Na Gruagaichean (1055m);
- Pronunciation: Na Grooageechan
- Translation: The Maidens
- Total distance: 11.3km
- Total time: 4hrs 22mins
- Total ascent: 948m
- Weather: Overcast with cloud rising above the summits for a time.
- Start / end location: Mamore Lodge (hotel) car park just north of Kinlochleven. Note that the hotel has now closed. [OS Map Sheet 41 – Grid Ref: NN 186 630]
- Map: A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.
The weather over the last week has been nothing short of appalling (114mph winds were recorded at the Nevis ski centre on Monday 23rd May) and today has been the first day that has offered any glimmer of an improvement – but only until early afternoon according to the forecast. So our aim was to do a quick morning climb of Na Gruagaichean in the Mamore Range, starting from Kinlochleven.
We parked at the rear of the Mamore Lodge (now closed) which perches about 220m above sea level on the hillside immediately to the north of Kinlochleven village centre. From the lodge a land-rover track runs NE passed the estate cottage, which it bypasses via a purpose built path that detours around the south side of the buildings before rejoining the track once again. We followed this track, which kept at a constant contour line, as it swung northward and into the glen containing the Allt Coire na Ba burn.
Further up the little glen the track crossed the burn and then almost doubled back on itself as it continued its constant-contour traverse on the other side of the glen. Immediately beyond the crossing point (via a bridge) a footpath, which we took, continued along the course of the burn and up into the glen. Around 1.2km from the bridge the path reached the headwall of the glen’s corrie (SSE of Stob Choire a’ Chairn) where it turned NE and began to climb the hillside via a long couple of switchback zigzags. At the point where the path turned sharply left (north) we left it and charted our own course east up the steep side of Na Gruagaichean. It was reasonably tough going as the slope featured an equal mixture of easier grassy ribs and jumbles of large boulder scree. It was technically straightforward and just required some steady climbing to reach the summit cairn at 1055m or 3,461ft.
Regrettably the cloud had obscured the summit views and the wind was blowing hard. A light dusting of fresh snow lay in pockets amongst the craggy summit boulders and as soon as we reached the summit cairn we had to pull on our hats and gloves. We found a sheltered spot just to the north side of the cairn and waited for a few minutes to see if the mist would disperse a little and hence offer us a view. We were quite hopeful that it would clear a bit as the mist and clouds were rattling along the tops at a fair rate in the very stiff wind. We struck lucky and the mist and clouds progressively rose above many of the tops providing us with a marvellous panorama of the rest of the Mamore Range both to the north and the south of us. The loftier hills of Ben Nevis and the Aonachs just to our north, however, always remained shrouded.
The summit of Na Gruagaichean is twinned with another peak just 350m away to the NW and only about 20m lower. This was our next target and to reach it we dropped quite sharply down a ridge of boulder scree, crossed a small col and then immediately ascended the adjacent ridge to a grassy summit. The views continued to develop in all directions as we crossed the top of the peak where we then turned west and descended a good path to reach a col on the west ridge – just before it began its climb to Stob Choire a’ Chairn. At this col we turned sharply SE to join the path that we’d left earlier in the day at the top of the lazy zigzag section. The route back to the Mamore Lodge from this point was achieved by simply following our previous route of ascent.
As we walked back along the track the rain began to gently fall and so we increased the pace to get back to the car before the heavens opened once again.