Grey Corries – Nice Ridge, Shame About The Finish

20 06 2015

Mon 8 June 2015
After skiving for the first day of our Roy Bridge trip due to bad weather in the morning, we decided that Monday was the day I should make a start on my Munro Top bagging. As we’d both always wanted to re-do the Grey Corries, Richard decided to come with me. The weather forecast was for high pressure, light winds and lots of sunshine – perfect – however, this was Scotland which means the weather pretty much does what it wants…

Coire na Ceannain (stiched)

Click on photos for full size/resolution – most of these are Richard’s as marked
We drove up the horribly rocky and bumpy track for a mile past Corriechoille farm – my Polo wished they would set up some parking around the farm. Not remembering where the car parking was, we parked at the first junction of forest tracks where there was already a small van. We noticed a large white van ahead had continued straight on but I thought it might be a work party heading for the Lairig Leacach bothy four and a half miles up the glen. At this point, we were undecided whether we were heading up to the bothy to start on Stob Coire na Ceannain, my first top, from the back or just bashing up the never-ending Munro-baggers grass slope we’d done on our first visit and nipping across the connecting arete to it.

I’d had a very bad knee all night (which I’m now suspecting is from driving!) and it was horribly stiff and weak right from the start of the walk – Richard’s hip also had to ‘wear in’ so we were both leaning heavily on our poles and walking badly. There were a couple of miles of forest track before we had to make a decision about our route. We passed the white van in the usual parking place just before the forest gate – I’d forgotten about that spot but, if we’d parked there, although we’d have saved a bit on the walk in, we’d have had to walk back up to that spot on the return.

My knee pained me all the way up the forest track and I hobbled badly – Richard wasn’t doing much better and we were soon passed by the guy from the white van. We reached the foot of the long slog up the grass to Stob Coire Gaibhre and decided we may as well save ourself two miles and go up that way. My knee was fine on the long ascent as it was happier on the soft ground of the wet slopes. The long slog was shorter than we remembered due to some very interesting cornicing, some of which was tunneled and hollowed out underneath. There was a spectacular snow bridge at one point around ten feet thick.

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R Wood

We eventually hauled ourselves up to Gaibhre, a pretty Munro Top I’d done before where you get an excellent view of Coire na Ceannain and the lovely little lochan. I looked ahead to my narrow ridge between the Munro of Stob Choire Claurigh and Stob Coire na Ceannain, the Munro Top I had to bag – from here it looked very gentle…

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R Wood

Snowy Grey Corries

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R Wood

We took loads of photos of the various collapsing cornices and then Richard said we ought to get a move on.

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Both R Wood
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I set off along the almost flat grass as fast as I could but my knee was again complaining now the ground was harder. Richard was going much better by now though…

Corniced edge to Claurigh

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Stob Coire Gaibhre – R Wood

We were soon up at the north top of Stob Choire Claurigh where I went to the cairn to look at my connecting ridge. It looked much steeper than it had from the side – Richard kindly offered to come down to the col with me and wait there while I bagged my peak. I was glad he had as, with my wobbly knee and the very clambery and narrow path heading steeply down, I was quite nervous. I tried not to look down the huge drop to my right but the left-hand side wasn’t as bad.

Just short of the col, Richard settled down for a break and I continued for my peak. From the col, the ridge became wider and pleasantly grassy and a lovely little path headed up Ceannain.

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R Wood – Stob Coire Ceannain – should be a Munro in my opinion!

I was soon on the summit and looking down the very easy grass slopes we’d originally been going to come up from the bothy. When I contrasted these lovely sunny grass slopes with the very snowy slopes of Claurigh, I just wanted to shout Richard and head off down there, abandoning the rest of the ridge. But I thought I’d best at least go and have a look at the route onto Claurigh and headed back to the col where I found the re-ascent up to Claurigh’s north top much easier than the descent.

Ceannain to Claurigh
Claurigh from Ceannain

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Re-ascent to Claurigh – R Wood

I told Richard we’d go and have a look at the route to Claurigh and the onward ridge and I’d make a decision from there as I didn’t fancy any snow on the narrow ridge even though we both had microspikes. Claurigh starts with a narrow ridge with a fin of rocks along the top before the final cimb to the peak. The first time we’d done this, we’d gone the other side of the ridge – this was pretty much out of the question with the snow on that side. That is the side over the big drop into the corrie and I remembered I’d found it a bit fearsome last time – it was very early on in my Munroing career though. I spotted a path in the quartzite scree on the near side of the ridge – this side doesn’t have a drop below it so we set off along that.

