The whitewashed cottage that is the SMC’s Lagangarbh Hut in Glencoe sits serenely below the imposing northern buttresses and corries of Buachaille Etive Mor. This iconic view has graced many calendars, postcards and biscuit tins but only a tiny proportion of those viewing this scene get the opportunity to actually stay in the hut. Our club was privileged to be booked into this former crofting cottage for our April meet, and although a few members had previously stayed there, for the majority it was a first-time experience.
Thirteen members in all made the trip although a few stayed one night only.
Members attending: Jim Aire, Bill Dallas, Raymond Evenden, Donna Fraser, James Fraser, George Henderson, Susan Henderson, Rowena Hepple, Jim Hughes, Paul McGrandles, Ian Millar, Ian Pollock and Norrie Shand.
First out the traps were James and Raymond who, along with Donna headed up to the hut on Friday morning. After making sure that Donna was comfortably settled in the hut with her kindle fully charged and the heating on, they headed the short distance up Glen Etive to tackle the Munro of Creise by its northern ridge. Conditions improved as the day progressed and a great ascent was enjoyed on the firm snow as the views opened up around them. Such was their elation at being out on such a great day that they decided to extend their walk westwards to the adjoining Corbett of Beinn Mhic Chasgaig. Contact was made with base camp to advise that they would be back later than planned due to the continuation of the walk. The offer of a lift, the few miles up Glen Etive back to their car was initially deemed unnecessary by Raymond – but James quickly snatched the phone out of his hand and gasped his acceptance of the offer.
George and Susan had also set off early on Friday morning. Their target was the Corbett of Ben Vane near Balquidder. The weather wasn’t quite as kind to them in that neck of the woods but nevertheless they enjoyed their tramp up to the summit and soon made their way up to Lix Toll where Norrie had arranged to pick up George as Susan had to return home on family duty.
The pair arrived at the hut in early afternoon, unfortunately from Donna’s point of view interrupting her gripping read. The temptation to head out for an afternoon walk was resisted and the afternoon was spent in “relax mode”. Norrie’s relaxation took a different course from normal as he was two weeks into a self-imposed alcohol free month.
Ian and Ian arrived shortly afterwards with Ian Pollock carefully manoeuvring his car down the bumpy track to ensure he had as short a distance as possible to carry their “essentials” to the hut.
Paul and Jim Aire arrived in the evening having picked up Raymond and the grateful James in Glen Etive. Bill and Rowena appeared shortly afterwards to complete to the quorum for the evening.
After everyone had eaten, the evening developed in familiar fashion with Norrie and Raymond sharing duties on the guitar and singing while the others either listened, tapped their feet, joined in or put their fingers in their ears as they saw fit. Donna and Rowena – otherwise known as the 45ettes were in fine form as backing singers on most of the songs. James proved himself the 45’s answer to Pan’s People with his enthusiastic “dance” interpretation to Raymond’s “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me”.
A couple of SMC members had arrived during the course of the evening intent on a day’s skiing on the Saturday and wisely chose to decline the invitation to join the party.
Most headed off to bed shortly after midnight, but two or three chose to extend the evening so that they had a decent hangover to walk off later in the day.
Bill was having problems sleeping and decided to get up at the unearthly hour of 2.00 am and set off on an early adventure. He headed up the Devil’s Staircase opposite the hut and then turned westward towards the Aonach Eagach. Sitting shivering on the “notched ridge” he was rewarded by views of the amazing breath-taking sunrise. Having traversed one of mainland Scotland’s trickiest ridges, he descended back down to the glen and walked the 10k or so back up the road to the hut where he arrived in the early afternoon and waited patiently for one of the other groups to return so he could get in. He wasn’t aware that Donna was actually sitting in the hut (with the door locked of course) otherwise he would have been able to make his getaway a couple of hours earlier.
