North Glen Coe ridge….again. 2nd February 2019

Date: Saturday 2nd February 2019
Distance: 13.5km
Ascent: 830m

The forecast suggested a fairly good day in South and Central Highlands, albeit with a fairly brisk breeze. We mulled over a number of options, but in the end decided to revisit an old favourite.

One of our standby winter walks is to head up the WHW from Altnafeadh and then walk east towards the start of the Aonach Eagach. It ticks several boxes – no long walking in shadow, very quiet, hands in pockets difficulty and with stellar views.

One minor fly in the ointment is, that in winter, the parking is busy well before dawn with winter climbers and photographers! Bagged the last spot in the A82 layby at about 1 hour pre-dawn.

Booted up and headed up the Devil’s Staircase. Another advantage is that this route is almost always pre-broken in snow so there was now post-holing and plowtering – just a quick walk up to the bealach, broken by pauses to enjoy the view.

Devil’s Staircase ascent:

Up to the bealach in about 40 minutes, behind us Stob Dearg of Buachaille Etive Mor looms above Altnafeadh.

Buachaille Etive Mor pre-dawn:

Ahead, the Mamores appear as another vision in white.

Mamores pre-dawn:

True dawn was blocked by clouds to the south-east, the sun breaching them at about 0840. We just carried on up Stob Mhic Mhartuin, passing another couple heading up on the way.

Dawn lit the Easain munros out to the left of Blackwater Reservoir.

Blackwater Reservoir dawn:

As we were approaching Stob Mhic Mhartuin the sunshine was fully lighting the hills (and continued all day). Ben Nevis looked rather tasty.

Ben Nevis dawn:

The rest of the day was a distracted dawdle, looking at snow patterns and distant hills. Our favourite kind of walk. Always nice to be high and in the sunshine at dawn.

Buachaille Etive Mor dawn over snow:

Underfoot on the ridge was pretty easy, mostly wind-scoured so no real hard work to do ploughing through snow. We were up to Stob Mhic Mhartuin in a little over an hour.

Climbing Stob Mhic Mhartuin:

Stob Mhic Mhartuin is a nice viewpoint with great views in all directions. Not too surprised to find a couple of folks with tripods taking photos of dawn.
For ourselves there was renewed interest in some of the views…visits to the Eastern Mamores in the last 12 months meant a chance to look at recent routes from another perspective, and plan more.

Mamores from Stob Mhic Mhartuin:

Great views all round though.

Ben Nevis from Stob Mhic Mhartuin:

Binnein Mor from Stob Mhic Mhartuin:

Easains from Stob Mhic Mhartuin:

For me it’s Bidean nam Bian that really takes the breath away, not best lit by sunshine in winter, but what a hill.

Bidean nam Bian from Stob Mhic Mhartuin:

The couple we’d passed arrived with their dog, which seemed interested in the vistas.

Interested dog:

The Eastern Mamores of recent visits….Binnein Mor rather more wintry looking than our visit on the 2nd of January.

Binnein Mor. NaGru and Sgurr Eilde Mor:

We headed onwards, and from here had the place to ourselves. The ridge between Stob Mhic Mhartuin has no climbing, scrambling or bagging targets, and so is sparsely visited.

Happily the terrain remained fairly scoured and so progress was reasonably easy, if distracting. The wind speeds were a lot lighter than forecast, only a light breeze when speeds of 20-30 mph had been suggested for dawn.

Bidean from crossing to Sròn a’ Choire Odhair-bhig:

I do like this angle on the Easain Munros – very shapely.

Easains:

We took a slanting ascent of Sròn a’ Choire Odhair-bhig to reach the ridge at a lower point, minimising ascent on the slightly drifted lee slope.

Climbing Sròn a’ Choire Odhair-bhig:

A few ravens flew over with their noisy wingbeats and cronking wiffles. Always enjoy watching them watching us.

Sròn a’ Choire Odhair-bhig raven:

Once on Sròn a’ Choire Odhair-bhig we returned to looking at the view. Our recent descent of Na Gruagaichean into Coire na Ba was hard to see in the snow – but someone had ploughed a furrow up the stalkers path on looking through the binos.

Coire na Ba:

We could also see the little black dots of people climbing Sgurr Eilde Beag towards Binnein Mor.

Binnein Mor and Sgurr Eilde Mor:

Blackwater Reservoir was at its most attractive in wintry clothes.

Blackwater Reservoir:

The Ben looms with the intervening ridge of the Mamores blending in between.

The Ben:

Headed on west along Sròn a’ Choire Odhair-bhig to ascend to the 903m point of the ridge.

Sròn a’ Choire Odhair-bhig view west:

Heading west:

Mamores:

There were lots of hare tracks around, but we saw none of the creators. Here and there were raised hare tracks….have seen these commonly from people, not sure if I’ve seen them from hares before. Seeing the evidence of what’s been running around before you is one of the joys of winter.

