Running Ring of Steall

The weather in Scotland has been quite good in August and I was keen to get out for an adventure. So I headed out to complete a route I have been dremaing of for a while now: the Ring of Steall. Originally, I had intended to run the Ring of Steall Skyrace this September, but this has unfortunately been cancelled due to Covid-19. Instead, I did a solo adventure on the route.

From An Gearanach, I approached the rocky top of An Garbhanach. The photo was taken when I hiked the route with James a week after.

Originally, the plan was to go there in the morning on Sunday, hike the route with James and drive back home again. But when we checked how long the drive would be on Saturday afternoon, we realised that 3.5 hours of driving might be a bit much to do twice in one day. At that point, it was late afternoon. The (to me) obvious solution was to leave immediately and do some wildcamping for a night. James was less keen to do that, so in the end I adapted the plan slightly. I’d go alone, camp the night in Glen Nevis and then run the Ring of Steall on Sunday.

With that plan in mind, I frantically packed everything I needed for wildcamping and running. Not even an hour later, I was in the car and driving along Scottish country roads. I made it through Fort William and into the glen. After finding a wildcamping spot right by the river, I pitched my tent as quickly as possible before being totally devoured by midges. Dinner had to be eaten in the tent, and soon I settled down for the night.

Ring of Steall

Crossing An Garbhanach required some scrambling and a head for heights.

After a hasty escape from the midges by just grabbing my tent and running, I set off on the Ring of Steall. The first bit was quite flat along River Nevis, until I reached a steel rope bridge. Balancing on one wire and holding on to two wires on either side, I slowly crossed the river. The dry path then turned into a mud bath as I approached Steall Waterfall. With a 120m drop, this is Scotland’s second highest waterfall and certainly an impressive sight from just below. Unfortunately, I then had to cross the little river coming from the fall, and there was no way to do so with dry feet. I just had to suck it up and waded through. On the bright side, the ankle deep mud bath awaiting me on the other side didn’t matter anymore. My feet were wet already.

A quick break with an incredible view.

From that point on, the first and biggest climb of the day started. Over 900m upwards on steep slopes towards An Gearanach. Turning back to the valley, the views were impressive, with Ben Nevis towering on the other side of the glen. The sky was clear and morning sunshine bathed everything in a golden light. Huffing and puffing, I slowly made my way up and onto the first ridge of many. A scramble along the rocky ridge and across top of An Garbhanach followed. I could see down to the river leading towards the Steall Waterfall and along the ridges of the surrounding Munros, my route for the day.

View along Devil’s Ridge and to the final munro top of the day.

From there, I descended to a saddle. Once down there, the next ascent up Stob Coire a’Chairn immediately followed. After a further descent, I then made my way up Am Bodach, including another short scramble. The terrain then became slighly gentler for a bit, before following the razor-sharp Devil’s Ridge towards Sgurr a’Mhaim. One last ascent, and I was on the final peak of the day, looking back over all the ridges and scrambles I had passed during the day.

From Sgurr a’Mhaim, a painfully long downhill run across slopes of lose scree followed, before I finally jogged the last few metres through the glen and back to my car. It was a long and exhausting, but absolutely fantastic day! So much, that I took James for a hike along the same route on next weekend.

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