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Three Days in Glencoe

Three Days in Glencoe


Postby weaselmaster » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:38 am

Munros included on this walk: Sgorr Dhearg (Beinn a'Bheithir), Sgorr Dhonuill (Beinn a'Bheithir), Stob Coire Raineach (Buachaille Etive Beag), Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor), Stob Dubh (Buachaille Etive Beag), Stob na Broige (Buachaille Etive Mor)

Date walked: 25/04/2013

Time taken: 19.4 hours

Distance: 41.5 km

Ascent: 3508m

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My walking partner Allison had taken a week's holiday with her man and folks in Ballachullish this week, which provided an ideal opportunity for me to have a wee journey up to Glencoe and join them for a couple of days and see some famous hills. We'd planned to do two walks together then I would finish the trip of with a solo walk before heading back home. I've never climbed in Glencoe before - in fact it must be more than 15 years since I last drove through the Glen. So what would be on the hill menu for the time available? I’m a scaredy-cat when it comes to doing anything scrambley, so there was no question of the AE ridge, and Bidian nam Bian looked too serious and confusing, so Beinn a'Bheithir and the big & wee Bookils were selected. What I did know about Glencoe was that walkers go there and a proportion of them die :( So I was a little apprehensive as the trip approached. I'd also been feeling down and tired - maybe too much effort last weekend on Tilt & Tarf, maybe missing my dog, but it was with a somewhat gloomy countenance that I set off early on Thursday morning. Forecast was unsettled - even risk of lightning - what could be more fitting than to be blasted by lightning on the Hill of the Thunderbolt :crazy:

Day 1 - Beinn a'Bheithir 18.05km, 8hours 30mins, 1435m ascent

Mist was down as i drove through the Glen, but I knew there were big hills up there - every so often a little teaser would appear through a rent in the cloud. was that the bookil up there???

Image
road into glencoe by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
visitor centre, ballachuillish by 23weasels, on Flickr

Got to the Visitor Centre in Ballachuillish earlier than anticipated – hey, it doesn’t take that long to get to Glencoe – useful to know! - i think i might be back herre! :clap: Kitted up and Allison appeared on the dot of 8am. In light drizzle we set off for Beinn a’Bheithir, past the school and into the field of heather that goes up and up. For once I was less than enthusiastic about the day’s climb – tired and a bit morose, it seemed a bit of a slog.
Image
the heather field by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
view to loch leven by 23weasels, on Flickr

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view to ballachuillish by 23weasels, on Flickr

We got to the top of the grassy/heathery section and the clag came down. And the snow started, and the wind rose. Oh what fun! :roll: :roll: The section up Beinn Bhan was on slippery scree that had Allison uncomfortable underfoot, plus getting blown about by the wind. Just the day for a ridge walk, I’m thinking. There had been a couple of inches of new snow, plus the stuff that was currently falling, but going up to Sgorr Bhan there were some areas where the new snow had been blown away leaving icy patches – time for crampons for the pull onto the ridge. The wind had risen and we were being pelted with wet snow as we crossed the stony landscape to the cairn.
Image
towards beinn bhan by 23weasels, on Flickr

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scree slope, beinn bhan by 23weasels, on Flickr

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ridge sgorr dearg by 23weasels, on Flickr

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summit somewhere! by 23weasels, on Flickr

Almost set off from the top of Sgorr Dhearg in the wrong (northernly) direction :shock: and had to do a bit of retracing of steps. Not being able to see our next objective didn’t help, but as we descended towards the bealach the clag cleared a bit and we could see Sgorr Dhonuill looming out of the whiteness. I remembered that this was the one I’d seen in someone’s video with a scrambly bit up near the top, which improved my mood no end. We decided to have some food before heading up and found a semi-sheltered spot to force down some lunch and coffee – but were stillbeing whipped by snow/hail and despite a reasonable number of layers, were both feeling the cold. There wasn’t much conversation as we mulled over the next steps. :sick:

Image
first view sgorr dhonuill by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
heading up sgorr dhonuill by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
at the top SD by 23weasels, on Flickr

After the snowy slope up towards the top of SD the scrambly bit was actually good fun and the clag helped remove any real sense of exposure. :clap: “ Just keep looking at where you put your feet, not at the drops” was my mantra, and fortunately the wind was less ferocious by now. Delighted to have got to the summit we had a nose around catching the odd bit of view as the clouds were whipped along by the wind.
Image
WM there too by 23weasels, on Flickr

