Showing posts with label Glen Coe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Glen Coe. Show all posts

11 February 2013

Buachaille Etive Beag - Stob Dubh

3rd munro of the week and the one we should have captured last Sunday when the wind was fierce, so today we'd tackle it and get that particular box ticked!

The weather wasn't brilliant.  Dry but low misty cloud meant we couldn't see the summit nor could we really see the path but we'd been up here before so knew where we were going.  It was remarkable the amount of snow that had disappeared in the week as the path was certainly more visible than it had been before.  Before long we were on the steep steps that would take us up to the plateau area where we'd had our windy lunch previously.

At the plateau area we stopped for a snack but could see neither summit right or left this time and remembered the strong winds of last week that hampered our walk.  No such winds this week but a dense mist that obscured any views that we may be party to.  The big Buachaille should have been right in front of us as we ate but it was just a white wall of likey!
We headed left up the path that would take us to the summit of Stob Dubh and I was quite excited at the prospect of a ridge before the summit.  I love ridges and any walks that include these make me giddy as a kipper.  Winter walking on ridges is a bit different as they usually mean ice and no recognised path so extra care had to be taken but just that visual of a sharp pointy ridge leaves me elated.

After a steep climb up the first part of the route to the top we could see a faint outline of the summit and ridge in the distance.  The cloud kept swirling in and out so that it was only visible for a moment or two at a time but onwards we went and soon enough we were over the ridge and heading to what we thought was the summit.  Was it the summit?  It had a cairn and seemed to be the highest point but then the cloud lifted and another pointy bit appeared ahead.  I didn't think this bit was as high but we ventured over there just in case it was the true summit.  God forbid we'd made it all the way up there and not actually stood on the summit.  Either way we had it covered.

A quick picnic stop at the top and we headed downwards again.  This was a bit tricky as it was a wee bitty icy and care had to be taken but I have to say at this point this was indeed my most favorite walk of the week.  3 munros and this being the 3rd really was 3rd time lucky.  I loved it, the walk, the ridge, the conditions with the only thing spoiling it was the lack of views.  Nothing but white on all sides.

It wasn't long before we were back at the plateau and thoughts turned to venturing back up the other peak, Stob Coire Raineach that we'd tackled the previous Sunday in the wind.  I didn't feel I had the energy for another peak today so instead we headed down from the plateau to the stepped rocky path but not before having a slide down a nice steep snowy section which was a lot of fun.
The steep rocky path downwards was hard going as per usual with the steps down being big steps for me but we kept a steady pace and even ran a little bit on the flattish sections.  Before long we were back at the car and this signified not only the end of our day's walk but the end of our week in Glencoe.  A week filled with triumphs and torture, laughter and silliness, good company and winter skills training, 3 munros and an ache to return as soon as possible.

What an amazing week and one I hope to repeat sometime soon!

Meall a' Bhuiridh a nightime caper in the darkness!

My second munro of the week and if I thought the first had its challenges then I was in for a treat as this one proved to push my limits to the point of no return.

The day started with a winter skills session on the hills below in and around the Glencoe Ski area and as the light started to fall we packed our stuff and headed up the steep and icy slope of the mountain.  It was around 4pm and darkness wasn't far away and we still had a few hours of walking to reach the summit.  I was tired, my legs were like jelly and the ice underfoot made me question every step but onwards and upwards we went.  The fading light on the surrounding mountains was spectacular and the first part of the walk up was spent looking backwards at the setting sun.

I can only say it was tough going.  Looking upwards into the prevailing darkness I could see the outline of what appeared to be a summit but knew that it was the first of a couple of false summits and in my heart of hearts I simply couldn't imagine how I was going to make it.  The rocks in the landscape were becoming few and far between and that meant traversing across and up the ice which with every footstep brought fear.  Even trying to use the skills we'd learned, kicking in footsteps and cutting the ice proved fruitless for me so I concentrated on following in Chris's footsteps but he was much further ahead than I was and in the darkness I just couldn't see.  Having my glasses would have helped but as per usual they were back in the car, so there I was, faltering about in the dark, on ice, trying to keep moving forward.

It was inevitable that I'd slip and slip I did.  Luckily I had my ice axe to hand and put into action something I'd learned on the course and it might not have been technically correct but I stopped the slip and forced myself upright again.  True to form I'd gone into negative mode and wittering about not being able to do it so Scot (course leader) came to my aid and talked me up the hill.  Thankfully there were more rocky bits to find a footing on and they were not as icy but seeing in the dark was a real issue for me now but onwards and upwards I went.

After about an hour of this tip-toeing round the rocks and ice I could see the summit ahead and the lights from the head torches of everyone else.  I felt a bit bad at them having to wait there for me but before long we were all together in the darkness feeling quite chuffed with ourselves that we'd made it.  Little did I know then but this was the highest I'd ever been before.  Snowdon was the highest peak I'd walked up and this was higher so hurrah for me!

