Sgorr a' Choise - 663m
Meall an Aodainn - 678m
Meall Lighiche - 772m
Sgor na h-Ulaidh - 994m
Stob an Fhuarain - 968m
Beinn Maol Chaluim - 907m
Friday 3rd February 2017
Weather/Conditions: Weather generally pretty good - hills snowless and not even frozen, gentle sun all day, and a hard wind the morning easing through the afternoon. Rain came in for the walk back out to Glen Coe.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 21.7km / 2450m / 7h 45m
My first hill was Meall Mor, that big pudding at the end of Glen Coe, which - turns out, is a lot bigger than it looks! It's nearly the height of the Pap, but it's shape suggests something less, perhaps. It's one of the few hills I've turned around on, when I once tried to tag it in before a Clachaig Winter Lecture. That night, with snow on the hills, and in the dark, I turned back at about 500m. So there was a wee score to settle today.
All in all, it didn't actually feel very bad at all. At lot easier than last time for certain; but then, the lack of a foot or two of snow might have a lot to do with that. Good views of the glen opened up, and I just ploughed on up the grass slopes. A wild, chilled wind was coming around the corner of the hill from the south, which intensified on top where I found a cairn. All around; bright, breezy views. But that wind was hard work...
Sgorr a' Choise was next. I first descended toward it, and it grew in stature backed by Beinn a' Bheithir. More and more, I love Beinn a' Bheithir. At first, I had one of the most stunning of mountain days on it. Then, shortly after, they were my last summits with Mick on a beautiful, glistening winter's night. I've been humbled on it, too; turned back just shy of the summit of Sgorr Dhearg by truly titanic winds. Then I learned of, and was captivated the 18th-century history of it's lower slopes and glens. And then not so long ago, I moved to the very foot of it.
Sgorr a' Choise is a lovely hill, not especially mature as it lacks the altitude, but nonetheless a nice pyramid overlooking Ballachulish. That wind continued to blow over it's edge as I climbed higher, but the sun was out in bits and pieces, and despite the chill it felt closer to May today. The hills certainly felt 'alive'.
A quick pic at the cairn then I was off again, in the direction of my next hill, Meall an Aodainn. This is a truly minor lump hanging off the side of the bigger hill, Meall Lighiche. But it's on the list, so it was being done. And I enjoyed it too! For a moment the grass plodding (backed by forestry plantation) seemed tedious. But the high slopes and broad views brought a freshness of altitude, and I enjoyed the romp to to it's domed summit.
Meall Lighiche itself was similar; a pleasant romp and not too hard either. Earlier in the day I'd wondered if I'd make enough time for Sgor na h-Ulaidh. Now I was on Meall Lighiche at 2.30pm, it seemed pretty obvious I could add Ulaidh, and perhaps Beinn Maol Chaluim, too.
Another point here about unflappable intention: a corner of my mind thought, "you might not make it, it will get dark". The logical quickly answered back; "well, it doesn't really matter if it gets dark". And it wouldn't. I know how to navigate at night, and anyway - the moon would be up as the night took over. There's no point in listening to that stupid voice that wants comfort. Be solid in intention and execute action.
The ascent to Sgor na h-Ulaidh was enjoyable, and what I like: steep, unrelenting. But my god, you gain altitude fast. Pretty soon I was looking sharply down upon Meall Lighiche! These ascents are steep, but I think I prefer rapid altitude gain.
The wind died coming over the summit ridge of Sgor na h-Ulaidh, I was motoring along on in the quietness of the wearing afternoon. A moment of ecstacy hit; of pure bliss of the walker. That warmth that arrives when you are on autpilot and content. At the top I got another panorama and then a call from Andrew five minutes off the top. That killed 10 or 15 minutes, I did some filming too where upon my fingers went red and numb. I went swiftly to Stob an Fhuarain, a new Munro Top for me, and a pleasant hill in itself.
The decision now was made entirely unconciously; despite my earlier musings, I was bound for Beinn Maol Chaluim. Now I was embarked upon it, there was essentially not a chance I wouldn't do it. A long descent dropped me at Bealach Fhionnghaill where I took five minutes, dranked the last of my one litre of Lucozade and had some Oreos.
Gathering gloom saw me up Beinn Maol Chaluim, a final push where I discovered I actually still felt pretty good. Bidean now looked close. But it wouldn't be for today; as I approached the summit of Beinn Maol Chaluim, mist was sweeping from the south, seemingly unannounced and kind of out of nowhere. I got my panorama, turned around and set off down, hunted by rain and a dropping cloud base.
I went quickly into Fionn Ghleann, which would lead me directly out to my car. And yet, though I'd lost altitude, things got hard here. Maybe I didn't eat enough - or I was dehydrated. Maybe I expcted that the day was done and this was the end. Except I still had kilometres of trackles, steep glen to do. It was dark, with a drizzle falling, a headtorch that destroyed peripheral vision, and the good routefinding decisions that entails. It's a steep glen, and with no track I found me willing myself just to get to the end.
I got out to the flats at the glen junction, discovered I couldn't across the Allt na Muidhe, which was a proper gorge, in the dark at least. I backtracked to the house and bridge upstream, where a car on the opposite side was obviously watching my headtorch battering through the trees and roddys in their back garden... it was just a touch embarrasing! I thought I'd have explaining to do, but when I'd come through their back garden and house by accident and crossed the bridge, they'd just left and were away off down the glen. It was just as well, really.
I plodded out the last miles on tarmac to the car. Two things: first, my winter boots just aren't waterproof. Second, they hurt on tarmac! They sting too... Above, Sgorr nam Fiannaidh presented an almighty bulk, but I couldn't imagine doing any more walking today. With rain falling and gear wet, I was back at the car at half 6. Straight to the Co-op for a family size bag of crisps and orange juice carton - both of which I devoured. Then home to Ballachulish where I devoured a pizza... so much for healthy, eh?
Sgorr a' Choise
Meall na Aodainn
Sgor na h-Ulaidh
Stob an Fhuarain
Beinn Maol Chaluim
(0.00) 10.45am Layby, Glen Coe
(1.00) 11.45am Meall Mor
(2.05) 12.50pm Sgorr a' Choise
(3.17) 2.02pm Meall an Aodainn
(3.45) 2.30pm Meall Lighiche
(4.43) 3.32pm Sgor na h-Ulaidh
(5.15) 4.00pm Stob an Fhuarain
(6.15) 5.00pm Beinn Maol Chaluim
(7.45) 6.30pm Layby, Glen Coe