A still from Roger Wild's video showing a small part of the rockfall on the slopes of Meall Cubhann. Image: Roger Wild

A still from Roger Wild's video showing a small part of the rockfall on the slopes of Meall Cubhann. Image: Roger Wild

A charity has closed a Highland footpath after a huge rockfall brought large boulders down on to the route.

The John Muir Trust said it has stopped access to the Steall Gorge footpath in Lochaber in the interests of public safety.

Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team warned outdoors fans earlier this week that tons of rocks and debris had fallen from Meall Cumhann on to the path through the Nevis gorge during Tuesday night.

The trust, which owns the land on which the landslip took place, said the path will be closed for at least a fortnight, and possibly as long as five weeks.

A JMT spokesperson said: “Although the damage to the path is less serious than initially feared, there is a significant amount of debris on the path, including large and unstable blocks of stone.

“More seriously, tens of tonnes of loose boulders remain scattered above the footpath, some entangled with fallen trees, others precariously perched on the Meall Cumhann cliff, 400m above the path where the rockfall started.

“The trust has already begun the process of having the landscape thoroughly surveyed with a view to clearing away any unstable debris.

“This will be a complex operation, requiring a team with rope-access qualifications to deal with the upper slope. It will also involve the removal of loose boulders from the woodland area around the footpath, where some loose boulders are caught in the branches of trees.”

Roger Wild has posted a video of the area, showing many trees felled by the rockfall, which emanated from high on Meall Cumhann, a 698m (2,290ft) outlier of Ben Nevis, lying about 2km (1¼ miles) south-east of its summit. The video shows paths through the Steall Gorge littered with rocks and fallen trees.

Alison Austin, the John Muir Trust’s Nevis land manager, said: “The damage to the footpath is not extensive, but we will need to bring specialised contractors to remove substantial quantities of debris from the path to remove any potential dangers to the public.

“Unfortunately, the incident has forced us to close the path for the time, but we are working flat out to make sure that the work is carried out as speedily as possible. It is unlikely to be reopened within the next fortnight and it could take until late October before we can give it the all-clear.

“Unfortunately, the closure will affect the Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace which is taking place this weekend. We have been working closely with the organisers to minimise the ecological impact of the event, and to provide logistical and safety support, but the event will now have to be re-routed.

“In the meantime, we have provided advice on an alternative route for experienced hillwalkers, including grid references. We apologise for any inconvenience, but we all understand that the forces of nature can be powerful and beyond human control.

“The work to restore safety on the Steall Gorge path is expected to be expensive, and comes at a time when we are embarking on other major footpath restoration projects in the Skye Cuillin and on Suilven in Sutherland.”

The route bypassing the closed path is recommended by the trust only for experienced hillwalkers with a map and compass, as there is no path.

It entails heading to the col north of Meall Cumhann, Bealach Cumhann, and then dropping down into Coire Guibhsachan and following the burn downhill to the Steall ruins.

The trust said anyone interested in donating to the John Muir Trust’s Wild Ways footpath appeal can go do so online or phone it on 01796 470080.

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