The Roaches

Memories from the Scotland walking trip - 2005

Every time I stay in the Alexandra Hotel in Fort William I end up suffering in some way. This year was no exception....

Our hero negotiates the wire bridge which crosses the Nevis river.

The Ring of Steall was the route of the day - the weather was glorious, the birds were singing and the muscles were feeling gooood. What could possibly go wrong?

Ratboy eventually made it after a short period of 'wire shaking'.

A few years later (2013 to be precise) I was emailed by Melissa Pandika who works for the Sierra Club magazine (based in San Francisco) for permission to use the above photo in an article about the world's most dangerous bridges. Permission was granted so the Ratboy is now famous....

Sierra Club - Ratboy

The distance between the top two wires favours the taller person so I couldn't help but laugh as the rat struggled over the cold, dark, water. Note the onlookers on the far bank - waiting for an accident to occur.

Well an accident did occur but not on the Nevis rope bridge.

If the spectators had bothered to follow our progress to the point where the Steall waterfall has to be crossed they would have had more than their fill of walking tomfoolery. The wet rocks made crossing the base of the waterfall a tricky little challenge which I failed to meet.

The penultimate stone proved too slippy for me so in I went - back first, head down into fast flowing Scottish river mountain water. The rucsac filled in seconds as did my boots and pants. Just what the doctor ordered. I spent 15 minutes trying to dry out but my boots and clothes were simply too wet. My rucsac liner had saved my camera from a good soaking so we decided to head back and ensure that my boots and clothes were dry in readiness for the next day's walk: Stob Dearg on Buachaille Etive Mor.

As we walked back through Glen Nevis a RAF Mountain Rescue helicopter circled just above the An Gearanach - An Garbhanach ridge. We later found out that a Royal Marine had tripped and fell 400ft to his death. One of my fingers had been injured during the fall but nothing was going to stop me from enjoying Monday's walk.

Some mist on the climb up to Stob Dearg, Buachaille Etive Mor.

Apart from the weather. The previous day's weather just got better and better as the day went on. By later afternoon there wasn't a cloud in the sky and a quick drive along the shores of Loch Eil was enjoyed with a myriad of peaks visible in all directions. We returned to the Grog and Gruel for a couple of mineral waters and dreamt about Monday - clear skies, bellowing stags and eagles circling above us. Peaks stretching as far as the eye could see etc etc etc....

The weather on Monday was shit. We walked into cloud shortly after leaving the car (approx 23 metres) and it stayed - all day.

We climbed into Coire na Tuliach whilst hoping that we were about to walk into a cloud sea at any moment. We reached Stob Dearg and retraced our steps to the next peak on the ridge, Stob na Doire. On reaching Stob na Doire Ratboy took a bearing from the summit so we could continue along the ridge but rather than getting it right he started to take us down steep rocky slopes into Glen Etive.

I could sense something was wrong as I'd walked this route in clear weather with Terry many years ago so we stopped and reassessed the situation. Just as we were deliberating our next move the mist cleared for a few seconds - this turned out to be vital as we glimpsed the correct ridge a few hundred yards to our right. Rather than climb back to Stob na Doire we traversed the hill to reach the ridge as stags bellowed below us.

The main spine of Buchaille Etive Mor.

The weather improved enough for us to see the ridge ahead so on we walked with Stob Coire Altrium next on our list.

However, just as we reached the steep slopes below Stob Coire Altrium it started to rain. The wind had picked up and our descent route into the Lairig Gartain could be seen to the right. It was decision time - continue with the walk and get really wet or call it a day and descend? We decided that the weather wasn't going to improve so we descended into the Glen.

Deer were everywhere - bellowing above and below us. The steep descent eventually saw us reach the glen and the boggy path back to the road. At least we had managed to walk.

The main Mamore ridge below Stob Choire a' Chairn.

Next day we decided to drive to the Mamore Lodge and walk into the Mamore's themselves. The weather was clear but very windy so we expected a few 'moments' on the rocky ridges. We reached the main ridge just below Stob Choire a' Chairn (pictured above), put on our coats and proceeded to climb the ridge.

We had met a teacher from London on the climb up (who was assisting his Duke of Edinburgh silver students back into Glen Nevis) who was slightly unsure about his route so we accompanied him for a couple of hours until our routes parted.

The teacher - with Na Gruagaichean in the distance.

Our aim was to walk the An Gearanach - An Garbhanach ridge (where the Marine had died earlier in the week), return over Am Bodach and then drop down onto the West Highland Way path just to the east of the Mamore Lodge.

The An Gearanach - An Garbhanach ridge.

The school teacher seemed rather uneasy about the ridge as the wind was really blowing and the news about the stricken Marine hadn't exactly gone down well. The descent to the col below An Garbhanach (the right peak in the above photo) was proving troublesome as in parts the wind was strong enough to blow us over.

The ridge was negotiated without difficulty. We said our goodbyes to the school teacher (who was to descend into Glen Nevis and over the waterfall that I had enjoyed on the Sunday) and retraced our steps back over the ridge to Stob Choire a' Chairn. His students decided not to tackle the ridge and had to be stopped from trying to descend by the Steall waterfall which is a well known trouble spot and the scene of many accidents (and I should know).

We yomped up to Am Bodach and scrambled up its (very) steep north east ridge to reach its 1032m summit.

The western Mamores from the summit of Am Bodach. Stob Ban can be seen in the far distance with the Devils Ridge to the right.

The walk down to the Mamore Lodge was uneventful - no falls, no ridges, no rain.

One of the everlasting memories of this visit to Scotland was the number of deer we saw on the Monday and Tuesday - they were everywhere. Bellowing across the mountainsides to alert their herd of Mark Spitz and Ratboy.

The night in the hotel saw the return of the Skye accordion player who had made the disastrous 2002 visit a more pleasurable experience. Wednesday saw the return home. An enjoyable few days with a number of enjoyable moments.


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