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Both photos R Wood
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The path took us all the way to the end of the ridge where we clambered on top of the blocks along the top and found an easy connecting ridge up to the main summit where it was just possible to avoid the snow on the ascent.

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R Wood

We were soon on the summit and looking ahead along the ridge. As I’d feared, there was at least one section in view with snow right along the connecting ridge between two peaks. I wavered a bit and Richard asked where we had to get to. I pointed out the furthest peak of Stob Coire an Laoigh where we would turn north to pick up my second and final Munro Top of the day, Beinn na Socach – he was horrified at how far along the ridge we needed to go and immediately started a verbal mini-revolt. He said it was ridiculous for us to head right along there with the snowy conditions and he said the weather was closing in. I looked around but couldn’t see any closing in of the weather! He wanted to head down the next ridge heading north from Stob a’ Choire Leith – I said we’d see when we got there.

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Both photos R Wood
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We pressed on with the descent from Claurigh managing to avoid any snow and mostly on the good path. As we got to the north ridge of Stob a’ Choire Leith, I strategically continued walking and Richard followed on. The next obstacle he saw was my favourite Grey Corrie peak – Stob Coire Cath na Sine – a tilted set of crags which look pretty awkward but I remembered were very easy and pleasant.

“We don’t have to go along that fault do we?” he asked

I said that we did and that it was a very nice ridge and he’d like it. He grumbled but continued… Pretty soon we’d mounted the easy end of the tilted crags and were proceeding almost levelly along the ridge on easy paths with no snow. After this summit, however, we were due to meet the snowy ridge-line – I said we’d at least go and have a look but I had doubts about it.

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Cath na Sine – R Wood

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Snow Ridge Ahead – R Wood

Luckily, after we’d reached the summit of Cath na Sine and turned the corner, we could see that the ridgeline was much wider than it had looked from the side and that there was no problem providing you walked along the top of the snow. It wasn’t frozen and there were plenty of footsteps along it. I happily continued and Richard followed – the snow was pretty much perfect – not slippery and with just the right amount of bite as you trod into it. We could see a couple descending a snow slope towards us ahead.

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Both photos R Wood
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I knew there was a narrow pavement section just over the snowy rise they’d descended so quizzed them about what the snow was like along that section. They said that the slope they’d just descended was the first snow they’d met and that there was no more on our onward route. We were both happy to hear that and continued on, looking forward to the pavement section which is great fun in good conditions.

We stopped for a quick break out of the cold wind and then headed over the rise to descend to our pavement. Just as we set off, it started sleeting. We were both pretty annoyed about this as it meant we had to take care on the flat quartzite blocks along the ridge top instead of just strolling along it as quartzite is slippery in the wet.

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R Wood

Richard on Pavement Section

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‘Little’ Stob Ban down the back – R Wood

Caisteal & avalanche debris

As we reached the far side to start the short, sharp ascent to Caisteal, it faired up again.

Pavement Section from Caisteal
Looking back to ‘Pavement Section’

From there it was almost no effort to reach the second Munro on the ridge, Stob Coire an Laoigh (the intervening peaks are Tops).

Across Caisteal's Crags
The way ahead (above) the way behind (below)
Grey Corries Ridge from Laoigh

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Sgurr Choinnich Mor & Glen Nevis Peaks – R Wood

I thought the second Munro Top I had to collect was the next peak but, as I looked at it, I realised we’d done that peak before as we’d descended its south-western ridge to do the Munro of Sgurr Choinnich Mor before descending to Glen Nevis on our first visit.

Stob Coire Easain with Aonach Mor behind

Richard was quite annoyed…

“Do you mean we’ve gone all the way along this long ridge for nothing?” he asked

I reminded him we’d both said we’d wanted to do the Grey Corries again some time and that we’d probably never be fit enough to do them in future years so said it didn’t matter. I said I’d check the map when we reached the summit and check whether it was my Munro Top or not anyway…

Descending to Easain

We clambered down very rough blocky quartzite to the col and then steeply up to the next peak. I realised my knee had worn in at some point along the ridge and was going well but this was the point at which I felt tired out and we stopped halfway up the ridge for another break out of the wind.

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Looking back to Laoigh from our break spot – R Wood

At the summit the weather closed in again and became unpleasant so I didn’t get the map out and we continued down towards the onward grassy ridge back to the forest. I suggested that the small peaks on the edge of the escarpment of the grassy ridge could possibly be my Munro Top but that I’d check the map when we got back to base.

