The walk Soli­tary splen­dour

The Herald Magazine - - ETC | OUTDOORS - CAMERON MCNEISH

Lo­ca­tion: Stob Ban, Lochaber

Grade: Mod­er­ate moun­tain walk

Dis­tance: 12 miles/20km

Time: 6-8 hours

I AL­WAYS feel the spring sol­stice is a turn­ing point, a de­mar­ca­tion line that sig­nals a steady length­en­ing of the days and all the nat­u­ral re­sponse that brings with it. It’s small won­der our pa­gan an­ces­tors cel­e­brated this event with such gusto. The days lead­ing up to this year’s sol­stice were typ­i­cally dour and sullen but with the win­ter be­hind us for an­other year, my cel­e­bra­tions nat­u­rally in­cluded a walk in the hills – to Stob Ban in the Grey Cor­ries.

I’ve al­ways been aware of do­ing this grand lit­tle hill a dis­ser­vice by tack­ing it onto the Grey Cor­ries group, like some sort of ad­den­dum, for in essence Stob Ban’s a soli­tary Munro ris­ing in shapely splen­dour be­tween Coire Rath and the broad de­file of the Lairig Lea­cach.

In re­al­ity it’s be­yond and separate from the main Grey Cor­ries ridge, although few Munro-bag­gers treat it as an in­di­vid­ual – the 800m bealach that con­nects it to Stob Choire Clau­righ and the rest of the ridge is too con­ve­nient, the temp­ta­tion to tack on an­other Munro to the three Grey Cor­ries sum­mits is too strong. But oc­ca­sion­ally, just oc­ca­sion­ally, it’s nice to climb a moun­tain like Stob Ban for its own sake, to savour its in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter in iso­la­tion from the higher hills around it.

It was af­ter 10am as I fol­lowed the track through the for­est be­yond Cor­riechoille above Glen Spean. Although I had only one moun­tain to climb I was aware of Stob Ban’s rel­a­tive re­mote­ness.

The track over the Lairig Lea­cach rises gen­tly below the twin Cor­betts of Cru­ach Innse and Sgurr Innse. A herd of deer moved like a cloud shadow over the lower slopes of Stob Coire na Cean­nain, driven down low by a late dust­ing of snow.

Older snow patches lay in ver­ti­cal run­nels, mak­ing a corduroy pat­tern of white and grey with the quartzite screes of the sum­mit slopes.

It didn’t take me long to reach the Lairig Lea­cach bothy, from where I had my first glimpse of Stob Ban. Nar­row-topped and con­i­cal, this “white peak”, like the Grey Cor­ries, has a cap of white quartzite scree, giv­ing the im­pres­sion of year-round snow cover. Be­yond the bothy I fol­lowed the rough path that cut through the heather be­side the wa­ters of the Allt a’ Chuil Choirean and climbed steadily into a high cor­rie. Above lay the steep slopes lead­ing to the bealach be­tween Stob Ban and Many walk­ers add Stob Ban onto the Grey Cor­ries but it’s a soli­tary Munro ris­ing be­tween Coire Rath and the de­file of the Lairig Lea­cach

its north­ern neigh­bour, Stob Choire Clau­righ.

Stob Ban it­self was free of snow but the steep head­wall of the cor­rie was icy so it took me some time to link to­gether a se­ries of moves up gul­lies and over gen­tle-an­gled slabs to reach the bealach. From there it was a sim­ple slog to the 977m/3205ft sum­mit, fol­low­ing the worn path that climbs through the loose screes and

white quartzite boul­ders.

It was bit­terly cold on the sum­mit and the sur­round­ing moun­tains hid be­hind a dull haze so I wasted lit­tle time by the cairn.

The north-east ridge car­ried me gen­tly back to the Lairig Lea­cach and I made it back to the car just as dark­ness was be­gin­ning to fall, but there was a deep sat­is­fac­tion in the knowl­edge that from here on in

sum­mer will have re­turned to the glens. ROUTE PLAN­NER

Map: OS 1:50,000 Lan­dranger sheet 41 (Ben Ne­vis); Har­veys Su­per­walker (Ben Ne­vis)

Dis­tance: About 12 miles/20km

Ap­prox Time: 6-8 hours

Start/fin­ish: Park­ing space at the end of the track that runs past Cor­riechoille (GR: NN256788).

In­for­ma­tion: Fort Wil­liam TIC, 01397 701801.

Route: A rough track runs S past Cor­riechoille Lodge near Spean Bridge and there doesn’t ap­pear to be any ob­jec­tion to walk­ers park­ing near the end of the track. From the park­ing area fol­low the Lairig Lea­cach track through the for­est and then for 5km to the bothy be­side the Allt a’ Chuil Choirean. Fol­low the rough path be­hind the bothy in a SW di­rec­tion and fol­low the burn into the up­per reaches of the cor­rie. Climb steeper ground to gain the broad sad­dle to the N of Stob Ban from where a rel­a­tively short but steep climb takes you to the sum­mit. Drop down to the bothy by the hill’s NE ridge and then re­turn to the start by the out­ward track.


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