Glencoe is a regular and favourite haunt of the Club for obvious reasons and many great meets have previously been enjoyed in and around this magnet for hillwalkers and mountaineers. For the first time though we were booked into the Glencoe Independent Hostel which sits near the Youth Hostel on the back road between The Clachaig and Glencoe Village. This was an inspired choice. The hostel sleeps up to 24 people in four dorms with hot showers available and a decent sized self-catering kitchen – as well as very cosy lounge with an open fire. The Club had sole use of the hostel for the weekend and it was appreciated greatly that the custodians simply left us alone to relax and enjoy our post-hill wind-downs.
Jim Aire, Ania Borg, Raymond Evenden, James Fraser, George Henderson, Susan Henderson, Jim Linden, Duncan McLeod, Tina McLeod, Neil Morrison, Adrian Mowat, Norrie Shand,
Norrie was first (unusually) to snap into gear on Friday morning. The forecast was decent, and he planned to head into the Eastern Mamores where he still had a couple of Munros to tick off on his second round. On this occasion, as we had exclusive use of the hostel, he was able to bring along his trusty and very patient four-legged hillwalking buddy, Slioch, the young golden retriever. Arriving in Kinlochleven not long after daylight they set off on the long plod north west to the outlier Binnein Beag, Despite being the lowest of the Mamores, its inaccessibility makes it more difficult than others on the ridge and there is a fair bit of descent and re-ascent involved in reaching the summit. However, the early winter sunshine made for an enjoyable tramp and eventually they reached the summit of their intended target. They hadn’t seen a soul all morning, but out of the blue as the cheese pieces were being unwrapped a couple arrived at the top to join them – handily enough so as to take a summit photo.
The return was even more delightful with a setting sun conjuring up magnificent vistas in all directions. The other nearby Munro on his “to do” list, Sgurr Eilde Mor rose spectacularly over the east side of the lochans but the decision was made to leave it for another day. The sun was sinking gently over Loch Leven as they neared the car. A contemplative gaze west was enjoyed for a few minutes before the final trek through the dark woods to civilisation.
The Hostel was soon located, and he entered to find George and Susan comfortably ensconced in front of the inevitable blazing fire.
Their journey north west had taken a detour along Glen Orchy allowing them to ascend the Corbett of Beinn Mhic-Mhonaidh up through the forests which envelope the north west flank of this glen. Though not the most prominent of hills, the climb to the summit is a rewarding one with superb views to iconic hills in every direction. The walk was just enough to create a thirst that needed quenching.
Nobody else had the opportunity to climb any hills on the Friday and throughout the evening everyone arrived and settled down for the usual fun evening of stories and banter.
Several call offs meant that Norrie and Slioch were able to secure a room of their own – so nobody else would have to endure the slobbering, sniffling, whining, whimpering and gas-escapes during the night. Fortunately, the dog was used to it.
Jim Aire had brought his son, Sean along to a meet for the first time and together with Raymond, the three set off for one of Glencoe’s finest – Bidean nam Bian.
They began their traverse with a walk up the lost valley before a steep and icy ascent up to the col between Bidean’s two Munro summits. A short distance away but rising steeply was Stob Coire Sgreamhach the lower of the two Munros. Once this had been bagged, they retraced their steps before heading up to the majestic main summit of Bidean nam Bian, at 1150m, the highest point in the immediate locality. Not content though, they made their way back to the car over the Top of Stob Coire nan Lochan, itself a fine peak. Sean had climbed a few Munros previously, but this expedition clearly got into his bloodstream as he decided afterwards that he would like to join the club.
Duncan, Tina and Jim Linden headed only slightly further down the road; their sights having been set on the twin Munros of the “Wee Buachaille”. The path up to the bealach has been improved tremendously in recent years and aided the trio up the flank to where it was just a short pull up to their first summit, Stob Coire Reanach, the lower of the two Munros but a great viewpoint for the jumble of hills in the near distance.
A skip back down to the bealach then a longer pull upwards saw them attain the second and higher Munro, Stob Dubh. The views from this summit are truly amazing, especially south east with Loch Etive glimmering in the sunshine, flanked by the Starav range on one side and Trilleachan on the other. Task completed, they began their descent back to the car and the promise of refreshment.
George and Susan, looking to make further inroads into their second Corbett round, drove a short distance towards Kinlochleven where they parked their car and glided up the steep northern slopes of Garbh Bheinn to its rocky summit, yet another fine viewpoint.