We headed down a large snow patch to the grassy ridge – again the snow was perfect and not at all slippery. We were soon romping along the grassy escarpment looking for cairns. There was yet more interesting cornicing and we saw we’d just left the main ridge in time as it had clouded over completely and all looked miserable back there. Amazingly, there were three guys just starting along the ridge – it was pretty late in the day to be just starting…

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All remaining photos R Wood

We found a cairn atop one of the grassy humps and, when I checked my map back at our log cabin, I saw that was indeed my needed top of Beinn na Socaich – the previous one was, of course, Stob Coire Easain. All that was necessary now was the long grassy descent back to the forest.

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Beinn na Socaich with more interesting cornicing

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And an interesting tunnel right through!

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Great looking snow gully back on Caisteal

I never really enjoy Munro descents nowadays as they seem to go on forever compared to descents in the Lakes where we usually walk. This was no exception and seemed never-ending – we both felt our legs were about to collapse but plodded on down stoically.

Just as we felt we’d really had enough but thought we just had the final section through the forest to go, we found our way was blocked. There was a deer fence at the edge of some clear-felled forest and no stile. We looked to our right towards the gorge but found we were more or less atop a grass cliff – we could see a pond with a dam far below. I said there was no way I was tackling that descent even hanging onto the deer fence! We looked further up the gorge but the ravine slopes were almost as steep as far as we could see – there was also a huge waterfall not far upriver which suggested the river would be quite bad to cross. It didn’t look like we could get across the dam even if we reached it.

I suggested we climb the deer fence and tackle the clear-felled forest but Richard, sensibly, refused as the left-over stumps and brash are almost impossible to walk through safely and it went on for quite some distance. I then suggested we walk back away from the ravine to where I could see some newly planted forest and climb over the fence there. He also thought that wasn’t a great idea.

In the end, we headed off back uphill along the river bank until Richard peered over and thought he could see a part of the gorge wall which was possible to descend and where the river looked shallow enough to cross. I reluctantly agreed to trying the route. It was very steep to descend and quite a way down to the river but the ground was quite stepped as there was a tiny burn descending that way. We clambered down awkwardly on the tufts, me being exceedingly cautious as my thighs were by now hurting and it looked horribly steep.

We eventually reached the burn where we saw it wasn’t shallow enough to paddle across in our boots and that we’d have to wade. I used my usual method of boots and socks off, tie my boot laces together and hang them around my neck and then go across barefoot. Richard used the prescribed method of socks off, boots back on and splosh across filling your boots with water. We got across without mishap, although the current was fairly lusty, and sat on the far bank in a patch of sun drying our feet out. It was at this point we looked up and saw the man from the white van also descending the steep bank we had.

When we’d got our boots back on we set off up the steep bank on a small path towards a gate. I did notice there was a stile beside that side of the dam but thought it must just be for workmen to use. After we’d clambered up the very steep bank, passed through the gate, and then climbed over another fence, I noticed a path going through the forest edge from the dam. We had a look at the map and decided that was actually our path to take us back through the forest so, grumbling, we staggered back down the steep hillside where there was fortunately another gate to take us to the track.

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Steep sided ravine from our unnecessary re-ascent

On reaching the good path, we both sighed with relief and got our heads down for the two and a half mile walk back along the forest roads on knackered legs to the car. After about a mile, the man from the van passed us and we chatted briefly about the awful section into the ravine and we all mused about where the actual route should go.

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Dilapidated ‘Puggy Line’ track bridge

On arriving back at the Polo, we also met the owners of the little van we were parked by – they were the couple we’d quizzed about the snow on the ridge who’d done our route the opposite way round. We all agreed what a tiring round it was and that the dam/ravine/river wade section had been awful but none of us had seen any other way. We were at least glad we’d had the wade at the end of the day and not at the start as they’d had. I said that I thought that section had spoiled what should have been a great walk!

Stats: 12 miles, 5122 feet of ascent, 8 and three-quarter hours

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24 responses

17 07 2015
fedup

Plenty of snow for June! Some great pics there Carol ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve made a mental note about the stile/dam but no doubt will forget it when I finally get around to these – my hill count this year is shockingly low ๐Ÿ˜ฆ even the English ones ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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18 07 2015
mountaincoward

I think if you cross the burn much ealier, before it becomes a proper gorge, there are little paths along that side and it might save some trouble. But I think the ‘normal’ route is the one we found in the end.

Was cycling around your way the other day again and called in at the lovely ‘Craggs’ tearoom ๐Ÿ™‚

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21 07 2015
fedup

Always seems busy, tbh I’ve never been in!!

