Thursday 13 September 2007

Misty Days in Glencoe

What a dull summer this has been! The last time there was more than a day or two of sunny weather in the Scottish Highlands was back in April, over four long months ago. Low cloud and rain has been the norm, the hills gloomy and mist-shrouded. Recently I spent a few days in Glencoe, climbing Beinn a'Bheithir, Bidean nam Bian and Buachaille Etive Mor. Damp clouds clung to the ridges and summits and I saw little once I had climbed out of the glens. The hills still felt majestic though, their steep, rocky slopes giving an air of seriousness to the ascents. Despite the plethora of paths navigation can be difficult. Indeed, in places it's the existence of paths that can be the cause of problems. On Buachaille Etive Mor I met a succession of people who had followed a path south from the subsidiary summit of Stob na Doire and found themselves on steep dangerous terrain above waterfalls and crags. All had then sensibly climbed back up and located the correct path, which runs south-west from the summit. Stob na Doire is approached in a southerly direction when traversing the mountain from north-east to south-west, as most people do, and I guess it's easy just to continue on south down the path if you don't check the map. Elsewhere I found the new path in the forest below Sgorr Dhearg on Beinn a'Bheithir a lovely scenic walk compared with the steep muddy horror of the old path, which drops down slimy grooves in dense forest(and down which I once slithered in the dark on a cold winter's night after a wonderful traverse of a snow-covered Beinn a'Bheithir). However finding the start of the new path in descent is quite hard as it fades out in the open corrie above the trees and it would be easy to go down the old route instead. This new path, along with another further east, has been surveyed by Mike Newbury for the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and his detailed, illustrated report is worth reading by anyone heading for Beinn a'Bheithir.

The photo shows Coire Gabhail, Bidean nam Bian. Photo info: Canon EOS 350D, 18-55mm lens at 41mm, f8 @ 1/160, ISO 200, raw file converted to JPEG and processed in Capture One Pro.

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