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Glen Coe Massacre 2012 *Extremely long post warning!
by basscadet » Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:11 am
Munros included on this walk: Meall Dearg (Aonach Eagach), Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (Aonach Eagach), Stob Coire Raineach (Buachaille Etive Beag), Stob Dubh (Buachaille Etive Beag)
Grahams included on this walk: Pap of Glencoe
Date walked: 24/11/2012
Time taken: 14.5 hours
Distance: 24.63 km
Ascent: 2856m21 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
I have a friend in Ballachuilish that I couldn’t pass by, so I took a couple of days off beforehand for a visit. Wednesday night saw me making the 4 hour drive over to the west. A rather boozy evening later and Thursday came along with some horrific rain. Not the greatest, as Gordon and I are outside kind of people. We tried the museum in Glencoe Village, but it is shut until spring. We ended up at the visitor centre - got in for free, as Gordon was mates with the guy at the desk.. Good job because if I had paid 6 quid to get in, I would of felt robbed! While we were inside, the weather cleared up though. So we went home for a quick cuppa and then headed up the glen for a walk up to the Lost Valley. The bridge over the gorge has been drastically upgraded with a metal staircase down to it instead of the old wooden ladder. Then it was up the glen on the fine path.. Unfortunately, the river was absolutely raging after the mornings deluge, and we were unable to cross, so we never did get there.. Oh what an epic fail for such an easy walk.
On Friday, I planned to do the wee Buachaille, mostly because I wanted to be on the Curved ridge party on Saturday and I thought doing both the Buachailles sounded like a nice weekend. There was a big dump of snow on Thursday night, and the clag was lifting as I drove up the glen to the Larig Eilde to start the walk at about 10AM. The path up had had the National trust treatment, and was a stone staircase, which may cut down on erosion, but is somewhat harder on the thighs.
I was almost at the bealach and starting to get decent views when the clag rolled in..
Then the hail started, big, hard, fast moving rocks of ice that slapped my face, although at least they bounced off sufficiently that I didn’t get wet.. At the bealach I was well above the snowline, and the path disappeared under the drifts. I stopped for a smoke, back to the wind, and peered through the clag at the way ahead.. Looked fun!
So I set off for Stob Dubh.. The hail was off, but there was a strong gusty wind that seemed to change direction frequently, but usually it was right in the face.. I didn’t know if it was actually snowing or whether it was spindrift I was getting buffeted with, but it was a hard staggering haul through deep snow.. I stopped to put on the waterproof troos, and managed to drop my lunch that skited 100 feet down the hillside, so that had to be retrieved. Onward through drifts and over the lumpy ridge to the summit..
By the time I was walking back the wind had got even stronger and I found myself in a spindrift whiteout, with snow getting blown into places I’d really rather nae have snow.. I was having fun though, haven’t been proper snow surfing down a big drift since last winter. It was a good reminder of why winter is awesome, despite the clag Back at the bealach, I managed to find a fine rock with a seat carved into the lea side – too good to pass up so I sat and ate and enjoyed the silence and shelter. Onward and upward to Stob coire Raineach..
It was steep but quick, and I seemed to make the chilly summit in nae time at all.
I was soon surfing down drifts again back to the bealach. I had a bit of trouble locating the path down in the snow, but I was soon on my merry way - the steps even harder on the thighs on the way down.. As I got to the bottom of the steps, the rain came on pretty heavy unfortunately. I could see sunny in the distance, so instead of faffing with waterproofs, I broke into a jog - Monty style.. So got back to the car a bit too warm, and still relatively dry. It was only 1.30 though – 3 and a half hours! That canny be right I thought, but it was – what an easy fun day..
So there was nothing for it, but to go and see if the bunkhouse was open yet. I was the first to arrive. I got my stuff unpacked and the kitchen set up with table and chairs for the arrival of the troops, who arrived in a pleasing trickle, so I got to have a banter with most folk afore the drinking began.. It was a bit of a messy night.. Is the beer in the clachaig stronger than normal beer? I heard Bod ask in the morning.. Quite possibly were my thoughts on the subject. Unfortunately in our room, we had a bit of a carry on with some missing trousers (don’t ask) so none of us got a wink of sleep until 6.30 – just when the curved ridge party were getting up.. I wasn’t going to make it out with them which was a bummer, I needed sleep. I finally got up at 9, had breakfast and watched others depart for the hill.. Went back to bed at 10.30 and slept until 12.30. Little did I know that I wasn’t the only one.. Well I knew Monty was asleep on a bench in the kitchen, but Iain and Graeme were struck with a mystery bug that kept them in their beds too.
So eventually Dougie persuaded me that it was too fine a day to bide in, and we set our sights on the pap. It was almost 2 by the time we left along the road – only a couple of hours of daylight left, but it surely wasn’t a long walk.
