Glen Coe In The Snow had a nice ring as a post title, thankfully there was indeed lying snow, albeit from about 500m. Which is almost inevitable, given that it was the second weekend of January. This was, I think, the third time I have stayed in Glen Coe, enjoying a long weekend of walking, scrambling (for some), communal meals and whisky-fuelled banter.
The trip was once again organised by friend Ali, who would finish the weekend with a ‘badly sprained wrist’ after a fracas with some rock on Aonach Eagach. That sprain was finally (2 weeks later – ouch) identified correctly as a scaphoid fracture, needing a pin in and a cast to keep it immobile The only mild peril I encountered on the trip was when my flask of coffee nearly skittered away from me and back down an icy Devil’s Staircase, whilst I sat admiring the white peaks nearby. An adrenaline rush, you’ll agree, but maybe not on par with those rocky shenanigans on the Aonach Eagach.
Dedicated to Mark
I’m dedicating this post to Mark, a mutual friend to most of us on the trip and a very lovely man. We had the news that Mark had died whilst we (the trip’s Yorkshire contingent) were on a couple of different jaunts on the first day of travel. It’s traditional to stop for a leg-stretch (often up a Munroe) before getting to Glen Coe. For this trip, it was to be Ben Arthur for all but me.
We had parked at Loch Long, Arrochar then some of the guys had headed up Ben Arthur, whilst I walked up Glen Loin. I heard the news of Mark’s passing as I returned to the car park, where a waiting Jeff (with a phone signal) had been told. My reverie – gained from watching oystercatchers skim the loch at dusk – evaporated before Jeff could hit the hard-stop final D of “have you heard that Mark has died?”.
Mark had been diagnosed with cancer around September 2017 or so. Although the illness was named as terminal early on in its larcenous career, Bastard Cancer tore Mark away from his family and friends quicker than the prognosis had first suggested.
Platitudes abound in these situations and I’ll add to that tradition: despite the news felling us that first raw night, being with mutual mates of Mark was ‘comforting’. I had a tear in my eye as I prepared the evening meal. And it wasn’t just because sous chef Jeff had burnt the chorizo he was frying.
Day 1: Arrochar, en route to Glen Coe.
This involved (for me) a walk from Loch Long, Arrochar up Glen Loin, for a couple of miles to get some elevation, and then back to the Loch. My ankle still isn’t up to much but I had a scenic four miles or so whilst the others hit nearby Ben Arthur.
The bird life was plentiful, the views lovely but the head of Loch Long – being a sea loch – was marred by the modern blight of plastic marine waste. The sight of so much plastic (of all types and from all corners of the world) was sobering. Marine waste is something that has been in the news a lot, the collective consciousness (if not the will to make changes) is definitely there. Loch long is mentioned in relation the problem – which is everyone’s – in this article.
I made a laughably small contribution to ‘doing something’ and gathered some bits up and put them in a bin near the car park. I don’t kid myself that that did anything of use, you would need a small army working all weekend to make a difference. To be clear, the loch and surrounding area are lovely and you should visit. No doubt the plastic jetsam must deeply frustrate and upset local folks and I feel bad for them – and all of us.
Day 2: Glen Coe and The West Highland Way.
Day two saw me hanging out with some deer, although they were mostly less keen than me. I walked along the West Highland Way until I was opposite Buichaille Etive Mor and then headed up the Devil’s Staircase, into the snow line, to get some elevation. Most of the other guys headed to Aonach Eagach to avoid reported avalanche areas and to get more elevation than I would.
Day 3: part of the West Highland Way and out on Rannoch Moor
After a lateish night, another great communal meal and a beer and whisky or two, I was happy to have a mooch out along a path on Rannoch Moor and not hit the heights. I realise my last few posts all mention the sore ankle but the Achilles tendonitis isn’t healing anytime soon. So the idea of walking up a hill or Munro didn’t appeal. This walk was to be more companionable than the previous day though and four of us headed out onto an icy West Highland Way then across Rannoch Moor to Loch Ba.
Once back at the ranch there was talk of heavy snow coming in the next day. That, my ankle and an email I had had had from a client saying a project that had been on hold was going to start, made my mind up: I would head home the next day. Woody joined me and we left early on Day 4 with most of the other guys staying on for another day in the Glen.
This was a ‘subdued’, reflective trip for obvious reasons but there was still the banter, the sociable evening meals. Still the hills and mountains, bearing quiet witness to our fleeting visits.