The Final Stage – It’s all over!!

Happy to confirm that Stage 3 (and the last) is now over!! A fabulous trip over The Grey Corries, Aonachs Mor and Beag, finishing on Carn Mhor Dearg, the arete and Ben Nevis. I was fortunate to have been joined by Walk Highlands very own, John Burgess. A Mountain Goat if there ever was one!!

The trip started on Thursday with a wee change of plans. Instead of the early train journey from Perth to Corrour, via Glasgow, John drove to Coirrechoille, just outside Spean Bridge (great base!!) We headed into the Lairig Leacach and onto the bothy for the night. My hip was causing a bit of concern on this fairly short path, but fortunately, after lots of stretching, held up fairly well over the next 2 days. Homemade chilli and a wee decanted Chardonnay went down very well!!

The next morning, fabulous weather and we reached Stob Ban in record time!! Good idea….head for the bealach, ditch the packs and summit from there. Tricky on the scree,. but no real problems.

Summit of Stob Ban - First of the Grey Corries

Headed back down to the bealach, still in awe with the terrain and what was coming next

After Stob Ban - The first of many!!

The Grey Corries is a fabulous range which can be altered a wee bit from the route, descending from Sron an Lochain instead and camping beside a smashing lochan 741247. Both of us agreed that this is excellent spot for us to come back and explore from. Anyway, the rest of the range passed with jaw-dropping views.

John on Stob Choire Claurigh

A close-up of the man himself!!

Now I know why they're called 'Grey'!!

The only tricky section of The Corries produced a ‘Deja Vous’ experience that’s never happened before. John had sprinted off down Stob Coire Easain and onto Stob Coire an Laoigh…… me, I treaded very carefully!! And didn’t take any photos!!!

On the Saturday, the ‘Mountain Goat’ was reined in a wee bit!!!

Anyway…. on part of the ascent of Sgurr Choinnich Mor, near the summit, the path erodes a bit. Quote… “I don’t fancy that! John ‘ Alan Wells’ Burgess was nowhere to be seen!!! The left side of my view….a steep slope with rocks…seen that before!! So I decided to nip up a bit higher then bum-slide back to the track. Unfortunately, the heavier pack and a 3 foot manoeuvre looking down towards 800 feet slope with rocks was just enough to warrant ‘jelly legs’ and a rapid reverse!! I headed up via the middle of the ridge, surprisingly!!!

We reached the summit and looked over at the Aonachs, both us coming to the same conclusion…..Let’s get these two out of the way before tomorrow. Andy Ross of meeting us at the bealach below Sgor Choinnich Beag for a camp. So at least we’d get an update on the weather!!!

Unfortunatelty Andy had a breakdown……well his car did!!! So we never managed to meet up.. John and I carried on the summits of Aonach Beag and Aonach Mhor. A fantastic decision, in terms of the time that we made up the next day, but even better the sunset and looking at the CMD arete and Tower Ridge!!

Not happy section to the Aonachs

I just wasn’t happy with this ascent….the more I looked at it, the less happy I felt. Andy had mentioned on the phone of another way up from the bealach. Obviously Andy was’nt there, but we figured a good route!!

That's not steep!!

The gully was steep but, for me, it was more attractive than the usual route. The gully steepened the higher we got and I did struggle a bit. I moved over to the right away from the grass and onto a bit more rockier ground. Yet again, the pack was proving a problem and I was concerned that my zigzaging would cause me to slip. John came back down and helped me with my route. He offered to take the pack, but taking it off would’ve been impossible. The midges were aggressive and it was very hot outwith the breeze, but I made it and felt relieved on the top. I could see a bit of the CMD arete, but it was the views over The Mamores and back down the Grey Corries that were incredible.

The Mamores

The Grey Corries from Aonach Beag

More Mamores

We’d decided to camp at the bealach between Aonach Mor and Carn Mor Dearg but first had to get there. There is a small stone marker where the best (only) descent should be made, however it’s very steep and loose!! There were no photos taken here, complete concentration was the only thing that I was concerned in!! Once onl the bealach, we made camp and got the food going….Wayfayrers Beef Stew and Dumpling for me….very tasty. I was soon asleep and slept well until I was woken up at 0645 by some amorous deer!!

