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Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day


Postby Jaxter » Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:28 pm

Route description: Bidean nam Bian

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

Date walked: 27/11/2016

Time taken: 8.45 hours

Distance: 11 km

Ascent: 1316m

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"You'd have to have balls to do Bidean in winter" I was once told, and so a dream was born :roll: :D

Challenge accepted :thumbup: :D

An excellent forecast conveniently coincided with my day off so I thought I'd go for it :D The distinct lack of daylight meant an early start, and when my alarm went at 4.30 I immediately regretted the previous 2 nights out as this made it 4 hours 3 nights in a row....but Bidean had waited long enough. On the road by 5 I drove on autopilot to Glencoe, arriving just after 7 in complete dark.

What followed can only be described as a large amount of fannying :lol: I thought all my stuff was ready but it's pretty tricky to get kitted up in the darkness, especially as my car light was on the blink and I was saving my headtorch battery. Although I was the first person here, I could see a light partway up Buachaille Etive Beag; however if he or she was looking for a sunrise I suspect they will have been disappointed. Map checked, I was on my way by half past. It was beginning to get light and heading up the path towards the prominent pillars of Gear Aonach and Aonach Dubh I got this snap of the Aonach Eagach.

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There was a disappointing lack of snow lower down and the weather was overcast but I trusted the forecast and was hopeful of more snow higher up… :?

As I made my way higher I could see a few cars arriving - I seemed I would have company on the hill today :D

The path certainly made ascent quick, if brutal. It's amazing how quickly fitness goes, as a few months ago I would have run up it with no problem :lol: But slow and steady was making good progress.


As I climbed higher I could see clouds descend over the ridge behind me and although I could see cliffs ahead, there appeared to be nothing behind them...

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Finally reaching the head of Coire nan Lochan I crossed over underneath the waterfall and headed on a bearing towards the northwest ridge. I was now in clag and snow and the met office appeared to have made a major mistake :?

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It was tough going as the snow was soft and slippery. More snow would have made it much easier! Two steps foreward and one back, I slid my way slowly upwards I finally reached the ridge and turned left. I could sense "the amphitheatre" to my right...

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At this point I thought I could feel the sky brightening and decided not to lose faith yet. The ridge climbed steadily and there was the odd trace of a path in the non-snowy patches. However, as the ridge became rocky and scrambly the path disappeared and I made my way very cautiously over very slippery rocks. I could sense rather than see that it was a horribly long way to fall.... :shock:

I must have lost the ridge line at one point because I found myself scrambling around rather than over large rocks. Making my way back up to the ridge, the going was much easier, but it was still slow. I was slightly nervous about it taking so long as I knew I didn't have a huge amount of contingency in terms of light :shock:


Soldiering on, I slipped and slid my way along until I was confronted by a steep climb. Hands on, I scrambled my way up it, again sensing a large drop off the buttresses....as I neared the top, this started to happen on my right...

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And reaching the top of Stob coire nan Lochan, I was met by a large cairn in the sunlight!! Jumping for joy it seemed that my faith was to be rewarded 8) :D

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However, I was now even more conscious of time as it was now around 11am, it had taken me 3 and a half hours to this point and the daylight would be all but gone in 5 hours.


Stopping only to admire Ben Nevis, a few photos and a drink, I took a bearing into the clag and headed down the ridge towards Bidean itself.

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There was a lot more snow here which made the descent much easier, and as I reached the bealach I could see what looked like an impassable wall ahead of me. My first thought was that I'd come down in the wrong place and was about to head up a buttress :shock: :shock: However I was in thick clag and as I approached I could see that it maybe wasn't quite as impossible as first thought.

But the drop was huge, so I decided that crampons were called for - possibly overkill, but better overkill than killed :shock:

I was extremely glad of them, although there were places without snow, the snow was pretty hard and I had total security on what might have been seriously dodgy otherwise! The rocks were still extremely slippery too.

Finally, 50 metres from the summit I popped back out of the clouds and was treated to bright sunshine! It was absolutely roasting, especially after my climb 8)

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The final few metres to the summit where hard work across snow for my tired legs, but clambering over the top I was greeted by the most fabulous inversion :D :D

I was now in danger of getting sunburnt...but it was an amazing feeling, I was probably the only person south of Nevis with a view 8)

A camera will never show quite how amazing it was, but these few snaps give a bit of an idea...
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Looking across to the other summits, I was convinced I was at the top, and a quick check of the map confirmed this, but the other summit was there...so I decided to toddle over and take a look, just because it was there! And I was enjoying being out of the clag too... :D

