Another day at Fersit

Stob a’ Choire Mheadoin (1105m); Stob Coire Easain (1115m)

  • Pronunciation:            Stob a Horrer Veeyann; Stob Korrer Essin
  • Translation:                 Peak of the Middle Corrie; Peak of the Coire of the Little Waterfall
  • Total distance:             17.7km
  • Total time:                   7hrs 15mins
  • Total ascent:                1231m
  • Weather:                      Mainly dry and improving throughout the day, but with occasional blustery snow showers. Gusting winds on the tops and ridges. Consolidated snow above 900m, stretching much lower down into the gullies.
  • Start / end location:   At the end of the public minor road to Fersit. Minor road accessed from A86 approximately 7km east of Roy Bridge. Fersit is located at the northern tip of Loch Treig [Grid Ref: NN 350 782]
  • Map:                               A map of route can be found here– it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

    View looking NE from the concrete pillar below Meall Cian Dearg

This morning found us once again parked up at the end of the public road at Fersit (see yesterday’s blog for details of this starting point) with the objective being the two Munros to the west of Loch Treig: Stob a’ Choire Mheadoin and Stob Coire Easain.

Loch Treig has a small dam at its northern aspect (near Fersit) and its water is used to generate hydro-electricity at the RioTintoAlcan aluminium plant some 15 miles west in Fort William. Interestingly, from 1924 through to 1943 the predecessor to RioTintoAlcan, “The British Aluminium Company”, under the “Lochaber Project”, built a 900-foot dam to capture water from the upper reaches of the river Spey, which was then fed through a tunnel to top-up Loch Treig. A fifteen-foot diameter pressure tunnel was then driven 15 miles from the shores of Loch Treig through the two Munros above plus the Grey Corries and finally the Nevis Massif to emerge 600-feet above the aluminium plant located close to sea-level just outside Fort William. Four steel pipes carry the water down the side of Ben Nevis and directly into the hydro-electric plant below for the production of aluminium, which requires huge amounts of energy to extract the aluminium from the raw ore.

The fresh water, after it had been used to generate the electricity, was then pumped three miles round the shoreline of Loch Linnhe to the Pulp and Paper mill at Corpach as the production of pulp requires huge volumes of fresh water. Sadly, the pulp production side of the business closed over two decades ago, followed by the paper production side at the end of 2005.

Looking SSW from plateau above Meall Cian Dearg with Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin in the background

From the car-park we followed the land-rover track southward along the west side of the River Treig. Close to the dam the track splits with the left hand lower track heading directly for the top of the dam and right hand track starting to zigzag upwards in the general westward direction that we wanted to go. We followed this right hand track until it began to level out, at which point we took to the hillside and headed west towards a concrete pillar that could be seen on the skyline on the NE ridge between Meall Cian Dearg and Creag Fhaiclach. [However, as we found out on the return leg of our journey the lower and upper tracks meet again about 600m along the side of Loch Treig and it would probably have been slightly better to stay on the lower track until the two tracks rejoined one another. At this point another track branches off right (west) and continues for 200-300m towards the NE ridge extending from Meall Cian Dearg. It was much less boggy than the lower portion of the route that we took!]

Approaching the false summit on the NNE ridge of Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin

Once we reached the broad ridge below Meall Cian Dearg we had a quick investigation of the concrete pillar that had provided us with a point of reference on the way up. The pillar was like an overgrown Trig Point at about 10 feet tall. We don’t know what it is used for but suspect, that along with some other concrete posts that we could just make out to the west, denotes the route of the underground water tunnels between Loch Treig and Fort William [this is just a guess on our part].

We did see that a vole was living close to the base of the concrete pillar. It seemed quite content to let us get very close: to within 5 feet. It just sat munching on the grass stems outside its little burrow.

Elaine on the summit of Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin

Once on the ridge we were confronted with our first obstacle, the rock buttress of Meall Cian Dearg. Here a path zigzaged quite easily up this buttress and we emerged on a gently sloping plateau. At the back of this plateau a lovely curving cliff-face arced round left and upwards to a peak. This peak had a real look of a Munro, but it was actually a false summit, with the true summit of Stob a’ Choire Mheadhoin slightly hidden from view. As the mist was coming and going it was hard to visualize which ones were only subsidiary peaks and which were the true summit peaks.

