01 June, 2010

Stob Ban, in the Mamores

The Mamores is the name of a range of hills in the western Highlands of Scotland, running roughly east to west and located south of Fort William and north of the fjord-like sea loch of Loch Leven. The Mamores contain some of the finest hills in Scotland (which is saying something), and the various peaks can be climbed separately or linked together in a variety of ways to make circuits and horseshoes. Kinlochleven, a village at the head of the loch, makes an excellent base. See the map link on Streetmap here for the location - you can move about and zoom in and out as you see fit.


Stob Ban (Gaelic: White Peak) is the second most westerly hill in the range. With its bright white quartzite cap and the steep crags on its north-eastern face, it has a dramatic profile:


Stob Ban seen from the summit of Sgurr an Iubhair, the neighbouring peak to the east





There are various ways up Stob Ban, the most usual routes starting in Glen Nevis to the north. We climbed it from the Kinlochleven side by crossing Sgurr an Iubhair first, then climbing Stob Ban by its east ridge from the col between Stob Ban and Sgorr an Iubhair. If you start from Glen Nevis using the path up Coire a Mhusgain, you arrive at this same col from the north.


Looking up the east ridge of Stob Ban from the col between Stob Ban and Sgurr an Iubhair. The route goes more or less up the crest of the ridge, above the crags of the north-east face.









Looking up the east ridge of Stob Ban from part way up (roughly, from just above the first rocky patch in the first photo of the ridge). It doesn't look so intimidating close to, and you can see the path weaving its way among the outcrops.










Looking down the east ridge back to the col from the summit shoulder of Stob Ban.












Close up view of the vertiginous crags on the edge of the east ridge. You can pick out the path as a pinkish line in the quartzite, mostly keeping its distance back from the edge.














View from the summit of Stob Ban looking west to the most westerly of the Mamores range, Mullach nan Coirean (Gaelic: rounded hill of the corries) with the distant hills of Ardgour in the background. Mullach nan Coirean makes a splendid walk in its own right, especially when combined with Stob Ban in a circuit from Glen Nevis. The contrast between the red granite of the Mullach and the white quartzite on Stob Ban is striking; the junction is in the col connecting the two, and presumably reflects some geological faultline.











View from the summit of Stob Ban looking east along the rest of the Mamores range - waiting to be climbed on another day.

11 comments:

Susan Higginbotham said...

Beautiful pictures!

Constance Brewer said...

Way cool! Wish I was there! :)

tenthmedieval said...

The pictures are good enough to give me vicarious vertigo! Bravely climbed...

Carla said...

Thanks all! Credit to the mountains :-)

Rick said...

Belatedly - these have almost a Western look to them, much unlike my stereotype of Britain!

Carla said...

Rick - in what way do they look Western? I guess because of the rocky ridges?

Rick said...

The rocky ridges, yes, but even more the overall starkness, which has a semi-desert look to it.

Carla said...

In this case, the desert-like look isn't due to a lack of rain :-)

Rick said...

What IS the cause of the relative lack of foliage? Possibly even direct or indirect human activity, the way goats have deforested Mediterranean lands?

Carla said...

A combination of factors, I think, mainly related to the harsh environment. The high Scottish mountains, especially the big plateaux like the Cairngorms in the east, have a micro-climate resembling tundra or sub-arctic.
- Low temperatures at altitude mean slow plant growth. Mean maximum summer temperatures in Fort William (sea level) are about 16-17 C. Temperature decreases at about 3 C or so for every 300 m of height gain, so the tops of the Mamores ridge at 900m or so (see the map link in the main post for heights above sea level, given in metres) are going to be 9 C cooler than at sea level, so only about 7-8 C or so. Also snow cover for several months of the year truncates the growing season. These photos were taken in mid-May, and I would guess that the snow had only been gone from most of the ridges for a couple of weeks.
- Wind, which both dries and buffets vegetation, so only low-growing tough plants survive, and not many of those. The wind is a near-constant feature of British hill country, far more so than in, say, the Alps.
- Thin shallow soil, or no soil at all on the areas where the rock is either crags or shifting scree.
- Some grazing pressure by red deer and/or sheep. There aren't many sheep on the Mamores ridge (in fact, I don't remember seeing any), so they aren't anything like as big a factor as in, say, the English Lake District. Red deer move up to higher ground in summer to escape the midges in the corries, so they would contribute to grazing pressure.

Rick said...

Those factors explain a lot!