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Walk 3000 - printer friendly version

Sgorr Nam Fiannaidh & Stob Coire Leith Walk

Author - Stephen Starkey

Length - 6.2 miles / 10.1 km

Ascent - 3750 feet / 1136 metres

Grade - hard

Start - OS grid reference NN111585
Lat 56.679963 + Long -5.0852678
Postcode PH49 4HU (approx. location only)

On the North side of the Pass Of Glencoe is one of, if not the most famous and spectacular ridge walks anywhere in the UK - the Aonach Eagach connecting the Munro's of Meall Dearg and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh via Stob Coire Leith. Other ridges, including Striding Edge on Helvellyn, Sharp Edge on Blencathra, North Ridge on Tryfan, Bristly Ridge on Glyder Fach and Crib Goch all pale in to insignificance and become 'Kindergarten Walks' by comparison with the awesome, knurled Aonach Eagach. Not everyone has the head for heights or the confidence / ability to tackle the full on grade 2 scramble of the Aonach Eagach though. For those people, this route allows you to 'bag a famous Munro', sample the spectacular views from one of Glencoe's best vantage points and avoids the need to "cross that damned ridge".

Although this ascent of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh avoids the revered / awesome / fearsome (delete as appropriate for your kind of walking) crossing of the famous / infamous Aonach Eagach ridge, this is still a tough walk to the summit of one of the Glencoe regions most spectacular Munros. The distance and ascent quoted is on extending the route as far as Stob Coire Leith. When we did this walk, we carried both the OS Explorer 384 and the Harvey Superwalker Glencoe maps. With their lack of detail, I'm no great fan of Harvey maps and generally much prefer the OS variants. However, on this occasion, the path detail shown on the Harvey map (but missing from the OS map) was accurate and some of the features shown on the OS map (but always omitted by Harveys) are not present on the ground.

The start is Glencoe Village (grid ref. NN111585) or alternatively Glencoe Youth Hostel (grid ref. NN117576). Irrespective of where you park / stay, head along the minor road that links the village centre with the Clachaig Inn to a point (grid ref NN 1107-5857) just SE of the large coniferous wood where a metal gate provides access to a track leading NE. Turn on to this track and, after passing through a second gate, start to climb quite steadily. Before too long you will be rewarded with wonderful views to your left over Glencoe village, Loch Leven, Ballachulish Bridge and Loch Linnhe to the Ardgour mountains beyond.

The local tourist office are quite happy to point out that Glencoe is part of Lochaber - the self proclaimed "Outdoor Capital Of The UK". What the tourist brochures don't tell you is that Glencoe is the "Midge Capital Of The World". Do this walk at the wrong time of year and this short first section up this track will involve doing battle with literally millions of the little blighters.

After about 250m the track splits with the main track swinging round to the left and a footbridge on the right gives access to a clear path. Turn right across the bridge and follow the path as it gently undulates along the lower slopes of Sgorr na Ciche - the Pap Of Glencoe. There are places along this section where the summit of the Pap can be seen.

Follow this path to where it crosses the Allt a'Mhuilinn stream at NN 1156-5847, at which point another path merges from the right. The Harvey map shows this path starting from the road at NN 1128-5835 and, if staying at the SYHA, offering a shorter alternative. However, access to this path from the road is now blocked with barbed wire and a sign requests you to use the path described above.

Cross the stream and follow the path as it heads South for a short distance before starting a series of zig-zags as it ascends North East on the right hand (East) side of a ravine.

At NN 1192-5852, the OS map would have you believe you cross a wall. In reality this wall is no longer present, though the wall running SW to NE to the right can still be seen.

Continue to follow the path as it turns to the East and climbs steadily, heading away from the Allt a'Mhuilinn, but retaining the spectacular views both across the Pass Of Glencoe and also Glencoe village.

At NN 1237-5845, having climbed to 425m ASL, the path turns back left (North) and continues to climb quite steeply, initially on a stony path but this soon gives way to exposed peat. The path is now heading more or less straight towards the conical summit of Sgorr na Ciche. About 150m after the left turn, and having climbed to 470m ASL, the path starts to become rocky once more (grid ref NN 1236-5862). At this point, look for and follow a path off to the right, heading just South of East and climbing steeply.

The steep climbing is now incessant. The path alternates between loose scree (badly eroded in places) and clambering across loose rocks, but the views improve all the time. As well as the views across Glencoe to the ridges and peaks of Bidean nam Bian to the South and the views West across Glencoe village, Loch Leven and to Ardgour that have been more or less ever present, views have now opened up to the South West across the Ballachulish Munro's and also to the North with, on a clear day, the Mamores, Grey Corries and Ben Nevis all clearly visible (plus numerous peaks beyond).

The long hard slog eventually brings you to a minor top just over 900m ASL and about 600m West of the summit of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. It is worth resting a few minutes at this top to take in the spectacular views before continuing East for the final 600m (and 65m ascent) to the summit of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh.

We did this walk on a glorious Saturday at the end of May and didn't meet anybody else until we got to the summit where there were 20 or so others who had braved the Aonach Eagach ridge.

The view across Wastwater in the Lake District may well have been voted Britain's Favourite View by the armchair masses but Britain's Most Spectacular View has got to be (in my opinion) the one you are treated to from Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. Starting by looking to the East and turning in a clockwise direction, your views include :

(1)The Pass of Glencoe, including Buachaille Etive Mor in the distance.

(2)The Three Sisters of Glencoe, who help put things in perspective - remember that they look huge masses of rock from the A82 but look fairly small and insignificant from this vantage point.

(3)Stob Coire Sgreamhach and Bidean nam Bian, which, even at the end of May will have many North facing gullies still holding significant amounts of snow.

(4)The Ballachulish Munros of Sgorr Dhearg and Sgorr Dhonuill.

(5)Loch Linnhe and the Ardgour hills beyond.

(6)The Mamores, Ben Nevis and Grey Corries.

(7)The numerous peaks of the Creag Meagaidh range in the distance.

(8)The Northern fringes of Rannoch Moor stretch away towards the horizon.

(9)Finally, having gone almost full circle and coming back in closer, you get a view of the spectacular Western end of the Aonach Eagach ridge.

To get a closer view of the terrors of the ridge but without having to undertake any scrambling or exposed walking, continue East from the summit to descend on a good, clear, stable path to a col and then climb to the intermediate peak of Stob Coire Leith. This peak marks the Western end of the revered Aonach Eagach from where you will be able to observe others tackling some of the difficult downhill scrambling.

Your return route is simply a case of reversing your outward route. Care needs to be taken on the initial, fairly gentle descent from Sgorr nam Fiannaidh however to ensure you stay on the right path. About 400m West of the summit, the path forks (not noticeable on the ascent), with the more obvious path being the left hand one. This is NOT the way you came up! This path leads to a descent of the Clachaig Gully which is very steep and down stones and scree that are loose. Although a shorter descent, it is far more difficult and the chances of you making this descent without dislodging rocks (with the obvious danger to unseen others below) are negligible. Far better, far easier and far more responsible is to take the right hand path and descend by the path used on the ascent.

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