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.
Mist rolling up Glen Loin, I watched it wend its way towards me as I sat with a snack.
One of the dippers I spotted near the Loch shore
Sunset, Loch Long, Oystercatchers and Crows combing the foreshore.
Oystercatchers on Loch Long
The old bridge at the neck of Loch Long
The shores of Loch Long with part of Arrochar opposite, in the gloaming.
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.
Heading up the Devil’s Staircase with on The West Highland Way
I’ve ascended Buachaille Etive Mor twice but wouldn’t have fancied the north face gulley path this time. I watched a couple of small parties head slowly up the icy gully, with my camera lens on max zoom. Avalanche warnings had filled our chat the night before. I’m assuming these guys knew what they were doing…
A sign of signs near the Kings House, West Highland Way
I get a lot of approaches from PR and / or Search Engine Optimisation / content agencies, looking to boost traffic to their client’s website with improved search engine visibility. Or to add credence to a new product launch with reviews from outdoorsy folks.
Sometimes they’d like a paid article insertion (I don’t do them), or ask me to review of a piece of kit (I sometimes but not always do those) or get a quote or bit of advice to add to a wider article they are writing.
It was the latter in this case, a friendly approach from Alex from Indago Digital in Sydney, looking for some quotes from outdoor bloggers / instagrammers around the topic: “what advice would you give your younger self if you were exploring the great outdoors for the first time?”
Indago Digital’s client is Hollyford Track, a guided walks business, located in the Hollyford Valley in New Zealand and within the boundary of New Zealand’s largest national park – Fiordland National Park.
It looks like a beautiful part of the world and New Zealand is actually on my (growing) bucket list.
I’ve had a problematic, grumbling knee for some time now and bought a pair of telescopic poles a year or so ago. They kind you tighten in place by twisting two sections of the pole together.
They’re great in most respects but on a couple of occasions I’ve put a bit too much weight on one on a downhill stretch and the telescopic sleeve ‘collapses’ into itself . Which is not what you want on a steep slope.
So I was thinking of going for some clip locking styles.
I’d seen a demo in an outdoors shop and they looked more robust. With a couple of days in the Tramuntana mountains coming up I had ‘get new poles’ on my outdoors Google Keep list (if you don’t use Google keep – give it a try, I swear by it).
Serendipitously and as happens a lot for me, I got an email from Abbie at Spring PR, asking if I was interested in a new pole that Leki had – the Leki Micro Vario carbon folding poles. Abbie’s note jumped out as much about the clip-lock design as the fact they were lightweight (100% carbon) trekking poles. Which would make them suitcase-friendly.
Some technical spec information about the poles:
Each pole is 228g and folds down to a length of 38cm. The poles come in a neat stow bag.
The hand grips are ‘edgeless’ and ultralight ‘Aergon Thermo grip’ which promised a comfortable fit in the hand. In lay terms that means (as I found out) that I could adjust my grip quickly depending on the angle of ascent and descent on variable ground conditions. I only tested the poles in a dry rocky environment so I have to assume that works just as well in ice and snow.
The height / pole length adjustment ‘Speed lock 2’ lock is really easy and fast to adjust. I was deliberately putting some pressure on the poles on a steep descent of the GR221 trail on one of the days. happy to say then poles didn’t slip in height (unlike my existing telescopic poles on similar trips).
My only slight bugbear is that I couldn’t stow the poles on the outside of my rucksack without use of some string to keep the sections together. They are connected internally but won’t ‘bunch’ together without something to put around them. That’s just a small point though as the overall weight and that lock system with the really comfortable grip handle worked for me.