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Five Go To Glencoe

Date: 8th - 11th March 2007
Submitted by: Anthony Feeney

It was a right motley crew that set off for Glencoe on the 4am Larne-Cairnryan ferry. "Swiss" Tony, George "The Bear", Mike "Jugs" and myself, Anthony "The Shirt". We stifled yawns, examined maps and read ice climbing guides on the boat over, in the vain hope that the drizzling rain might not scupper our chances of swinging an axe or two over the weekend. Landing in Cairnryan we set off for Glasgow airport to pick up Mike's brother, Robin "The Bouncer".

From there it was a couple of hours up to Glencoe past Loch Lomond and through some brilliant scenery, some of which I caught between snoozes. We stopped at the Green Welly for breakfast because Tony's favourite pub "The Drover" wasn't opened yet. The first bite into my egg and bacon bap caused a hot yellow spurt across my left cheek. You can imagine the mileage 5 lads on a weekend away got out of that!

The drive into Glencoe was brilliant, past the Buckle and in down into the valley past the Three Sisters, the boys all pointing out stuff they'd already done and Tony showing us the gullies on Stob Coire nan Lochan that we might ice climb in. We got to the caravan park and unloaded, Tony and Mike taking the "luxurious" option of the log cabin (read shed) while us 3 got the cold caravan. It was straight into the wet gear cos the rain hadn't let up and off to the Zig Zags up Gearr Aonach, only disaster!

Tony's "Green Goo" Kangoo developed a grinding noise which turned out to be a stone caught between the disc and the brake pad. We only found this out after breaking his flimsy wheel brace, failing to borrow one the right size and getting fobbed off by the AA. We left Tony with the vehicle outside the Clachaig Inn and marched up the mountain opposite, Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. We had to scramble a bit near the top and Robin, who's not much of a climber, chose to head back at that point. He had map, compass, torch & phone and it was a straight line down to the road again so we let him get on with it and the 3 of us went on to the peak. Down the other side a little we aimed for the Pap of Glencoe but a bit of a hail / snow storm came in so we just headed back. The difference in fitness levels showed as I plodded way behind the others, eventually opting for a shortcut that lead me near some old guy's house who bollocked me for climbing his fence and ruining the water supply. Apparently his father died of Typhoid when someone pissed in the run-off years ago. Strangely he warmed up a little when I told him I was Irish and not a Sassenach invader...

Tony had managed a walk up Devil's Buttress after the Goo got sorted so it wasn't a total waste of a day for him. Then it was into dry clothes and off to the Clachaig for some real ale, whiskey and a good feed. Excellent grub there by the way. Short on single ladies though, despite the power of my pulling shirt.

Next day we started early and went straight to the Zig Zag's up Gearr Aonach. The wind was blowing us all round the car park as we set off for the beautiful walk across the river and up through the trees to the start of the route. George and I, in our eagerness, nearly ended up in Lost Valley, the switchback onto the main route being very easy to miss. This walk is amazing and you have stop every few minutes to admire the view, taking in the waterfalls, the valley below and Aonach Eagach opposite. On the nose Tony pointed out some Grade 2 / 3 scrambles that in dry weather I'd have tackled no bother, but not this day. Towards the top there is a bit of easier scrambling that was enough to unnerve Robin but just made this route even more pleasant for me. Waterfalls, forest, views, hiking and scrambling, it's all there. Brilliant!

On the peak we were a lot more exposed and the wind fair buffeted us as we headed towards Bidean nam Bian but this was a peak too far in the conditions and we came off the shoulder and into the valley, following the stream down. It was only then that I got to use my ice axe in a "Vertical Limit" style leap across the river, burying it in the steep opposite bank and pulling myself up to the correct path. We trudged tiredly down enjoying the thundering stream and back to the car. It was still early in the day so we took a trip to Ice Factor later and marvelled at the massive rock wall and ice room. We ate and played pool in the bar upstairs and had a grand time before going back to the Clachaig where the entertainment hadn't turned up and the pub quiz questions were hard enough to send us home.

We were going to be pushed for time next day so forgoed the mountains for a session on the rock wall, using fall arrestors to self belay which can be a bit unnerving. We were all a bit tired and depressed at having to go home again, another day would have been great, especially given that Monday turned out lovely. I was asked a few times whether I'd be back and I usually mumbled "Yeah I think so", but when George sent me some pics of the weekend last night I got pangs and wished immediately to be back there. I think I've fallen in love with the place.

Photo of Route