There was a short section of track, passing by some bonny cows, and up to a footbridge. My map showed two paths, one direct up to the summit, and the other more usual path, which I had heard was boggy so the route was a no brainer. Unfortunately, a water supply weir has been put in place, which has obliterated the direct path marked on my map, but there was a path on the other side of the burn and we made short, quick, hot progress. This path was pretty boggy too, maybe just because of the recent deluges though.
Higher up, we saw the top of the pap, and decided to leave the path and take a direct route up. Initially exhausting through the deep heather, it became fun when we hit the rocks, and started getting the good views. We found a tiny wee path which led us a scrambly route to the summit through the crags.
We enjoyed the views for a while, but there was a chilly breeze so not for long. There was enough snow to make the main path down less than obvious, so we ended up following a mass of footprints, which we found definitely weren’t going down the path. We did meet it eventually though, and were thankful we had found another way because it looked like an overtrampled eroded mess. We drank our flask of tea and had a fine rest before the descent. I fancied a more direct route back to the bunkhouse, as A) the walk down the road wasn’t that appealing, and B) the main path down from the pap is a nightmare of rocks and bog. The bunkhouse looked so close with its lights blazing so we left the path at an appropriate moment for the steep grassy descent. Initially the going was good, snaking down fine firm grass, without so much as a slip or muddy bum. Then we were forced across dead bracken which tried to trip us up at every opportunity. We caught the most amazing sunset over Beinn a Bheither afore darkness hit.
We headed toward the house across the road from the bunkhouse, the last bit being very steep and having to bumslide down in between some crags. We had thought the house deserted, but as I passed, a dog came out, so I started jogging, not wanting any trouble about sneaking through their garden! Quite a fine wee 2 and a bit hour wander.
Saturday night saw us all back in the Clachaig, but it was a far more subdued night, and by 2AM, there was just Monty left singing to himself in the bunkhouse. Oh such a good sleep was had.
So Sunday came, and I actually managed out of my pit at a decent hour. Dougie and I had contemplated AE if the weather was nice, but the weather wasn’t particularly.. We drank tea and ummed and ahhed, but when the drizzle subsided about 10, we thought we would go up - just for a look.. Even Am Bodach is a nice walk.. We took sunny down to the end point, somewhat optimistically I thought, but you never know we might actually manage it. We set off up the Am Bodach path at about 10.30.. It’s a steep relentless climb and it was in claggy, still conditions so we got a good sweat on.
At about 700m, we found ourselves in a clag sandwich, with cloud above and below, but cracking views across the glen..
The sun was trying really hard to burn through the top layer of cloud too. The path got more interesting with some scrambly bits. I noted there were bypass paths round even these simple fun obstacles which made me laugh.. Surely folk going up to do AE wouldn’t be feart of such things..
We hit the snow at about 800m, and found that there were plenty of footprints left from yesterday to follow as the path became less obvious.
The Am Bodach summit came surprisingly quickly, and we stopped for a wee rest and to get our axes out before continuing.
That’s when we hit the first down scramble, and it was quite a tricky one in the icy conditions. I stopped on a ledge halfway down to put on my crampons, and literally the next move I made, I got my foot jammed in a crack. I tried to wriggle it out, but just ended up facing the wrong way, frantically hanging onto a jutty out bit of rock. I was so fearty I thought I would never make it down, but managed to sort myself out eventually with a lot of wriggling. I don’t know what Dougie thought about the foolishness of it all.. Must have been regretting coming out with me I reckon..
Next was an easy fun scramble up a chute, I was really enjoying myself – it was just great to be out in the snow with the crampons on!
A couple of easy scrambly bits and some ups and downs saw us at Meall Dearg.
Decision time - would we try the pinnacles or not? Course we would, we were just having too much fun to turn back.. It was 1 o’clock, still a good 3 hours of daylight, which seemed like a viable timeframe at that point. We had a cereal bar, and a tab afore we set off to face the pinnacles.
Pretty soon we were in the thick of it all.. They lull you in with some easy scrambles at the beginning, but even so, it was a time consuming business, all hand and foot holds had to be found under the snow and ice with the adze, sometimes it was possible to swing your axe in a crack to use, sometimes there was enough ice to get your crampon points in so foot holds weren’t necessary, but getting over the pinnacles safely was a long laborious process..
Dougie asked if the GPS was recording how much of the route we did sliding on our backsides.. probably 20% I would of said as a guess..
Pinnacle after pinnacle came, each one a little scarier than the last. I tried to bypass a climb I didn’t like the look of, but ended up having an even worse climb to get out of it.. A few times we were stumped and couldn’t see the way forward, only for a crucial hand hold to be revealed after much searching under the ice.. At one point I was just stepping over a crack with 1000ft or more drop below when a crampon spike got caught in my gator and I went splat into the rock. I have never clung on so hard in all my life! Oh the pain as well.. I have very swollen, very purple shin today!
