Putting in the Vertical Metres

Finally a break in the weather

After the group left, James and I attempted to salvage our week in Glencoe from the vagaries of the weather. This meant we had to go high, because the warm air mass from the south west had been steadily stripping everything right back.

Back in France, it has really struck me how how the cold calm conditions caused by a big concentration of high pressure over Europe has been deflecting depressions northward. Fatal for snow and ice conditions in Scotland. The contrast in air masses is striking: warm and wet versus cold and dry.

Glad to be over with the walk-in and enjoying a bit of sun

High in Glencoe meant Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire nan Lochan, involving pretty much a Munro’s worth of ascent before reaching the start of anything worthwhile. I had steadily been finding my legs over the week, but six days on the trot was taking its toll.

On the first day, Diamond and Church Door buttresses were inevitably black and bare, so we climbed the Grade II variation of Central Gully. At the crux, the anticipated cold front arrived, to whoops of delight from James, but apart from some verglas, the crags did not rime up. The day did turn into a cracker, though, with sunny spells and expansive views. We continued on over to Stob Coire nan Lochan, descending Broad Gully (I) and admiring the mountain architecture.

Checking out the impressive buttresses beneath Stob Coire nan Lochan

The following day was a solo day for me, as the weather closed in again. I made a lonely walk in to Stob Coire nan Lochan with the intention of returning via the Lost Valley. The clag was in, and by the time I reached the upper ridge to the summit, my resolve was weakening. I was tired and the combination of low temperatures, rain and wind was making a yomp over the tops increasingly unappealing.

I decided to descend via a variation of the previous day’s itinerary, downclimbing the top of Central Gully and avoiding the Grade II start. Fine in theory until I discovered the lower part of the gully was incomplete. I tettered across the lip of the rock steps, trying to discern a viable descent and avoid a long reascent to the ridge. Shortly, I decided on the rockier of the options, and with a few deep breaths, committed myself on one ice axe to the downclimb.

The most civilised way to get around Glencoe

From below it was not too bad, but I was relieved to be down, especially as the axe had pinged out at one point. Fortunately, I had had a good handhold…

So, that was essentially the end of a long but worthwhile trip to Glencoe. The weather had been awful, but forced flexibility upon us and called into play several new skills. Most importantly, it meant that I was able to register for my Winter Mountain Leader training with Glenmore Lodge in February.


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