Winter Adventures in Glencoe, man in Blizzard

Winter in Glencoe

In Trip Reports On Sunday, March 1, 2020

A blog is long overdue – it’s been 18 months since the last time I put ‘pen to paper’! A lot has happen in that time, but rather than try to recap I thought I would jump right into my latest trip to Glencoe.

For once this trip wasn’t (directly) for photography. I was out to build upon my experience of the winter mountains in some varied conditions. As a result I carried a stripped down camera kit (or in the case of the first day, no camera at all).

From Monday to Friday I hiked over 60km taking in just 5000m of ascent and decent. For all but the Monday that meant ‘post-holing’ in often knee deep snow, an exhausting experience. I stayed at the Glencoe Independent Youth Hostel and met some like-minded folks who I hiked with on a couple of the days. Otherwise I hiked solo.

On Monday I went up two Munros near Bridge of Orchy, Stob a’ Choire Odhair and Stob Ghabhar. I saw almost nothing all day and was glad not to have taken my camera. Walking on my own was a tad boring, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Enjoying it!

On the second day I took on the ridge of Buachaille Etive Mor. The ascent through Coire na Tulaich was a little steeper than I would have liked. For the final section I resorted to using the pick of my ice axe, but with a bit of care I made it up OK.

At the top I met two more hikers whose names escape me.
On the way up Stob na Doire
Looking back at Stob Dearg
On the way up Stob Coire Altrium
Looking across to Stob Coire Sgreamhach
Heading back from Stob Na Broige with Stob Coire Raineach (Buachaille Etive Beag) behind.
Returning to the Bealach to descend via Coire Altrium. I glissaded a couple hundred meters of descent.

On the third day I took on Sgorr Dhearg above Ballachulish with a couple of the guys from the bunkhouse, Andy and Simon. Originally we’d planned to do the other Munro, pictured below, but with wild wind conditions, a lot of snow and a known tricky step or two at the top of the mountain, we decided against it.

The peak we didn’t make it up – Sgorr Dhonuill
Battling our way up Sgorr Dhearg. Simon walked on the more loaded face out of the worst of the wind, but I felt I was better on the windier, but less snowy ridgline.
Blasts of wind made it hard to stay on our feet. Whilst I had this shot in mind the reality of photography in conditions this bad is there is an element of ‘spray and pray’. You really cant compose with any precision whilst wearning ski goggles and getting blasted by spindrift. I’m really pleased with this shot, I think it captures the atmosphere of the day.
Andy turned back after being knocked down a couple of times. It probably didn’t help to see me dashing on up to take photos of him!
Looking across to Bidean Nam Bian from the summit of Sgorr Dhearg. Regrettably I didnt have my tripod and my attempts to shoot a focus bracket handheld were unsuccessful. Consequently the foreground is a little soft.

On my penultimate, fourth day, I awoke with snow to valley level. Rather than risk my car on the ‘steeper than ideal’ exit from the bunkhouse I decided to walk from there up the Pap and then Sgorr Nam Fiannaidh. The walk up was in heavy snow, and showers passed throughout the day but there were also some nice views. Regrettably I failed to make it to the top of the Pap when I found myself in a small avalanche prone section of slope just 10m below the summit! Equally I bailed on Sgorr Nam Fiannaidh because of tiredness hiking in the deep snow finishing just 100m below the summit although importantly with 800m of snow left to walk.

The Pap of Glencoe (right) and Loch Leven from the slopes up to Sgorr Nam Fiannaidh (Aonach Eagach).
Looking across into the Mamores/Ring of Steall

With the forecast for the weekend looking increasingly snowy, and already feeling very tired, I decided to go for one last day near Crianlarich with Simon and Andy and one of their friends, Danny. Simon wisely bailed before we even started (it was raining with low cloud). The hike started through woodland and continued up snowy slopes as the wind speed markedly accelerated. Our goal was Cruach Ardrain but we turned around some distance from the top. The wind was absolutely wild and made progress incredible difficult.

Danny and Andy battling away. Ultimately the decision to turn around was easy.
A quick selfie. Not exactly photo weather!

All in all a successful trip where I accomplished what I set out to do. I didn’t take many photographs, but actually it was nice for a change to hike with a lighter pack and simply enjoy the outdoors!

6 Comments

  1. Absolutely fantastic. Stunning photographs.
    Enjoyed the blog.

  2. Good work Alex! Looks like you had a great time. Also, nice to see the blog alive again. Greetings from another mountain traveller and blogger (who don’t know which is the hardest work). / Magnus

    • Cheers Magnus, yeah it was good fun. Like I said, we need to do something together. Maybe next winter in Sweden?

  3. Alan Coles 4th March 2020

    A great read and fabulous images as always Alex.

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