After a couple of successful solo wild camping trips on Arran and a hankering to bag as many Munros as possible this summer, I decided to embark on probably my most ambitious overnight trip yet – a solo wild camp in the Mamores. With some good weather approaching and a free week in an otherwise fairly busy schedule, I decided to bite the bullet and head to an area that I’d driven past, walked around and seen in many blogs, but never actually visited.
As both days of my trip were fairly short, thankfully I was able to miss out on a ridiculously early start to reach Kinlochleven from Ayrshire. I decided that late morning was more than early enough and reached the car park for the “Grey Mare’s Tail” waterfall just before noon, setting off not long after. The weather was absolutely fantastic and I was feeling very glad to be starting another adventure, plus being on my own meant I could set my own pace, take breaks when I fancied and push on if I felt I was able to.
Almost immediately after leaving Kinlochleven in any direction (other than by road), one is faced with some sort of very steep track, as I found out on the West Highland Way both arriving in and leaving Kinlochleven. This walk was no exception and only a couple of minutes after leaving the car I was already gaining height fairly rapidly. This did mean that very soon I was above the tree line and could stop for a second to look back at the fantastic views along Loch Leven.
After stopping for a quick drink, taking a few photos and helping some Americans find their way back to Kinlochleven, I set off once more, heading uphill towards Coire an Lochain, my camp spot for the evening after bagging today’s Munros – Binnein Beag and Sgurr Eilde Mor. Tomorrow’s targets would be Binnein Mor and Na Gruagaichean.
The going was relentlessly steep and, although cloudy, it was still very warm and muggy, so progress was difficult. Still, I knew once I got to Coire an Lochain it was downhill or flat until I reached the foot of the first Munro of the day.
I arrived at Coire an Lochain around 1330, a little over 90 minutes after leaving the car in Kinlochleven. Whilst walking along the side of the loch, I slowed down and tried to find some potential camp spots to come back to in a few hours time. Unfortunately, it was hard to tell what was soft and level and what was rough and bumpy from a couple of hundred metres away, but I was confident that I’d find something to sleep on!
Another quick drink and I pressed on again towards the first Munro of the day, Binnein Beag.
Unfortunately there is quite a bit of down-and-up between Coire and Lochain and Binnein Beag, so I pushed on, stopping where the path crosses the Allt Coire a’Bhinnein to fill up my water and have another drink on what was now an extremely warm day. The walk was definitely made easier by the fantastic views all round and the towering peaks surrounding me, so there was really very little to complain about – I had the Mamores to myself!
Another hour or so had passed and I finally reached the foot of Binnein Beag, where the once good path now stopped and hints of a track could be seen now and again up the boulders and scree that littered the slopes of the hill. The views were even better than before though, as I could now see Ben Nevis and the Aonachs and down Glen Nevis.
Getting excited at the prospect of reaching my first top of the day, I pushed on, zig-zagging through the boulders and scree to reach the summit at 943 metres. This might not be anywhere near the highest of the Mamores, but was definitely pretty tough to reach.
The views were absolutely spectacular all round and this is definintely a candidate for one of my favourite hilltop viewpoints so far! I could see Ben Nevis, the Aonachs, the Grey Corries, the Easans, the Ring of Steall and many more!
I sat for quite a while to take in the amazing views as I was in no great hurry, before finally setting off again, retracing my steps as far as Coire an Lochain to head up my second and final Munro of the day, Sgurr Eilde Mor.
Upon reaching Coire an Lochain again, I had another quick scan along the other side of the lochan to see if there were any more possibilities for a wild camping spot, but after a couple of minutes of looking I decided to abandon my search and get on with the next munro as I’d definitely be camping here one way or another!
The going was a little tougher than Binnein Beag and I made slow and careful progress up the very steep and loose scree. A short way before the top there was a small rocky outcrop with excellent views down to Coire an Lochain, so I stopped here and grabbed a couple of photos before the final short push to the summit at 1010m. I reached the top a little before 1700, around 5 hours and 1500m of ascent after I’d set off – I was pretty pleased with this progress considering the heat!
The summit was much the same as Binnein Beag with a slightly more open feeling as there were better views south across Rannoch Moor, but it was the Glen Coe Munros and the rest of the Mamores range that stole the show.
After another lengthy rest at the summit, I headed back downhill – once again retracing my steps – towards Coire an Lochain, my campsite for the evening. The descent was tricky on the steep scree so once again I took my time, but reached the lochan around 40 minutes after leaving the summit of Sgurr Eilde Mor.