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21 07 2015
mountaincoward

I think it’s the best tea-room in the Lakes personally. The baking and choice is absolutely superb and the soup and stuff is great too. Their prices aren’t as high as some either. Lovely view out back as well ๐Ÿ™‚

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25 06 2015
tessapark1969

Still to do these. Wish the snow would take a hike!!

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25 06 2015
mountaincoward

I’m pretty much sick of the snow too, although it didn’t end up causing me any problems on our week up there but I was doing pretty easy routes.

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22 06 2015
Rowena

I’ve still to do the Grey Corries. It’s my least visited Munro area round there, but have a holiday booked at the end of July so hoping to get a few done round there then.
The snow is such a pain but I have found it has all been fairly walkable so far this year.

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23 06 2015
mountaincoward

I’m starting to not mind this year’s snow now as it is so walkable. It still shouldn’t really be there in such quantities in June though!
Carol.

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22 06 2015
LensScaper

I’m surprised by the depth of the snow and the rather fragile nature of those leering cornices. Is it usually as snowy as this in early June?

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23 06 2015
mountaincoward

No, it never is! It was pretty snowy for a long time last year and the occasional patch remained through much of the year, especially in the Cairngorms. But the quantity left by June this year I’ve never seen before and I’ve been visiting Scotland at least every June for the last 14 years or so to walk. The crevasses in the cornices I’ve never seen before last year when I saw one huge one on Ben Lui. This year there are loads of really deep crevasses. It’s starting to resemble mini Himalaya or the Alps or somewhere.
Carol.

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23 06 2015
LensScaper

You wouldn’t want to be traversing below one of those large cornices when it finally detaches itself

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23 06 2015
mountaincoward

No, definitely not – even if they have gone fairly soft by then – you could still get suffocated!

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21 06 2015
Mark

This is an almost exact copy of my day out on these hills to get the self same tops. As someone whose made many a tactical error and ended up bashing my way through steep woodland I can proudly say that this time I called it right. I crossed at the dam to pick up a path to the track marked on the map. Rarely do I excercise that level of common sense. Normally I really on good old British refusal to face the facts and crash onwards regardless.๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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21 06 2015
mountaincoward

Yeah, I wish I’d gone to investigate the stile at the dam when I saw it!

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21 06 2015
smackedpentax

Looks a fantastic hike Carol – nice to see snow about this time of year. Glad your knees held out – and superb photos too Richard.

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21 06 2015
mountaincoward

Well it turned out I didn’t mind THAT snow but I’m glad it wasn’t frozen or I wasn’t on a harder, narrower ridge. It’s fairly ridiculous how much snow is left up there for June!

My photos are quite nice too ๐Ÿ˜‰

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21 06 2015
Blue Sky Scotland

Still a lot of snow left up there by the looks of it. Some lovely snow features and I always think the mountains look a bit dull when they lose the last of it, though walking can be tricky at times. It was freezing today down on the Border summits. More like winter than mid June.

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21 06 2015
mountaincoward

You’re on a border-bagging trip eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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21 06 2015
Gaslight Crime

stunning pictures again.

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21 06 2015
mountaincoward

Thanks – I was a bit gutted to have to include more of Richard’s photos than mine but, him being digital, he took far more photos and a lot of them turned out to be more ‘descriptive’ of what I was saying in the post, or was an ‘action’ shot with me in it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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21 06 2015
underswansea

Hello Carol, another interesting report and wonderful photos. Those are some seriously exposed ridges, probably not a good place to be if the weather got bitchy. I must confess my ignorance – when you wrote about ‘Munro Tops” I assumed they were mountains in a particular mountain range, however, it is now my understanding that a Munro is a mountain over a specified height and can be located anywhere in Scotland. Is this correct? Bob

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21 06 2015
mountaincoward

A Munro is a named (main) peak over of 3000 feet or above and has to be in Scotland. A Munro Top is all the other peaks (generally attached to a Munro) of 3000 feet or above which havenโ€™t been designed Munro summits. Confusing innit? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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21 06 2015
underswansea

It’s a bit confusing but I think I get it. I’ve said it before, it sure looks like nice country. If you are ever out this way, look me up and you can do some ridges and peaks in Canada.

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21 06 2015
mountaincoward

Your peaks looks seriously scary to me – and I think they’re a lot higher?

The Munro system is quite confusing but, what makes it worse, is that the SMC (the Scottish Mountaineering Council) now administer the list of Munros and they tinker with it all the time. So things swap between being ‘tops’ and Munros or get added to, or deleted from, the list all the time! ๐Ÿ˜

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