Chris and I met and shared a car to Glencoe, and beat the crowds at the normally busy lay-by by being on the route by 8am. I think it would be fair to say she had internal reservations about the looming bulk of Gearr Aonach, as I find most folks do - It is one of those routes that looks utterly improbable from the roadside, and being tricky to find the start of, is not well-trodden.
We picked our way up through the deep bracken, and after a snack, set off up initially wet rock under the scar on the cliff caused by a relatively recent rockfall. It was a case of stay upright, in balance, and look for the grippy holds amongst the slime and wet. After ten minutes, you arrive at the quality scrambling. Dry, sound rock, with holds abounding. Excellent. Chris followed my lead, and learned how to mitigate her diminutive stature by looking for the smaller, less-obvious holds, easing her way steadily and safely upwards.
Before long, we arrived at the crux move, a ledge with a bulge that pushes you out, followed by an undercut hold and a long reach around a corner before you get to easier ground. With some coaching and encouragement, Chris dealt with her nervousness admirably, and was soon coasting up the final easy moves to the top. Very well done!
We then followed the ridge of Gearr Aonach to the NE ridge of Stob Coire nan Lochan, where some more scrambling was enjoyed in the low cloud, Chris even taking to lead at the final few moves. After a short break at the summit, we dropped to the col, and on to the highest point in Argyll, Bidean nam Bian at 1150m.
As we descended the ridge towards the head of the Lost Valley, the clouds lifted, and we got ever clearer views of Glen Etive, Westwards towards Mull, the Buachailles, Blackwater, and the Aonach Eagach. As we descended the loose gully, we noticed a group of folks beavering away on improving the path up to the end of the valley. We stopped for a chat with Simon, who explained that they were attempting to create a 'line' which people will hopefully follow even when the path gets covered in scree. A hard, challenging job, and one for which I am grateful - Well done the National Trust for Scotland, and especially the Path Team!
It was then just a case of enjoy the rugged beauty as we greeted tourists galore on their walk up the valley, and we were down to the packed car park within 7.5hrs, a very respectable time. I always enjoy taking people to places they have not been, and particularly enjoy helping folks push themselves - Chris had not scrambled to this level before, and despite her nervousness, she showed calm resolve, and grew in confidence as we went. A really enjoyable day out......especially all that lovely Oxygen!!!! ;)