We decided to do the Round of Coire Iubhair on Ardgour first, taking in the atmospheric and rocky Garbh Bheinn. I am a real fan of this peak, and if it were a munro, it would number very highly in most people's top ten if you ask me. By this route it has a long, logical approach, which gives you a full view of the rocky aspects, then a very secluded lochan and bealach, an utterly improbable gully climb and then a low-grade scramblefest up immaculate rock to the top. All this, and some classic top-end scrambling too in the form of the Great Ridge and Pinnacle Ridge if you are so inclined. What's not to like!?
Our team of myself, Stephen, Victoria, Sue, Hayley, Issy, Gill and Diane did the round in 9 hours, in heavy rain and poor visibility at first, not to mention the 50mph SW wind. It was forecast to improve, and it did. By 2pm we had drier weather, and by 4pm it was pleasant, calm and warm. We delivered some coaching on simple scrambling techniques, and then practiced them as we went, the novices getting ever more confident. It is fair to say a couple of the guys were feeling the physical rigours of the gnarly route by the descent, but I am sure all enjoyed it.
Sunday was a varied forecast, starting wet, drying up, then raining again late afternoon. The team was joined by Lorne and Mags for the day. We delayed the start to 10am again, and it paid dividends, as the rain ceased as we walked over the bridge at the foot of the Hidden Valley. With waterproofs off (hurriedly due to the midges), we made progress to the start of the Zigzags on Gearr Aonach, but unfortunately Diane was feeling the effects of a recent stomach upset along with the efforts of the previous day, so she turned back to save herself for Monday.
The rest of us pressed on, and had an exhilarating time on the scrambles, somewhat augmented from their Grade 1 status by the damp. The crux was the off-balance move around a bulge towards the top, and we were lucky to be able to watch another guide coax his party past it, which made our progress easier and better informed with regards to the holds. We made steady progress along the broad ridge before some more great scrambling on the NE ridge of Stob Coire nan Lochan. The summit of Bidean nam Bian brought our first munro, (much to Hayley's chagrin, who intends to 'write a strongly worded letter to the SMC as to why Stob Coire nan Lochan isn't a munro after all this effort'), along with superlative 360 degree views. It was clear that despite making reasonable progress, the wet scrambling had eaten into our time, and the plan of continuing down along the Beinn Fhada ridge after Stob Coire Sgreamhach was probably a little much. It's not a bad route that has a descent via Coire Gabhail (or the Hidden Valley) in reserve. It is known as such due to its seclusion from the road, and the fact the Macdonalds used to hide their rustled cattle there. The survivors of the Glencoe massacre are reputed to have fled to there too, so it oozes atmosphere.
The initial eroded gully is unpleasant, but it soon gives way to a good path and the surprising meadow, before dropping to the valley below. One of the team stated it was her best ever hill day, and who am I to argue! Steven played a blinder too by producing Cornettos for everyone at the car park, (where a film crew were setting up to film a pop video for some bloke from Westlife - we didn't hang around for an autograph!)
Then finally we had Monday. The team consisted of Victoria, David and his son Rory, Peter, Gill and Diane (recovered from her bug). The forecast was for more wind and rain, particularly in the middle of the day, so we stuck to our planned 9am start from Ballachulish. The plan was for both peaks of Beinn a'Bhethir, but by the splendid Schoolhouse ridge, a grade 1 scramble. We had a fine time, and the views were great most of the morning, before the clag moved in as we summited Sgor Dhearg. The wind never reached the 50mph gusts forecasted, and the rain wasn't as persistent as suggested, so our day was one of feeling we had snatched a good route. We dropped our sacks at the final bealach before ascending Sgorr Dhonuill, where we experienced that most welcome phenomena of the wind being thrown over the summit, creating still air on top - wonderful! It was then just a bog-trot down to relativley new path through the forest and back to the cars at Ballachulish. A satisfying end to a most successful weekend.....despite the forecast!