A horseshoe of pleasing peaks yoked by sculpted crests, the Ring of Steall comes as close to perfection as any ridge walk in Scotland. Tracing an obvious loop through the middle third of the Mamores range, it is long and tough enough for a full day's leg stretch, yet still an achievable challenge for an average hillwalker. Scrambling sections on the photogenic Devil's Ridge and the craggy An Garbhanach crest inject little spikes of adrenaline to keep you keen, but there's nothing too gripping here to break the flow. With the castellated Glen Coe peaks to one side, the bulk of The Ben and Co to the other, and the fjord of Loch Leven at your feet, the setting is vintage West Highlands. And if all that wasn't enough there's a rousing finale yet to come, under Steall's foaming falls, across a wobbly wire bridge, and through the spectacular wooded gorge of the Water of Nevis, a Chinese landscape painting transplanted into home soil. How do you better that? The only way I know is to wait for winter conditions, when this classic hill walk gains a real mountaineering edge.
9.49 miles, 15.27 km, 1,824m ascent, 8 hours. Fort William
Did it anti clockwise last Wednesday in good winter conditions. Any soft snow was on southish facing areas., snow in situ was mostly icy which meant that the descent off Am Bodach was a bit of a trouser filler. Also the teeter round a gendarme on Garbhanach was way "out there". There was absolutely no scope for tripping over your crampon straps! This is so much more serious than Carn Mor Dearg Arete which I did last Saturday (and that's a big tick for a walker.) you will be tired by the time you get to the crux so you need to know how to use that ice axe. One of the best days I've had in the hills; certainly since I was last in the Alps.
An interesting variation on the ascent of Sgurr a'Mhaim is to follow the normal route to a slight shelf at about 670m, then follow this shelf leftwards for 200m to pick up the old stalkers path (shown on the 1:25k map) that rises in a fine position across the north flank (this section not recommended under snow, as the path just banks out and the ground is quite steep). Keep on the path through Coire Sgorach to a col on the NE ridge, and then follow this with a short steep section to the summit. The path is narrow but gives easy walking compared to the quartzite blocks of the NW ridge.
That sounds like a cunning cut-through. I've gained the NE ridge from Steall before: that's also good, and once you're established on it, it is definitely a nicer way up the hill. Good in winter too, a bit mountaineery once you reach the junction with the east ridge. But I thought it was maybe a bit involved as a route description so opted for the standard ascent this time.