At the end of the winter skills season of 2016 I organised a 3-day trip to Glencoe for those people who had been on the 1-day courses in the Lake District and where keen to take their skills into bigger, wilder mountains.

On Day one we started out in Kinlochleven and headed up along the route of the West Highland Way to the base of the Coire na h-Eirghe in the Mamores. Here a delightful stalker’s track leads up along the west side of the burn. It was slow going at first, but we reached the snowline at around 600m, stopped for a brew and a bite to eat, then continued onto the West Ridge of Am Bodach.

 

Sarah and Mike crossing the Allt Coire na h-Eirghe en route for Am Bodach
Sarah and Mike crossing the Allt Coire na h-Eirghe en route for Am Bodach
Just below the snowline in Coire na h-Eirghe
Just below the snowline in Coire na h-Eirghe
Heading up the Allt Coire na h-Eirghe, with the cliffs and headwall of Stob Coire na h-Eirghe behind
Heading up the Allt Coire na h-Eirghe, with the cliffs and headwall of Stob Coire na h-Eirghe behind

The ridge itself was shrouded in low cloud, and the snow on the ground was soft and deep, and being topped up by large falling flakes. We had a chat about winter navigation, then continued up the great little ridge to the summit of Am Bodach (1032m) our first Munro of the trip.

A happy group on the summit of Am Bodach (l-r, Mike, Sarah, Robert, Ade and Ant).
A happy group on the summit of Am Bodach (l-r, Mike, Sarah, Robert, Ade and Ant).

The original plan was to then descend the NE ridge of Am Bodach. The avalanche forecast was for a ‘considerable’ avalanche risk on slopes facing North through to East, and while this was more for headwalls and large snow fields, rather than ridges, we’d sensibly had a look at a NE slope in a safe position just below the West ridge where we’d found a bowl of snow with the right aspect. There we’d decided that we thought those slopes were probably closer to giving a ‘very high’ avalanche risk – that’s one step closer to even more dangerous than a ‘considerable’! I left my group happily chatting and taking photos on the summit and nipped a short way down the NE ridge to have a look. Higher up where the snow had been scoured by the wind, there wasn’t much of a problem, but within 50m I started to come across deeper and deeper snow. I didn’t have to descend any further to know that I wouldn’t be happy taking my group down there, so I back-tracked to the top, and we had another little chat. We all thought it worth heading back along Am Bodach’s west ridge then up the ‘deleted’ Munro Sgurr an Iubhair, so off we went.

Descending the East Ridge of Am Bodach
Descending the West Ridge of Am Bodach
Navigating down off Am Bodach in a near whiteout
Navigating down off Am Bodach in a near whiteout

As we neared the col between the two mountains, the views came and went, giving the perfect opportunity for my group to practice their poor visibility navigation techniques. Once on the summit of Sgorr an Iubhair visibility was reduced even further, probably not much more than about 30m, so some careful bearings were taken to lead us down the south-west slopes of the mountain to the base of Coire a’Bhutha, where we met the West Highland Way for our walk back to Kinlochleven.

A great day out in marginal weather. Some good leasons learned by my group, and a chance for them to get to know each other better before tackling the more technical peaks of Glencoe.

Sgorr nam Fianaidh and the Pap of Glencoe in clearing cloud
Sgorr nam Fianaidh and the Pap of Glencoe in clearing cloud
Advertisements