August Day Trip to Glencoe and Ballachulish

There were 15 on this trip to the fantastic mountain area of Glencoe which is surely one of the Seven Wonders of Scotland?  13 were travelling from Cathcart and two were so keen they were already there waiting!  Most people who travel through Glencoe only see and wonder at the "superstars" on either side .. from the Buachaille down to Meall Mor on the south side, and Beinn a'Chrulaiste down to Sgor nam Fiannaidh at the end of the Aonach Eagach on the north.  But take a trip round the back .......

The team headed north in four cars.  Bob, Gordon, Andy and Willie in one; Ian, Iris and Tom in two; Mark, Chris, Hamish and Linda in three; and Fred and Liz in four .. the silver LandRover.  Fortified by a megabucks roll and bacon at the Green Welly at Tyndrum, Linda was dropped off at the Bidean car park where Miriam and Diane were waiting .. having made an ascent of Beinn a'Bheithir on Friday and recovered overnight at the Corran Hotel.  And Iris was dropped by the Clachaig roadend for a day exploring locally.  But more about the Ladies Section later ....

Like to view a map of the area?

Three cars continued to the school car park in Ballachulish, while the LandRover went round to Kentallen on the Oban road, to the start point for the low level route.  All 9 set off at 11am on the same path up into Gleann an Fhiodh .. 8 heading for Sgorr a'Choise and Gordon heading for the distant Fraochaidh.  The weather had begun to improve as forecasted, but the clag was still hanging around the 600m mark.  Perhaps there would be further improvement before reaching the summits?

Mr Dempster in his Grahams book recommends a direct ascent of Sgorr a'Choise, but on viewing the acutely steep angle of this proposed ascent, the plan was changed!  We continued with Gordon to a point just beyond the Sgorr at the cairn on the path, made a shorter steep ascent of 200m to the ridge, then followed the longer side back to the summit, arriving in ones and twos around 1pm.  Gordon continued apace in the other direction on the same ridge towards his Corbett.  And the weather was now rapidly clearing to give us stunning views of the Glencoe peaks from this different and unusual angle.  Looking across Meall Lighiche to the notorious Sgor na h-Ulaidh evoked memories yet again of our difficult day more than 12 years ago in January 1994.

Sgorr a'Choise in the clag  The shape of Sgorr a'Choise  Sgorr a'Choise summit

After the usual sandwich and photocall, the 300m descent to the bealach between Sgorr a'Choise and Meall Mor was started at 1.30pm.  A descending traverse to the forest edge was made, followed by an unrelenting steep 300m re-ascent to the Meall's summit ridge.  Who said the Grahams were easy?  Give me a Munro any day!

Sgorr a'Choise out of the clag from the Meall Mor side  The shape of Meall Mor  Meall Mor summit with Aggy ridge in background

We arrived variously at the summit around 3pm and continued the debate about the route of descent.  Mr Dempster insists that there's a convenient firebreak in the forest leading out to the transmitter on the Ballachulish side.  Viewing from our previous summit and from the Meall's summit ridge showed a possibility heading rightwards, to the east of the transmitter.  The last thing we want is to be pushing through a forest at the end of the day, isn't it??

And so we made our way at 3.30pm westwards round the summit horseshoe and began the descent into the forest.  A lovely wide firebreak took us right into the middle, and left us wondering "Where next?".  The rightwards branch was not obvious, but a narrow break straight ahead seemed to be the way.  To say it was difficult would be an understatement, but it eventually brought us out through an ankle-breaking section of economic forestry on the side of the hill to the west of the transmitter.  Ah, well ...   A fairly easy descent into Ballachulish brought us to the pub around 5pm, almost at the same time as the low level group of Fred and Liz, and where Iris was waiting.

While the drivers went to collect the cars, a debate ensued as to whether we should go to the Clachaig, where the ladies of the Bidean were heading, or to remain in Ballachulish at the Laroch Bistro and Bar.  We remained.  Mark and car number three called in at the Clachaig, while the rest of us headed back down the road after an excellent day in an excellent mountain area.


The Ladies of the Bidean:   

Diane and I started the day before as we needed some practice for our High Tatra walking holiday in Slovakia at the end of August.  We left Glasgow around 7.45 am and stopped at the Green Welly for breakfast around 9.00am before continuing to Ballachulish and Beinn a’Bheithir.  It was a fairly easy ascent and we topped every peak including the Top of Sgor Bhan.

