Else, Gro and myself. Dag was back home nursing his knees after the Nevis round trip, making further useful vacation planning. The initial plan for the day was the Ring of Steall.

The wire bridge crossing was amusing, but the climb up the forest from the Steall hut, was not. The soil was extremely slippery, and I made a mental note that I would do anything to avoid descending here. Again, I was worried about the girls in this terrain, but once I again I had to instruct myself not to worry. They climbed the forest with grace and excellence. Due to routefinding and caution up the forest, we arrived the summit too late to complete the round trip. We could see the entire Ring of Steall route from the summit, and it was clear that we wouldn't make it home for the planned evening activities.

Going down the north-west ridge was painful for the knees. I went ahead to get the car, and ran down the mountain just to get off the ridge. It's a 900m drop on the descent. The race down the mountain led me onto a moving rock, and I entered a graceful horizontal rotation, high above ground. Blessed with all possible fortune, I landed on my hips on a grass turf that the massive trail erosion forgot about. It was hard to find motivation for the 3km hike to the car, but had good time to study the mountain from the valley.

Pictures from the July 16 2002 hike:

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Some of the thumbnails may have been cropped to fit the format

Potholes in upper Glen Nevis (143KB) An Steall waterfalls (179KB) The wire bridge (338KB) Gro crossing the wire bridge (245KB) Else crossing the wire bridge (208KB) Steall hut seen from high in the forest (306KB) Foothills of Sgurr a Mhaim (171KB) Frog playing dead (243KB) Aonach Beag seen from Sgurr a Mhaim ridge (188KB) The corrie between the summit (235KB) The girls climbing onto the ridge (243KB) Glen Nevis seen from the ridge (195KB) Glen Nevis parking seen from the ridge (212KB) Devils Ridge seen from the summit (189KB) Else and Gro on Sgurr a Mhaim (215KB) Stob Ban seen from Sgurr a Mhaim (180KB) Glen Nevis seen from the summit (239KB) Eastern Mamore mountains (230KB) Mullach nan Coirean seen from the summit (243KB) The ridge seen from Forest Walk parking (149KB)

Other pictures:

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Some of the thumbnails may have been cropped to fit the format

From the hut and straight up! (326KB)

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