Sat 10th Feb - Sun 11th Feb, 2001
Glencoe, SMC Alex MacIntyre Memorial Hut
Members present: Vanessa Addison*, Christine Beeston, Lisa Cox , Sabina Cusilich, Rick Davies, Dave Dillon, John Evans*, Sheena Hendrie, Duncan Lee*, David K. Lygate, Neville McMillan, Al Metelko*, Chris Williamson, Mark Wiltshire.
Staying Elsewhere: Tim Clancy, Dave Whittingham*.
Guests present: Steve Bawker, Dave Kenyon*.
Staying Elsewhere: Tim Harkness, Jane Hayes, Jesper Jorgensen*.
* Stayed on in the hut for all or part of Duncan's mid week meet
The Alex Mac hut meet took place after a week of very heavy snowfall and with a very high avalanche risk due to soaring temperatures.
FRIDAY was apparently a perfect day, blue skies with amazing snow and ice. Those that were fortunate enough to get away a day early made good use of these favourable conditions. Tim went skiing, while Al and Vanessa took the long walk in from the golf course for some ice climbing on the Ben. Vanessa led on the waterfalls above the CIC, before they successfully attempted the first two pitches of Gemini.
Everyone else arrived at various times throughout Friday evening, with some having the privilege of stopping at with DKL's Scottish based family for dinner. Dave D., Christine and Rick arrived at 1:20am to receive the standard bollocking from the woman next door, (they hadn't even had time to make a noise or close car doors), this all culminated in a Dave Dillon lost temper shocker (which most thought was an impossibility). Dave D. then slept on the couch and John who arrived even later, spent the night in his car, both selflessly opting not to wake everyone in locating their bunks.
SATURDAY was disappointing, being a dark day with very low cloud, an obvious change in the weather.
Ski touring proved to be the most popular option of the day. Dave D. and Christine played about at White Corries on telemark skis, while a larger group went to Creag Mheagich, which included DKL, Chris, Sheena, Sabina, and Neville. 3 on ski mountaineering skis and 2 on telemark. Even though there was snow from the car park, the conditions were very testing, especially for Sabina who had forgotten her skis and boots, luckily Sheena had to sets so we were away. After ascending with skins on our skis we had only gained half of the mountains height when we were turned back due to extremely poor visibility. The decent was very testing with ice and soft powder sitting together in the low cloud. None of us skied particularly well and DKL was particularly frustrated due to continual binding problems. When we could finally see which way was down, the snow had changed to a very sticky porridge where you could point the skis down hill and they wouldn't move at all or would suddenly stop dead, all this being spaced out between the heather patches. However, it must be noted that Sabina despite having boots a good few sizes too big and never having been on telemark skis before, managed to do her first telemark turn. Also, Neville who had turned back just before the rest of the party, suffered a bad fall cutting his head, however even though the repercussions could have been serious he didn't complain and had to be persuaded to talk about the experience. Luckily we had turned back at the right time and had just skied up to the cars when the weather really turned nasty.
Meanwhile, back in Glencoe, Rick had made the summit of the eastern top of the Ballachulish horseshoe, but descended quickly when he saw the weather was turning for the worse. Duncan, Steve and Dave K. all went to Stob Coire nan Lochan where they found very difficult conditions to locate the route they had selected, but still managed one pitch of something before turning back. John and Dave W. also stayed in Glencoe, going up Coire nan Beith to sneak a look at Bidean. While Tim and Jane went for a walk in the Mamores.
Al, Vanessa, Mark and Lisa went to the Ben, Al and V wanted to finish Gemini, the route that they had started the day before. However, due to the stormy conditions, the plan was changed with Vanessa and Mark following Al's lead up the steepest CIC waterfall while Lisa took the photographs. Tim and Jesper were also drawn to the Ben; they geared up and started but didn't like the conditions so decided to call it a day.
On Saturday night the KMC clearly demonstrated that they are a bunch of curry loving winos and could only be tempted to the pub when all the wine and tikka masala had gone. The walk to the hotel bar next door felt almost tropical with the afternoon's new weather front, this warming feeling was then magnified by the very cold reception that the Bar staff gave us. However not all was lost as we celebrated Jane's birthday and the meet leader could not be beaten at pool.