Pinnacle after pinnacle passed under us, but still there was more.. When I thought I was too mentally tired to carry on the crazy pinnacles raised their vertical necks at us, and for a moment I felt defeated.. How the heck do we get up that? I asked Dougie.. Well the clue was in the footprints heading round the side – a bypass finally I thought, but no – just a scramble on the side instead of the front. By this time we were right in the swing of things though, looking for handholds, Dougie giving me a helping hand when too much physical strength was needed, looking for clues to the route from yesterdays footprints. Surely not much longer though? The first warm glow of sunset was evident through the mist, and no sign of this rumoured 2nd munro.
I was too mentally exhausted to carry on with this scrambling forever, the concentration required was immense, and 6 hours of adrenaline pumping is nuts. The thought of darkness finding us on the pinnacles was very scary. Then the clag parted and we saw it – Sgorr Fiannaidh, and she looked soooo close. I was ecstatic until I hit the top of the next pinnacle, and saw the pinnacles we still had to go. Dougie who was in front said he thought about covering my eyes so I wouldn’t see what lay ahead.. But the last bit didn’t seem so bad really, and we were soon on a steep but reassuringly normal ridge.. I was ecstatic – couldn’t believe a couple of walkers like us were able to complete what in our world, was a feat of mountaineering.. It was felt like a long way with tired legs and deep snow but eventually the summit of Fiannaidh came to greet us..
It was now 4 o’clock and the light was really fading, so just a couple of pics and we were off to the 2nd summit, from where we would make our descent down the pap path we had used yesterday. I was finally able to remove the crampons, which made the walking a bit easier. We were forced to get our headtorches out as we got to the 2nd summit after a rather steeper and lengthier climb than it looks on the map. We stopped at the large shelter there for a few minutes to plan our descent – Clachaig gully was not our intention! Unfortunately that was the moment my GPS ran out of battery, and I knew my compass was in my other rucksack (I had cursed the forgetfulness on the wee buachaille as well) Dougie didn’t have one either – The joy of experience is complacency it seems. So there we were on a rather large slope in the dark without much of a clue as to which direction to walk. Sitting at the shelter wasn’t getting us home though, so we followed our instincts and started walking. Unfortunately, my instincts were different to Dougie’s, which led to the kind of grumpy verbal exchange tired scared people have.. We hit a trail of footprints heading in the right direction and followed them all the way down to a coll/gully.. We eventually worked out that the footprints were heading for the pap. By this time we were below the clag, could see the lights of Glencoe village and the general lie of the land in the moonlight, so it was easy to get our bearings. We headed down the gully, found a tiny path, which we lost and found again a couple of times before we hit the main path. Now the main path is a boggy rocky nightmare, which would have been a chore in daylight, and was even worse in the dark, but progress was made, and our spirits were so high that nothing could dampen them. We both knew we had had one of the best days of our lives.. We may not have the fantastic ridge photos others get on the sunny days, but we got memories we will never forget.. So it was down to the Clachaig again for dinner before the long drive home, finally getting back at 1 this morning – what a day! What a weekend! Just the most awesome time ever. Thanks for organising Nathan!
by iainwatson » Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:33 am
well done for completing the AE in those conditions
sunset pic from the pap is gorgeous
by Bod » Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:38 am
Will be reading that through again, what a superb and epic weekend
by Tinto63 » Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:52 am
by Louise » Tue Nov 27, 2012 2:26 am
Great report and some amazing photos.
by londonwalker » Tue Nov 27, 2012 3:52 am
by Lenore » Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:25 am
by laconic surf » Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:50 am
Was supposed to do the wee buch on Sunday with Iain and Andy but felt a bit too dizzy to walk any further than the Clachaig car park Och well, she's not going anywhere.
An epic, if perhaps a little fortunate, crossing of the AE. Well done to you both, i'm sure that day will live long in the memory
Great to meet you and Dougie, if all too briefly. Hopefully a longer chat will be in order next time
by Mountainlove » Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:54 am
by Fudgie » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:05 am
That was some expedition
by Caberfeidh » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:23 am
- Posts: 7262
- Joined: Feb 5, 2009
by mountainstar » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:55 am
Nice to meet you (and Dougie again)
by Graeme D » Tue Nov 27, 2012 11:17 am
mountainstar wrote:Really, really well done for doing the AE in those conditions. As I drove through the Glen that morning, never did I think you would see anything except cloud and rain.
Nice to meet you (and Dougie again)
Yep, given the weather and the devastation of the previous couple of days, I never would have thought you crazy cats had it in you either. Top drawer mountain action with some cracking winter photos to boot!
by pollyh33 » Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:37 pm
Loved this but no no no!!!! This is not for me
by BlackPanther » Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:59 pm
FANTASTIC! This has to be the TR of the month!
Do I want to tackle AE in winter conditions? Eeee... Not sure. Looks a bit too slippery for me... First have to try a summer traverse!