A whisky-fuelled glance at the map the previous evening suggested that it might be possible to traverse from this hill over to Meall Dearg, the easternmost Munro on the Aonach Eagach. The cold light of day and sight of the terrain resulted in that option being discarded – a return to the hut for a spot of late lunch was deemed the better alternative.
Norrie, less than fresh from his exploits the previous day decided he and Slioch would simply wander up the Pap of Glencoe – walkable from the Hostel. Despite having climbed it twice before, he had forgotten how popular a day trip it was for weekenders and the path up was soon littered by a steady stream of walkers. A quick change of plan followed – instead of the Pap, they would head south and ascend Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, the Munro at the west end of the Aonach Eagach. After a km or so in this direction he realised the Munro was a bit further away than he first thought, and with the wind picking up he decided just to take an aimless dander around the area above the bealach on the pretext of taking some photos. Eventually they made it back to the hut where George and Susan were already resting following their return. A quick shower followed, and George and Susan deposited man and dog at the Clachaig whilst they set off on a couple of wee touristy walks.
A burger and a beer slipped down nicely in the pub where they were soon joined by the Wee Buachailleers and the Bidean Boys following their exploits. The Clachaig must have known we were coming as the brought in a special keg for a couple of our members.
Adrian and Ania, two of the club’s more experienced winter mountaineers had harboured thoughts of Dorsal Arete, a Grade II winter climb on Bidean nam Bian. Unfortunately, they could tell from the roadside that there was insufficient snow, so plan B – a jaunt into the Mamores was put into action. They decided on the two easternmost Munros on the main ridge, Binnein Mor and Na Gruagaichean. The former is the highest peak in the Mamores and a fine ridge runs from that summit to the rocky peak of Na Gruagaichean. There was just enough snow to make it entertaining.
At one point they looked down and thought that they saw, what looked like an elderly monk laden down with supplies for the winter trudging back to his secluded monastery. It later transpired though that it was James who had also decided to venture into the eastern Mamores.
He too, was looking to complete a second round of Munros and his target was also Binnein Mor. The paths in this area of the Highlands are excellent and even James was content to follow an established route up and over the minor top of Sgor Eilde Beag and an unnamed 1062m point before dragging himself up to the Munro summit – an excellent spot to drink in the superb views, but unfortunately a long way from the car park. Darkness descended a bit quicker than James (though darkness needn’t be too cocky about that) – and he eventually returned to the Hostel as others were preparing their supper.
The fire was blazing again and Slioch wasn’t at all embarassed to be the first to fall asleep.
In the meantime, Neil had hatched an ambitious plan, as is his wont, involving a traverse over the Munros of Beinn Sgulaird and Beinn Fhionnlaidh, two rocky peaks west of Glen Etive. There is no real connecting ridge between them, and a traverse would require a lot of descent and re-ascent. Starting from Glen Creran , the ascent of Ben Sgulaird was relatively straightforward if quite lengthy. At least Neil didn’t have to waste any time taking photos as his phone had conked out. Struck by a random bout of common-sense Neil eventually decided that Beinn Fhionnlaidh could wait for another day and made his return to his car. It was still quite late when he arrived back at the Hostel but by now the club had come to expect that and nobody was panicking.
A few songs were bashed out by Norrie and Raymond mid evening before the subject of funeral plans had everyone engrossed – Sean may have been having second thoughts about joining the club at this point.
Taking the dog out for a wee provided an opportunity to take some atmospheric night photos.
As Sunday dawned, most members packed up and headed back home. There were a few exceptions though.
George and Susan thought that they would make a start to their 4th round of Munros by following the footsteps of Duncan, Tina and Jim the previous day. Their walk up and over the two Munros comprising the “Wee Buachaille” was heartily enjoyed and left them positively salivating at realising they only had 280 more to do!
The fine morning enticed Adrian and Ania down into Ben Nevis for a wee bit of bouldering practice, with Ania finally seeing the reward of her extensive gym work. If that wasn’t enough they enjoyed a skip up Ben Challum on their way back home.
Norrie broke his journey on the way back to walk the dog up Glen Cononish, where Ben Lui was looking resplendent in the Sunday sunshine – without doubt one of the finest peaks in the Central Highlands, and one that holds many a tale.
All in all it was another great weekend in an excellent location and no doubt a further visit will be on the cards sometime in the future.