Decidedly hung over from the Clachaig with Sean, after porridge and tea, checked out of Glencoe SYHA into a really wet misty dreich day, cloud was very low in the Glen and lots of overnight rain. Driving down Glencoe to the ski centre it began to rain heavily. Started out at 9 from the Ski Centre in clouds of aggressive midges across very boggy ground around the long annoying spur of Meall A Bhuiridh' North Ridge to get to the mouth of Cam Ghlinne. I disturbed a big Mountain Hair who bounded off revealing a last remaining bit of white winter on his arse. Going was slow and slippy but gave me time to consider the route. I could see Sron Na Creise the North Ridge which is apparently the trickier scramble. Was concerned about the wetness of the rock and the poor visibility with more rain forecast. When i turned and began the ascent of Cam Ghlinne it was decided i would go for the apparently easier and shorter NNE ridge, still a sustained scramble and looking actually steeper at the Southern end of Creise's Craggy North East Face, but Ralph (Storer) says there are escape routes and bypasses and you can pick your line of difficulty so given the wet i went for the "easier" scramble. Alt Cam Ghlinne turns out to be a beautiful narrowing Glen with several beautiful waterfalls along the way. during one of several photo stops i saw a big herd of red deer up ahead on the corry wall, not too far off. Lots of little frogs too.
Crossed the burn a little too far up and had to traverse steep grassy hillside to get to the crest of the spur which takes you up to the NNE ridge proper. Time to say goodbye to any semblance of a path for some time. When the grass runs out a rock wall faces you. Poles stowed and i began the scramble with the aim to stick to the crest of the ridge as far as possible, go up the middle and stay on rock as grassy bypass routes looked steep and exposed in the wet.
However almost immediately this was challenging technical scrambling. The rock was very wet, the beginnning section was steep and as i ascended exposure increased. Route choice was very tricky looking for the driest, surest and least steep sections. The first 3 "pitches", tricky exposed and commiting scrambles on wet rock between levellings, took what seemed like ages and the adrenaline was flowing. At one point there was no way back down and i spent a while looking for a safe foot hold before committing to move. Hand holds were better as the granite is rough and grippy with lots of holds, but foot commitment on the narrow wet holds was harder to be confident in.
By the end of the steep exposed early pitches my hands were raw and my heart was racing. This was not the easy scramble Ralph had advised. I found it was a real challenge in the wet and required real thought with picking a line and care with foot and hand placement.
The ridge continues up and the scrambling becomes easier as the angle lessens until 1 final chimney climb/thrutch up very wet rock puts you on a boulder strewn more grassy ridge. So poles out and jelly legs continue up a steep trudge towards the boulder field that climbs to the summit of Stob A Ghlas Choire. Luckily for me the rain had stayed off for all the scramble and even a few weak sun glimpses might have kept the rock from getting any wetter. I was in a t shirt all the way up. As soon as i approached the summit ridge of Stob A Ghlass Choire the cloud descended and it began to rain quite heavily. By the summit and start of Creises narrow N ridge the wind was up too and quite strong. Struggled to get waterproof and gloves /hat on in the wind and then put out across the ridge, which is mercifully fairly flat. The ridge is very narrow in places but visibility was very low in the clag and the wind and rain made things difficult. This all helped to build a foreboding mood, and with little path still, no other people about, and the nerves of the scramble still jangling, i hurried forward looking hard for a summit cairn.
Nerves didn't ease when i had sat at the cairn i thought was the summit and phoned Marion at about 1pm having taken 4 hours to get to my first Munro, to realise that it probably wasn't the summit. A further Cairn 10 minutes on further South was i thought the cairn to mark the steep and hidden descent to the Bealach to Meall A bhuiridhe, but the visibility was bad and i could see no descent route, just sheer cliffs dropping into the mist. Hoping I was right that this couldn't be the Bealach Cairn i pressed on along the ridge as the wind and rain increased until walking became tricky. After 10 minutes in eerie lonely clag, and nearly giving up and turning back another Cairn loomed into view. This one did mark a developing path which quicky dropped to the left (east) and i could just make out the ridge of the bealach below. Phew, so the previous cairn was the summit, where i never even paused, not the Bealach marker; if i'd tried to descend from there i would be dead. Still wondering what the first Cairn (false summit) was all about I down scrambled down steep rock steps to the bealach, where a bit of protection from the wind allowed a stop for a quick wet lunch and a rest at last. Now below the worst of the clag i could see the Glen Cam Ghlinne i'd come up and regained my bearings, composure and confidence. Just an easy walk up 250 metres or so to the summit of Meal A Bhuiridhe on a good path, easy...
Things started well, and the angle of ascent was not too steep, but suddenly out of nowhere the wind picked up into strong gales. As the ridge narrowed into a tricky boulder field nearer the summit the gusts became dangerously strong and i struggled to keep my footing. Had to pick a line well South of the path to keep away from the edge of the ridge, and really lean on my sticks to keep balance, Gusts ripping at my rucksack cover and whipping me around, I kept low and slowly staggered foot by foot upwards searching for a route among the boulders, that would keep me away from the crest of the ridge and the windward edge.
Finally the claggy lunar rockscape of the summit appeared and after a brief touch of the cairn i was off down the North Ridge, soon seeing the first of the ski lift towers and entering a stony mess of rusty metal, ski machinery and debris. Ugly as it was i was grateful for signs of civilisation and a clear view down. Even then the path is often just scree and the wind didn't let up even after hitting the ski hut. Then a boggy steep, strip of path picks its way down between the burn gully and cliffs.
But the ski lift was running, the lad was in his hut ready to take my money and give me an easy relaxing descent to the car park. I just needed to find my wallet and pay a fiver......The Clachaig last night...that last whisky.....
So even at the very end this day still had something left to throw at me. Without a penny on me i had to walk down the horribly eroded steep path under the lift, and the eyes of the gloating passengers. Tired jelly legs, wind and rain accompanied me slowly back to the van at 3pm. But i was happy to be in one piece, and all had gone really well: 2 munros in the bag, an epic scramble, routefinding, crazy weather, This one had the lot. Except any views. Perfect way to clear a hangover. Epic day.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.