Looking back to the impressive summit of Bidean
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However, I was very conscious of time. It was midday and I had 4 hours.... true, most of the route was simpler from here, but the Lost Valley was still an unknown quantity... :shock:


Not wanting to leave my beautiful inversion, I slowly made my way along the ridge, stopping for a look back to Bidean before dropping back into the clag. However, I got a bit more than I bargained for as I was confronted by something I'd never seen before - a Brocken spectre! This was seriously exciting, and I actually waved at it....it waved back....amazing! This delayed me further, but was so worth it :D :D

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But it really was time to get cracking now. Onwards, I descended into the clag. Back into the depths of the mountain. It was gloomy after the brilliant sunshine of Bidean. The ground was a mixture of snow and slippery rocks and scree and I slid my way downwards, over a few bumps towards the bealach.

Then suddenly out of the gloom came an army of people! I spoke to the man in charge who confirmed that they had come up the Lost Valley which had been fine and that everything was clag. This was again confirmed by a party of three shortly after. I made everyone's day by telling them of the sunshine at the top of Bidean 8)

Reaching the Bealach Dearg, I looked at the route down which was made obvious by a lot of footprints and a cairn, decided it did indeed look doable and continued up towards Stob Coire Sgreamhach.

The rocks were still very slippery and the snow had become quite icy so I was trying to be careful. I reached the top without incident and enjoyed these summit views…

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I stopped for a quick sandwich in the hope that it would clear… I could feel the sky starting to brighten up and decided to give myself 10 minutes… the sky was starting to become blue above me, it was nearly there…just a few more minutes…

It seemed today was a day for meteorological phenomenon as I enjoyed a second brocken spectre and a fog bow!
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I looked at my watch, I was starting to get a bit concerned as I didn’t know how long it would take to get down the Lost Valley. I was way over my time limit of 1.30. But still I waited, and waited… then suddenly it cleared. The sun broke through the cloud and I could see everything :D :D
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I enjoyed the views for as long as I could. I could see people on top of Bidean and waved. My Spectre waved too :lol: It was a magical day and the clearance of the entire valley and beyond was the icing on the cake. Definitely worth getting back in the dark, if that was what would happen :shock: :D



Sadly it was time to go. I had been at the summit over an hour. Worth every second but it was cold and I had a long way to go back. But as everything was now clear, I could enjoy the sunshine all the way down.

Looking back to Bidean and Stob Coire nan Lochan
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Reaching the bealach, I had a look at infamous the descent into Coire Gabhail. There was some snow but no major cornice. I slowly slid my way down in the most dignified manner I could; on my backside, kicking my heels into the icy snow :lol:

Looking back up
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Ahead to the Lost Valley and the sunset
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Stob Coire nan Lochan
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Looking back to the crags
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Once down the initial steep bit the going was easier and I was able to sink into the snow and follow the trail of the folk who’d come up this way. Despite being incredibly steep this was probably the easiest descent I had done recently thanks to the snow, and my knee was very grateful.

On the path I was able to get going steadily and enjoy the lost valley. Looking back I could hardly believe what I’d just come down :lol:
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The Lost Valley and sun setting on the ridge ahead
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Back at the car at 4.15, it was getting very dim but I had made it. I had conquered the beast of Glencoe and had the best day.

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Last edited by Jaxter on Thu Dec 01, 2016 3:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby Alan S » Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:45 pm

Amazing pics Jackie, Cannae beat a wee inversion 8)
Glad you took the gamble with this, I wouldn't mind a repeat of this in the winter :D

Cheers
Alan
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby jupe1407 » Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:57 pm

Great stuff Jaxter :clap:

Getting an inversion, fogbow and broken spectres in a single hill day is some going, I got 2 out of 3 around 50k further north. My first hill was too short-a**ed to get above the inversion :lol:

How's the knee coping?
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby PerthAlly » Wed Nov 30, 2016 8:21 pm

Wowsers Jaxter :clap:

The photos are first class. I did BNB in the snow a few years ago. Jolly cold up there. But I didn't get snaps as good as yours.

I remember having to gallop a touch as light goes rapidly in November.

