Monday, September 20, 2010

Ring of Steall

So brave young and handsome, still going strong on Ring of Steall hike, Scotland
Your narrators for the Ring of Steall hike.  We were blessed with wonderful weather, but struck dumb by the land.  Let the pictures tell the story here:

Beginning of Ring of Steall trail, making our way up Glen Nevis to the Steall falls
Making our way up the Nevis Gorge.

Steall falls, beginning of the "Ring of Steall" hike, Scotland
The trees open up into Glen Nevis.  The Steall Waterfall, one of the three highest waterfalls in Scotland, is ahead in the distance.  An Gearnach (The Complainer), first peak of the hike, rears its head.  It looks the spine of a dragon lazily raising itself up.

Neat rock formations, Ring of Steall hike, Scotland
We begin the long ascent of The Complainer.  Here is one of the views that was our constant companion as we climbed and climbed.  The rock formations are fascinating -- perhaps the mark of the dragon's claws?

Trail keeps climbing, Ring of Steall hike, Scotland
You certainly have to have a head for heights here!  The views more than compensate.

Trail making its way along the side of the mountain, Ring of Steall hike, Scotland
Looking back at the trail hugging the side of An Gearnach.  Can you spot me?

Panorama shot of Ben Nevis range from Ring of Steall trail, Scotland
A panaromic shot looking out at Ben Nevis.

Looking at the "Ring of Steall," the Mamores, Scotland
Looking around the shoulder of An Gearnach, we have our first glimpse of the "Ring."

Trail keeps climbing, interesting rock formations in background, Ring of Steall hike, Scotland
Looking back the way we came up the side of An Gearnach (The Complainer).  Look for me, the spot of blue in the distance.  Yes, it really is that steep.  Notice the dragon's marks in the background.

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On top of An Gearnach. Ben Nevis and the Carn Mor Dearg Arete are behind me.

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Our first good look at the Ring. The peak of An Garbhanach (The Rough One) is straight ahead.  Next is Stob Coire a' Chairn (Peak of the Corrie of the Cairns)

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Stob Coire a' Chairn, Am Bodach (The Old Man), Sgorr an Iubhair (Peak of the Yew Tree), beginning of the Devil's Ridge.  The peaks look like folds of fabric flung over the bones of the earth.

Closer view of Sgurr a'Mhaim, Mamores, Scotland
So close and yet so far: looking across the valley from An Gearnach to Sgurr a' Mhaim (Peak of the Breast), last peak of the hike.

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Skirting some particularly rough patches on the "The Rough One."

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J.'s glamour shot.

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Pausing to figure out exactly where the trail is.

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I have no idea how we got over this.  Can you pick out the trail?

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But we got over it somehow, because there's me picking my way down.

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Am Bodach (The Old Man) is next.  You would think that The Old Man would be a mild walk in the park, but we did some serious boulder scrambling.  I was on my hands and knees at times.  It was nowhere near as scary as climbing Ben Nevis, but you needed to concentrate.

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On top of The Old Man, looking back at The Rough One.

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This is what the trail looked like at times.  Perplexed and a wee bit nerve-wracked?  So were we.  Especially when you put this picture in context...

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... welcome to the Devil's Ridge.  The trail at times narrowed to three feet in diameter, with steep drops at either side.  If you slipped, you had a long way to go before impact.

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Looking down at the Devil's Ridge from the side of Sgurr a' Mhaim.

Quartzite stones at summit of Sgurr a' Mhaim ("Peak of the breast") part of the Mamores, Scotland
The summit of Sgurr a'Mhaim is covered in quartzite.  From a distance, it looks like a snow-covered peak. 

Making our way down scree of quartzite, Sgurr a' Mhaim, Mamores, Scotland
J. demonstrates how one descends scree.  It was actually a strangely pleasant sensation, slipping and sliding your way down these loose piles of stones.  It made me think of playground ball pits in McDonald's or Chuck E. Cheese's.

Beginning the long, steep, and tedious descent from Sgurr a' Mhaim, Mamores, Scotland
Beginning the long descent.  You might not realize this, but your ankles can get tired.  And when they get tired, you will have a very hard time remaining upright.  I fell too many times to count. 

The trail was suffering from some serious erosion.  At times, the trail had eroded so much, I was walking through miniature canyons, where the level of the ground around the trail was at waist height.   

We want to go back.  I think you would, too, in spite of steep drops and the seemingly innocuous Old Man.

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