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First Snow of the Season

We got snow! Admittedly it was just on the mountains, but that’s where it starts.

We still have time for it to descend lower and cover everything with whiteness. And, it also didn’t arrive until Saturday afternoon but that’s okay, as my story starts on Friday.

Friday was a relaxed day, a day off in fact, but still a full day. Haggis and black pudding on toast to fuel me through the day. A spot of room tidying and kit packing for the weekend, up to centre for lunch and bike maintenance with Will, one of theGappies, back home and then go to Killin.

I was meeting Derek in Killin and joining him in his car for the journey North to Glencoe. We had the obligatory dinner stop at the Real Food Cafe, which is quickly becoming my regular stopping point, and pressed on to Blackrock Cottage.

This beautiful little cottage is just off of the A82 on the road up to the Glencoe ski centre. An ideal spot for a weekend of winter adventuring.

Derek and I were first there and set about turning on the electricity, lighting the fires and unpacking the food. Just as the place was starting to warm up, the first of the other eight arrived: Bernhard and Alan, followed on by Simon, Sarah, John, Pete, Moira and Jon. It was great to see everyone, but particularly Jon as I hadn’t seen him for a few years as he had been out of action due to injury. He came back with style, and his signature cooking skills, which was superb. We developed the plan for our walk, and my suggestion of the Ballachulish horseshoe won the vote. Off to bed then.

After a broken night’s sleep, due to rain and wind battering the cottage, Pete and I were first up as we were on breakfast duty. Pete, the master of porridge, set himself up with pan, oats and milk and got cracking, whilst I made tea, coffee, set the table, lit the fires and made the toast. Occasionally Pete let me stir the porridge: what an honour!

We were out the door just on time and drove to the start point. We followed forest tracks up through the dense woodland until we reached the path that Derek had taken last time. It was noted that this particular path was not on the newest maps amongst us, but there was a cairn and it looked like it was still used, so we trotted up through the thickening growth of trees.

We soon reached a point where the path disappeared and some trees had fallen over, so we struggled onwards and upwards spacing ourselves out so as not to ping each other with branches. We emerged from the top to find the path we could have taken, and agreed to follow it on the way down!

From here it was steady going to the bealach between the two summits. We planned to descend from this bealach on our way home and so had two “out and back” summit bids to make.

Once everyone re-gained their breath we set off along the ridge towards Sgorr Dhonuill. We could see some dark clouds approaching and braced ourselves as we pushed forwards, only to find it was a gentle snow flurry and really not that menacing. It passed through quickly with a burst of sunshine before another wave passed us by. We were further along the ridge at the end of the second patch of weather.

As the sun broke through I looked back to check on the others and was awestruck at the view before me. It was super moody and it was great to be here at this particular point in time.

It spurred me on to the summit where we were greeted with another weather marvel – the brocken spectre.

This only occurs when the sun is behind you and the cloud below you, if that happens you are gifted with your very own rainbow halo! It was a really vibrant display, but soon faded away. What a treat.

We pressed on and up to the next summit – Sgorr Dhearg, before a quick turn around and back down for tea and medals.

Using the actual footpath on the way down meant we were off and home before dark. Fires on again, showers for all, some crisps and then Jon’s handiwork for dinner. Bolognese for main and apple crumble for dessert. Wow.

With food in us and good signal to check the forecast, a plan was made for Sunday. Pete and I have suggested for years that we should do a mountain called Bidean Nam Bian, but it has always been met with a reason not to do it. Such as: it’s a bit wet, not the right group, too windy, no visibility, etc. But this time our suggestion was met with: “Actually, it looks like the perfect day for it.” Music to my ears. I slept well that night.

I awoke to sunlight pouring in through the velux window and opened it to check outside. Some more snow had settled on the hills and there was a photographer outside! I grabbed my camera just incase and went outside to greet him. That’s when this view presented itself…

Marvellous. After a hearty breakfast and tidy up we nipped down the road to the layby in the Glencoe pass to start our day.

Bidean is the tallest mountain in Argyll. It sits right back away from the road and almost entirely out of sight.

We ascended between two of the three sisters towards Stob Coire nan Lochan.

This peak looks impressive in itself but is not a Munro. After a short food ‘n’ drink break we press on to the summit.

From the top of Stob Coire nan Lochan, my eyes fell upon Bidean for the first time ever and I was grateful for Derek’s patience to wait a few years for ideal conditions… It was amazing.

Inspired by the perfect day we were having, it didn’t take long to reach our goal. At the top it started to cloud in a little but didclear up after a few minutes. Whilst waiting for clear views we handed out the sparklers Sarah bought for the previous night and we forgot to use. It’s a struggle to light them in the breeze but we manage and celebrate in style.

As the sparklers faded out, the cloud moved on and so did we, wanting to get off the hill before dark. We headed for Stob Coire Sgreamhach our second Munro of the day and fourth of the weekend. It stayed clear and sunny with 360 degree panoramic views of Scotland. Once at the top we had another few minutes rest and some food before descending towards the descent gully.

I decided to quickly fit my crampons for the gully: it was steep enough and icy and rocky, a troublesome mix. It paid off and I zoomed pass a few others struggling, without spikes on their feet, and caught up with Derek, John and Simon. From here it was a lovely descent through the lost valley and back to the car. What a fine end to a fine weekend. Pete and I were chuffed to bits with Bidean, it certainly didn’t disappoint.

We all said our goodbyes until the next weekend, and Derek drove me back to Killin. I picked up my car, transferred all my gear and bimbled home. Unpacking could wait, bed was calling, and then work the next day. More about that next time.

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