Glencoe 2018

Exploring the Glencoe area.

5 days ― February 2018

Part 1: A weekend in Glencoe

For our third Scottish winter trip we decided to give Glencoe a visit. Keen to advance our skills, we hired a guide (Simon Verspeak) for two of our three days. We asked for help learning some basics of outdoor ropework and being safe on the mountains.

Day 1 - Geàrr Aonach #

It was a wet, windy day. Simon took us to Geàrr Aonach. It was partially sheltered from the wind, but we couldn’t go too high before the ground was too unstable. We focused on gear placement in the morning and emergency techniques in the afternoon.

Two hikers climb a somewhat steep snowy hillside. It’s overcast with flurries of snow around.
Photo by Chris Natt.
Looking down on Chris on the side of a snowy mountain.
Ed stoops low to place a piece of climbing gear in a rockface.
Photo by Chris Natt.
Chris holds a large boulder of snow as he faces the camera.
Chris and our guide pull on a length of rope coming towards the camera. The rope runs around a pillar of snow making an anchor.
Chris and Simon pull on an improvised snow anchor.

Day 2 - Aonach Mòr #

For our second day we headed for the valley between Aonach Mòr and Càrn Dearg Meadhonach. The west side of Aonach Mòr had several groups headed for it that morning.

Two groups of climbers walk towards the horizon in snow. The sky is foggy / overcast and blending in with the ground. The climbers are all wearing brightly coloured clothing.
Ed and a guide walk up a snowy mountain on an overcast day. The camera angle is near to the ground looking up at their backs. They’re both connected by a climbing rope.
Photo by Chris Natt.

Simon took us up a not-too severe route. Probably a mix of grade 1 & 2. For the most part we probably didn’t need to be roped in - but it was good to practice our technique.

Ed wearing a green softshell jacket with hood over his helmet on the side of a snowy mountain.
Photo by Chris Natt.
Ed and Chris pose together facing the camera on the edge of Aonach Mòr. Both are wearing green jackets and are tied together with a green climbing rope.
A snowy mountainside and valley, with swirls of snow in the air.

Our thanks to Simon for an enjoyable two days and for adapting so well to some less than ideal weather conditions.

Part 2: Mullach nan Coirean and most of Stob Bàn

For our final day in Glencoe we decided to explore the Mamores. We would ascend Mullach nan Coirean from the parking lot in Glen Nevis, and follow the ridge south-east towards Stob Bàn. We’d then Descend the north ridge of Stob Bàn to get back to the car.

Slow going #

For once we had relatively little wind and comfortable temperatures. But we’d chosen a route with lots of fresh untrodden snow. The ascent was slow and arduous - foot after foot of soft powder.

Chris stands at the foot of a snowy coire with early morning sun ahead of him.
Ed in the distance looking down over a snow covered ridge.
Photo by Chris Natt.

Near the summit of Mullach nan Coirean we separated briefly to get some long shots of each other - good fun with the ridges between us.

Chris descending a snowy plateau.
A long photo looking down a snowy mountain to the valley. The small figure of Chris is visible in the distance with both hands in the air waving to the camera.

I think this is the first hike we’ve done where the winds dropped enough to hear each other easily. On the plateau summit of Mullach nan Coirean the ground was rimmed up and crunchy.

Chris kneeling on a snowy plateau taking a photo.
Ed in far distance is a dark spec on an otherwise white mountain.
Photo by Chris Natt.
A wide photo of a snow covered mountain peak with other mountains in the far distance beyond a valley. At the top of the peak is a small figure.
Photo by Chris Natt.
A long telephoto photo of a snowy ridge in the distance. A few small brightly coloured figures can be seen on the ridge.
Glad to see we weren't the only ones on the mountain.

Not quite the summit, but close enough #

The summit of Stob Bàn is about 90m up from this point - but by now Chris and I were exhausted, and the weather was turning. We couldn’t see the summit, and didn’t fancy ascending to a peak in fog. We decided to head home.

A portrait of Chris and Ed near the summit of Stob Bàn.
A panorama of a white mountainside, with occasional dark patch of rock.
Two boots with crampons on are in the foreground descending a steep snowy mountain. Ed can be seen a few meters ahead.
Photo by Chris Natt.
Ed looks back to the camera as he descends a steep snowy ridge.
Photo by Chris Natt.

The descent turned out to be more adventurous than we’d expected. In retrospect I expect most people ascend the north ridge, not descend it. Really tricky going in powdery snow and such steep steps. Chris was braver than I in continuing to take photos whilst we went down.

A wide photo looking down on Chris on a mostly brown hillside, with patches of snow here and there.

This last photo is from the next day and our return drive back to Inverness. So much of the countryside is simply stunning and demands you stop for a bit.