A long journey was rewarded with excellent weather and stunning views.
Wednesday started with a long journey for most, all the way up to Glencoe village. Ian,the winter skills instructor, arrived in the evening to ensure everyone had appropriate kit. Much time was then spent trying to figure out how to use the wide range of vintage crampons that had been brought. Some were deemed too old, and consigned to ornamental use only.
Thursday was the first day of winter skills for 7 of the 13 walkers, including me. We hiked up to a nearby col, and set about sliding, daggering, digging and step-kicking our way across the slopes. Most of the others followed a different walk up a steep snow slope that became known as the ‘gully of fear’, before ridge-walking a bit further only glissade back down to the bottom.
Friday followed a similar format, with the winter skills group returning to their previous site, though this time in pouring rain followed by snow and 50mph gusts. The weather did not allow stopping for length discussion, so quick progress was made up to the summit of Stobh Coire Raineach before a cold descent into the worst of the wind. After finding a more sheltered slope the ropes came out, and the various kinds of snow-anchor were practiced. Meanwhile, Bronwen, Matt A and Danny took on Beinn a Bheithir (and re-ascended their final peak, Sgorr Dhearg, when the clouds finally lifted at 3pm). Sarah and Chris had a more leisurely day, taking in the sights of the Co-op in Ballachulish.
Saturday was a switch-around day. The first winter skills course had finished, and a new one was begun, this run by Dave Farrow, an ex-club member. The new group was to prove more adventurous than the first, climbing Buachaille Etive Beag and bagging 2 munros in their first day of the course. I and several other newly ‘qualified’ winter walkers decided to brave the ‘gully of fear’, led by the more experienced Matt Arran. We found the steps kicked by the previous group to be extremely helpful, especially for those who had decided crampons were unnecessary weight. We followed the ridge further today, reaching the highest point despite some initial fears. The slide back down was generally agreed to be the best part of the day.
Sunday was an easier day for many, but not Matt and Danny who had decided to take on the Aonach Eagach, an exposed grade III winter scramble. After leaving early to allow plenty of time, they had finished the scramble by 11:30 despite some scary moments, allowing a relaxed walk back down. The winter skills group also left early to climb Bidean nam Bian, but the rest took a more leisurely approach. One group went to explore the hidden valley, and had an excellent time. I had a very lazy morning, not leaving until the sun was firmly out from behind the clouds, about 12:30. This proved a good decision as the weather remained perfect, except for 10 minutes of mist, until the end of the day. We climbed up from the bunkhouse to Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, where we could look down in all directions. We met others on our way, including Matt and Danny, and others who had beaten us up despite taking in the Pap of Glencoe first.
Monday was to be our last day, and the first that everyone was available, not on a winter skills course. Some decided to use the day to it’s fullest, climbing the Pap of Glencoe in time to view the sunrise. The forecast was ideal, and both cars were dispatched towards Buchaille Etive Mor. However, Simon decided that the walk looked too energetic for him, and Matt L had ‘accidentally’ left his waterproofs at the bunkhouse, so the two groups merged. A route change was required due to an inconvenient cornice, but we dragged ourselves up an very steep and icy slope to the ridge where we were rewarded with commanding views down over Rannoch Moor. Other groups had been for shorter walks, and Guido and Yangzi decided to hire bikes for a cycle around the beautiful Loch Leven. An excellent last day to the trip.
Trip List: Ben L, Bronwen F, Chris H, Danny V, Dominic C, Guido S, Johanna F, Mallika B, Matthew A, Matthew L, Sarah M, Simon M, Yangzi J