Day 3. The Mamores dressed for winter

21st Nov 2008
9 miles 5,000 feet

After a day of rest Bill was keen to have a look at the Mamores so we decided on a run based on what would be the first 4 Munros of our clockwise attempt. We drove from our base in fort William to Mamore lodge just above Kinloch Leven. From here we would start our run.

It was a cold start to the day and it took a while before we warmed up a bit. By the time we headed off the shooters track and up the side of Sgurr Elider Mor it was snowing and I was now warm everywhere except for my feet. Going through the snow line meant trudging through slushy snow. This was a learning curve for me as I have, until know, avoided going for runs in the lakes in such conditions. I was about to learn the value of Seal Skinz socks over my inadequate Thorlos.

So with numb feet we climbed steadily onto the shoulder of Sgurr Elider Mor this was in the form of a plateau area. Unfortunately at the same time it stopped snowing, the wind picked up and as we passed by Coire an Lochain and we got blasted by spin drift whipped along by a fierce wind, this was another painful lesson in winter conditions. I started to – for the first time – see the point in balaclavas and ski goggles!

Eventually we ascended the steep southern slope up onto Sgurr Elider Mor, this was a tricky ascent due to the rocks being covered in powder snow. I ran up the grassier parts in a vain attempt to get some feeling back into my toes. We made the top after some precarious boulder hopping and were met by a fairly strong wind. A quick look at the snowy vista, and a shocking look at how far Ben Na Lap is away (this is will be the previous Munro on the round) and we sped off down the snowy slopes. A fast descent led us to the track that skirts Binnein Mor. We decided to miss out the out and back to Binnein Beag as the conditions were proving a bit testing and the skies looked threatening. So at the Col we took a left turn and headed for Binnein Mor. Will and Bill took a line out to the right which was a less steep incline leading to the ridge. I shouted to them “are you taking the tourist route” I was to rue those words. My steep more direct route onto the ridge was quick but the snow kept giving under my feet, so I had to dig my hands in the snow for more traction. Anyway after what felt like an extreme cardio gym work out I finally made the ridge. The small consolation was that I had warmed up and I had time to get the camera out and take some really good photos of Will and Bill ascending the ridge. Another bonus was that the camera had defrosted after its ice induced erratic behaviour on Sgurr Elider Mor.

A blasting by the wind on Binnein Mor and we quickly descended to a sheltered are for a bit of respite. We then ascended the small bit of ridge and were on the last part of Na Gruagaichean before we knew it. We even had to check the maps to make sure that we were already there. Normally you have to fight harder for a Munro on this round, but this one seemed easy, it probably won’t feel that easy next June!

From the summit Bill pointed out the next 3 Munros, and we decided that we had done enough for the day and descended down the snowy West flank of Na Gruagaichean. We made a rapid descent in the nice snow covered grass, only pausing to observe 30 deer running across the valley bottom. We carried on and 20 minutes later we were back at the car. Not a long day out – only about 5 hours, but it was fun, and my first taste of true winter conditions.

It had been a great 3 days of recceing in Scotland. We topped it off by going to a get together at Stair Village hall near Keswick on the way home. Will and I did a half day half night reverse run around the Anniversary Waltz. We then had a few beers with some good running friends. A kip on the floor, and then we set off home to end a great 4 days of Fell running.

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