A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Glencoe Scrambles

1-3 Jul 2016
A weekend scrambling in the Glencoe area. John was leading ...

photo 2 'A forecast is only a forecast' I said to myself ruefully, in the vain hope that the persistent rain and hill fog predicted for the West coast wouldn't be as bad as all that. It was, and some. But that is the time to just get your fancy Goretex gear on and get cracking eh?

Day one was going to be the round of Core an Iubhair in Ardgour, and then on to some great easy scrambling up Garbh Bheinn as a warm up for the weekend. I met Chris and Lizzie at the Corran ferry, and we decided that given there were thunderstorms possible, we would limit our time high up, and make for the bealach at Lochan Coire an Iubhair by the lower path. This turned out to be a treat, as the coire was uber-atmospheric in the swirling mists, and the way, though pretty much pathless at the end, was gnarly and interesting. The giant ridges of Garbh Bheinn towering above us to the left all the way.

photo 1 We even had a brief clearing at the lochan, and was able to see the grassy gully which is the way onto the good rock higher up. That was classic easy-angled scrambling as usual, still grippy despite being sodden, and we made our way swiftly to the summit. There we were as equally surprised to meet two older gents as they were to see us, and we shared a chat and a most welcome dram of Talisker....purely medicinal he assured us! ;) They were doing the there-and-back route after contemplating descending into the coire and deciding against it.

The descent along the Sron a'Garbh Coire Bhig was aided by the cloud lifting occasionally, and though it seems interminable, we were back at the car for a respectable 16:30 for the ferry back and some dry clothes. A good start to the weekend.

photo 2 Saturday saw us at the foot of the Schoolhouse ridge, which leads via Sgurr Ban onto Sgurr Dearg of Beinn a'Bhethir from the East. It offers some great rocky steps, which if you take them all head-on give some sporting scrambling in the wet. There was some spectacular evidence of frost-shattered erosion from this winter to see on the ridge, creating an area or two where delicate footwork was required. We were treated to an occasional view, and most luckily, one on the summit, and over to Sgurr Dhonuill, our next objective.

That was ascended in torrential rain again, along with a brisker wind too, so at 4c on the summit, it felt more like autumn than high summer. Brr! The descent is down via the open coire Northwards, eventually picking up a good path through the forestry to Chris's car, strategically placed to limit a road tramp at the end. On the way down, we chatted to a chap who had met the large groupo we had seen following. They turned out to be a compleation party of 27 folk, (non-walkers and children included) who were doing the Ballachulish Horseshoe too. He said there appeared to be dissent in the ranks, and I suspect there certainly was by the end of the day, champagne or no!

photo 2 Sunday was to be the main challenge - The Zigzags onto Gear Aonach, Bidean nam Bian via the NE ridge of Stob Coire nan Lochan, and then Stob Coire Sgreamhach before descending the Lost Valley. A classic Glencoe day out, offering superlative views all day.....if only you could see them! The guys were still up for hands-on action, and we made short work of the scrambling, even passing the crux move with aplomb, before heading along the ridge to Stob Coire nan Lochan. We had some fleeting views en route, but the summit was clagged in, so we wasted no time in going straight to Bidean. There we met two guys in shorts! They didn't seem sure of their descent route, so I put them right on the map - We decided they were colder than their cheerful demeanour suggested, but each to their own I suppose.

The second munro of the day almost gave a clearing, and we waited for a short while, but to no avail. It was then off down the loose scree into the Lost Valley. We met two Americans who had popped their head over the bealach, and then scuttled straight back down - they were from California, and said they had seen more rain this weekend than they see in a year back home.

photo 2 Paradoxically, the rain added to the grandeur of the Lost Valley, with waterfalls everywhere, and the main river gushing dramatically from whirlpool to frothing cascades. Quite beautiful.

So our three days came to a wet but grand end. It goes to show that sometimes you just have to batten down the hatches and get on with it. Yes, we got good and wet, and no amount of Goretex keeps you dry in the humidity of effort. But the sense of satisfaction of having achieved your objectives is palpable, and of course, once dry and showered, the dram is all the sweeter! ;)

More photos by John are here on Flickr.

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