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Screamer of a Sgreamhach

Screamer of a Sgreamhach

Postby old danensian » Thu Aug 28, 2014 8:36 pm

Munros included on this walk: Bidean nam Bian, Stob Coire Sgreamhach

Date walked: 24/08/2014

Time taken: 7 hours

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If I break my leg I’ll sort out my slides.

It’d been a threat for years. However, the only thing I’ve broken is my nose, twice. So, rude health meant that thousands of “trannies” were largely scattered in a multitude storage solutions that shamed my background as an information professional. Some were in those yellow or orange boxes (Kodak or Agfa depending on your preference for different hues of green.) Others were spread between dozens of trays in a cupboard next to the old projector. The remainder were in a vague sort of order split between folders and sleeves that bore headings as specific as “Family”, “Holidays”, and “Scotland.”

Then we moved house, and sorting became a way of life for a few months: “Scotland” was opened up. As a cull progressed, scores of plastic and card frames clattered into the bin and memories were rekindled. I was surprised at how assiduous I’d been with the indelible pen in recording locations, views and events.

Amidst images for Glen Coe and Bidean in 1980 two stood out.

One captured heavy BBC outside broadcast cameras filming the famous Joe Brown on Aonach Dubh for The Big Climb. We’d spent hours sitting below the crag, craning our necks and watching Joe and his daughter Zoe wend their way up. I can’t recall what was more intriguing, the climbing or the logistical exercise employing tons of gear, scaffolding, and miles of cable. Helmet-cams? No, that's just science fiction or for a feature on Tomorrows World.

The other image was unmarked but came from a sequence taken on and around Bidean nam Bian and the surrounding tops, none of which were identified.

Thirty four years later Stob Coire Sgreamhach was unticked. Was this photographic evidence that on one of those days following the TV climb I had actually been there?

There was only one way to find out.

Aonach Dubh looms above Glen Coe - as much as it can in brilliant sun

After nearly three weeks in France and driving over 3000 miles, the legs were a bit out of practice. However, if there’s one thing to get them going with a vengeance it’s the sound of the piper in the lay-by at the top of Glen Coe. As I opened the car door, two coaches pulled up and he began to blow.

As the water flows down - the route just keeps on going up

The route is mercifully straightforward: over the bridge and just keep going up the obvious path. At the lochans, it’s decision time: simply right or left.

Pinnacle Buttress and lochans below Stob Coire nan Lochan

I chose left and headed for the ridge linking Gearr Aonach to Stob Coire nan Lochan and enjoyed some airy scrambling as the top got closer. In just over two hours, the cairn on Stob Coire nan Lochan heralded the way across to Bidean nam Bian, which was reached twenty minutes later.

Bidean nam Bian from Stob Coire nan Lochan

The Ben and Stob Coire nan Lochan from Bidean - now if I'd been able to see the background when I took the slide ...

Looking back, and then across to my left, I recognised the profile from the transparency back home. OK, the path was more clearly defined, and the conditions beyond now allowed a view across the glen. No, it was the view back to Stob Coire nan Lochan and not to Ston Coire Sgreamhach: I still had to do the latter. Given the conditions prevalent when the old photograph was taken, this was no sacrifice. Blue skies, wispy clouds and the temperature still rising, whether I’d climbed Bidean and Sgreamhach before or not didn’t matter: this was worth the repeat.

What it would have looked like if it had been Stob Coire Sgreamhach

With the day stretching ahead, there was time to linger, savour the stretch across to Stob Coire Sgreamhach, then dwell for half an hour working out the peaks on the horizon.

Ben Nevis and companions from Stob Coire Sgreamhach

The Buachailles from Sgreamhach

I’d considered this outing earlier in the year but had been wary about the state of lingering snow at the Bealach Dearg. A handful of reports bore out my anxieties, and each time I’d driven up or down Glen Coe, even as late as June, it was still there.

Now, in late July, the red soil and gravel at the bealach bore witness to its name. A little slithery, and making sure people descending were well out of the way, the way down to the Lost Valley was opened.

Looking down into the Lost valley from Bealach Dearg

The Lost Valley - a Scottish summer oven

By now the sun had turned this idyllic spot into a veritable cauldron, the epitome of a sun-trap.

Another linger and stroll and the path down into Glen Coe itself was all too soon dropping away.

Mercifully, the piper had gone.

Revisiting Bidean had been a delight and getting to the top of Sgreamhach was more than just ticking off one of my unclimbed Munros or turning a balloon from red to blue. The mystery of my untitled slide had been solved and left me thinking about those earlier photographic days.

And so here’s a test. Next time you’re out on the hill, limit yourself to just 36 shots: make each one matter.
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old danensian
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Re: Screamer of a Sgreamhach

Postby Johnny Corbett » Fri Aug 29, 2014 4:06 pm

Good stuff. Andy and i were commenting on the snow patches when we saw them from the Aonach Eagach, amazed that snow was still there after quite a warm summer :shock:
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Re: Screamer of a Sgreamhach

Postby dogplodder » Fri Aug 29, 2014 5:41 pm

Love that connection with the past and that so much has changed but the hills remain the same. What a gorgoeus day you got for your return visit! :D

Good luck with the old slides. It's hard to dump old photos - feels like a betrayal of the past somehow. 8)
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Re: Screamer of a Sgreamhach

Postby jim blackwood » Fri Aug 29, 2014 7:55 pm

Nice to read about that and some great photos to. I climbed Bidean in July and i was very lucky aswell to get some cracking photos.I'll need to put them onto a hard drive so they can never be lost.Bit different from slides :lol:
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Re: Screamer of a Sgreamhach

Postby Alteknacker » Sat Aug 30, 2014 10:58 am

What a marvellous day you had, and you took full advantage with some fabulous pix. Scotland is unbeatable when the weather's like this!!!
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Re: Screamer of a Sgreamhach

Postby Graeme D » Sun Aug 31, 2014 8:12 pm

A screamer indeed Nigel! :clap:
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