Saturday was to be Chris’ last quality mountain day (QMD) before heading off for his Mountain Leader assessment, and what a quality mountain day it was!
Bidean Nam Bean and its neighbour, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, have been on our radar for a long time; we have just been waiting for a decent weather forecast to get out and do them. So we picked up our friend, Kirstie, at 7.30am on Saturday and drove up to Glencoe in the sunshine feeling very excited. We parked at the smaller of the two car parks halfway along the glen giving fantastic views of the Three Sisters, and set off towards the footbridge across the River Coe, whose water was a very enticing turquoise below.
The path leads up between Aonach Dubh on the right and Gearr Aonach on the left, into Coire nan Lochan. Once up fairly high the towering walls and pinnacles of Stob Coire nan Lochan are very impressive. There was still a lot of snow in the gullies running down between the towers, which was marked with the zig zagging tracks of skis.
Here we left the path and moved up the slopes on the right to the bealach (saddle) between Stob Coire nan Lachan and Aonach Dubh, then followed the ridge to the summit of Coire nan Lochan, admiring the crumbling pinnacles along the edge.
The views were amazing: it was so clear that mountains extended in all directions and Ben Nevis was clearly visible, huge behind the Aonach Eagach ridge. From this point, you can see much of the rest of the walk: the ridges between the summits of the two munros and the path out through the Lost Valley (Coire Gabhail). We could also see that the descent into the Lost Valley was covered in snow and very steep.
We descended down to the next bealach with Chris spotting us on the steep sections and began climbing the ridge to the summit of Bidean nan Bean, which still had some snow on it. Here, we again marveled at the views and enjoyed a sandwich stop, during which we were joined by a Snow Bunting that wasn’t at all bothered by our presence.
Wandering along the next ridge section was lovely: the visibility was by far the best that I have ever experienced in Glencoe, and we gained the second munro summit easily.
We then had to decide how we were going to get down; this was causing a sort of bottleneck for all the other walkers up there, as the summer descent route was covered in what looked like an almost vertical wall of deep snow, which was clearly unusable without crampons and axes.
Some people were either going all the way back the way we had come, making an extremely long day and others were going to try to get down the ridge beyond Stob Coire Sgreamhach. We decided to simply climb down the snow-free rocks and grass, thus bypassing the steepest section of snow. This wasn’t easy and Chris did an excellent job of guiding Kirstie and I down. The pair of walkers following just behind us and knocking rocks down towards us, did not help our descent. So, if you are ever above a group on steep, loose ground, please wait for them to move to safety before trying to descend yourself…..it might save a nasty accident!
Once onto the snow, we were able to move quite quickly down the slope and into the Hidden Valley with its towering cliffs on all sides.
It’s a beautiful place, with the entrance blocked by gorgeous woodland and massive boulders, the smaller of which are worn smooth by a river that seems to have now disappeared underground. Picking our way through this was good fun and we saw a Blaeberry/Bilberry bumblebee (Bombus Monticola) queen on the flowering Blaeberry/Bilberry. These are my favourite bumblebees and are quite scarce. You are most likely to see them in upland areas; they are easily identifiable by their big red bottoms and yellow striped thorax.
The walk out from this point is lovely, with waterfalls and pools on the right, so clear you can barely see the water, spring flowers emerging and steep cliffs above.
So altogether we had an absolutely fantastic day, perfectly finished by a delicious meal at the Rod and Reel in Crianlarich.