Raised hare tracks:

Carried on up the slopes. Ice axes and crampons were training weights, the odd slightly consolidated patch of snow just about made microspikes worthwhile

Onwards and upwards:

Hare tracks and Ben Nevis:

The unnamed 903m point gives a more open view east, with Schiehallion, Beinn a Chuallaich and even Beinn a Ghlo visible.

East from 903m point:

To the west the view opens up past Bidean to Beinn a Bheithir, Fraochaidh and parts of the NW Highlands. I could just see Ainshval of Rum off the shoulder of Rois-bheinn through the binoculars.

West from 903m point:

Another nice set of raised hare tracks led to Bidean.

Bidean and raised hare tracks:

The wee hills of Meall Mor and Sgor a Choise sit dwarfed by Beinn a Bheithir. The transmitters on Dun da Gaoithe above Craignure were just visible.

Beinn a Bheithir, Fraochaidh and out to Mull:

oh….and Bidean occasionally catches the eye. 😉

K and Bidean:

More hare tracks, the proper way round this time.

Hare tracks and Bidean:

With the sun swinging round it’s easier to see out SE across Rannoch Moor and on to Beinn a Chreachain and the hills of SMC Section 2.

Back east and out across Rannoch:

A little past the 903m point is a bend in the ridge which sits directly opposite the 3 Sisters of Bidean. Our usual lunch spot.

The deep coires between Beinn Fhada, Gearr Aonach and Aonach Dubh are not lit at this time of year, but are great to look into.

Awesome Bidean:

We sat and had lunch for 40 minutes, watching the day go by. There were upwards of 40 people on Buachaille Etive Beag, and many folks on Bidean. We saw a solitary skier ski down Coire an Ruigh just to our west, along with folks up on Am Bodach at the start of the Aonach Eagach.

We have, in the past, continued the walk to Sron Garbh and Am Bodach. Laziness has crept in though and we were happy to wander slowly back to Altnafeadh.

Heading back:

Ben Nevis built a cloud cap for an hour or two, beyond the NW looked a bit cloudier.

The Ben has put on a hat:

No clouds to trouble our views, the breeze was variable and it often felt quite warm in the sun.

Nice views of hills and snow sculptures.

Buachaille Etive Mor and snow:

The sun had shifted further round, but never really lights the NW flank of Buachaille Etive Mor other than partially at sunset.

East from 903m and the road across Rannoch:

Descending the 903m point there were areas of soil where we were sinking in about 2 inches – with a nice layer of ice girders pushing the topsoil up on inspection. Interesting.

Undersoil superstructures:

Dropping down to Sròn a’ Choire Odhair-bhig we had a great view out the A82 to Rannoch Moor. The reasons for the corners are not apparent from above.

The A82 and out to Section 2:

Blackwater Reservoir was eggshell blue in the snow. Out to the west we could just make out the line of the old Road to the Isles along Carn Dearg, and Old Corrour Lodge.

Blackwater Reservoir from Sròn a’ Choire Odhair-bhig:

The shifting sun had produced a different patterning of shade on the Mamores – the Ring of Steall hills catch the eye.

Sgurr a Mhaim and Am Bodach from Sròn a’ Choire Odhair-bhig:

Footprints and ski tracks on Stob Mhic Mhartuin were evidence that it had been busy during the day – no-one left when we returned.

Buachaille Etive Mor and Beinn a Chrualaiste from Stob Mhic Mhartuin:

Stob Mhic Mhartuin is in the eye line as you drive into Glen Coe. Out beyond Rannoch we picked out our route up Beinn a Chreachain from 2017.

Across Rannoch Moor to Beinn a Chreachain:

Stob Mhic Mhartuin gives a high view of Altnafeadh and Stob Dearg. All the car parks were chock a block.

Buachaille Etive Mor from Stob Mhic Mhartuin:

Dropped back to the bealach and the WHW, well worth the effort for anyone to head up for the view.

Mamores from WHW:

We had a little time to spare – decided to head up Beinn Bheag, something we’d kept meaning to do previously. Nothing irks like an unclimbed prominence! 😉

Lovely red stone here, accentuated by the low sun.

Mamores from Beinn Bheag:

Back down to the bealach, and then down to the car.

Buachaille Etive Mor from descent:

Had sunshine for the first 5 minutes of descent, before we headed into the shadow of the Buachaille Etive Beag.

Altnafeadh from Devil’s Staircase:

Stob nan Cabar of Buachaille Etive Beag:

15 minutes further had us back down at the car, with a car park busy with happy returning walkers.

No bad thing to have a few go to walks – this one ticks all our boxes and don’t imagine tiring of it anytime soon.

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