|The Devil's Ridge and Sgurr
a'Mhaim from Am Bodach
||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.
||Trip Dates: 12 September 1992, 19 June 1993
These five Munros form a great horseshoe around the broad valley of
Coire a'Mhail and its lower reaches stretching down to the dramatic An Steall
waterfall. A good strenuous day can be spent collecting all 5 Munros - this
needs 8-10 hours so a long summer day is perfect. The circuit is known as the
Ring of Steall. The Munros are:
An Gearanach (the complainer, 982m) which is the highest point of a short,
Stob Coire a'Chairn (peak of the corrie of the cairn, 981m) - a modest peak
best seen from the mountains around it,
Am Bodach (the old man, 1032m) formed into a pyramid by 3 steep and rocky
Sgor an Iubhair (peak of the yew, 1001m) (in August 1997, this nice but
unexciting peak was demoted to a Top) and
Sgurr a'Mhaim (peak of the large rounded hill, 1099m) with its fine cap of
This route is described as starting and ending at the carpark at the end
of the Glen Nevis.
Start from the carpark and follow the path up Glen Nevis and into Nevis
Gorge. After a pleasant beginning, the path becomes even better as it becomes
rocky and clings nicely between the crags above and the rushing river below.
Keep an eye ahead as there are glimpses of An Gearanach with the An Steall
waterfall at its foot. A kilometre of walking brings you to some grassy river
flats (good camping) and a three-wire footbridge across the river. The bridge
looks precarious but is secure even if it swings a lot as you cross it. The
river here is less than a metre deep and in fact it can be forded just up from
If you are camping further up the river at Steall then the footbridge is
an easy walk downstream.
Walk east past the white climbers cottage (Steall Hut) and further on
cross the stream below the waterfall - a good spot to drop your pack and
explore. Continue under a wooded buttress to the next stream where the path
turns south up into a small glen. The path climbs a fairly steep ridge until it
skirts an eroded area and heads into the glen. Soon the path crosses the stream
(smooth, wet rocks so take care) to begin a series of zigzags up the western
side of the glen. A long traverse to the west then takes you up onto the top of
the ridge. A rough path then climbs SE through crags to emerge on the north
ridge of An Gearanach which is climbed up to the summit - good views to either
From An Gearanach, follow the narrow, airy ridge down and then up to An
Garbhanach with some fine scrambling as you approach the Top. The descent to
the col below Stob Coire a'Chairn starts off rocky and steep in places, but
quickly becomes less steep and grassy. A similar but easier ascent quickly
brings you to the summit of the second Munro for the day. This is a good place
to look back at the rocky prow of An Garbhanach with (hopefully) Ben Nevis in
the background. Even in summer, looking forward to Am Bodach will often reveal
snow patches under the northern overhangs on the ridge to its west.
|Looking back to the rocky prow of
An easy descent from Stob Coire a'Chairn takes you over a small bump and
down to the bealach facing the steep north-east ridge of Am Bodach. This rocky
slope provides a pleasant scramble (with some patches of loose gravel) up to
the summit of Am Bodach. The only difficulty is a small near vertical section
close to the top. This is roughly the halfway point of the walk and a good
place to break for lunch.
To continue, proceed along the west ridge from the summit. The path
descends easily, generally through the bouldery slopes just below the crest of
the ridge, down to a col at about 950m. The crest can be followed more closely
off the path along its ragged top but take care of the sharp drop to the north.
At the col, another stalker's path is joined and followed uphill for 400
metres. Leave the path here and strike straight uphill up steepish slopes until
a final little scramble brings you out onto the flat top of Sgor an Iubhair. If
the weather has turned bad then the stalker's path can be followed around to
Lochan Coire nam Miseach and the path down to Achriabhach taken.
|Am Bodach from Stob Coire
The summit of Sgor an Iubhair is worth a short stop to admire the view
of the east crags of Stob Ban and the sharp outline of the Devil's Ridge (your
next objective) before continuing north down a steep bouldery slope. This leads
to a broad col with a stalker's path zigzaging to your left (west) down to the
path to Achriabhach. Continue north up easy slopes until the crest of the sharp
ridge is gained in about 100 metres. Immediately 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 sharp drop into the cleft
and a just as interesting scramble up the other side. The narrow ridge then
climbs evenly up to the Top of Stob Coire a'Mhail (980m).
The Devil's Ridge is the narrow (less than 1 metre wide) arete
descending from Stob Coire a'Mhail and climbing part of the way up Sgurr
a'Mhaim. In dry summer conditions it is an easy invigorating stroll with couple
of exposed sections. The final climb of the day is up easy stony slopes to the
summit of Sgurr a'Mhaim and its large cairn.
There is a choice of how to return to the carpark from here.
If you really want to avoid road-walking then it is possible to return
directly to Steall Hut. I have not travelled this way and so cannot vouch for
it. Start by heading north-east from the summit down an obvious and rocky ridge
to descend 140m. Shortly after crossing a stalker's path turn north along the
ridge between Coire Sgorach and Coire nan Cnamh. This ridge looks very craggy -
it may be better to follow the stalker's path for 400 metres into Coire Sgorach
and then turn NE to gain the base of the ridge. Head NE for 500 metres down a
narrow spur past a small tarn and onto more level ground at the 750m level. Do
not continue along the ridge (it leads to steep ground by the An Steall
waterfall) but turn directly north, winding your way through crags towards
Creag nan Eun. Another 500 metres brings you to a small valley which drops
east. Follow this and the stream that it contains down and through woodland to
the open slopes above the hut. All that is left is the crossing of the river
and a pleasant stroll above the Water of Nevis to the carpark.
If you do not mind road-walking or have transport arranged at
Achriabhach then take the northwest ridge from the summit. There is an clear
path dropping easily through the white, squeaky quartzite scree on the ridge.
The path follows the ridge as it turns north and then dives down its west
slopes heading for Lag Gorm over increasingly bouldery ground. The scree and
boulders are left shortly before the top of the Lag Gorm crags are reached.
Easy, grassy slopes are then descended NE to a stalker's path at 650m. The
gradient increases and the path begins to zigzag as it drops down the Sron
Sgurr a'Mhaim ridge.
The final steep grassy slopes are negotiated to meet the path to
Achriabhach - 1 kilometre of gentle descent further on to the Polldubh bridge.
There is a small carpark on the far side of the bridge where the river crashes
over a waterfall into a narrow red granite gorge. The road can be followed all
the way back to the carpark (about 2.5 km) - look out for the tourist traffic
leaving the glen.
Some of this road-walking can be avoided by following a path along the
south bank of the river for 1.5 km to a footbridge. If you are camped in the
glen then the path can even be taken further along the river. It proceeds along
the lower edge of the woodland above the river before meeting a fence and
skirting the river below Blar Ban. The fence is followed up to a weir and then
crossed again. Here the path becomes indistinct as it enters the woodland and
starts to climb - at first beside a fence and then arcing away to the
south-east. Another fence is soon joined and leads you south over a small col
below Cathar na Seilge and then down hill all the way to the Steall Hut.