We stayed at the CREAG MHOR LODGE and we can thoroughly recommend this to anyone looking for accommodation in the Ballachulish area.  Initially we booked the walkers accommodation £15 per head per twin room en suite.  However, we didn’t arrive until 8pm and so our room was given away.  To compensate we were given a luxurious room for £5 extra.  The normal price for this is £30 per person including breakfast and well worth every penny.  It’s an alternative kind of accommodation to say the least .. very unusual when surrounded by such luxury.  There was a proper bar but no bartender as you poured your own drinks and left an honesty note of what you drank!  The décor is in the old traditional style with many artefacts and things to amuse.  The best feature was the added hot tub which is open to all guests including walkers.  The down side for us as a group was that it only had three rooms for walkers which took a maximum of 8 people and the kitchen is a bit small, but it did have a decent size dining table.  It’s a great place if you were going on your own for a weekend away though and all guests can use the kitchen facilities if they want to cut the cost of buying dinner.  It has a beautiful dining room if you prefer to eat there and a secret cabin across the street right on the water’s edge which is hidden from view.  The owners (husband and wife) are welcoming and friendly and can’t do enough for you.  The guy never stops and as Di put it “A heart attack waiting to happen!”  The guy’s in the construction business and bought it as a renovation project to see him through retirement.  He has somehow managed to capture all of the original features but combine this with a modern feel with the latest techno appliances.  I forgot to mention that our shower in the room had two separate showerheads and 6 separate jets that pumped out a cool mist.  Diane summed it in one .. ‘fantastic!’   She liked it so much that’s she’s booked it again in October.  Enough of my ramblings now more talk of the hills!

After a night in the help yourself bar, climbing the Bidean was not high on our list!  But we had an arrangement to meet Linda in the Bidean Car Park at 10am.  Our objective was to climb the new Munro on the Bidean ridge, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, as we had all climbed the Bidean before and we don’t do twice if we can help it!  When we arrived at the car park Linda was waiting for us .. she had driven up with Mark and Willie and they kindly waited until we arrived.  At 10.15 we set off!  It had been raining buckets for about a week so the ground was pretty wet underfoot.  We crossed the river at the foot of the hill using the footbridge and it was a slimy climb back up the embankment to the other side.  Once back on the path we traversed up through the trees on the right side of the stream.  There was a great path so we kept on it until we came to a scree slope where the path disappeared.  Lo and behold we looked up and there was James and Alasdair.  We should have crossed the stream further down but because of the rain the stream was now in spate and the water was a rip-roaring torrent, so the crossing was not that obvious. James and Alasdair decided to contour along over boulders and trees.  We followed on for about 10 minutes after which we had traversed only 10 yards and James and Alasdair were well out of sight.  As there was a kilometre of this jungle to go I decided that it wasn’t for us girls and returned to the part of the stream where we should have crossed.  This was about knee deep.  We considered taking our boots and socks off but thought what the hell and waded through.

Diane and Linda  The Diane technique of river crossing

Six soggy boots later we carried on up the path on the left of the stream and made great progress to the lost valley as we could now see James and Alasdair.  They appeared to be getting closer and were in fact walking towards us.  Knowing the ‘pack a pace’ twosome we immediately thought we hadn’t made as much progress as first anticipated, however to our relief James and Alasdair had made the decision to turn back due to the weather and time lost in boulder jungle.  This in mind I was conscious that if we three were going to make it, we had to step up the pace!  I strode on ahead and could hear some mutterings behind me like “What’s she on?” and things like “Mountain goat” and “Trying to finish us off?”  I ignored them all.  On the last and hardest leg of the journey we encountered a young couple from Paris.  He was from the Pyrenees and this was evident the way he sprung over the boulders.  His wife on the other hand was Greek and just a tad slower.  They were a bit unsure of the time and distance to the top so asked if they could join us.  At that point the sun came out and from then on it turned out to be a glorious afternoon, and we had a good laugh on the way up!  Our friends parted company with us at 4pm at the bealach and headed back.  Us hardy Scots girls however carried on to the top and accomplished our mission!  We arrived there at 4.20pm and it was well worth the effort as the views were tremendous.

Diane and Linda on the ascent  Miriam on Stob Coire Sgreamhach

We had a bite to eat and headed down.  On the way back we fed a chaffinch in the Lost Valley with some scraps of bacon from our stale sandwiches, which he was excited about and showed us how much by dancing along the stones. Further down, we gave our thirsty boots another drink as we pranced and paddled across the stream.  We arrived at the car park after 6pm and too late to join the others at the pub in Ballachulish.  We did, however, manage a well-deserved pint at the Kingshouse before heading home.