The human members of the club had their own plans. Ian and Ian fancied heading up onto Buachaille Etive Mor ridge via the “route 1” snow filled Coire na Tulaich. With crampons donned and ice-axes swinging they set off onwards and upwards. Soon they were “in the zone” and all too quickly they arrived elated on the summit ridge. The full traverse was undertaken with permanent smiles on their faces before they arrived back at the hut exhausted and exhilarated later in the afternoon.
George, Susan and Norrie had their sights set on the slightly more modest “twin peaks” ascent of Buachaille Etive Beag. When Susan arrived back around 10.00 am they drove a few kilometres up the glen and headed south up the extremely well-constructed path onto the main ridge as the spectacular views opened up around them. There were a surprising number of people on the ridge – perhaps because of the full winter conditions on the nearby higher mountains. The lesser Munro of Stob Coire Raineach was ascended first before they set off south west to the main summit of Stob Dubh and the snow-assisted scamper back down to the car park.
Jim “the swim” Hughes had also driven up on Saturday morning – taking almost half an hour to motor up from Larbert so that he could enjoy the views on the way up. He joined Paul and James who chose to ascend Bidean Nam Bian by the zig-zag scramble route on Gearr Aonach, the “middle sister” of Bidean. The route involves no real technical moves but is quite exposed as the path climbs higher and higher above the main Glencoe car park where the tourists and day-trippers gaze with admiration and/or incredulity.
The “top” of Stob Coire nan Lochan is a fine peak itself giving grand views of the Bidean massive and the connecting ridge is an excellent route to Bidean’s summit. However, with the summit some distance away in one direction and the Clachaig Inn in the other, after a very short conversation the group decided to call it a day at Stob Coire nan Lochan and descended down into the corrie of that name back to car and a short drive to the pub.
Although Donna had cooked James’ supper back in the hut it didn’t prevent him having a light starter of a half-pound beef burger and chips with all the trimmings.
In the meantime, Jim Aire and Dehydration Duo aka Raymond and Rowena were also heading up to the summit of Bidean. It was either going to be a Lost Weekend or the Lost Valley and bravely they elected for the latter with Jim leading the party and in charge of the large box of paracetamol. When it was time to don crampons though Jim made the fatal mistake of failing to properly secure his rucksack on the snowy slope and could only look on in horror as his bag made a bolt for freedom and tumbled down the steep hillside shedding snickers bars and cans of irn bru on its journey before it ran out of steam in a burn a few hundred feet below. Gingerly he edged down to rescue his gear although this did involve him regaining the prized blue flipper as he had to step into the burn to retrieve his stuff.
Undeterred by this setback they edged their way up the snow-packed gulley emerging onto the ridge below Stob Coire Sgreamhach before heading north west up the ridge to Bidean’s main summit where Raymond took the opportunity to have a quick power nap before the group headed out to Stob Coire nan Lochan and finally the descent to meet up with the Bidean “A Team” in The Clachaig. On the way down though Raymond had decided to practice an ice-axe arrest using not only his axe but his knuckles as well. Although the arrest was successful he left enough skin on the hillside to give the mountain mice a decent supper.
Later on the complete group reconvened in the hut – although Bill had departed after his marathon effort. Additional instrumentation was in evidence on the Saturday evening as Jim Hughes had brought up his bodhran to accompany the guitarists. Another fine night was enjoyed with Raymond recovering sufficiently to demonstrate his best Travolta dance moves partnered by Donna.
A portrait of the great Scottish mountaineer W H Murray hung on the wall and Grim Jim Hughes did a fine job of impersonating the historic figure.
Although there were a few nodding heads early in the evening – with Ian Millar at one point looking like a shoo-in for the McGrandles Cup, everyone got a second wind and once again the absence of anyone falling asleep before midnight saw the cup held back for another meet.
Also, for several months in succession the wooden compass was not awarded. Either the group are becoming much more expert at navigation – or are becoming much more accomplished liars.
The weather on Sunday morning had taken a turn for the worse and this was enough to deter anyone from doing any hills on the way home. Nevertheless, the Saturday had proved to be another exceptional day and the weekend was agreed to be a resounding success.