A Damp Weekend

Week 4- Glencoe. 31st Jan- 2nd Feb
People: Mark, Darci, Tom, Jacob, Dan, Holly, Ben, Ellie, Helen, Paulina

After the flurry of winter skills our feet were itching to get back out in the hills, so the week 4 jaunt to Glencoe was met with much anticipation. Unfortunately, the weather dashed both our physical and metaphorical spirits, but we plundered on none the less.

Mark had scored some sweet digs on the edge of Loch Leven and after a blustery drive we arrived late but gladly warm into the darkest depths of Kinlochleven. Saturday dawned and with it the much-anticipated precipitation that stuck around for pretty much the whole weekend.  The 10 of us set off together up the Bidean Nam Bian range, a dramatic stretch of mountain that dominates the south side of Glencoe. The rain was relentlessly battering and cold throughout the approach, leading some (sensible) people to say: ‘screw this!’ and turn back after an hour. So, whilst Tom, Ben, Holly and I dried off and headed to Fort William to indulge our assuredly gearheaded brains with our assuredly student budget as well as test out the FW climbing wall (it’s in a church!), the others ploughed on. Mark and Darci headed up Dorsal Arête (grade II ***) which proved to be as edgy as expected, whilst Jacob, Helen and Paulina wrestled up Brood Gully, a grade 1 scramble. Both groups then headed across to Stob Coire nan Lochain, to Bideam and finally completing this stretch of the massif with Stob Coire Sgreamhach. A hearty if saturating munro-bagging day!

In the afternoon the sun peaked out so us layabouts went for a wander around the lower hills following Google Maps unfailing direction. We found Grey Mare’s waterfall and then Dan and I went for a gorgeous walk/ run up Meall an Doire Dharaich in the dusky dying light.

The pub in the evening was backdropped by beautiful panoramic scenes stretching out over Loch Leven and a bold fairylight aesthetic. Again, shout out to MacDonald Hotel and Cabins, cracking accommodation for future reference.

Sunday was full of events and surprises as usual. Mark, Dan, Ben and I sought out Curved Ridge (grade III), easily one of the most dynamic and interesting ridges in the UK. Our attempt was valiant; however, the harsh conditions led to a tricky and uncertain approach. After an hour and a half of shuffling round the hillside trying to find the ridge, we heard the promising sounds of climbing calls which we followed like rats and eventually found the start of the ascent. By this point the snow which had started at 9:30 was falling heavily. Mark started up but found the route, as he put it, ‘a lot f*****g harder in winter.’ Given the delayed start and worsening conditions we were forced to bail which although annoying was the best decision even if our egos were bruised in the process.  

Despite this the descent still dragged, as our cool 50m abseil was delayed when the rope (Diego) got stuck round the anchor. Deigo was rescued by Mark who soloed back up what we’d just hopped off. Back to the car by 4:30 as the snow started to cease and the light started to fade. Frustrating day; grateful for the lack of windchill.

The others had a more successful day which, to the shock of everyone in particular Darci, included pain-free navigating! Considering the conditions this was an impressive success. They started up the North East Ridge of Stob a’Ghlais Choire across to Creise and finishing with Meall a’Bhuiridh, descending via the ski centre. Jacob and Tom descended early due to a knee injury and were found huddled like a penguin couple in the drying room. No questions were asked.

Frustrating weekend for some but lots of successful butt slides and a pretty cool abseil in a setting like Glencoe meant the weekend was worth it as always.



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