We’d received an update on the weather, the poor conditions wouldn’t be arriving till very late in the day. We took our time heading off as we had planned to meet Oban MRT on Carn Mor Dearg at mid-day.

Ben Nevis and the route up to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg

Again, the heavier pack was a factor in the time I took to get through the boulders. Lots of hand-work and steeps either side of the ridge. But I managed it OK, with John’s help and enjoyed getting to the summit. I’d been here before, but still in awe at the views of the CMD arete and Tower Ridge.

The awesome Carm Mor Dearg arete

Summit of Carn Mhor Dearg

Ben Nevis

There had been no contact from the Oban guys all morning and we gave them till 1230, then we had no option but to set off. I knew that from here to the finish would be slow and I wanted to finish as close to 5pm as possible. I’d done the arete before, but the stiffness and lack of flexibility in the hip was proving to be a problem. We slowly made the turn and the initial section was fairly straightforward, even managed some photos

Looking fresh!!

Looking fresh!!

Looking not so fresh!!

Looking not so fresh!!

Looking south from the CMD arete

After slowly picking our way across the arete, we reached the final part and a choice. The exposed upper section or a faint path lower down on the south side. John felt the latter would be better for me as the heavier pack was causing me to be more wary of my balance. I was causing a bit of hold-up in traffic here as there was no room to pass, but everyone was helpful and understanding. The scariest part of the whole track loomed in front of me. Two hand-holds and two foot-holds about 4 feet apart above a very steep and rocky drop!!


I uttered the words….”I can’t do this John”!!! It was one of life’s defining moments and one that, for me, proved that I had mentally recovered, but that after I had crossed, one situation that I won’t be finding myself in again. At that moment, I knew that my limitations were now reached. A bit more on all fours!!! then up the boulder field to the summit!! Hurrah!!!

Me and John on Nevis - Finished at last!!

The 3 stages were a tremendous experience. I had been disappointed that I had to cancel the route over 9 days, but I’m extremely glad that I did. I would’ve definitely struggled and the effects would’ve been long-term. I can’t contemplate the arete after 9 constant days!!

After a couple of ‘summit photos’, we headed down the horrendous ‘Pony Track’. My leg muscles had been fine all the way, but it was this track that caused the painful quads!! Bah!!  About 10 minutes from the pub, we met 2 members of Oban MRT!! They had been ringing the O2 phone (no Reception)  instead of the Vodaphone and most of them had past us on the way, which is a bit disconcerting!! but as Ian, the Deputy Team Leader pointed out, they found me in the end!!!!

Reasons to be Cheerful!!!

Reasons to be Cheerful!!!

Mike finish Challenge 4000ers 015

Veronica and Chris...2 months ago he was smaller than me!!!

Veronica and Chris...2 months ago he was smaller than me!!!

Dougie "Check-in" Whiteford..get a call from him then it's serious!!!

Dougie "Check-in" Whiteford..get a call from him then it's serious!!!

So it’s all over……not quite!! Raffle and gig still to come….watch this space.

Much thanks to all that helped and took part, also to those who have donated so far……..the list seems endless, but to new friends, old friends and to all those who have touched my life in the last 2 and 1/2 years, thank you and Slainte Mhath!!!


3 Responses to “The Final Stage – It’s all over!!”

  1. Congratulations and very well done on completing the Challenge!! What a great inspiration you are to all involved and we very much look forward to meeting you (as our special guest) at our gig at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre this Sunday (26 July). Anyone else reading this Blog entry who knows Michael and who wants to join in a great night of celtic music in Pitlochry….see you there! Remember to bring your raffle tickets to sell on the night! Slainte’

  2. Well done and I hope that inspires others to come back from adversity and move on. Superb effort.

  3. magpismith Says:

    greetings from perth… australia! i was looking for blogs by people recovering from orthopaedic surgeries (i’ve done my elbow up quite nicely). thanks for the inspiration – time to stop feeling sorry for myself and get moving! congrats on your achievement, it’s been a marvelous read. well done!

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