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Stob Ban from the west
Stob Ban from the west
Country: Scotland
Location: Glen Nevis
Accommodation: Fort William (hotels, B&B), Glen Nevis (Youth Hostel, caravan/camping site). Camping is allowed in the upper glen (beyond the carpark and Nevis Gorge).
Transport: Train and bus station in Fort William. A summer bus service goes to the carpark in Glen Nevis.
Maps: OS Outdoor Leisure 32 (scale of 1:25,000) or Landranger Map 0041: Ben Nevis, Fort William & Glen Coe (1:50,000).
Trip Date: 22 May 1992
Also See:
The Devil's Ridge (Mullach nan Coirean to Sgurr a' Mhaim) by Paul Kennedy
Introduction

The western end of the Mamore Ridge contains 2 contrasting peaks:
Stob Ban (white peak, 999m) with a sharp peak capped with white quartzite and
Mullach nan Coirean (summit of the corries, 939m) sprawling in a red granite mass above several corries.

Stob Ban in particular makes a fine viewpoint for the whaleback of Ben Nevis with the narrow Carn Mor Dearg Arete sweeping up from the right. The view from Mullach nan Coirean hides the arete but gives fine views down Loch Linnhe. Access is easiest from Glen Nevis where a stalkers path gives good progress along Coire a'Mhusgain to start the walk (as in this description) or end the walk (as in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Hillwalkers Guide, Volume One - "The Munros").

Bagging these 2 Munros will take you about 5-6 hours suggesting either a leisurely day, an extension of the route to include Sgurr a'Mhaim and Sgor an Iubhair (adding about 3 hours) or to use the route to fill in an afternoon after arriving in Fort William (my choice).

Route

Start the traverse at the farmhouse at Achriabhach (there is lots of debate about how to pronounce this). Continue along the road a bit to the bridge over the River Nevis where the river crashes over a waterfall into a narrow gorge - this is worth a good look. For the extreme sports types, I have seen blokes in wetsuits going over the waterfall (this needs local knowledge and nerves of steel). Gain the path up Coire a'Mhusgain by crossing a stile just before the bridge.

The path follows the tree-lined stream east and then south across a slightly muddy field until it starts to climb into the coire. About 1 kilometre along the path (at the 200m mark) another path branches off to climb steeply to Sgurr a'Mhaim. This allows you to extend the route as follows:

Take the branch up to Sgurr a'Mhaim which climbs steeply and then zigzags through grassy slopes. The gradient lessens slightly as you cross over another stalkers path at the 660m mark (this path almost makes a complete circle around Sgurr a'Mhaim). The path continues east until it gains the top of the Lag Gorm crags and follows them, rising up to the abrupt edge where the grass changes to quartzite boulders and scree. The route then follows the edge of the north corrie to reach the summit cairn up less steep slopes.

From Sgurr a'Mhaim, drop south along broad slopes until the ridge narrows dramatically at the Devils Ridge (the arete up to the Top of Stob Coire a'Mhail (980m)). There are a couple of exposed, rocky sections here but without any real difficulty. The narrow, airy crest is followed up to the Top and then a broader ridge is descended to a broad col. On the way there is an opportunity to test your head for heights with an interesting leap from a rock pillar over a cleft to another pillar. This can be avoided with a just as interesting scramble into the cleft and sharp climb back to the ridge crest. From the col, Sgor an Iubhair is a steep 170m climb up bouldery slopes.

To regain the route to Stob Ban, return to the col and drop down an obvious zigzag path to beside the pretty Lochan Coire nam Miseach. A few hundred metres further and the path from up the corrie is reached.

Sgor an Iubhair from Stob Ban
Sgor an Iubhair from Stob Ban (Am Bodach to the right)

Continue up the corrie with views of the nice little waterfalls in the Allt Coire a'Mhusgain. The path climbs gently for the next kilometre and then zigzags a sharp 150m up beside a crag. A gentler traverse along the slopes brings Coire Mhusgain fully into view on the west. A stop here is recommended so that you can appreciate the crags dropping down from Stob Ban with great fans of scree at their feet. The path crosses one stream and then follows the east bank of another for about 500 metres.

At this point you have your last chance to refill your water bottle as the path crosses the stream and shortly proceeds to zigzag steeply up to the col between Sgor an Iubhair and Stob Ban. The stalkers path now divides - one branch climbing east towards Sgor an Iubhair and the other strolling west towards Stob Ban. In 200 metres the stalkers path dives over the col and heads for the valley beyond (the West Highland Way runs along this valley). Abandon the path here for a well defined route heading for Stob Ban on top of the narrow, shattered east ridge. The final section is a straight climb over quartzite scree up to the summit.

Have a rest and gaze at the tremendous views.

Mullach nan Coirean in the late afternoon light
Mullach nan Coirean in the late afternoon light

Leave the summit in a NW direction over quartzite boulders to start with. An easy 100m descent gets you to the base of a small knob - worth a detour for the view down into Coire Mhusgain. Drop west to the col at 846m where the pale grey quartzite is left for the red granite of Mullach nan Coirean. Climb further west and then sweep to the south and over a minor top to reach the SE top of Mullach nan Coirean at 917m. There are good views down over the ruddy crags and scree into Coire Dearg ('red valley' of course). Follow the ridge first north and then NW to cross another small top, drop a few easy metres and then climb up the rim of one of the northerly corries to the summit of Mullach nan Coirean.

On descent from here, there is a choice of routes - the proper one and the one I followed. My route was started in error but turned out to be more interesting then the other - more crags to travel over and a little gully to negotiate. The proper route is:

Follow the corrie edge over a small bump and then take a narrow ridge to the east which forms the north rim of the corrie. This ridge turns to the north and broadens out after 500 metres. One kilometre from the summit, you come to a deer fence which is crossed. The fence is followed in an arc first NE and then NW for another kilometre down to the Allt a'Choire Raibhaich. The path down the east bank of the stream is where the other unofficial route joins this one.

My unofficial route is to head straight north from the summit. In 500 metres, the top of the crags at the head of Coire Raibhaich are reached. Continue north descending easily to a small tarn before the Glas Chreag knoll and then contour along the side of the knoll and onto its NE ridge. Follow the ridge down keeping the tops of the crags to your right. Soon you enter a notch in the crags where a tributary of the Allt a'Choire Raibhaich drops into the corrie via a small gully. Follow the stream down steep slopes until the deer fence is reached. Scramble through the fence and immediately cross the tributary and then the stream to gain the path on its east bank.

The path drops down through the forest and soon (250 metres) meets a forestry road end. Follow this road to the east until it makes a sharp left turn after about 800 metres. There is a path leaving the road just past the bend. This drops easily and interestingly through the forest back to Achriabhach, basically following the banks of the Allt a'Choire Dheirg.


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