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heavy skies over thunderbolt mountain by 23weasels, on Flickr

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and another drop shot by 23weasels, on Flickr

The descent was a more light-hearted affair, with my only gripe being the snow was too wet for a decent bum-slide. :D

Image
back to the bealach by 23weasels, on Flickr

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descent from the bealach by 23weasels, on Flickr

We picked our way down the snowy scree from the bealach and then met the path which led us down through the trees. It’s quite a long walk out, but the going was easy and the sky had cleared by now, giving some good views over Loch Leven and the Pap of Glencoe.

Image
we've just been up there by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Untitled by 23weasels, on Flickr

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view along loch linnhe by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Loch leven by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Pap again by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Closer SD by 23weasels, on Flickr

Back in town after 8 and a half hours of walking, it was time to head to the Red Squirrel Campsite to set up the tent, which was followed by a nip along the road to the Clachaig. Several pints/whiskies later, plus a meal that beat the usual camping staple of dehydrated food, it was time to head off to the peace & quiet of the campsite – there seemed all of half a dozen tents in the whole site. Sleep was partly delayed by forgetting to take a pillow (or stuff sack with clothes in it) into the tent – using a jet-boil and various other hard things instead just didn’t work. :? Eventually I had to trip to the car and collect said pillow and slumbers came easier after that.
Was lovely waking to bird song and the sound of the stream running outside.

Image
squirrel by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
Bidean from the campsite by 23weasels, on Flickr

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clachaig by 23weasels, on Flickr

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tent by 23weasels, on Flickr

Up at 7 and a bowl of porridge, a very faint hangover and some blue sky above! Great views of Meall Mhor and the Three Sisters from the campsite. Last night Allison had agreed to walk from her cottage to the campsite and get me at 8 – sure enough, right on the dot again she appears – nursing a somewhat more powerful hangover than mine. It would be a day of jelly-legs – just what’s needed for the big bookil! :wink:


Image
Mornign drive to big bookil by 23weasels, on Flickr

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big bookil! by 23weasels, on Flickr

Driving along to Altnafeadh I did have to stop and take some pictures of the hills that were hiding themselves away on my arrival the day before. We were the first car at the parking spot, but soon joined by a minibus of Irishmen who had tried and failed the bookil on Wednesday, then tried and failed the Ben on Thursday, so they were back for another go. As we saw no more of them all day, I’m assuming it was another fail for them today! :o
I really hadn’t given much thought to how we were going to get up onto the mountain and as we drew neared to Coire na Tulaich it was my turn to get the heebie-jeebies. The forecasts had been conflicting for the day so we didn’t really know what to expect – MWIS predicting 50mph winds and blizzards, MWF saying moderate winds and no rain/snow. Ach well, sun was shining so seemed ok at the moment. What was troubling us both was the avalanche risk in the coire. :shock:

Image
on the path in by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
do we have to go up there? by 23weasels, on Flickr


Image
coire snow by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
view backwards from the coire by 23weasels, on Flickr

As we headed up the rocky path it did appear daunting – there was a lot of snow sitting there. I was also concerned about the probability of cornicing round the rim of the coire. We scanned the terrain to the right and left but although there were snow free routes, they seemed unnecessarily steep and rocky. So let’s go and see what kind of snow it is, shall we? Actually it seemed reasonable to me – quite firm and crunchy with no obvious warning signs of imminent avalanche. We discussed what to do – neither of us wanted to turn back, so, following the residue of older footprints from days before we headed up the coire snow. Crampons and axe came into play and it was a steep slog up.

