17th-19th December 2016
Desperate for a some final mountain vibes before the year’s out, a few close friends and myself headed up for a long weekend in Glen Coe / Glen Etive. We arrived full of excitement at around midday and made our way around a lesser known loch in Glen Coe itself. With stunning views on all sides it definitely started the trip off well and helped to entice us for the following few days.
With it being late December and the weather in the Highlands being unpredictable, we’d opted for the sanctuary of a rented cottage in Ballachulish, leaving the tents and tarps at home. Collecting our keys as the sun began to dip behind the tall peaks we unpacked, ate dinner before taking a short drive to Fort William to pass the evening away at the indoor bouldering wall.
Having only been through Glen Coe in the height of summer, we were all pleasantly surprised with the isolation we found there. The usual overcrowded lay-bys and car parks were deserted; the streams of tourists with selfie sticks were nowhere to be seen, and the large coaches trips further south in warmer weather. We passed by the famous Three Sisters, and back to the large open moorland before turning into the famous Glen Etive.
The day was dominated by low cloud and fog, that hung barely a few hundred feet above the valley bottom. Our walk for the day started from the middle of the Glen, exploring the nearby slopes and waterfalls that lined its sides. We had hoped for the possibility of making a summit during the day, but we soon noticed the lack of daylight hours remaining and opted to descend in the comfort of the light.
And so it was as we drove back through the dying light of the day that the unforeseeable happened. We slowed to make a right turn into a side road leading to the Clachaig Inn (those who’ve been will know the road well), when we were hit hard in the side by another car. After skidding, spinning, stopping and exchanging insurance details we found ourselves in the pub that was our original destination. The car was a little worse for wear, and it became apparent that it was unlikely we’d do much driving in it again (besides limping back to our cottage later that evening).
Left without any use of transport hindered our second full day in the mountains a little. Our original plan to get on top of Buachaille Etive Mòr wasn’t possible and we were limited to where we could get under our own steam. We’d spotted the quarry in Ballachulish whilst venturing out the previous morning, and all thought it could be quite an interesting area to explore. We were very pleasantly surprised with the way it had been transformed into a local park, with walkways and routes up the rock face providing fantastic views and sights. The clouds parted late afternoon painting everything in rich gold, and providing a highlight of the trip for me.
Despite what you have planned, things don’t always go the way you expect and unforeseeable problems can arise. The only thing to do is to adapt and change to make the best of what you have available; not getting hung up on what will never be. Glen Coe is somewhere that always has a little more to offer each time I go back, and always delights me to visit, so I look forward to making the trip back and seeing what more it has to offer