Glen Coe - Winter

16 messages
01/11/2008 at 21:26
Come start of December I'm hoping conditions will be full-on winter in the highlands. Does anyone have a recommendation or two for an 'easy' winter walk in Glen Coe? I'm going up there with a group that may include some pretty inexperienced winter walkers. I was looking at Buachaille Etive Beag (doing the route here (would this be too wet in winter?) and Bidean (starting near the Clachaig going South then SSE up to to top of Bidean, getting Sgreamhach top, then NE out Allt Coire Gabhail to the road, or alternatively this way, but this way looks like a long way). Are either of those routes 'technical' in winter at all? Obviously it's hard to say now, but if they were in decent condition are there any sections on either that'd pose a problem? Some of the group have quite a lot of winter experience but we'd rather not be dragging lemmings up something that turns into something tough. I'm guessing timing would be the main issue, but is there anything else we should consider. Much obliged!

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01/11/2008 at 22:25

Pretty and inexperienced is a combination of qualities to be exploited, I feel.

Lemmings don't need to be dragged, they tend to rush headlong. However, lemons are a different proposition altogether.


"...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy the handicapped and submariners. " ~ Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey

Edited: 02/11/2008 at 09:16
02/11/2008 at 10:58
The Buchaille Etive Beag route is straightforward, and since you descend the same way you ascend, means if there are any difficulties you  can just retreat safely. We did those hills from Lairig Gartain this winter, and my wife had not long had a new hip, so they should be within your capabilities! But your Bidean loop, if you do it anti-clockwise, has a descent into the Coire Gabhail which can be tricky in hard snow - the first bit of it is steeper than many novice walkers will want to descend crampons and ice-axe notwithstanding. But the route to Bidean is a classic - if you have more experienced folk in the party it would be hard for them to avoid wanting to go up Stob Coire nan Lochan via one of the many gullies - Broad gully is the easiest. An easier and shorter route to Bidean starts opposite the road to the Clachaig. Usually there isn't serious snow till New Year though, so you might be worrying unnecessarily. But the days will be very short. 
Edited: 02/11/2008 at 11:21
02/11/2008 at 13:00
Okay, great, that's pretty much what I thought. Buchaille Etive Beag looks pretty do-able, and we'll have to think about Bidean depending on how people fair and how knackered they are. I'm dead keen to 'push it a bit' but this isn't exactly fair/safe if others are crapping themselves/exhausted. Have you any other 'easy' suggestions for Glen Coe?

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02/11/2008 at 15:01
other easy possibilities .. Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, Stob na Broige mebbe, but there are also some great mountains down Glen Etive, which will be less busy. My favourite would be Ben Starav, but Ben Fhionnlaidh is a nice day too. So many to choose from - I'd get the SMC Munros Guide. Plan a few alternatives - a big day if the weather and your legs are up to it, a short one if the weather goes against you.
02/11/2008 at 15:16
Okay, that's great (and reassuring): I'd pretty-much bypassed a lot of the ones in the SMC book as being too knarly in winter compared to some of the stuff further south (eg. round Killin/Tyndrum), but it looks like we should be fine. Thanks.

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02/11/2008 at 17:34
You should be ok if you avoid winter climbing routes, or anything north facing. It's always so difficult to know what conditions will be like; one strategy is to pick a set of hills close to each other, perhaps ones that share the same walk in (say the ones on either side of the Glencoe Lairigs, or down the end of Glen Etive). Do an easy one the first day, that let's your legs start working and and will let you see what the nearby hills are like, and you'll have sussed where to park, and gained familiarity with the area.
02/11/2008 at 20:14

A friend of mine and OM-er fell off Buchaille Etive Beag in winter and was a very experienced hill walker, it was covered in snow and ice though. I go to Glencoe every year and one of my favourite walks was Stob Ban (you take in two Munro's on this walk but I don't have my Scotland books at home to give you the right name).

There's also a great horseshoe walk argh, someone help me! Again it's a two Munro day out which is nearer to Glen Coe I think. It's a great walk, there's a very narrow ledge on one of the hills but it doesn't go on for very long. I need to get my books back from my pal clearly as there is one you should avoid for sure for the pure boredom factor.

I'll report back unless anyone else can help on what I mean to say!

The Pap is a good half a day walk and the hidden valley is a good warm up. If you get a rubbish day and need some half day walks I'd recommend these two.

02/11/2008 at 20:52
Jules - the Balachulish Horseshoe perhaps?
02/11/2008 at 22:27
Yes yes! The Balachulish Horseshoe!!! Great walk, probably one of my favourites around those parts!
03/11/2008 at 08:41
Much of the group have done Stob Ban as part of the winter skills course that they have completed. It's a good 'proper' peak. The horseshoe looks a little long at 17km, but we could consider that.

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03/11/2008 at 08:44
The problem at the moment with the route to Bidean as you describe is parking at the start. They are replacing the main bridge on the A82 at the car parking area and it is closed off. You need to park further south on the A82 or at the Clachaig as there is no parking allowed on the single track road between the A82 and Clachaig. (It was installed years ago to prevent car camping there).
03/11/2008 at 09:20

Sgor na h-ulaidh is a good walk but the best bit is the views of the larger Glencoe hills around it. Stunning views if the weather is kind.
It can be combined with Beinn Fionnlaidh or just do it on its own for a shorter day.

03/11/2008 at 18:53

> A friend of mine and OM-er fell off Buchaille Etive Beag in winter

I've been up there when the summit ridge was a sheet of ice; good practice for the novice crampon users, or in alternative methods (foot locking using exposed stones, etc).  Other than that, it's pretty straightforward; no difficulties in navigation.

We apporached from the car park at Dalness, up the ridge to Stob Dubh, and then along the summit ridge to the col, when we decided it was getting a bit late, so dropped down into the Lairig Eilde, and had an easy walk back to the car.

Sgurr nam Fiannaidh is also a nice route, but a bit steeper/rougher going.  I froze my nuts off up there once...  Oh yes; don't be tempted to take novices down via the Clachaig Gully...

Of there's the Devil's Staircase from the A82; bit 'up and back again', but the little peaks (Stob Mhic Mhartuin) have provide useful winter experiences in the past.

Or head to Kinlochleven and have a play in the Mamores, starting at the Mamore Lodge car park.  If you can get away from the dog's insistence on playing 'fetch' with stones...

You don't have to go for the headwall approaches to the peaks...

Edited: 03/11/2008 at 18:57
03/11/2008 at 20:23

Consider the North Glen Coe ridge from the WHW to Meall Dearg - quiet and great views:

East end N Glen Coe ridge

Also Aonach Dubh is well worth visiting, even if the summit of Bidean proves too tasty

03/11/2008 at 22:14
Cheers for the input everyone, it looks like there's a lot of options. We'll have to wait and see now, based on the weather and how people are doing. Conditions look good atm, but in a month's time a lot could change.

Here is my blog: Come have a look!

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