SUNDAY started slowly, most looked out of the window in the morning with a heavy heart, the cloud was low, the temperature had dramatically risen and torrential rain was still falling as it had been all night. Despite these conditions and the visible melting of a lot of snow, only Al and DKL were optimistic about getting something done.
Tim's, Jane, Chris, Steve and Sabina headed off home, Sheena and Neville went to visit friends. John and Dave W. went on a shoreline walk and saw a sea otter, while Jesper moved into the hut, read the papers and drank whisky.
Al, Vanessa, Dave K., Duncan, Mark, Lisa, John and Dave W. all went up Glen Nevis to attempt some rock climbing and had some success. Dave K. led a wet HVS and two VS's (one with a HVS finish), all in stiff ice-climbing boots, both Duncan and Vanessa led the same severe. Everyone else seconded these routes.
DKL, Christine, Dave D. and Rick decided to head up the lost valley since Bidean was keeping the other summits clear of cloud. Dave D. and Rick turned back just after the snow line but DKL and Christine decided to attempt the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan via the easy solid snow slopes at the end of the valley, since the avalanche risk was very high. We soon caught up with a party of four in front of us and all commented on a party of three, they were foolishly heading up to the heavily corniced col just bellow Meall nan Sgreamalich. Minutes later Christine drew our attention to all three being swept away in an avalanche, we saw the first climber being swept 800ft over a rock outcrop, but he got up and started to walk back up the mountain, the second didn't go far, stopped and was sitting down on the snow, but the third was buried half way between the two. Luckily they managed to dig him out alive and all three appeared to be intact, despite their experience. DKL and Christine finally made it to the summit but had to spend considerable time helping one of the party of four who was terrified of the strong wind on the ridge and shaken up with witnessing the avalanche. We finally made it down to the lost valley floor where Dave D. and Rich were waiting for us. We did bump into the avalanche survivors who though mature in years, didn't realise how lucky they were to still be alive, one was annoyed that he had lost his ice axe! Also, since none of them were hurt, they didn't think that they had to notify the mountain rescue that they were safe, even after one of the team, who was looking for the avalanched group, passed them going up the valley. Finally, it was reported in the Glasgow Herald, that ironically, one of the party slipped while only 100yds form the A82, spraining her ankle, you can draw your own conclusions.
It was then a quick dram for the car passengers, then back to Manchester via Glasgow and a haggis supper.
The KMC's Winter Glencoe meet is the club's once in a season opportunity to visit a most incredible & magical area in winter for walking, climbing & skiing. However, such wonders come at a cost, there are only sixteen places available. So with the level of interest that has already been shown (pre-publication), we need the full cost of £7 (cheques payable to the KMC) forwarded to the meet leader as early as possible to secure your place, or you may be camping on the lochside with Al.
Scotland in February, will there be snow?
- Plenty of snow & ice - well excellent it's exactly what we are going for.
- Too much snow - (i.e. very high avalanche warning - see SAIS) Go skiing instead, sounds like perfect conditions for the White Corries or Aonach Mor.
- No snow - Treat this as a summer meet but without the fearsome Scottish Midgy.
- The east coast has better conditions - We are only 1½ hour's drive from the Cairngorms, if that.
- Totally unbearable conditions all weekend - Go to the Clachaig, the folk singer should be there on the Saturday night, along with a real fire, fantastic beers & a good hundred bottles of whisky to choose from. Or if this does not appeal, then there is always a trip to the Aluminium Smelter in Kinlochleven to fall back on.
Now that all fears have been banished, back to scenario 1. Glencoe is a magnificent place in the winter or the summer, but especially in winter, be it for walking, skiing or climbing. So here are a few of the local areas of interest.
- The Aonach Eagach
- Stob Coirenan Lochan
- The lost valley
- The Buachaille
- Ben Nevis
- Plus many, many more including the suggestions above & everything else on the road down south to Glasgow.
I think that all of these areas speak for themselves. So if you are interested plus have appropriate experience & equipment, then see me in the pub on any Thursday night, (places are on a first come first served basis.)
The Alex Mac. Hut is adjacent to the Creag Mhor Hotel in Onich & accessed from the A82 (Grid ref. 046612, OS sheet 41 - Ben Nevis). SMC hut guide - "The hut has 16 places, mains electricity & water, electric & calor gas cookers & heaters; all utensils; hot water & showers; drying room, with car park at the rear of the building."