Stob Ban An overlooked gem which is worth savouring

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Location: Lochaber

Grade: Moderate mountain walk

Distance: 12 miles/20km

Time: 6-8 hours

I always feel the spring solstice in March is a turning point, a demarcation line that signals a steady lengthening of the days and all the natural response that brings with it. It’s small wonder our pagan ancestors celebrated this event with such gusto.

With Christmas and New Year behind us for another year, my thoughts naturally turn to a walk in the hills – to Stob Ban in the Grey Corries – lockdown permitting.

I’ve always been aware of doing this grand little hill a disservice by tacking it onto the Grey Corries group, like some sort of addendum, for in essence Stob Ban’s a solitary Munro rising in shapely splendour between Coire Rath and the broad defile of the Lairig Leacach.

In reality it’s beyond and separate from the main Grey Corries ridge, although few Munro-baggers treat it as an individual – the 800m bealach that connects it to Stob Choire Claurigh and the rest of the ridge is too convenient, the temptation to tack on another Munro to the three Grey Corries summits is too strong.

But occasionally, just occasionally, it’s nice to climb a mountain like Stob Ban for its own sake, to savour its individual character in isolation from the higher hills around it.

On my last visit, it was after 10am as I followed the track through the forest beyond Corriechoille above Glen Spean. Although I only had one mountain to climb I was aware of Stob Ban’s relative remoteness.

The track over the Lairig Leacach rises gently below the twin Corbetts of Cruach Innse and Sgurr Innse.

A herd of deer moved like a cloud shadow over the lower slopes of Stob Coire na Ceannain, driven down low by a late dusting of snow.

Older snow patches lay in vertical runnels, making a corduroy pattern of white and grey with the quartzite screes of the summit slopes.

It didn’t take me long to reach the Lairig Leacach bothy, from where I had my first glimpse of Stob Ban. Narrow-topped and conical, this ‘white peak’, like the Grey Corries, has a cap of white quartzite scree giving the impression of year-round snow cover. Beyond the bothy I followed the rough path that cut through the heather beside the waters of the Allt a’ Chuil Choirean and climbed steadily into a high corrie.

Above lay the steep slopes leading to the bealach between Stob Ban and its northern neighbour, Stob Choire Claurigh.

Stob Ban itself was free of snow but the steep headwall of the corrie was icy so it took me some time to link together a series of moves up gullies and over gentle-angled slabs to reach the bealach.

From there it was a simple slog to the 977m/3205ft summit, following the worn path that climbs through the loose screes and white quartzite boulders.

It was bitterly cold on the summit and the surrounding mountains hid behind a dull haze so I wasted little time by the cairn.

The north-east ridge carried me gently back to the Lairig Leacach and I made it back to the car just as darkness was beginning to fall, but there was a deep satisfaction in the knowledge that from here on in summer will have returned to the glens.

Cameron McNeish

ROUTE PLANNER

Map: OS 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 41 (Ben Nevis): Harveys Superwalker (Ben Nevis)

Distance: About 12 miles/20km

Approx Time: 6-8 hours

Start/Finish: Parking space at the end of the track that runs past Corriechoille (GR: NN256788).

Information: Fort William TIC, 01397 701801.

Route: A rough track runs S past Corriechoille Lodge near Spean Bridge and there doesn’t appear to be any objection to walkers parking near the end of the track. From the parking area follow the Lairig Leacach track through the forest and then for 5km to the bothy beside the Allt a’Chuil Choirean. Follow the rough path behind the bothy in a SW direction and follow the burn into the upper reaches of the corrie. Climb steeper ground to gain the broad saddle to the N of Stob Ban from where a relatively short, but steep climb takes you to the summit. Drop down to the bothy by the hill’s NE ridge and then return to the start by the outward track.

Due to current restrictions, we are running our favourite previously published walks. Please follow the Scottish Government’s latest coronavirus restrictions, see https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19

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