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Scotland, Ben Nevis and Glencoe, 4th March - 12 March 2017

posted 26 Sep 2017, 09:57 by Swindon Mountaineering   [ updated 10 Jun 2019, 12:58 ]

Participants,  Clive, Andy D, Sid, Mike P, Chris, Ed, Lee, Theresa, Martin, Simon.

Organised by Chris and Theresa.

As has become an SMC tradition, the winter meet travelled north to Scotland, and for 2017 was based in the Glencoe and Fort William area.  Three four berth cottages were booked for eight nights in Ballachulish in Glen Coe, and in addition a number of nights were also booked in the CIC hut located under the north face of Ben Nevis.  This allowed some flexibility depending on weather and conditions.

The 2017 Scottish winter had so far been one of the mildest on record, and any snow and ice buildup had been quickly depleted by a succession of warm winds from the south and west. Therefore, as we travelled north on the Saturday, expectations of good winter conditions were suitably realistic, more so as we passed the Lakes looking more summery than wintery.  However, as we arrived in Glen Coe, at least the weather was good and was forecast to stay so for the next few days.

Our three cottages were fairly modern and well equipped, although a succession of toasters, kettles and storage heaters gave up the ghost during the week.  Importantly, the website promises of nearby facilities (always a critical factor in selecting climbing accommodation) were fully met - a pub, restaurant, supermarket and a fish and chip takeaway, all within a couple of hundred yards. We checked out the pub that evening.


An early start, I seem to remember 7.30 am, saw us driving north through Fort William to the north face car park, from where the path to the CIC hut started. It was a cool sunny morning and, shouldering heavy packs with enough gear and food for up to three nights, we started the two hour slog up to the hut.  A well made path took us through the conifer forest on to the mountain side and increasingly impressive views of the north face with a reasonable snowcover. The sun had now cleared the cliffs of the north east buttress, and necessitated removal of excess clothing.

On arrival at the CIC,we had a quick look around and spread sleeping bags on vacant mattresses , and as the day was yet young, decided to do an easy climb up to the summit plateau. No 5 Gully seemed to fit the bill, a 450m Grade 1, easily angled snow all the way to the top.  The hoped for 50 mile views out to the Western Isles failed to materialise as the clear summit views seen on the walk in, were now obscured by cloud. A short walk south over Carn Dearg summit brought us to No 4 Gully which, although initially steep, was the standard descent route back to the hut.


Simon had joined us late the previous night, having dallied awhile in a Fort William cafe building up his fat reserves for hard days on the hill.

With a good weather forecast, two ropes of three tackled Ledge Route, one of the best routes of its grade on the North Face. It takes a zig zag route along a series of, (unsurprisingly), ledges, which alternately look down into No 5 Gully, and out over the Great Glen.

Descent was north down the slopes of Carn Dearg to join the path rising up from Achintee and along the Allt a Mhuilinn back to the hut

Two others made an attempt on Tower Ridge, fired up by enthusiastic talk from a guide the previous evening but missed the start in misty weather.


The forecast was for deteriorating weather conditions later in the day so most of us romped up and down the Douglas Boulder Gullies, and were back at the hut for some lunch by midday.  We then packed up and walked out back to the car park and a welcome shower back at the houses.


A windy and stormy day meant a trip to Ice Factor for many, a windy bike ride for one and a minor epic on the Pap for another.


A wet start to the day but clearing to a brilliant sunshine with distant views. Six spent a long day on the Aonach Eagach and two climbed Dorsal Arete.


A poor weather day, with visits to Glencoe tea shops and local sites.


Several people drove home and others climbed Dorsal Arete along with many guided groups.


The remainder departed on the long drive south, and so ended the 2017 Winter Trip.