At one point a window in the weather revealed the local topography and Stob a’ Choire Mheadhoin could be seen peering above and to the right of our false summit. As we climbed to the false summit and progressed on to the true summit the snow underfoot became increasingly firm. At the summit of Stob a’ Choire Mheadhoin, at 1105m or 3,625’, the mist had closed in again and our second Munro of the day, only 800m away couldn’t be seen. We put on our crampons for the descent to the col with the second Munro. As we crossed the col on the journey to the second Munro I used a short break in the clouds to examine the possible descent route from the col. From my vantage point well away from the actual edge it looked reasonable, if a bit steep near the very top.

Cameron at the summit cairn of Stob Coire Easain

From the col the summit of Stob Coire Easain (1115m or 3,658’) was only a further 300m away up a steep and icy ridge. We quickly arrived at the summit cairn and took a quick photograph of each other in the blustery winter conditions before retracing our steps back to the col.

Our descent direction was towards the NW windward side of the col and so little in the way of a cornice had built up. I carefully approached the icy lip at the edge of the col and on closer examination, as the wind was whipping up ice and snow crystals, which blasted my face and the view below, I thought it very steep and so best to forego as a descent route and opt to go back over the first Munro by the way of our ascent. However, Elaine was much more game to have a look herself, and despite the gusting winds and icy blasts she thought that the route looked like a good option. So carefully we dropped over the icy lip and front-pointed our descent about 80m vertically until the angle eased a bit to allow us to face down the slope and descend a bit more naturally. Elaine performed a textbook descent, daggering with her ice axe in one hand and front-pointing with her crampons.

Elaine at the summit cairn of Stob Coire Easain

After a few hundred metres we descended below the snowline and took off our crampons. We then continued on a long traverse back along a path that was little more than a deer track, but which hugged the NW side of Stob ‘ Choire Mheadhoin at around the 500m-600m contour. This path eventually intersected the NE ridge of Meall Cian Dearg at the concrete pillar. We then retraced our steps to the land-rover track at the side of Loch Treig and continued the 2km back to the car-park.

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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2 Responses to Another day at Fersit

  1. Roy Starkey says:

    Hi Cameron

    Sorry I could not make the “catch-up” at the Nag’s – we were up in the Lake District enjoying some very cold, but clear sunny weather for the week. We had some minor “excitement” on our first night as our parking space for the cottage we were renting disappeared under about 12″ of water as the River Rathay (N of Ambleside) flooded spectacularly – fortunately we were able to move the car to slightly higher ground, just, but only just out of harm’s way. We had four good days on the fells – Coniston Old Man and Swirl How, Scafell Pike – the long way, from Eskdale; Great Gable from Seathwaite ) brilliant clear sunny day with NO people), and finallly did the round of Easdale starting and ending in Grasmere, which made a very pleasant end to the week with views to everywhere we had climbed during the week. There was remarkably little snow except right on the tops – a bit disappointing after our experience this time last year when it was truly like the Alps. It is great to be able to pick up on your regular instalments. Where are you likely to be in early to mid-March do you think ? I’m hopeful of squeezing in a week in Scotland if the weather looks reasonable.

    Best wishes

    Roy

    • Cameron says:

      Hi Roy,
      It sounds like you had a great week’s mountaineering in the Lakes – despite the near-miss with the flooding! Also, we certainly know what it’s like to climb all day and not see another sole.
      Where are we likely to be in mid-March? Good question. I reckon that we’ll be south of the line between Fort William and the Cairngorms – basically chasing any good weather. We’re keen to explore the region around Killin and then swing either west making our way to Fort William via the many Munros we’ve still to complete on the west coast, or if the weather is more favourable, head up towards Braemar and the Lochnagar area. We’ll probably have a much better idea nearer the beginning of March. We’ll keep you informed.
      Best regards,
      Cameron

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