Spectacular day on the Mamores

Mullach nan Coirean (939m); Stob Ban (999m)

  • Pronunciation:            Mooluch nuh Yerrigen; Stob Ban
  • Translation:                 Summit of the corries; Light coloured peak
  • Total distance:             14km
  • Total time:                   8hrs
  • Total ascent:                1220m
  • Weather:                      Perfect. Beautifully clear and sunny all day. Either very light to no wind. Cold.
  • Start / end location:   Lower Falls car park at Achriabhach near Polldubh Crags – about 7km along Glen Nevis [Grid Ref: NN 145 684]
  • Map:                               A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

The Nevis Range from Mullach nan Coirean

The Mamores is a range of peaks extending approximately 16km due East-West that is sandwiched between the Nevis Range to the north and Glen Coe to the south. The Mamores consist of 10 Munros and several other tops.

Elaine high on NNE ridge of Mullach nan Coirean with background temperature inversion

We have been really lucky with this latest run of extremely cold weather, which continued again today. The drive on the road along Glen Nevis, at around 07:45 this morning, was very icy.

We stopped at the large car park adjacent to the “Lower Falls” (a large waterfall on the River Nevis). For anyone who has seen the 1995 “Rob Roy” film starring Liam Neeson there is a scene in the film where Rob Roy (Neeson) makes his escape from his Government military captors by diving off a bridge at Chia-aig waterfalls near Loch Arkaig and lands (miraculously) in the river below the “Lower Falls” – now that’s impressive as the two are 20km from each other! I’m sure that the film’s continuity guy isn’t too bothered about this.

Elaine looking towards Ben Nevis from high on NNE ridge of Mullach nan Coirean

From the car park the aim was to head back down the Glen Nevis road about 300m before turning left to join a Forestry Commission road that weaves its way to the base of the NNE ridge which extends down from the first Munro, Mullach nan Coirean. Joining this long NNE ridge near its base would have made for a long but fairly easy ascent of the hill. However, when we entered the forest, a Commission sign immediately indicated a diversion to the route due to timber felling operations. So instead of a kilometer or so of easy forestry track followed by an ascent of the NNE ridge we were directed along a path through the forest that followed the small burn, Allt a Choire Dheirg, directly up the glen to the east of our intended ridge. At the end of the forestry boundary a tall deer fence ran west as far as the eye could see up towards the ridgeline.

Elaine ascending last part of NNE on Mullach nan Coirean

At this point a few inches of snow was lying and the only “obvious” way forward was to follow the deer fence up to the crest of the ridge. It was an absolute nightmare! The angle had to be at least 45° and covered with knee deep heather that itself had a covering of loose powdery snow on it. In places the only thing that we could realistically do was to grab tufts of heather and haul ourselves upwards. Only after what seemed like a ridiculously long time did we top out on the crest of the ridge – still only about 650m high. At least after we reached the proper crest of the ridgeline the angle of ascent relented considerably and we were better able to continue on our intended climbing route.

Looking NW from summit of Mullach nan Coirean

The snow at this point, which actually characterized the conditions for the whole walk, was very soft and powdery dry – none of the hard crusty snow that we had experienced previously. This made the walking a bit more tiring.

After another 150m of climbing we donned our crampons and continued our march to the summit of Mullach nan Coirean (939m or 3,081’). With each step the views got more spectacular. To our rear (NNE) the summit massive of the south side of Ben Nevis loomed from across Glen Nevis, and to the east, the west face of Sgurr a’ Mhaim, with its “Devil Ridge”, was only 3km away.

Summit cairn of Mullach nan Coirean

Looking back into Glen Nevis a mist, caused by a temperature inversion, filled the glen and extended back down towards Fort William. Anyone “caught” in this mist would probably have thought that the day had turned out murky. Instead, high above the mist, the landscape was an alpine picture. [Perhaps if these conditions keep up folks in the Alps will be heard saying that their scenery is like a Highland landscape!]

After lunch siesta - we're in no hurry

We lunched at the summit of Mullach nan Coirean and for once the sun actually offered us some mild heat as we sat with our backs to the summit cairn.

From the summit we then headed in a large arc (approximately east) following the rim of several corries until we intersected the top of the north ridge of Stob Ban. From here it was only a short climb southward of around 120m ‘til we topped-out on the summit of Stob Ban (999m or 3,278’).

The Nevis Range from Mullach nan Coirean

On the summit we met a group of four who had come up the north ridge and were descending in the same direction as us. We stopped for our second flask of tea, which gave the other team a good head start on the descent.

Our descent from the summit began with a steep drop down the east ridge until we reached the col with Sgurr an Iubhair (1001m, and until recently deemed as a Munro). From the col there was a simple path that headed NNW following the burn Allt Coire a’ Mhusgain right back to where our car was parked.

Elaine with Stob Ban in background from Mullach nan Coirean

Despite today being Sunday and having such brilliant weather, we saw very few teams on the two hills. We had Mullach nan Coirean to ourselves and only saw another eight on Stob Ban.

The scenery and weather were so spectacular today that this has to be one of the most scenic winter outings that we have both done.

Rock face on Stob Ban

Cameron on the summit of Stob Ban

Elaine on summit of Stob Ban

Elaine descending from summit of Stob Ban

Looking east from Stob Ban

Sgurr a' Mhaim, left, with Devil's Ridge left of centre

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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