Monday, 10 August 2015

Glencoe Scrambles, 18-20 July

We'd organised 3 days doing some easy rock-scramble routes in the Glencoe area, bagging 4 Munros and a Corbett on the way. John and myself were leading the days.

Day 1 - Garbh Bheinn in Ardgour

Staying in Ardgour the night before, wind battered the campervan and rain continued through the night. Forecast was for an improving day on the hills with perhaps a little sunshine in the afternoon.

I met up with John and some of the girls (Izzy, Hayley, Victoria and Sue) on the Ardgour side of the ferry and we drove in convoy to Inversanda where we met the remaining two members (Dianne and Jill) of our group. After a quick chat about the day and what everyone could expect, off we hiking through the grass and directly up the hillside ahead. We were planning to do an anti-clockwise circuit of Coire an Iubhair, therefore leaving Garbh Bheinn for the best part of the day.

Uphill, we got into a fine stride and cloud was trying to break, with occasional glimpses of Garbh Bheinn teasing us on. Over Druim an Iubhair, passing some weird rocks on the way (pink granite ?) and up Sgorr Mhic Eacharna, we then had a drop of around 150m to a col before our next climb up Beinn Bheag. John knew a good line down from this, not obvious at first, heading from just before Beinn Bheag's most western bump drectly down to the lochan on the col below. Some scree and care, the group were down, gasping and puzzled at the route ahead. Cloud began to magically lift ! Again, John with his humour, assured us the route was the one directly uphill under the slab !

After some food, up we went. The route is loose and not for the inexperienced ! Onto more safe ground above, time for some more fun, practicing rock-scrambling on the safe and now dry rock. Everyone got a buzz out of this and some learned some new techniques. Onto the summit, the weather now glorious, we savoured some views and took lots of photos before the hike south-east back on grassy ground and down to our cars.

Day 2 - Bidean nam Bian via the Zig Zags

I stayed the night by Glencoe Village in the campsite and what a glorious evening with light blasted onto Bidean nam Bian, picking out the detail of the crags and buttresses.

We all met at the large upper car-park, today we were also joined by Lorne. Our plan was to ascend Bidean via the Zig-Zags and return over Sgreamhach and Beinn Fhada. Weather was murky to start, but forecast was promising and we set off down to the bridge over the River Coe into the midge-infested wood. Out of the wood and into a breeze, we relaxed and continued up the path. You can miss the turning off for the zig-zags from the main path easily - a small cairn marks it amongst the ferns.

Up the path - you can see where the name zig-zags come from. The group stayed together and tackled the grade 1 scrambling with ease. There are 3 slight challenges on the way, with the third being the trickiest where a lean-back move is required to get up over a slab. Beyond this, a straightforward walk with a few bouldery rough bits is all that awaits to gain the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochain. Nope, not a Munro - debate occupied the group (particularly Hayley who threatened to write to the SMC to get this change) as we took in the fine views. We had played leapfrog with Guy Steven who had been leading a small group up the same route - they were planning to do Ledge Route or Curved Ridge tomorrow, all training up to do Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis a few days later. Guy kindly took a pic of us on this summit.

In the bright sunshine, we progressed to Bidean nam Bian, on the way I spotted a mutant Starry Saxifrage with 8 petals ! Time for lunch and more views !

Over to Stob Coire Sgreamhach, the plan had been to continue over Garbh Bheinn, however time was getting on decided instead to take the quicker route out via the Lost Valley. This meant we could leave our rucksacks at the col and hike to the summit of Sgreamhach unladen - I know, it feels like cheating, but such a relief ! Some cracking views to finish the day with, the group returned to the col and picked up sacks for the descent. This descent is loose and Marmite (you'll love it or hate it), but a patch of snow further on guaranteed a smile on everyone's face. Back to the car-park, a Cornetto from my campervan's fridge rounded the day off nicely.

Day 3 - Beinn a'Bheithir via Schoolhouse Ridge

Our final day, a Monday saw a much smaller group take on today's challenge - quite a few folk returning to work. Vic, Dianne and Jill were joined today by David, Rory and Phil. Forecast was for reasonable weather, pulling in around lunchtime - so we got our skates on ! We gathered in Ballachuilish, hiked past the school and up a fine track to a gate. From here we left the track behind and aimed directly up gassy slopes in the direction of our ridge.

Onto the ridge, John did some skills stuff with the guys and I took the girls further on, as they were all confident scramblers now ! The terrain on the ridge is pretty straightforward, with one or two slightly tricky bits on the way. At the most tricky bit (where I confess I nearly brought the rope out), John and the guys caught us up and we worked together to get the group over. Just as we neared the summit of Sgor Ban, the mist pulled in - more or less bang on mid-day as the MWIS predicted. But we'd conquered the scrambling, now we just need to bag the Munros !

Up Sgorr Dearg, time for lunch (no views). Down to the col and like yesterday, we could leave our sacks at the col for a lightweight ascent of Sgorr Dhonhuill. We passed some foreign hikers coming through the mist (an HF led holiday) and clambered on to the summit (again, no views).

Returning to the col, sacks back on our backs we began our descent through the forest - this is a lovely hike, even in light drizzle. Further down, our biggest obstacle yet was lying waiting - an impressive bit of machinery unloading logs. The driver hadn't seen us, had ear-muffs on and was well into swing, we had no option to wait. Eventually he saw us, smiled and waved us on.

What a brilliant weekend this had been ! We hope to do it again next year.

More photos are up on this Flickr album !