At the summit the others left to head down to the top ski station and I stopped for a bite to eat and to get my head torch out.  Now I'm rubbish at remembering things but you'd think being on a night walk which was planned would mean that I'd have batteries in my head torch........wrong!  It lit for about 10 secs then died which didn't impress Scot at all.  Luckily he had a spare so all was good, phew!

Coming off the summit was a challenge as the path leading off to the top ski station was just one big slab of ice.  There was nothing more for it than to get on my backside and slide down.  This was still a tricky operation as it was a massive slab of ice and I had no directional control so it wasn't a fast slide down to the rock but a steady inch by inch slide in the right direction.  Finally upright again and I was finally on soft fluffy snow and met up with the others at the top ski station.  A quick drink and we were off again down the ski track which was 1 big long fluffy snow track to almost the bottom of the hill, bliss and double bliss......

The route down was heaven compared to the walk up.  There was no ambient light and the sky was filled to the brim with stars.  I've never seen so many stars in my life and it was wall to wall twinkling.  A beautiful sight that I'd remember for a long long time.

Back at the car park exhausted it was a quick pit stop to the pub and then back to our little log cabin for bed.  Muscles I never knew I had ached and it had been a long day.  10 hrs on the hills with the extra focus on walking up a mountain in the dark left me with no energy what so ever but elated at the achievement.

2 munro's down, would I get another in before the week was out........we'll see! 

Winter Skills in Glencoe

When you're out and about in the hills in winter time everyone knows it's sensible to not only have the right equipment but also to know how to use it safely and with practice.  So we booked ourselves on a 5 day winter skills course with S D Adventures (details below) to gain the necessary skills to keep us safe in the hills.

Day 1 - Monday - Unfortunately because of the high winds and horrid weather conditions we met the SD crew in the Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe and decided to postpone the start of the course till tomorrow when the weather conditions would, hopefully, be better.  We met Scot, course leader and his trusty sidekick John (Frenchie) and Bob who would be taking the course with us.  Joining us tomorrow would be Scott and Steve making it 7 of us in all.  A nice group for the week.  We spent the morning discussing the course content and having a look at equipment and then just before lunchtime headed into Fort William for the afternoon as there were no outdoor activities we could do in this terrible weather.  In the evening we met in the Clachaig Inn where we were joined by Scott and Steve and the highlight of the night was winning the pub quiz....lots of laughs and a funny moment when Chris drew part of the route for tomorrow on the back of the quiz paper, priceless stuff!

Day 2 - We met at the Clachaig Inn in the morning and headed out to a parking area on the A82 to make our way into the Lost Valley where we'd spend the day with some basic winter skills training.  Quite a long walk in to find the "right" snow and finally we found an area where we could start to look at our footwork and try out some very basic ice axe arrests as well as avalanche awareness.  The weather wasn't brilliant and a mix of rain and snow was making the going tough and within the hour or so we had there on the side of the gully the snow was becoming very soft indeed.  I slid a few times and gave myself a bit of a fright and a helluva bruise on my leg but it was the last slip that left me upside down with my foot stuck in hole that gave me the worst fright.  Scot knew immediately that I hadn't had enough to eat and that my energy levels had slipped making me more vulnerable to little accidents.  This was the major lesson learned today.  I need to keep some chocolate in my pocket at all I needed any excuse lol.

The day was rounded off with a lecture in the Clachaig Inn on safety in winter on the hills and it was a really good lecture, covering some of the stuff we'd learned during the day and some extra advice about equipment and clothing that proved quite valuable.

Day 3 -We met at the Glencoe Ski Resort area in the morning and had a cuppa there before heading out onto the mountain.  The weather was pretty fair today, hardly any wind and skies that seems to be clearing.  We ventured out on the bike track that would take us away from the footpath that followed underneath the chairlift to save us from those "weegies" and their antics or anything that fell from the chairlift, which happened frequently.  Further up the bike track there was an area of soft fresh snow that we'd use to start our basic training.  How to stop yourself from sliding was the first order of the day and Scot demonstrated a star fish like position where you dragged the snow with your hands and then raised your body to stop from sliding more and get yourself into a stable condition.  So it was slide down, use the technique and then climb back up again with a stop for a sandwich in between.  All good fun and an great exercise in confidence building on the side of the hill.

The next section took us up to the middle station and under the chairlift to a lovely patch of snow on the side of the hill.  More sliding down and practising the arrest techniques and more avalanche awareness work.  The sun had come out and the sky was blue in patches and it really was the most enjoyable afternoon sliding, stopping, flipping over forwards, backwards, ice axe in place and I definitely felt more comfortable in how to use it, should I ever need to.........famous last words eh!

As the sun was falling it was decided (as discussed previously in the week) that we'd head for the summit and do a bit of night navigation.  By this time it was after 4pm and there was still a couple of hours walking to get to the summit of Meall a'Bhuiridh which meant most of it would be done in the dark.  I'll post a separate blog entry about that little adventure and continue on with the winter skills antics here......