Miriam Murphy

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August Weekend to Achnasheen

Bob on Beinn Tarsuinn .. his last Corbett  The Corbett Compleation Cake  The Corbett Compleation Composite Creation

¯  Just one Corbetto .... one if you please!
It's called Beinn Tharsuinn .. down by Gerry's
Tomorrow we'll top that peak
Then start the party .. p****ed for a week!  ¯

This was to be a special trip for me as I had just one Corbett left to climb .. Beinn Tharsuinn.  I was taking along suitable refreshments in the hope that I would be able to celebrate after completing the climb.

Allan, Diane, James and I travelled up together on the Friday morning, and we stopped off at the Mountain Café in Aviemore for a bite to eat before continuing our journey north.

We then set off to climb Ben Wyvis.  The weather wasn’t great, with wind and cloud along the ridge, but we made the summit and carried on to Tom a’ Choinnich.  As the conditions hadn’t improved at this point, we decided against walking to the other top and set off back down to the car.

We then headed on to Achnasheen and the Ledgowan Lodge.  We got ourselves booked in and settled into the bunkhouse.  Jim Waterton had arrived and having pitched his tent was already in the bar.  We soon joined him to settle in and order some dinner.  Before long the Moffatts arrived in their new campervan and having set up for the night joined us in the bar.  In due course Mark, Miriam, Willie, Linda, Justin and Raymond arrived to complete the number.  We had excellent meals and a pleasant evening in the bar, but at length, we headed back to our various beds in bunkhouse, tents and campervan.

The weather wasn’t good in the morning.  Wind and rain buffeted the bunkhouse as we had breakfast. We all headed off for the start point where we donned waterproofs, but before long the rain had eased off enough for us to remove the waterproofs.  However this was to prove to be short lived as the rain resumed its steady fall.

We followed the track and eventually came to the river crossing.  It was a wire bridge that provided some entertainment as we all got across.  We then continued up the path towards Bealach Bhearnais.  However, the rain got heavier and all ended up in full waterproof gear.

When we arrived at the col, we had a short break before attempting the final climb.  It was a steep ascent but eventually we came near to the summit.  By this time the rain had eased and we were even getting glimpses of view through the mist.

As everyone had arrived, I made my way to the summit through an arch of poles to finish my last Corbett.  A lot of photos were taken and I had a pleasant round of congratulations.  By this time the rain had stopped.  I opened the Champagne and also distributed oatcakes and cheese to celebrate the day.  To my surprise, after finishing two bottles of bubbly, James produced a half bottle of Glenfiddich.  It went down very well and was soon finished.  Everyone somehow felt a lot better despite the bad conditions.

Want to see some video? (Apologies for the poppencorken format)

After the celebration, Raymond headed off to do Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich, Lurg Mhor and the top Meall Mor, then returned via the head of Loch Monar and Bealach Crudhain.  Linda, Willie, Mark and Miriam headed off to climb Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a’ Chaorachain.  The rest off us headed back to the cars, where we realised the benefit of the Moffatt’s campervan as they nipped inside to change their boots while the rest had to contend with the midges.

Once back at the bunkhouse, I realised that Willie had the key to our room.  A check at reception and they didn’t have a spare.  After everyone else had showered, and as the Munro teams hadn’t returned, I borrowed a towel and some clean clothes and had my own shower. (Comments had been made about not sitting in the bar next to smelly clothes!).  Not long after getting to the bar, the Sgurr Choinnich team arrived back and I was able to get changed into my own clothing.

We all had a good meal in the bar and Gordon arrived in time to join us.  I was then surprised by not one, but two cakes to celebrate my completing the Corbetts.  I was also presented with a photo collage as well as other presents that were much appreciated.  I was somewhat overwhelmed by all of this.  It was a good way to finish the day.

On the Sunday, a large group headed up Fionn Bheinn.  We achieved the summit without too many problems but it was misty on the summit.  I had thought about including the neighbouring Graham but as we descended the peat hagged glen between the hills I soon changed my mind and we all headed back down.  After getting back, we headed into the local craft shop for soup and snacks.  Suitably refreshed we all then headed back for Inverness and the A9 back down to Glasgow.

Raymond was staying up for another night, and on the Sunday climbed Sgurr Choinnich, Sgurr a' Chaorachain and Maoile Lunndaidh.  He followed this up on the  Monday with Beinn Liath Mhor and Sgorr Ruadh.

Bob MacDonald

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