To Munro or not to Munro (aka not going up Ben Nevis)

‘Are you going up Ben Nevis?’, ‘Have you been up Ben Nevis?’, ‘Do you want to come up Ben Nevis with us?’

It was probably my choice of accommodation – the SYHA Glen Nevis that meant Ben Nevis seemed to be the absolute focus of the vast majority of the guests. I didn’t go up Ben Nevis and people seemed genuinely shocked perhaps even appalled that I had made this choice. I really love mountains and I really love climbing tall ones but are we denying ourselves outdoor opportunities by religiously climbing the highest hill in the area or ticking off another Munro?

I had two fantastic long, challenging walks this weekend but neither involved a particularly high peak. Don’t get me wrong they involved a peak, every walk should have one but the height didn’t matter to me. My choices meant that after a good lung busting climb I reached a height where views were on offer and as I hope you can see from my photos they were spectacular. Had a climbed higher yes I would have been able to pat myself on the back for pushing myself literally up in the world but I would have seen the inside of an awful lot of clouds.

At dinner in the hostel I got chatting to two lovely fully signed up Munro ‘baggers’. One had crossed the halfway mark that day the other had just over 100 to go.  They both lived in Scotland and had met through a walking club that was full of fellow baggers! I love lists and the idea of climbing all the Scottish Munros is hugely appealing but I’m just not sure I’d ever want to start being a serious ‘bagger’ unless I could realistically see me completing the tick list. My current count is 3 so I suppose in effect I’ve already started; I asked the couple when they had given the idea some serious consideration and it seemed the ‘tip point’ was around 25. Maybe after my new year trip in the Cairngorms I’ll be on my way!

One day I’m almost sure I’ll be off into those cold damp clouds to tick off another summit but at the moment I’m more than happy with the delightful time I had walking some of the forgotten mini peaks of Glen Nevis.

The Routes

Loch Linnie from the summit

Route 1: Meall an t-Suidhe – taking the main Ben Nevis path climb until the path flattens slightly near Lochan an t-Suidhe. Then aim for the top of the hill, there is no cairn or welcome party except the spectacular view down towards Fort William and Loch Linnie. Traverse the ridgeline and drop down level with the Northern end of the Lochan where you can cross the outflow stream and pick up a path back up towards the main ascent track. At the meeting point turn left for a spectacular walk along the base of Castle Ridge, then cross Allt a’Mhuilinn near the CIC hut and descend down towards the North face car park. If you haven’t managed to be crafty with your transport there is a shared cycle track back into Fort William which passes the Distillery and Inverlochy Castle for a little sightseeing on your return. It is possible to return up Glen Nevis without walking along the road by keeping to the western bank of the River Nevis (something which is not obvious from the OS maps of the area).

Stunning autumn colours on the descent to the North Face CP
Lochan an t’Suidhe

Route 2: Meall Cumhann – ideally you’d have a car and park at the far end of Glen Nevis, however if you don’t the walk in is pretty spectacular with a lovely off road section from lower falls. From the car park follow the obvious path along Glen Nevis until the stunning An Steall falls come into view. Carry on past the car park tourists on the wire bridge into the valley. At the next wooden footbridge do not cross but instead take the faint path up the western side of the river, after a vigorous but fairly short climb you arrive into a flat grassy area with a winding river running through it.

A magical place cocooned by surrounding mountains
An Steall
Summit view

Surrounded by mountains on almost all sides this was truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in Scotland to date. A ‘light’ snow shower meant that I didn’t stick around long to appreciate it but instead headed by sight for the summit of Meall Cumhann, further panoramic views were found of Glen Nevis with occasional shafts on sunlight making a break through the cloud. Descending back to Bealach Cumhann there was a faint path back towards the car park, I think in hindsight I should have made more effort to contour the 600m line rather than descend in a higgledy piggledy fashion with a few stumbles and slips that must have provided some merriment for those in the car park below. Eventually a faint path to the side of Allt Coire Eoghiann should be located which will take you back down to the car park.

Even in the rain I LOVE these mountains!

Practical bits and bobs

I traveled direct to Fort William from London via the Caledonian Express Sleeper Train. It was fantastic. Comfy bed, great nights sleep and arrived ready to hit the mountains all for less than the price of a flight. I can’t wait to take another trip with them – definitely my preferred method of arriving into Scotland from the south.

Normally I love staying in Youth Hostels but as a single traveler I found the number of large groups at Glen Nevis a bit off putting. I’ve never had problems with people helping themselves to my food or leaving the kitchen in a mess before but I probably wouldn’t choose to stay there again.

What are your thoughts on height for heights sake? I’d love to hear.


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