Having not really decided on a campsite in my last 2 visits to the lochan, I took another short wander and eventually stumbled across a pretty decent site – a fairly flat, sheltered pitch on a small peninsula. Fairly pleased with the location for my tent, I pitched up and cracked on with dinner, starving after a long, tough day.
After dinner it was time for a quick wash and change and after the sun disappeared behind the hills I was off to bed and almost straight to sleep.
Thankfully the night remained fairly calm other than a couple of blustery moments, but I woke around 0645 feeling reasonably refreshed, so I must have had a pretty decent sleep. I toyed with the idea of trying for another half our or so in bed, but with 2 munros and a few hours to get back home I thought it best to not be so lazy and get started with breakfast!
After I finished eating, it was time to pack up and get on my way. I left my campsite at 0725 and – very pleased to be packed up so quickly – I set off towards my first target of the day, Binnein Mor.
The going was fairly easy to begin with thanks to a nicely graded path with a couple of switchbacks that eventually comes out just below Sgurr Eilde Beag. If I’d have had a little more time it would have been nice to take a wee detour to this top to catch a glimpse of last night’s camp spot from above and in hindsight, the bealach here would have made a great campsite, but I suppose I was better at the lochan with an endless supply of water and a little more shelter in case the wind had picked up during the night.
Having now gained some more height, the views were starting to get better and better with every step I took towards Binnein Mor. Thankfully the cloud was high but fairly think so although it was very humid, I wasn’t being battered by the sun quite as much as the previous day.
I made good progress towards my first target of the day, reaching the minor summit at 1062m just after 0800, only 35 minutes after setting off.
From here it was north towards Binnein Mor along a narrow but pleasant ridge with no difficulties. Another 20 minutes saw me to the top of Binnein Mor, my 3rd Munro of the trip and the 1st of the day. The views were utterly breathtaking and there was almost no wind – it was just me, the mountains and silence.
Unfortunately it was soon time to press on and head back to the minor summit, then continue along the ridge towards Na Gruagaichean, my 4th and final Munro of the trip. Heading back along the ridge though I knew that this was not a trip I would forget in a hurry! I was back at the minor summit in another 20 minutes and pressed on towards Na Gruagaichean from here.
Once again, the going was easy along a fairly narrow grassy ridge, but a well walked path meant there were no issues with route finding or trying to avoid tricky sections.
I stopped a few times on the traverse to look back in amazement at Binnein Mor and the large quantities of snow still lingering after several extremely hot weeks in Scotland!
With very little effort thanks to not a lot of reascent, I found myself on top of Na Gruagaichean shortly after 0900, only 90 minutes after setting off from my campsite at Coire an Lochain. Once again the views were breathtaking, although this time it was the Ring of Steall (definitely a candidate for my next big munro trip) and the still snow-topped Bidean Nam Bian over the equally impressive looking Aonach Eagach.
I enjoyed the last of my snacks on the summit and, sad to be nearing the end of my favourite hill trip to date, I set off on the last stage of my trip, the long and steep descent to Kinlochleven.
The going was initially okay as I made my way south towards Leachd na h-Aire at 880m and the views looking down and along Loch Leven were now fantastic as the sun rose higher, the clouds lifted and the day became brighter.
From Leachd na h-Aire, the path became extremely steep, zig-zagging towards Kinlochleven for a couple of hundred metres then disappearing completely, leaving me to pick my own way down through a mix of heather and boulders. I made slow and steady progress and eventually found my way back to the land rover track above Kinlochleven around 1030, meaning it took me around 75 minutes after leaving Na Gruagaichean to reach here. From the landrover track, the path towards the village turns off and passes through a deer fence. Again, the views along Loch Leven were amazing and being my last time above the tree line, I stopped for another couple of minutes to soak up the views before heading back to the car.
I followed the path downhill, levelling off at one point then becoming pretty steep again, before joining the path I had taken yesterday just a few metres from the car park. I was back at the car 40 minutes after passing through the fence, around 2 hours after leaving the summit of Na Gruagaichean and 3.5 hours after leaving my campsite. Really pleased with my progress, I rewarded myself with a feast from the Co-op in the village before enjoying the stunning views on the drive back to Ayrshire.
This was definitely my favourite hill trip to date and good test of my fitness being on my own as I was able to completely set my own pace and stop whenever I felt it was necessary rather than worrying about who I was with. Here’s hoping I manage another solo trip or 2 this year before I’m back at uni in September!