Bidean nam Bian - 1150m
Stob Coire nan Lochain - 1115m
Saturday 6th November 2010
Weather/Conditions: Broken blue skies and hints of low cloud/inversions gave way to thick cloud and a period of light spitting rain. Some wind up top too, so a little cold. A bit of ice on the ground, more substantial up top.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 13.5km / 1350m / 7h 05m
Accompanying: Bealach MC: Colin and Dougie
But first, for Bidean nam Bian. The weather forecast was looking fairly good for this day with the promise of some sun and light winds, the threat of rain or snow out on the west coast. Whatever the weather forecast said, Glen Coe was freezing in the morning. An annoying cold, stiff wind blew through the glen - never something you wish to see at the car park. We headed down to the river in the glen and into the trees where it was a great deal warmer. I was highly anticipating getting to explore this area, after so many years. I mean I've wanted to come here for years. I visited Stob Coire nan Lochain in January with Ian, but we didn't get as far the Munros. Nonetheless, that was an astonishing day.
Stob Coire Sgreamhach and the Lost Valley
We headed into the Lost Valley first, a place everybody that has been speaks highly of. As we threaded our way through the trees and past the narrow gorge, there little hint of what was ahead. And then the path climbed again into the aptly named Lost Valley where the high walls are so enclosed as almost to induce claustrophobia, but offset by the sensation of space in the meadow. People clambered among the trees and boulders, some house-sized, some smaller, but all caught regardless among the chaos that dominates the lip of the valley.
I took some time to explore before heading off up the hills again. Beyond the spacious plain, 'Coire Gabhail' is steep-sided. A path climbs to the ridge, creating an easy ascent route and one far less fearsome than the steep walls suggest. It is just a walk up to the head of the coire where cloud formed with startling speed. Whether we'd get any views hung in the balance.
I came out over the 944m bealach first and unlike the cloud of the coire, there was bright sunshine and views down Glen Etive - stunning! Moreover, I was above some of the cloud, at the top of which rested a Broken Spectre and fogbow. When all three of us were up, we headed to the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach. This took a bit longer than expected but we sat for ten minutes at the cairn, somewhere in the upper reaches of cloud. I felt really damn good, and was hopeful of cloud clearing towards Bidean nam Bian.
Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire nan Lochain
It wasn't to be. On the long walk up the east ridge, the cloud only grew thicker. Asides a couple of moments where we could peer down steep drops into the coire's, the climb was uneventful. What a difference to my trip to this mountain in January! Now it was just like any other Munro - not quite the adventure and thrill that the January trip up Stob Coire nan Lochain provoked. Back then, Bidean (which we never reached) was absolutely enormous, crag-ridden and to be feared and respected. Today, although by no means unenjoyable - it was perhaps just less of a 'mountain'. Enough of that kind of talk though, I think...
On the way to Stob Coire nan Lochain, a drizzle (no snow) came on and accompanied us across the ridge. Without snow it's just another easy path with a couple of hands-on bits, but Dougie told me how it's a different story in winter.
I was keen to the see the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochain again and to peer down the north-east ridge. When Ian and I ascended this way in January, we didn't find it as easy as hoped. Bad snow on the crux stopped me dead and it required another guy, not in our team of two, with more nerve than I to break the trail. Without him we wouldn't have done it. With a 2000 foot drop at our feet, I couldn't accept breaking trail on steep ground only to have the snow collapse underfoot. This had the effect of throwing me off balance and I didn't want to be doing that right at the top of the ridge. But we eventually got up and it had been one of the more difficult of my ascents. Today, it looked easy without the snow. Looking down another shale path in the mist, I almost asked myself why it had been so hard the first time around!
After another five minutes on top, we began descending the north-west ridge, poking our heads over magnificent drops of the northern cliffs. I was intrigued by the geology of the place and could identify some winter routes too. The exposure looked immense and this was one of the best parts of our day. Down on Aonach Dubh we saw a group of stags at 850m, grazing quietly. They didn't seem bothered by us.
Then descent down Coire an Lochain followed, back to the car. At the river we (truthfully!) caught sight of a girl casually stripping off but there's another story..! We down to the Clachaig Inn where I met Alex Roddie (Glencoe Mountaineer) behind the bar, got a drink then headed back to Lagangarbh for pizza. Good times!
(0.00) 10.15am Glen Coe
(2.35) 12.50pm Stob Coire Sgreamhach
(2.55) 1.10pm Stob Coire Sgreamhach (left)
(3.55) 2.10pm Bidean nam Bian
(4.30) 2.45pm Stob Coire nan Lochain
(7.05) 5.20pm Glen Coe