Monday 14 July 2008

A Western Mamores Camp

Wet and windy, cool and cloudy. The northerly wind mocked t-shirts and shorts, the clouds lay low on the hills, sometimes brushing the tops of the highest forests. A time for deskwork and reading. And for scanning the weather forecast, watching for a hint, a sign, a suggestion of a clearance. There it was. “A brief ridge of high pressure”, clearer in the west than the east and probably lasting less than 24 hours before the wet clouds sank down on the hills again. So west I went, departure almost delayed by the final collapse of my old car (107,000 miles on the clock) and the necessity for a hasty replacement, hopefully more economic to run. With a new old car (only 60,700 miles on the clock) I drove through continuing heavy showers below invisible hills. Just how brief was this high pressure going to be? By Glen Nevis the rain had stopped and the wind had faded away. I stopped at the Visitor Centre. Someone was cooking over a large double burner. My eyes were drawn to the midge net covering their head and face. I didn’t get out of the car but continued up the glen to a quieter car park, though no less midge ridden. As evening walks often mean midges I was ready to leap out of the car, grab my pack and head off, little preparation needed. Within minutes I was climbing a rough footpath on the edge of the woods a little out of breath but free of the midges. Soon a big ladder stile led out of the forest and into the wide mouth of a deep corrie. I had thought of camping here but there was no wind and the ground was boggy. I didn’t wait to see if there were midges, certain there would be, but climbed out of the corrie onto a broad ridge. A breeze rippled the grasses. No midges. Further up the ridge a flattish area beside a big boulder looked a good camp site. I lay down. Yes, I thought, I can sleep comfortably here. I pitched the tent then headed downhill in search of water. After ten minutes I heard trickling and soon found a streamlet big enough to fill my bottles. I’d much rather camp where it’s midge-free and walk to water than have water and midges to hand. The evening was slow and pale as the light gently faded through shades of grey. Lower hills were cloud free, higher ones enshrouded. In the early hours of dawn I woke and looked out. The returning light was still dull with no hint of the sun. I slept a few more hours. The clouds were slowly lifting though and by mid morning only Ben Nevis was still hidden, as it was to remain all day. My peaceful and relaxing camp soon packed away I continued up the ridge to the summit of Mullach nan Coirean from where I could look east along the Mamores ridge, which is probably the finest on the Scottish mainland. Including its many spurs there are twenty summits, ten of them Munros, strewn along its twisting scalloped length. The traverse of them all is a superb one or two day trip, which I have done several times. Today just the western two Munros would suffice. From the red disintegrating granite of Mullach nan Coirean I wandered over two minor tops to the silver-grey quartzite of Stob Ban before descending splendid Coire a’Mhusgain with its deep stream gorge and scattered old birch and rowan wood. The clouds were thickening as I reached the car and the first rain drops fell as I drove back down Glen Nevis, just twenty hours after I’d arrived, twenty hours of freedom, restoration, peace and beauty.

View from the tent. Photo info: Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF-S 18-55 mm IS@ 18mm, f8@1/200, ISO 200, raw file converted to JPEG in DxO Optics Pro.


  1. Coming down from a wildcamp sure is hard - I like....freedom, restoration, peace and beauty....sums it up why we go there.

  2. i like the style - catch it when you can, take what comes with a bit of sense, and soak up the Moment.