Our blog - Glencoe Munros, 27-28 Dec'17

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

Glencoe Munros

27-28 December 2017
Winter days in Glencoe bagging the Munros on Etive Mor and Bidean nam Bian. Johnny Walker was leading....

One of the facts about winter walking is that you never seem to get the same conditions twice. One day you will be cramponing over perfect neve all day, and the next you will be skittering and scraping about over interminable rimed boulders that seem to test your every sinew. Both can be rewarding, but in a Type 1 and Type 2 fun sort of way, (Google it). Over the last few days we have been in Glencoe, revelling in views to die for, with Brocken Spectres and snowy vistas galore. But we have also had challenging icy conditions where crampons were necessary to allow safe progress, but a real nuisance too, as the snow depth wasn't sufficient to cover the stones. Ah well, that's the rub eh!? Did the views make up for it? You bet!

Day 1

We met early both days in the glen, as it is important to make the best of the daylight available. On Weds it was at Altnafeadh, at the foot of the Buachaille Etive Mor, probably one of the most iconic of Scottish hills, and we headed straight up Coire na Tulaich on the excellent path. This can be an avalanche black spot, but the light coating of snow was no issue. The ice was however, and we had to change in and out of crampons to make safe progress up the final steep slope. The views that greeted us at the bealach set the scene for the rest of the trip - Beautiful swirls of light in and out of the cloud, reflecting silver off the glistening icy rock and water of Glen Etive.

The summit is then a sharp left turn and over easy ground, where we greeted another group and drank in the views once more. We didn't spend too long there to avoid getting cold, and headed down and along the long broad ridge towards the shapely (yet strangely not a munro) Stob na Doire. Once over that, it's a steep descent and on to Stob Coire Altruim, and it was here that the lack of familiarity with rocky yet icy ground was telling with some of the guys. It requires a mix of confidence and caution in equal measure, and is really only mastered with practice, so well done for the stoic perseverance!

Once over the final bump in the ridge, the second munro of Stob na Broige was bagged, more photos taken, and our steps reversed to get to the top of the descent path. This is a tinker in the best of conditions, with some awkward wet slabs to negotiate. None of the other parties on the hill that day went that way, choosing to retrace their steps, as we noted that they did not have any winter kit with them! We knew it was an OK descent, but required more of the skills mentioned above, so we could only make slow progress down it. But progress we did, carefully, safely, and made the easier ground just as darkness fell, which was my aim, (and reason for chivvying the guys at times). Once the crampons were off, we all made the classic error of not watching our step on the icy steps, and each and every one took a wee slip, but with nothing but a few bruises and dented pride damaged! A long old day in the conditions, but a very rewarding one.

Day 2

As I have waxed on about the ice and the crampon on/off situation, I won't labour it for Day Two, though it was a similar situation. This was to be an ascent of Stob Coire Sgreamhach and Bidean nam Bian, which I elected to do anti-clockwise. This was to ensure that we ascended the steeper ground first, and would have only inconsequential drops around us on the descent in the dark. It worked a treat, and despite being another long day, was extremely enjoyable, with the most spectacular of sunsets and evening views.

We had Brocken Spectres on and off all day once we hit the ridge, and the most atmospheric of ascents of Stob Coire nan Lochan. The rocks were all rimed and with care we could make progress without the dreaded crampons in places. We watched some climbers finishing a route as evening encroached, and we were near enough to see the concern on their faces having had a hard climb in lean conditions. They looked perished! We were relieved to see them get to safe ground just as we started down out of the coire towards the path.

Then we just had the 'bad step' on the path to negotiate in the dark, and were mightily glad of the crampons then, before the never-ending plod down the path and back to the cars. Fair to say there were some very tired faces as we bade farewell, but I am pretty sure they also have some wonderful memories of a very special day in the hills!

More photos by Johnny Walker are here on Flickr.

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