It’s mid February and the winter season comes to and end. I’m heading out to Scotland to meet Jon Gupta, one of UK’s top mountaineers. He will be guiding and teaching us important survival skills up in the mountain.
If you don’t have a car or just want to avoid the long drive, the best option to get there is by fly to Glasgow and taking a shuttle to Glencoe. There are several stops both at the airport and in the city.
You’ll probably get hungry and I suggest you go to Meat Bar, on West Regent St. Trust me on this one, they have the best sandwiches in the world. I present you the mighty pulled pork :
But enough about Glasgow for now. I was going to have some good and bad experiences as I stopped to visit it on my way back.
When I got to Glencoe was already dark. Couldn’t really get an idea of how it looked like. The days spent there I focused on the climbing so there was no time to explore the surroundings. I however am positive one has plenty to do as it’s one of the most popular Highland glen and there is also a ski resort. The local pub has some great mountaineering seminaries and also a good cuisine. I’ve tried the traditional Haggis with neeps and tatties. It was good but not in particular my favourite. I wish I had tried the venison in red wine. We spend the night in a lovely lodge just off the A82 road, Strath Lodge owned by Dan and Ann.
The days went by pretty quick and they all started and ended the same way. Wake up early morning, grab breakfast and pack our rucksacks, plan the itinerary and study the weather forecast and jump in the car. The end of the day brings joy and exhaustion in the same time.
For the first day we head out to Buachaille Etive Beag. We start right from A82 and at first there is absolutely no snow. The warm weather must have melted it already. We had good weather and was even sunny just before we got to the top. A fair amount of snow, a bit frozen towards the top and required the use of crampons but nothing really hard. The slopes are not steep but perfect for some self arrest practice.
The more high you go, the more beautiful Glencoe valley becomes. Unfortunately the clouds obstruct our view and there is nothing else to do but keep going up.
At last Stob Dubh with it’s 956m overlooking Loch Etive. The clouds vanish away like a dense smoke clearing the sky for a perfect summit view.
The second day we head out to Buchaille Etive Mor following the same A82. Once we got to the point where the trail starts, Altnafeadh parking, we can already see several groups ahead of us. The patch goes by an old and rather abandoned hut and turns right straight through the middle of the mountain.
Following a river stream we starting to gain some altitude and we’re heading into the mist through Coire Na Tulaich . It’s quite cold and windy and soon starts to snow. We make a good use of our axe and crampons as it’s a bit steep and good amount of snow. Usually in high risk of avalanche but today the snow is solid and icy green.
After scrambling up you will top out on the col on the ridge. Now it gets really windy. We turn left and go east for the highest point. The path zigzags towards the summit and the blowing wind reveals more rock than snow on the ridge. The final steps take us to a plateau just above the clouds revealing a spectacular view over Rannoch Moor and all the surrounding peaks and of course Stob Dearg at 1021m.
Return options are variate. You can continue to north-east and take the Curved Ridge for a harder grade III scramble or go back to the col. where you can get down following the same route or continue west around Coire Na Tulaich and down to the parking lot.
Was a great first Scotish winter experience all together and a great opportunity to meet Jon Gupta which is leading his own expeditions now. You can read more about it on his website http://www.mountain-expeditions.co.uk