Good report :)
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby Sunset tripper » Thu Dec 01, 2016 3:05 am

Brilliant pictures Jaxter and a beautiful place. Cheers :D
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby BobMcBob » Thu Dec 01, 2016 2:34 pm

Wow, what a set of pictures. I was thinking about going up there on the same day but, camped at the end of the glen, I watched the clouds and decided to give it a miss. I ended up sunning myself on the beach at Loch Etive, looking back at the mountains and wondering "What if I had..?" Now I know :) Thanks for that, truly spectacular.
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby Jaxter » Thu Dec 01, 2016 3:40 pm

Alan S wrote:Amazing pics Jackie, Cannae beat a wee inversion 8)
Glad you took the gamble with this, I wouldn't mind a repeat of this in the winter :D

Cheers
Alan

Thankyou - it was fabulous :D Would have been even better (and easier) with more snow, but cannae really complain :lol: :lol:



jupe1407 wrote:Great stuff Jaxter :clap:

Getting an inversion, fogbow and broken spectres in a single hill day is some going, I got 2 out of 3 around 50k further north. My first hill was too short-a**ed to get above the inversion :lol:

How's the knee coping?

Yeah, I couldn't believe it!!
The knee stood up pretty well to the abuse actually, no after effects at all :D :D So much so that yesterday I ran 2 miles and it still seems ok :shock: cautiously optimistic :D :D



PerthAlly wrote:Wowsers Jaxter :clap:

The photos are first class. I did BNB in the snow a few years ago. Jolly cold up there. But I didn't get snaps as good as yours.

I remember having to gallop a touch as light goes rapidly in November.

Good report :)

Thankyou - aye I was a wee bit concerned about time but hey, that's what head torches are for :wink: I'm so glad i waited :D



Sunset tripper wrote:Brilliant pictures Jaxter and a beautiful place. Cheers :D

Thanks - it's definitely special isn't it :D



BobMcBob wrote:Wow, what a set of pictures. I was thinking about going up there on the same day but, camped at the end of the glen, I watched the clouds and decided to give it a miss. I ended up sunning myself on the beach at Loch Etive, looking back at the mountains and wondering "What if I had..?" Now I know :) Thanks for that, truly spectacular.

Thankyou - I'm sure it was warmer on your beach!! And Etive is just gorgeous :D
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby old danensian » Thu Dec 01, 2016 3:42 pm

Great read Jaxter - what a day of contrasts

Ice or snow, wet or dry, that gully down into the Lost Valley always looks daunting

Bows and Broken Spectres - you should have stayed all night and I bet with your luck you'd have got the Northern Lights as a hat-trick

OD
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby dav2930 » Thu Dec 01, 2016 6:35 pm

Top-notch, solid gold magic Jaxter. Bidean is such an impressive mountain, especially in winter. Always gives a big sense of achievement to get up there. Your courage and perseverance were amply rewarded with all those inversions, spectres and bows, and then all the cloud clearing off on Sgreamhach. Amazing. :clap:
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby onsen » Thu Dec 01, 2016 7:10 pm

Challenge completed....a walk with the works, the weather gods were
in fine spirits.
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby Jaxter » Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:00 pm

old danensian wrote:Great read Jaxter - what a day of contrasts

Ice or snow, wet or dry, that gully down into the Lost Valley always looks daunting

Bows and Broken Spectres - you should have stayed all night and I bet with your luck you'd have got the Northern Lights as a hat-trick

OD

Thankyou - aye i've still to see the northern lights, that would've been too much :lol:




dav2930 wrote:Top-notch, solid gold magic Jaxter. Bidean is such an impressive mountain, especially in winter. Always gives a big sense of achievement to get up there. Your courage and perseverance were amply rewarded with all those inversions, spectres and bows, and then all the cloud clearing off on Sgreamhach. Amazing. :clap:

Thanks - yeah amazing is definitely the right word! Not many things shut me up but that sure did :lol:



onsen wrote:Challenge completed....a walk with the works, the weather gods were
in fine spirits.

Haha yes they definitely were! :D :D
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby martin.h » Fri Dec 02, 2016 7:36 pm

Fantastic photies, fantastic weather (once out of the clag :lol: ), we're not jealous at all, oh no we're not :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
Great report Jackie, thanks for sharing.
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby jacob » Sat Dec 03, 2016 10:05 am

Wow, incredibly lucky you!
Inversions and other above the cloud experiences are the best! It's just you, alone on this world.
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby Jaxter » Sat Dec 03, 2016 7:11 pm

martin.h wrote:Fantastic photies, fantastic weather (once out of the clag :lol: ), we're not jealous at all, oh no we're not :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
Great report Jackie, thanks for sharing.

Thanks Martin :lol: :lol: definitely a special one :D



jacob wrote:Wow, incredibly lucky you!
Inversions and other above the cloud experiences are the best! It's just you, alone on this world.

Yeah it was incredibly awesome :D On days like that I think it's even better to be alone :D
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Re: Bidean nam Brocken Spectre - a truly magical day

Postby rockhopper » Sun Dec 04, 2016 1:56 pm

Nice result - great when it turns out like this especially on these two - cheers :)
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