Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Giant's Staircase

Stob Ban and the summit of The Giant's Staircase

It felt odd…driving through Fort William towards a climb whilst people were still staggering home from wherever they'd been drinking. 2am this morning, and whilst a few folk were still sat outside with their beers enjoying a beautiful summer night, the brightness of the dawn was already appearing on the horizon as I drove towards the Grey Corries.

The weather of the last few days has been incredibly hot for the Highlands, so much so that it doesn't quite feel real. After a busy night in the Clachaig last night and with the evening so stuffy and warm, I decided to forget any thought of sleep and go out for a wee adventure before my 10 hour split-shift started at 11am.

 Dawn near Corriechollie

Between Stob Ban and Stob Choire Claurigh in the Grey Corries is an impressive area of quartzite slabs known as "The Giant's Staircase". It first caught my attention a couple of years ago and I've wanted to climb it since then just as it is such an attractive and quite unusual bit of mountain.

The Giant's Staircase is the huge area of slabs on the right of the photo

It is natural drainage area so it needs a very dry period of weather before you climb it otherwise its smooth quartize slabs would be dangerously slippery. Today it was going to be as dry as you would ever find it.

The walk along the Lairig Leacach was pretty magic this morning, the promise of a fine sunrise slowly illuminating the horizon and throwing the hills into silhouette. I still find it odd for it to be pretty much light at 4am. When the sun finally broke above the horizon it did so with style, making the already impressive Corbett of Sgurr Inse look magnificent.

Sunrise over Sgurr Inse

It was a beautiful, still and silent approach to the base of The Giant's Staircase. Only the occasional stag running through the heather disturbed the peace…I can't remember having such a feeling of total calm for quite a while. It is a magic thing, to be alone in such surroundings when few other people are even awake.

A perfect morning

The Staircase itself is one of the best scrambles I've done in this part of Scotland. Easy but delicate scrambling up beautiful smooth slabs, finding faint cracks and weaknesses to make your way upwards. And it really does feel like a staircase, huge quartize steps interspersed regularly with grassy terraces.

One of the quartize slabs.

Already by 6am I was surprised how warm it was. It was turning into yet another perfect summer day and I still had time to spare…so instead of descending back to the Lairig Leacach track I hurtled up to the summit of Stob Choire Claurigh and spent a while taking in its incredible view along the Grey Corries Ridge.

 The Grey Corries ridge from Stob Choire Claurigh

The North-East faces of Aonach Beag and Ben Nevis

And then a three mile run from Stob Coire Claurigh and over Stob Coire na Ceannan back down to my car, and back to Clachaig with an hour to spare before starting my shift. Quite a morning.


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