Day 4 - We're all still alive, hurrah! Today would be a summit day on the Winter Skills course but unfortunately I woke not feeling 100%.  I knew that being out on the hills all day wasn't going to be good for me and opted to stay at base for the day.  The boys all had an excellent day climbing Coire na Tuliach. Topping out on Stob Deag. Chris's first graded climb and no mean feat by all accounts.  The tales told when they returned made my toes curl and I was glad that I'd opted to stay put today, I'm not sure I could have coped with the ice and steepness but I'll get there one day for sure.

Day 5 - Our last day on the course and we were going to have a bit of a refresher on all the skills learned and headed back to the Glencoe ski resort area and for a bit of luxury took the chairlift up to the middle station.  Once there we headed back to the hillside we'd previously been on in the middle of the week and Frenchie took the boys to do some belay work and Scot took me over to a steeper icy area to work with me and my crampons.  Again it was a great afternoon honing the skills we'd learned and then we ventured down into an area (terrain trap) where there was a significant bank of snow to build a snow hole.  Much hilarity ensued with digging and furnishing our little snow bolt hole and it was a lovely way to round off an excellent week.

Back to the Glencoe ski resort cafe for a bit of a debrief and before we knew it we were back in the car park saying our goodbyes, much cuddles and exchanges of information and promises to keep in touch and forward pictures, more cuddles and we were off having spent the most amazing week learning a whole host of new skills.

Many thanks to Scot and SD Adventures for a great week and I look forward to the next time.

S D Adventures
Contact Scot Rodger for more information
Scot Rodger
07791 545934

10 February 2013

Buachaille Etive Beag - Stob Coire Rainach

This was the day I'd walk up my first Munro.  Being Scottish it seemed odd that I had a 50+ Hewitts under my belt but as yet no munros.  I nearly had a munro when I bagged Ben Ledi last year but sadly that is only a few ft under 3000 and does not hold munro status even though I jumped when on the summit.

So today, my first munro was to be attained.  Unfortunately the weather was not with us and as we drove into Glencoe, where we'd spend the next week the rain, wind and general gloominess met us with abundance - yikes!

Sandwiches packed, water loaded and boots on we started up the path that would take us to the plateau area between the 2 peaks that was our target for today.  Almost immediately as I got out of the car I felt the effect of the wind and it scared me.  Big bolshy gusts that literally knocked me sideways I was fearful of how much stronger it would be the higher we got.....if I knew then what I know now....would I?  Hmmm I wonder.

The path was almost immediately steep.  Straight up and there was nothing for it but to put your head down and keep walking up the steep stepped path.  I completely lost my composure several times as the gusts buffeted me against the rock but Chris's calming words kept me moving forward.  I wasn't enjoying this at all, oh dear!

We hit the snow line quite quickly and soon were walking through quite deep snow.  This in itself is tough going but with the added effect of the wind and rainy hail stuff I was struggling to find anything positive in this walk at all.  It was my first munro and I should be enjoying every minute but instead I was wondering what the heck I was doing there and feeling just a little bit sorry for myself.  C'mon Lynne, this isn't like you!!!

We reached the plateau area and found some shelter against some rocks where we'd attack our sandwiches.  It was cold, windy, the rain had eased for the time being and the steep and icy hill stood in front of us and I really wasnt sure how I was going to get to the top of this one.
As soon as we set off up the side of the mountain the wind again was torturing me and my confidence was leaving me as quickly as rats leave a sinking ship but words of encouragement from Chris kept me going.  That was until about half way up when a big gust of wind got me and I froze.  I couldnt move.  I sat down, head in hands and just kept wondering what I was doing there.  The wind was blowing feircly and I just didnt want to be there at all. Icy particles hitting my face and at one point one of the straps on my rucksac hit me in the eye just adding to the torment of my day.  It seems funny now but then I've never felt so uncomfortable and out of my comfortzone in my life.  Way out of my comfort zone but the realitiy of it was that I was on the side of a mountain and regardless of the weather conditions or how I felt I had 2 options.  1 - head back down in the same conditions or 2 - keep going till the top and try to salvage some of the day.

Luckily I had Chris and option 2 became the only reality.  He stepped in and calmly brought me back to my senses and eleviated some of my fears and helped me move forward up the mountain.  It was slow going but he was with me every step of the way and soon enough we were on the summit.  I have no idea how I got there but I was glad I did.  My first munro wasn't accomplished without a great deal of effort and it was indeed a superb achievement.  I fought demons I never knew existed and experienced conditions that rocked me to the core but I got there and I was alive and safe and it felt good.

The descent wasn't as traumatic but I was sapped of all energy so the original plan of the second summit was abandoned for another day and we made our way back to the plateau and then down the rocky steep path back to the car park.

It was an scary but exciting day and it took a while before I could actually appreciate what an achievment it actually was but I was proud that I'd done it and looked forward to the rest of the week whilst praying the weather conditions would improve.  I don't think I could cope with another day like today!

Scottish weather............bah!