Ben Nevis and the Mamores

Glen Nevis runs south for approximately 9.5km (6 miles) from Fort William to the gorgeous Steall Meadows. The glen is bounded on either side by the huge mountain slopes of Ben Nevis and the magnificent undulations of the Mamores.

The crystal clear Water of Nevis cut its course through Glen Nevis, granting the landscape an alpine feel. It is a wonderful area to explore.

At the head of Glen Nevis, the tight confines of Steall Gorge bestow spectacular, dramatic scenery, whilst the more open backdrop of Steall Meadows is an amazing spot to linger. Rising above Steall Meadows is the Munro of An Gearanach (whose name translates as The Complainer) from where Britain’s second highest waterfall, the magnificent An Steall (The White Spout), plummets 120 metres into the Water of Nevis below.

An Gearanach stands within the Mamores, which form perhaps the finest range of mountains in Scotland outwith the Black Cuillin of Skye. Comprising ten Munros - Scottish mountains over 3000 feet in height - these spectacular peaks, including Sgurr Eilde Mor, Binnein Mor, Am Bodach and Sgurr a’ Mhaim, have been fused together into a seemingly impenetrable barrier above Glen Nevis. It is thought the name Mamores translates from the Gaelic Màm Mòr meaning big breast-shaped hills. This may relate to the shape of the range from a distance but when walking this incredible chain of mountains (which have nearly 10,000 feet of ascent and re-ascent along the entire length) the peaks are much sharper, the ridges narrower and the corries deeper than the name would suggest. As the great Scottish mountaineer, writer and naturalist WH Murray wrote in his timeless book ‘Mountaineering in Scotland’, “if you are alone, as you should be sometimes, go up to the main ridge of the Mamores, and walk the shining snow waves that link Stob Ban to the spire of Binnein Mor.”

The full ridge can be tackled in one, huge day. However for a shorter, yet still challenging walk, the finest is the Ring of Steall, one that is considered a classic of Scottish mountaineering. Although good paths line the majority of the 15km (9.5 mile) route, seven mountains over 3000 feet are crossed, as well as the narrow and, at times, exposed Devil’s Ridge. It is a walk that shouldn’t be underestimated.

The Ring of Steall grants an incredible panorama that includes the muscular outline of Glencoe’s mountains and the more refined shape of the Paps of Jura. Yet it is the view across Glen Nevis to the massive bulk of Ben Nevis that grabs your attention. At 4406 feet (1344 metres) Ben Nevis is the Britain’s highest mountain. Around 125,000 walkers reach the summit annually with most ascents made via the Mountain Track. Although this is the simplest means of reaching the top it is still a very challenging route, even on a clear summers day, with almost 4400 feet to climb (and descend).

Meteorological data was first recorded on Ben Nevis by Clement Wragge in 1881 and an observatory was open between 1883 and 1904. The building, instruments and meteorologists withstood some of Scotland’s severest weather conditions.

Upon reaching the top of Ben Nevis, its grandeur can finally be appreciated, particularly that of the North Face. On a clear day Scheihallion, Skye’s Cuillin ridge and the mountains of Knoydart can be seen. It is unlikely you will have the view to yourself but it is easy to find a quiet corner on this sprawling, barren summit plateau where time can be spent revelling in the majesty of Ben Nevis and the Mamores. TC
Published: February 2018