Our Club first visited the Grampian Club hut at Inbhirfhaolain, Glen Etive back in March 2015. It is one of the more basic club huts, but it sits in a magnificent location half way down the glen with an abundance of Munros and Corbetts literally on its doorstep. The hut has been in the news recently as its future lies in doubt due to the proposed new hydroelectric schemes in Glen Etive which would taint the water supply rendering it uninhabitable. Since the club’s last visit a fair amount of the surrounding timber had been felled giving it a, for the time being at least, a brighter outlook.
Jim Aire, George Henderson, Susan Henderson, Alan Orr, Norrie Shand , Gerry Weir
Duncan Macleod, Tina Macleod
The early February weather hadn’t been proving very kind to the Scottish Hillwalker and with strong winds and continued heavy rain on the Friday no one was venturing into the hills before heading to the hut. Norrie’s journey north west took him past the Falls of Dochart in Killin – often a pleasant but tranquil cascade, but on this day a violent, raging surge.
Duncan and Tina, who were attending their first meet as guests were first to arrive, shortly before Norrie and no time was wasted before getting the fire lit to create a welcoming atmosphere for the later arrivals. George and Susan turned up shortly afterwards with Gerry and Jim a bit later, and finally Alan. A number of regular attenders had other commitments that weekend (or were expert weather forecasters) so the numbers at the meet were much smaller than usual.
Duncan and Tina from Stonehaven, but originally from the Western Isles, were friends of George and Susan and relatives of our late past member Chris Wilson. They were keen hillwalkers and were looking forward to sampling a club meet.
Soon, the warm glow from the hut fire and the equally warm glow from the whisky generated a cosy atmosphere with Gerry and Norrie, guitars and mandolin in hand cutting loose on some of their favourite songs, happy to have some new attendees to play to.
The musical highlight of the evening though was a rendition by Tina of the Eriskay Love Lilt – the first authentic gaelic song performed at a club meet.
The weather on Saturday proved to be no more than a continuation of Friday’s dismal conditions and all the well-researched plans for a venture into the nearby Munos and Corbetts were shelved. A cunning plan had been hatched though. The famous Kingshouse Hotel at the head of Glencoe was reopening its doors that day after a long period of closure and a multi-million pound refurbishment. The 45 Degrees Mountaineering Club felt a duty to the hillwalking community to check out how the new hotel and bars would welcome the tired and thirsty hiker.
A 14k tramp from the hut through the Lairig Gartain which divides the Buachailles, Etive and Mor to the Kingshouse would satisfy the twin targets of a decent leg-stretcher and review of the new hostelry.
A 28k tramp though was less appealing, so first thing on Saturday three cars motored along to the Kingshouse, with two being left there for the drive home afterwards
The walk through the Lairig Gartain was not at all unpleasant though the high winds evident at 489m – the height of the pass – would surely have been intolerable at more than twice that elevation on the Munro tops and ridges.
All eight had set out together on the walk with an entertaining burn crossing providing a bit of excitement on the route.
At the summit of the pass, George had a sudden fear that the new Kingshouse may not have ordered enough kegs of cider so switched on the afterburners to ensure he got there before it all been consumed. Susan loped along behind him and Alan’s mini-pistons were stress-tested as he pounded the path in their wake.
The refurbishment of an iconic venue like the Kingshouse was always going to divide opinion between the traditionalists on one side and the modernisers on the other. The consensus seemed to be that the wood-cladded building would soon blend into its surroundings even though only a small part of the original building had been retained.
The staff at the Kingshouse were certainly welcoming and friendly, the beer was refreshing and not outrageously priced – and as Susan and Norrie could testify the burgers were indeed tasty.
The Way Inn, the walkers bar on the West Highland Way was well christened by the club, although one member had to be dissuaded from putting up a new climbing route on the bar’s fireplace.
It had turned into a fairly pleasant evening as everyone headed out to the cars with moonlight and snow-covered peaks enhancing the atmosphere.
Another evening of music and chatter followed in the hut with everyone relieved that enough fuel had been brought to keep us going.
Inevitably, Sunday dawned with beautiful conditions in evidence. Unfortunately, almost everyone had other fish to fry and weren’t able to take advantage, other than snap a few scenes on the way home.
The exceptions were George and Susan who were able to catch tantalising glimpses of Rannoch Moor from the sub 2000 Meall Mor – and maybe wishing they had climbed the Bauchaille instead.
All in all not a classic meet in terms of summits ascended, but it was great craic as usual and the mountains still be in the same place on other days.