A devilish day out

By Colin Hogarth

Lying between Glen Nevis and Loch Leven, the Mamores is one of the finest groups of mountains in Britain. Bounded by a network of steep, scree-stained coires, the summits range from broad humps to shapely cones, all hewn from the landscape by an artist with an eye on spectacle and drama.

The main ridge stretches over 10 miles and contains a mix of 10 Munros and seven tops. This route links three of the Munros - Mullach nan Coirean, Stob Ban and Sgurr a'Mhaim - and includes one of the finest pieces of mountain sculpture in Scotland, the breathtakingly narrow Devil's Ridge, a sharp arete offering an unexpected dose of airy exposure.

The route starts from Achriabhach, where Glen Nevis makes a sharp left turn, and the day's peaks can all be savoured as you journey up the glen to a car park created in recent years to cope with the growing demand from hillwalkers and visitors seeking out this beautiful part of the country.

Once the boots are on, set off east along the road and, at Achriabhach, a track enters the forest at a gate on the left, opposite the cottages. Follow this for about 150 metres and take a path on the left which climbs through the trees to meet the same track higher up. Turn left and stay with the track as it curves back sharply on itself and ascends north east. Carry straight on at the next junction and the forest road finally ends at a stream.

Branch left here, following a path which climbs steeply through the forest, keeping the Allt a'Choire Dheirg to your right. The trees start to thin higher up and at the top of the forest there's a ladder style straddling the high boundary fence. From there, a sketchy path rises over open hillside, following the fence as it ascends the broad north-east ridge of Mullach nan Coirean.

The path becomes more obvious as the ridge starts to narrow. The terrain becomes increasingly rocky towards the top, revealing swathes of red granite which give the hill its pretty pink tinge, accentuated by the pale red scree dusting the slopes of Coire Dearg down to the left.

The summit cairn sits at 939 metres and there are excellent views across Glen Nevis to the neighbouring bulk of Ben Nevis, and down over Fort William to Loch Linnhe. To the east, the shapely summit of Stob Ban can be seen.

Descend south east over an easy slope, curving left round the rim of the coire. An undulating ridge takes you to Mullach nan Coirean's south top (917m) and from here to Stob Ban the ridge becomes more defined and increasingly rocky but presents no problems. It rises north-east to a minor top, then descends into a col before climbing east over the light grey quartzite which gives Stob Ban (999m) its name, translating from Gaelic as 'white peak'. The route turns south, climbing more steeply over sharp boulders ringing the rim of Coire na Sleubhaich to reach the summit, another great viewpoint with panoramic vistas.

Descend the narrow east ridge where some easy scrambling helps. The flank broadens as it approaches the col at the head of Coire a'Mhusgain where a stalker's path leads north down to Glen Nevis. You can go home this way should you want to call it a day here, but our route continues east to Sgor an Iubhair. The path runs fairly level to tranquil Lochan Coire man Miseach, is a pleasant place to rest up and have a bite of lunch. From the waterside. bear south on a good path and a short pull over a boulder-strewn hillside leads to the flat-topped summit. Sgor an Iubhair (1001m) was ranked a Munro when I first climbed it, but the review of 1997 saw it demoted to a simple top, attached to neighbouring Sgurr a'Mhaim, our final destination.

The stretch of the route taking us there is perhaps the most exciting part of the day, climbing over the dramatically named Devil's Ridge, a knife-edge arete rising over Stob Coire a'Mhail. It comes in stark contrast to the unremarkable bulk of Sgor an Iubhair.

Take a deep breath and drop north over the boulders to a broad col. From here the ridge rises steeply to the narrow top of Stob Choire a'Mhail. The ascent is straight forward enough but prepare for an airy descent over a very exposed crest. Not as scary as the Aonach Eagach in Glencoe, but it's enough to start the heart pounding.

At the base of the ridge, the hillside broadens out reassuringly for an easy walk to to the ample summit of Sgurr a'Mhaim (1099m). Again there are marvelous view to Ben Nevis, so close now you feel you could almost reach out and touch it across the glen.

Skirt west round the top edge of Coire Sgorach and a knee-grinder of a path descends the steep shoulder, through quartzite boulders and scree for much of the drop until stone finally gives way to a soft bed of grass and heather on the lower section.

The route joins up with the stalker's path in the valley floor and this follows the burn back to the road, meeting up with the tarmac next to the bridge over the River Nevis by the public car park.


Distance 10 miles/16km.
Map OS Landranger sheet 41 or Harveys Ben Nevis.
Start Achriabhach, Glen Nevis. GR: 143684.
Parking Large public car park a short walk from the start point.
Grading An energy-sapping and exposed mountain route suitable for fit, experienced hillwalkers. The Devil's Ridge requires a head for heights but it can be removed from the route, along with Sgurr a'Mhaim, by descending the stalker's path in Coire a'Mhusgain which is also a useful escape route. In winter crampons, ice-axes and the knowledge to use them competently are a must.