Image
not yet! by 23weasels, on Flickr

Nearing the top I almost slipped once, but axe played its part and it was with considerable relief and a drop or two of elation that I pulled myself up onto the plateau, being greeted by the impressive sight of Feadan Ban. :D :D :D
Image
it was quite steep by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
made it - feadan ban by 23weasels, on Flickr

We gathered breath and wits, had some nuts and were visited by a beautiful raven who came up really close and was rewarded with a medley of nuts – from that point onwards in our journey to Stob Dearg we had a companion, flying on ahead, peeking behind rocks, but unfortunately the nuts were finished and he eventually got the message. The summit of SD was reached without incident but unfortunately the views were largely clag bound.
Image
raven by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
up to stob dearg by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
looking N from SD by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
Across to AE by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
nobbly top of SD by 23weasels, on Flickr

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raven agin by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
Untitled by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
Summit ridgy bit, SD by 23weasels, on Flickr

Heading back down we then began the ascent of Feadan Ban which was alright, though just like yesterday there were patches of firm icy snow that caused us to spike up. Reaching the top, there were spells of blue sky and we could see along the ridge ahead which looked pretty tasty. The weather was being extremely changeable - one moment it was clearish blue skies and minimal wind, the next the clouds came in, wind got up and we were lashed with snow. Quite disorientating. It was another steepish rocky descent from FB to Stob na Doire and we were captivated by the sight of the ridge snaking along to Stob Coire Altruim & Stob na Broige. Every so often we’d get a view of the Aonach, or the Etive hills in the distance, then they’d be covered up again.

Image
the ridge ahead by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
FB by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Ridge to Stob na Doire by 23weasels, on Flickr

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again by 23weasels, on Flickr

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full ridge by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
ridge from SnD descent by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Stob coire altruim by 23weasels, on Flickr

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SCA by 23weasels, on Flickr

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back view of Stob na Doire by 23weasels, on Flickr

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ridge to stob na broige by 23weasels, on Flickr

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SnB by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
summit snb by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
snb by 23weasels, on Flickr

The ridge itself was straightforward, with some cornicing that was easily kept to the left of and a couple of narrow bits that didn’t cause much concern. Eventually got to SnB and faced the return leg, with my anxiety now being how to get down. :lol: The bealach to Coire Altruim looked heavily corniced and this called for some route modification – had to go nearer to Stob na Doire end of the bealach, but actually the descent – though steepish – was fine and I didn’t think there was much avalanche risk.

Image
descent from the bealach by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
north to the mamores by 23weasels, on Flickr

Reaching the green grass of the lower stretches there were some tricky scrambles over wet rocks and by this time Allison’s knees were playing up despite the drugs… However, it was dry and warmish and we quite enjoyed the walk along the River Coupall back to the car (apart from the section along the roadside – too many scary big lorries to enjoy that).
Image
along the river by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
the bookil! by 23weasels, on Flickr

Drove along to the Kings House for a front-on view of the mighty hill we’d been in amongst then – yes, you guessed, back to the Clachaig. :D Both of us were pretty tired and although Allison’s mind was willing to accompany me on my trip to the wee bookil the next day, her joints had other ideas. After another tasty meal, and more moderate imbibing I returned to the Squirrel.

Image
clachaig refreshment by 23weasels, on Flickr

Unfortunately, it being Friday night, in my absence a number of new tents and camper vans had materialised in the site, one or two irritatingly close to mine. From peace and tranquillity of the night before I was suddenly an (unwilling) extra in Eastenders having to listen to other people’s inane babble, a camper van’s slidey door being opened and closed maybe a million times, and a wee yappy dog barking incessantly. Although the site rules suggest “silence 11pm-7am” this was not on the agenda of the lot next door, who even managed to get some god awful music on after midnight. I lay there trying to be calm :wtf: :silent: , and eventually must have gone off to sleep despite the racket, as when I woke at 3 all was peaceful once again. Reminded me that wild camping – despite its absence of showers/toilets/ the Clachaig round the corner – is much preferable to being in the midst of a rabble.

Another lovely morning and I headed off to the wee bookil, arriving at the layby for just gone 8. One car already there with 2 guys I met up with later on. Mood definitely brighter this morning, niggling ankle pain mostly gone, looking forward to some altitude once again.
Image
wee bookil start path by 23weasels, on Flickr


Path is a proper one with stone steps in places and although it rises quite steeply, it is a steady climb and I was soon at the bealach between Stob Coire Raineach and whatever the hill’s called to the SW. Good views over to yesterday's action sites.

