Sunday 17th February 2008
Weather/Conditions: Overcast day. One or two bits of blue sky came through and a little sunlight on other mountains but overcast. Cloud occasionally shrouded the very summit of Stob Dearg and Bidean nam Bian was lying beneath a mass of cloud the whole time we were there. Nevertheless quite a dramatic day weather-wise, but that probably had more to do with the terrain than weather. Temperate was around freezing, (No bogs! They were all frozen over) and wind around the summit probably brought the temperate down a little more.
I got up around 6am which was murderous to do. We left early, just after 7am to get to Glen Coe for 9, or there about. The drive didn't take too long, and was certainly enjoyable, now I had the knowledge to name nearly every peak we passed. Upon arriving at Altnafeadh at the eastern end of Glen Coe, (9.05) we sat in the car for a while and got everything organised, putting on boots, etc, so we left just around half past nine.
We began up the Devils Staircase to search out a route but very soon a path cut off to the right, taking us around the top of the pine trees. From there, it was a case of crossing some streams and fences, and before too long we ended up on the western slopes. It was initially fairly steep, but quite gentle all the same. Dad took his time so I patiently plodded up alongside, and we made slow but even progress.
We eventually ended up beside a tiny lochan where we stopped to take pictures of BEM on the other side of the valley. Impressive, indeed it was and any 'vertical' the Buachaille was capable of showing was all here. The path up through Coire na Tulaich looked almost 45 degrees and it was horrendously steep up to the bealach, not to mention the snow and cornicing around the rim. As well as that, the rock spires of the great east face were profiled against the dark overcast sky. When cloud moved off the summit, there were occasionally a few figures standing precipitously on top. Well, lucky I wasn't over there, but on a great round lump of a Corbett opposite! Sure, my ice axe was lying in the boot of the car but it wouldn't have been needed for Chrulaiste. (I was planning to run up Buachaille Etive Beag later on in the day provided we hadn't taken too much time over this first hill, but things didn't work out that way and we instead went up to the Steall Falls later on. I'd imagine I would have needed an axe for Etive Beag)
After the first steep initial ascent, the mountain flattened out as we reached Stob Beinn a' Chrulaiste (the small top to the west).
There was some snow lying about and it where it lay it was very thick, icy and solid. Even kicking it with my boots wouldn't dig deeper than a few inches, and at steeper moments I was nearly sliding off the side! The 4 season boots were good enough to kick in small steps, but not much else!
However, Dad and I continued up the side, passing snowfield after snowfield, but constantly the views were changing. I could also see up to the Mamores and make out Sgurr Eilde Mor, Binnein Mor and the likes. The two Stob Bans' of the Mamores and Grey Corries were also in sight. Underfoot, any bogs (and there were a lot) were frozen solid and made for excessively easy walking. A last pull up a snowfield brought us to the summit at 12.05!
It took two and a half hours to get up which was an incredibly gentle pace, although no one was tired. We walked to the east side of the mountain where we were in the shade but the whole face was piled up with metres of snow. I don't think until this point I'd seen such extensive snow coverage, and went on for metres, although was slightly slippery and would curve off, ending in a steep drop (with some crags) to the eastern face. Care was required here to not step too far. The rim was lined with cornices, however amounts had broken away and sat below with crack lines running all the way up the lip. I took some photos in the intervals between stopping to eat. Even took a piss in front of the world. (well, Rannoch Moor, but who's looking?)
As the saying goes, don't eat yellow snow, folks.
Anyway, we took some pictures at the trig point and left soon after. (12.30-ish) The descent was a nice easy angled slope downwards, and we saw a few people coming up. (in addition to one guy at the summit, actually) The going was a bit tougher on the legs on the final steep section but the trekking pole solved most of that. We arrived back at the car around 2pm, so we certainly took our time coming off. Threw the stuff in the boot and although we still hours of daylight left, there probably wasn't enough for me to to Etive Beag. I could have done it in 3 hours I'm pretty sure but given the conditions (less than sunny) our slowness to do Chrulaiste and the solo aspect it, I decided I shouldn't chance it. Only four hours of daylight after all.
Glen Coe was, as always impressive and we drove through Fort William and into Glen Nevis. I could see where Alex and I camped (Nevis on 9th August 07), and it was wonderful to see a place that I knew so well, and had many excellent memories of. We continued further along through over the twisty road until we arrived at where the car park was as far as you get.
The walk along to Steall Falls was excellent, and although already a bit tired it was a good walk along an unsafe path! However arriving in the flat plain with the mountains soaring, the river, meadows and falls shooting down the rock was nothing short of impressive and was like something out of a Tolkien novel. The gorge wasn't too full of water, and there was some fun to be had on the great boulders.
A quick mess about on the wire bridge and we headed back to the car. Drove back to Glasgow. Glen Coe was bathed in an odd yellow ambience as the sun made it's last appearance and the Aonach Eagach was nothing short of pure epic yet I spent most of the journey back sleeping and we arrived home in the evening.