The Grey Corries:
Stob Ban, Stob Choire Claurigh, Stob Coire an Laoigh & Sgurr Choinnich Mor
plus Tops

Monday 27th June 2011

Weather/Conditions: High cloud and peaceful weather, though a bit cold on the main ridge. Primarily benign.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 13.4km / 1500m / 9h 10m
Accompanying: Dougie

With aching muscles triumphant from our Mamore traverse, Dougie and I would continue on the Grey Corries. We were in Glen Nevis at the remote Meanach, a bothy miles from any road, and a God-send in dry shelter when we stumbled in the door late the previous night.

I got up first, Dougie slept on for a while. Some of the gear had dried out - the tent was in a useable condition once more. But having waded thigh-deep through the river with my boots last night, I didn't want to look at them - they were twice the weight with the water and there was no way I could dry them out, even over the stove. The morning crept by. We didn't need to rush a thing.

I went around the back of the bothy armed with a spade, and noticed myself making checks to see no one is looking on when it's obviously empty. Midges would have made the back door morning duties much harder than they were, but for all the stillness there weren't any to be seen. It wasn't a sunny day today - not so much as forecast - but the cloud was high and Aonach Beag and Ben Nevis stood clear at the foot of the glen, enormous in their bulk with tendrils of cloud hanging off them. Last night we waded the river to gain access to Meanach bothy, thus unlocking the rest of the Glen Nevis route. Now it was only a question of time.

Stob Ban

We packed our gear up, pulled on wet boots and set off at midday; not the most appropriate time since our plan was to traverse both the Grey Corries and Aonachs. We walked along trackless ground beside the Abhainn Rath (the river) to gain a path running up the river alongside Munro #1, Stob Ban.

Muscles were sore but we got moving slowly, Stob Ban above us all the while and looking close. We left the path after a time and beat through rough ground to the summit ridge. This ridge was deceptively long for the top took a while to reach. But this was all good progress - the Mamores were beginning to look distant, and I really felt like we were making solid progress on the route. I could safely begin to look to the end of the route, although nothing was certain yet.

Stob Ban to Stob Choire Claurigh

Stob Ban's summit cairn came and went, then we descended the scree path down it's north flanks. The next Munro - Stob Choire Claurigh - gave an uncomplicated, but long climb to the top. In April when I was last here, I just got my head down and walked. This time, my plan of action was much the same, listening to learn Marillion's 'Grendel' for an upcoming drumming gig. As much as I needed to learn this (pretty dreadful) song, it felt awkward to be tending to flatland commitments in the mountains.

Stob Choire Claurigh climbed to the highest altitude of the day as well as being the summit upon which our 4-day route turned back on itself and began the journey to Fort William. I stayed at the summit for a long while, waiting to meet Dougie. I took some photos and took my feet out of their boots to dry them out. The upcoming walk would be an entertaining one - the Grey Corries are a superb ridge walk. It lacks the technical ridges of the Mamores (which could be a good thing) and the scenery is stunning on a clear day. I won't forget that first sight of scree flanks and interlocking snowfields in April. Ben Nevis towering at the end of the range is a fitting end to the scene and it would make a fitting end to our trip.

The Grey Corries to Sgurr Choinnich Mor and Camp

We walked over the three Munro Tops of the Grey Corries, each in succession, usually without views. At one point I chased some sheep along the ridge, the pair unable to get down the steep slopes on either side. Then half-way across, I asked Dougie "Guess what time it is?" And my answer of 5pm shocked him. So late in the day, with so little ground covered (relatively!), we would almost certainly camp on this side of the Aonachs and climb them tomorrow.

So we took our time, had a long break at the next Munro, Stob Coire an Laoigh before heading onward to Sgurr Choinnich Mor. From here, Aonach Beag really opens up. It's east wall dominates from here and it is vast. Tomorrow we would pick a line up it. I was convinced the bealach below Sgurr a' Bhuic was the way to go although Dougie remembered climbing under an overhang when he did the Glen Nevis round several decades ago. We would make our final decision tomorrow.

Sgurr Choinnich Mor passed without incident, we passed it's weird crack in the ground half way up, got onto the summit ridge and followed that around to the summit. I was most interested in it's Munro Top, Sgurr Choinnich Beag. It is hard to tag this summit onto a car-to-car walk from Glen Spean because it lies so far away, but it is only natural to climb it on a Grey Corries - Nevis traverse. So thus I was glad to descend from Sgurr Choinnich Mor and climb it, situated right above the nights campsite below Aonach Beag's east face. This face is a monster and why the structure and form of the face induced a kind of nausea in me, I don't understand why.

We pitched our tent on a slightly sloping patch of ground at the bealach below; a beautiful campsite. At 740m up, the views were still massive, especially towards Binnein Mor and other Mamore peaks. The sunset itself was hidden from view by the mountains, but the evening light turned to gold and orange for a while.

This is what camping should be. If our trip had got off to a rocky start on the Mamores, then the Grey Corries to Ben Nevis might be some of the finest walking I've ever done. This mid-way camp was idyllic and we turned in early that night, ready for the 4.30 alarm next morning.

Images: Sgurr Choinnich Mor to Camp


Southern Highlands from Stob Coire an Laoigh

Sgurr Choinnich Beag 360°
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 12.00pm Left Meanach bothy
(2.25) 2.25pm Stob Ban
(4.00) 4.00pm Stob Choire Claurigh
(4.35) 4.35pm Stob Choire Claurigh (left)
(5.50) 5.50pm Stob Coire an Laoigh
(6.20) 6.20pm Stob Coire an Laoigh (left)
(6.40) 6.40pm Stob Coire Easain
(7.55) 7.55pm Sgurr Choinnich Mor
(8.40) 8.40pm Sgurr Choinnich Beag
(9.10) 9.10pm Campsite at 730m below Aonach Beag

Written: 2011-08-03