The MWIS forecast was a bit horrible for Thursday with severe southerly gales, so my original plan ( Sgurr na Ciche) was sidelined. The opportunity had arisen from the need to drop the aged father in law at Glasgow Airport at 5am for his adventures in Benidorm and I reckoned being that near the Erskine Bridge at that time made for a proper opportunity.
Sron a’Coire Gairbh! I had missed this one on two previous winter occasions, once after climbing Meall na Teanga, its neighbour, in a January dusk, and deciding I’d rather not be stumbling about the featureless plateau of the Sron in the dark. Then a couple of years later, also in a gale in winter, when one of my companions dropped his ice axe on the way up the Coire and I didn’t fancy feeling responsible for him having an uncontrolled slip. Thus, a climb-down from the hard-frozen col at 630 metres.
This time, the long drive north ( Loch Lomondside in a downpour) ended at Kilfinan at first light and I was trudging along the track beside Loch Lochy by 8am, not feeling my best. OK, the previous night had been my birthday and I had celebrated not late but rather too well. I also realised I hadn't packed a camera, so the smartphone would have to do.
The right of way up the Coire appeared 36 minutes later, right on schedule and I was plunged into the Stygian gloom of the forest for a wee while. Plodding on mostly in the rain, the 630m bealach appeared an hour later coinciding with the sky lightening and the rain stopping. To my surprise, the excellent path simply turned uphill and zig zagged gently up the slope until at about 800 m it got bored with zigzags and soared straight up the slope, eventually petering out 1/2 k from the summit.
The wind got stronger about now, increasingly until at the summit it was necessary to brace yourself consciously on the poles to avoid being knocked over. After the obligatory summit selfie (no view) and taking a bearing it was off back down out the wind. I had met one other walker, on the summit, who skipped past me at the start of the zig zags, and shot off up Meall na Teanga at a great pace as I turned towards the Great Glen.
Half way down the Coire I realised I hadn’t stopped for food or drink so I pulled up a handy boulder and relaxed for a wee while. As I sat there I realised that one of the burns I could hear had some singing stones - with almost a bell-like tinkling overtone to the gurgling of the burn. I sat an extra five minutes and enjoyed that. Couldn’t tell where it was coming from, I could see five burns within a few metres.
As I reached the forest’s edge the sun came out and the walk back was delightful. Photos will follow once I work out how to get them small enough!
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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.