Image
coire altruim by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Untitled by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
nameless hill by 23weasels, on Flickr

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stob coire raineach by 23weasels, on Flickr

Easy ascent of SCR, with some good views (and drops) from the nobbly section after the summit cairn. When I’d been climbing up, the view to Stob Dubh had been obscured by clouds, but now the sun was shining brilliantly on the ridge.
Image
summit approaching scr by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
wummit scr by 23weasels, on Flickr

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weasels at work by 23weasels, on Flickr

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drop from summit scr by 23weasels, on Flickr

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ridge to stob dubh by 23weasels, on Flickr

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coire altruin again by 23weasels, on Flickr

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and again by 23weasels, on Flickr

Back to the bealach and then up the nameless hill – all soft snow, deep in places. Walking along the ridge to SD there was one section near the end of the ridge where the snow build up on the ridge itself made assessing what was cornice and what was solid ground impossible – the 2 lads who’d been ahead of me had dropped down 20 feet below, bit this had its own problems of being on unstable scree. I was glad I’d swapped my poles for axe and the mid point of the ridge, but made it to the end without incident. I bothered to go to the southernmost cairn as well as the main summit one and was rewarded with a cracking view down Loch Etive. Ah – more hills to be done! :thumbup:
Image
stob dubh by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
ridge to stob dubh by 23weasels, on Flickr

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summit sd by 23weasels, on Flickr

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looking back along ridge to scr by 23weasels, on Flickr

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Untitled by 23weasels, on Flickr

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drop from sd by 23weasels, on Flickr

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glen etive hills by 23weasels, on Flickr

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loch etive by 23weasels, on Flickr

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more etive hills by 23weasels, on Flickr

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return ridge view by 23weasels, on Flickr

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sd from the ridge by 23weasels, on Flickr

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and again by 23weasels, on Flickr

I had a real skip in my step as I headed back along the route – couple of good bumslides down the nameless hill and a jaunty walk down the path, passing numerous walkers on the way up. Back at the car just over 3 hours after setting off I felt positively upbeat and delighted that the blues of earlier in the week had disappeared. Let’s face it – if 3 days of these hills and views don’t do the trick in banishing the blues then I might as well be dead!! Back down the road with the top down, (car that is, not my shirt off) and another snap of the bookil.
Image
big bookil by 23weasels, on Flickr

Image
from the kings house by 23weasels, on Flickr

Also delighted to see that the Wall of Rannoch had a new white coat on from the recent snow – I do much prefer my mountains to have some white in them!
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weaselmaster
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Re: Three Days in Glencoe

Postby tamw51 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 10:43 am

Fair mixed bag of weather you had there over the three days! Cracking report.

Just about to update my walks blog, and i noticed this. I was one half of the two lads you met,the other early risers! :D

Im sure you wont be waiting 15 years to pass through Glen Coe again, thats me ticked them all off but will definately revisit, have done the Aonach eagach 3 times now and it never gets boring, and Bidean nan Biam is a cracker! Only downside is how busy it can get hence our early start! :D

loved the snow and Stob Dubh was especially looking pretty!
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tamw51
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Re: Three Days in Glencoe

Postby simon-b » Sun Apr 28, 2013 3:14 pm

Great report, WM. Some bits looked a bit hairy in the snow, it seems like you had a good time though.
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simon-b
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Re: Three Days in Glencoe

Postby SAVAGEALICE » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:47 pm

very enjoyable read as usual :roll: :D ..know what you mean about campsite noise!! :evil: :-x !
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Re: Three Days in Glencoe

Postby mrssanta » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:27 pm

some of your pictures are amazing! especially the moody purple one on the first day
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mrssanta
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Re: Three Days in Glencoe

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:59 pm

mrssanta wrote:some of your pictures are amazing! especially the moody purple one on the first day


Thanks - the scale and suddeness of the weather changes was quite something! My wee camera didnt know what to think :shock:
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weaselmaster
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Re: Three Days in Glencoe

Postby dooterbang » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:44 pm

Fantastic trip - yous certainly made the most of it :)

Lovely photos.

Always nice to relax in the Clachaig.

Cheers.
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Re: Three Days in Glencoe

Postby lomondwalkers » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:35 pm

Superb WM. Some cracking atmospheric pictures there 8) Beinn a'Bheithir was one of my favourite walks so far. Just didn't expect it to be so good. The ridge from Beinn Bhan to Sgorr Bhan is a delight, and the Bookils are just awesome too. Hoping to attempt Curved Ridge in summer :crazy: :lol:
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