Name: The Ring of Steall
Hills: Sgurr a' Mhaim, Sgurr an Iubhair, Am Bodach, Stob Coire a' Chairn, An Garbhanach, An Gearanach
Date: Wednesday 21st July 2021
Company: Just myself
Distance: 16.1km, Ascent: 1656m
Time: 8Hrs 30Mins

On Tuesday evening, I visited a friend in Moray to photograph one of several regular visitors to her garden. To get such close-ups of the Pine Martens, I use the wi-fi card functionality in my Canon 7DMkII to control the camera remotely using my iPhone. I can take photographs with the camera located literally just a few metres away without disturbing the Pine Martens . A few photos follow.

Pine Marten:

Pine Marten:

Pine Marten:

While waiting and hoping for a Pine Marten to appear, I had checked out the forecast for the following day and came up with two potential plans, i) a visit to Skye to ascend Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, my one remaining second round Munro on the Cuillin ridge, or ii) a visit to Fort Willam to ascend Sgurr a' Mhaim with the potential to extend the walk to undertake the Ring of Steall. I opted for Fort William.

As Pine Martens generally appear at dusk, it was a late drive to Fort William arriving shortly before 1am. A few hours later I was awake and on my way to Glen Nevis parking in the car park at Achriabhach.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

From Achriabhach, I crossed the bridge over the Water of Nevis where I stopped to take a photograph of the small waterfall.

Small waterfall at Achriabhach:

I then followed the path running alongside the Allt Coire a' Mhusgain until reaching the path junction. At the junction, I took the path leading steeply up the north-west ridge of Sgurr a' Mhaim. Since leaving the van, I had been walking in low cloud. I suspected this was cloud inversion and that above a thin layer of cloud there would be beautiful weather.

After ascending a couple of hundred metres, I broke through the cloud .

Breaking out above the cloud inversion:

Initially the views of the cloud inversion were not fantastic but I knew the views would be much better if I could gain a good bit more height before the cloud started lifting. I therefore cracked-on up the hill.

Looking back from just above the cloud inversion:

I repeatedly had to stop and look back to admire the views.

Cloud inversion:

During the ascent I met and chatted with a couple of young lads from Fort William who had set off early to walk the Ring of Steall. They were also repeatedly stopping to admire the stupendous views.

Beautiful cloud inversion:

Looking back:

Cloud inversion below Ben Nevis:

Cloud inversion:

As I progressed up Sgurr a'Mhaim I thought to myself, "Was it the right decision to take a last-minute day of work?". The answer came quickly, "Hell yeah!"

Sgurr a' Mhaim provides great views across to Ben Nevis.

Ben Nevis:

Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean:

Throughout the day I repeatedly stopped to put on suncream. Having already had surgery on my nose to remove skin cancer, I am now very wary of walking in strong sunlight. I also wore a wide-brimmed sunhat throughout the walk.

Having a break to soak in the view:

Ben Nevis and CMD, Aonachs, and Grey Corries:

Cloud inversion in the low glens:

Despite Sgurr a' Mhaim's relentless steepness, I was feeling good and was not far from the summit. There was no way I was just ascending Sgurr a' Mhaim on its own, the Ring of Steall was definitely on.

Final stony ascent of Sgurr a' Mhaim:

The views from the summit of Sgurr a' Mhaim were stunning. My last ascent of Sgurr a' Mhaim was in 1997; it was my fiftieth Munro.

View from the summit of Sgurr a' Mhaim:

With a long walk ahead, increasing temperature and with no water on the ridge, I decided to undertake the walk at a good pace in order to not be out in the sun for longer than necessary. I was carrying two litres of water but three or four would have been better.

From the summit of Sgurr a' Mhaim I made my way along the south ridge which is known as the Devil's Ridge.

Heading from Sgurr a' Mhaim towards the Devil's Ridge:

View towards An Gearanach, An Garbhanach and Stob Coire a' Chairn with the eastern mamores beyond:

Approaching the Devil's Ridge:

The Devil's Ridge was every bit as easy as I remembered from my previous traverse. There are only a couple of short hands-on sections the most difficult of which can be avoided via a by-pass path.

The Devil's Ridge:

Devil's Ridge scramble:

Beyond the Devil's Ridge it was onwards and upwards to the summit of Sgurr an Iubhair. The last time I ascended Sgurr an Iubhair it was a Munro. It has since been demoted and is now just a subsidiary peak of Sgurr a' Mhaim.

At the summit of Sgurr an Iubhair:

From Sgurr an Iubhair I next progressed towards Am Bodach. My one previous ascent of Am Bodach was in full-on winter conditions with ice axe and crampons. Compared to the previous ascent, this ascent was much more straight-forward.

Ascending Am Bodach:

Looking back to Sgurr an Iubhair and Sgurr a' Mhaim during ascent of Am Bodach:

At the summit of Am Bodach I stopped to have a good drink before again continuing on round the Ring of Steall.

Great view from the summit of Am Bodach:

The descent of Am Bodach was my least favourite part of the day. The descent is very steep and the path was very dry and dusty adding to the potential for a slip. I therefore took my time in descent. Most people undertake the Ring of Steall in a clockwise direction unlike myself who was undertaking an anti-clockwise circuit. An anti-clockwise circuit would make Am Bodach easier.

Looking back at steep descent from Am Bodach:

The next hill of the day, Stob Coire a' Chairn, was the easiest of the day albeit I was now really feeling the heat.

I passed a young couple taking a small, very hairy lapdog round the Ring of Steall. It was really struggling after the first hill and I wouldn't be surpised if it is dead within the week .

Heading for Stob Coire a' Chairn:

The summit of Stob Coire a' Chairn provided my first proper views of An Garbhanach. The ascent looks insanely steep and dangerous but it isn't as bad as it looks.

On reaching the col between Stob Coire a' Chairn and An Garbhanach I stopped to speak with a large group of lasses who were enjoying the great weather and views. I recognised a couple through a mutual friend on Facebook.

During the ascent of An Garbhanach and subsequent traverse of the ridge out to An Gearanach I didn't bother taking photos as I was struggling with the heat and concentrating on not putting a hand or foot wrong. The ridge between An Garbhanach and An Gearanach is harder than the Devil's Ridge; akin to the Carn Mor Dearg arete linking Carn Mor Dearg to Ben Nevis. I think I found it trickier than it could have been as I stuck to the ridge instead of taking the bypass path.

Looking towards steep An Garbhananch from the summit of Stob Coire a' Chairn:

Looking back to An Garbhanach:

It was a welcome relief to reach the summit of An Gearanach as it was exceptionally warm (26C in the glen below).

At the summit of An Gearanach:

From the summit of An Garbhanach, I followed the steep path down passing numerous other walkers ascending their first of four of the Ring of Steall, in midday heat.

The descent was fairly pleasant with one exception, Clegs! Numerous clegs were flying around me and every so often I felt an ouch as one of the feckers bit me.

On reaching the Steall waterfall the river was so low it was possible to walk through without even using stepping stones never mind the wire bridge. The Steall waterfall was also little more than a trickle.

Steall waterfall:

From the Steall waterfall I followed the track back out to the Glen Nevis upper car park. I then grudgingly walked down the road to reach the lower car park where my van was awaiting.

On getting into the van I started the engine, put on the air conditioning and drank 1.5 litres of water. The air conditioning managed to get the inside temperature down to 30C.

Glad that I undertook the Ring of Steall, it is a great circuit .

PS If doing the Ring of Steall, WalkHighlands suggests a time of between 9 and 12 hours.