glencoe and ben nevis guiding

Sun, Jun 28, 2009

Just back from a fantastic week guiding in Glencoe for HF Holidays, staying at Alltshellach on the shores of Loch Leven. We had about 30 guests split among 3 leaders and the way it worked out, I managed to lead 4 out of the 5 harder days, which was superb. The ones who chose the harder routes each day were really fit and keen to do as much as possible. The weather on the first walk on the Sunday was iffy but not too bad, with us going over Mam na Gualann and Beinn na Caillich and down the West Highland Way to Kinlochleven for a pint in the Tailrace but the weather on Monday was pretty grotty. I lead a party up Gleann Cia-Aig for a tour of the cliffs around the big munros up there but the higher we climbed the lower the cloud went and the colder it became. By the time we reached the unnamed 907m top it was blowing a gale with 50m viz. The navigation down the rough ridge to various spot heights to reach the only safe way through the cliffs to the forest was interesting to say the least and immensely satisfying! Tuesday was a complete contrast though. Bright blue sky, not much wind and very very warm indeed. How the weather changes here. It was almost winter the day before. I led the fast party up “The Ben” (Ben Nevis) via the main track. We were thinking of offering the harder Carn Mor Dearg arete but folk weren’t quite ready for it.

Looking over Tower Ridge Ben Nevis

The ascent was quite tough in the searing heat and I ran out of water at the halfway lochan, Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe but I knew I’d get a refil at the Red Burn, from cold declicious mountain water. It was quite a strange combination of stifling heat and very clear air though and from the summit we could see Skye, Rum, Mull, Jura and I’m sure that was Ireland beyond. It really was one of those very lucky days. Fantastic weather on the roof of Britain with the clarity of the air just about perfect.

Looking south west from Ben Nevis summit

Looking south from Ben Nevis summit

Wednesday was a free day, which I used to get some new gear in Fort William and have swim and laze around it the sunshine. Thursday, I led a party over Stob Coire nan Lochain and across to Bidean nam Bian in more sunshine although the winds had picked up a bit. Enough to knock us around near the summits.

Aonach Dubh Glencoe

The scrambling to the top of Stob Coire nan Lochain was great though and the views were just out of this world, with deer running across Gearr Aonach with a backdrop of the Aonach Eagach and Ben Nevis. What a place.

Looking north down Gearr Aonach from Stob Coire nan Lochain

A delightful walk down to the bealach and then up the rocky ridge to Bidean nam Bian

Bidean nam Bian from Stob Coire nan Lochain

where it was blowing a howling gale but with fantastic views of the northern jumble of rocky mountains:

Ben Nevis from Bidean nam Bian

The descent was back to the bealach below Stob Coire nan Lochain and down to the Lost Valley, Coire Gabhail, where the MacDonalds used to hide their stolen cattle:

The Lost Valley Glencoe

A good day out and eveyone was buzzing afterwards.

Friday I led a party up the An Cumhann path out of Kinlochleven and up to Coire an Lochain below Sgurr Eilde Mor and back via the pipeline and stalkers path on another fantastic sunny day:

Beinn na Caillich and the Pap of Glencoe

All in all a superb week’s guiding!

You can see all the pics here.

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