Glen Coe, May 2004

Present

Adrian Anderson, Adam Healey, Alison Shaw, Carol Finlayson, Ben Heggs and Stephen Ratcliffe.

 

Friday 14th May:

 

Glencoe was always a place that the club went through on the way to the Winter Skills Course in Fort William, but never actually went to. For this reason it was chosen for the club’s second weekend trip of the summer term. The journey was more comfortable than usual, owing largely to the AU’s wise decision to purchase a fine new Mercedes, the fine quality of driving demonstrated by Adam, Carol and myself and the excellent music! A brief stop at Carlisle satisfied our nutritional needs and also facilitated a change of drivers. Another driver change was undertaken at Glasgow whilst we stopped for fuel. We arrived quite late at The MacDonald Hotel/Campsite, which was approximately seven miles from Glencoe itself. The reason for this was my refusal to pay an extortionate £5.50 pppn being charged in Glencoe. I suppose they only charge what people will pay, but this isn’t the place for market economics. Suffice to say we found the MacDonald Hotel etc perfectly adequate at a reasonable price of £4 pppn. We pitched on a small area of grass surrounded by log cabins, which was exactly how I imagined Santa’s grotto would look like in the off-season.

 

Saturday 15th May:

 

We awoke to a gloomy atmosphere of low cloud, but we were an optimistic group and hoped the weather would lift later. The climatic conditions had improved considerably by the time we reached Glencoe, although the side of the valley we were going to ascend was still shrouded in a gloomy layer of cloud. After a brief discussion as to whether we should ditch the plan and go for the ‘sunny side’, we decided to stick to the original route. The ascent was a bit of a ‘feel the burn’ job but the views were excellent until we entered the cloud. Once ‘at the top’, we began the ridge we had come to do. With retrospect this route was exciting, adventurous and exhilarating, but at the time I wasn’t convinced. There were sections where it was not at all obvious where the path went and ‘monkey-boy’ Steve had to take a lead at a particularly memorable section of cliff, sorry ridge. To add to the humiliation some middle-aged gents from Bristol helped us out on some tricky sections. Top marks go to Adam though for nearly taking out Steve with a rock. The weather improved later and offered some more great views and importantly, we saw the sea (loch). The descent was interestingly down a scree slope at which Steve and Ben showed remarkable proficiency and speed. The rest of us languished behind somewhat and were left to slip and slide our way down – I like to think we did our bit for erosion that day! Once we left the scree we had an extended break, which was certainly deserved, and amazingly the sun came out and all was good with the world. We watched the cars below for some time and even approximated the distance back to the car using the other cars – clever or what? After a brief discussion about the relative merits of Aldi and McVities Jaffa cakes we decided to get moving again. There was some grass sliding involved but after a few painful stones this was generally abandoned in favour of the traditional walking method. The rest of the walk back to the road and then the bus was generally uneventful except we did discover a particularly fetching caterpillar an embarked on a curious discussion about the relative speed of slugs.

 

Saturday Evening

 

Following our eventful day we were all quite hungry and so headed straight for the nearest pub. A sign at the door echoed Glencoe’s turbulent past as it stated – ‘No Hawkers or Campbells. Thankfully we had neither of the offending clans in our party so we proceeded to the rustic walker’s bar, which had a particularly vibrant atmosphere, a fine selection of drinks and some live music. The food was reasonably priced and of a good quality and I particularly enjoyed the haggis and the Talisker whiskey. We encountered a former Nottingham student, known only as Kev, who was here on his own for some hardcore walking (he’s a ten Munro a day man!). Needless to say Kev is now an honorary member of Ben Lairig. On our return to the campsite we played cards on a bench until the midges got the better of us. We then discovered why Quasars are designed for two as we attempted to squeeze six in for some more card action. We moved on to the bus after disturbing a woman in another tent but people were flagging and we all soon retired to bed. Most importantly I got rid of the Bell’s I had been bringing on trips for months.

 

Sunday 16th May:

 

The weather had improved overnight and so we set off for what promised to be an excellent day. Adam stayed behind to guard the car (you know what the Scots are like) and because his ankle was proving troublesome. The ascent was steep and a bit screey (is that a word?) but we were determined to beat an older group to the top, which we only just managed. The top afforded some magnificent vistas in all directions including the last residues of winter clinging to the highest slopes. The view across the flat expanse of Ranoch Moor was particularly dramatic and spurned a conversation as to whether the British population could be accommodated in such an area. The decision was a cautious yes but we decided it would be practically impossible- just where would all the cars go? We then followed a broad ridge, which was a considerable relief with respect to the previous day and bagged a couple of peaks. This was followed by a relatively easy descent although Alison did her best to get one of the previously mentioned group with a dislodged rock. We returned to the bus and drove to Tyndrum (scene of the infamous ‘we have no fuel’ Winter Skills incident the previous year) where ice creams were enjoyed. For anyone with a penchant for Tweed this is the place to go, some lovely blazers, I was tempted but resisted! We proceeded to Glasgow and sat in the street and ate pizza (loosely defined) and I had some Irn Bru just to round off the Scottish experience. After an exciting exit to Glasgow the remaining travel was relatively uneventful. For scenic reasons (or navigational incompetence!) we took the A59 for part of the way home. We arrived back in York tired but having had an excellent weekend. In my opinion this was clearly the best Ben Lairig trip yet!

Adrian.

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