We had walked together before in Russia, and faced some challenges on that trip, so when she contacted me to try out Scotland, I knew that she would be able and game for more than a saunter. I wanted to show her a proper Scottish weekend, so we based ourselves in Glencoe, and of course sampled a Saturday night in the Clachaig!
I chose an ascent of Bidean nam Bian as our first day, despite the low pressure system that has meant wet and claggy weather for what seems ages. I knew there was no wind to speak of, so simply crossed my fingers for a gap in the cloud. It wasn't particularly forthcoming, and we certainly got the atmosphere that is one bonus of such dreich conditions. The other benefit is the lack of people, and we didn't see a soul until the headwall of the Lost Valley. We took the NE ridge of Stob Coire nan Lochan, and Fiona coped admirably with the wee bits of scrambling, despite the wet and slippery rock. She is a MMA fighter as a hobby, (so I don't argue wither her much! ;), and is good and fit, so we made rapid progress onto the highest summit in Argyll, and her first munro. Excellent, though the summit photo could of course be anywhere. Shame, as the views from her are spectacular, but hey ho!
It would be fair to say that the descent into the Lost Valley was not her favourite part of the day, and as the photos show, it was pouring to boot. To be honest, I don't know anyone who enjoys that descent, and I felt sorry for the path workers I had recently seen up there trying to improve things - Their efforts have been either washed away or covered in loose shale again. A thankless task for which we are grateful guys. It was here we started to bump into inadequately shod tourists who were extending their walk up the valley, and I discouraged them from proceeding as appropriately and tactfully as I could, but what can you do? (I later saw two pairs in the pub, one in bare feet as her blisters were so bad, and the other's husband told me his wife's toes were black and blue. No **** Sherlock! As I explained to Fiona, there must be thousands that do such things, ( as we saw on the Ben the next day too, even sandals), and get away with it, but of course some don't, and the poor old MR have to go and get them. Grrrr....
The day ended in sunshine and the sublime atmosphere of the Lost Valley, a great day out.
So based on Fiona's abilities, I plumbed for the Ledge Route on Ben Nevis for our second day, but from the Youth Hostel, as we didn't fancy the boggy plod back to the NF car park, let alone the river crossing. We made excellent progress again, leaving the hordes behind at Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe and making our way round to the CIC hut. I could feel Fiona's anticipation, and promised her that there was nothing more challenging than the day before....but didn't bank on her bugbear. She doesn't like exposed grassy and shale paths. I had avoided the nasty slab by taking the feint path over Moonlight Gully Buttress, a favourite of mine, as it wends its way through the majestic scenery of No.5 Gully., but that does involve a narrow, shale path.
Despite her lack of confidence, she worked her way across, and we were soon on good quality rock where I think she even enjoyed the scrambling! ;) I knew she was at the top end of her comfort zone, and it speaks volumes that she kept smiling throughout, well, apart from her 'I am concentrating hard' grimace, which I teased her about a little :)
Before long we popped out onto the summit of the Carn Dearg Buttress, and all that was left was the stony slog across to the Pony Track to rejoin the crowds on the way to the summit. We even got a brief clearance in the cloud. The summit was thronged as usual, despite being a wet Monday, but it was the last day of July I suppose. We didn't linger, and made rapid progress on the knee-busting descent, being down in two hours. No point prolonging that part of the day.
The trip was rounded off with a meal in Fort William, (though if you're going to 'The Tavern', don't expect a large feed! - The Grog and Gruel was full), and then we drove back to Edinburgh. A thoroughly enjoyable three days, where Fiona's happy demeanour and determined approach meant that the wet conditions didn't matter a jot.
Goed gedaan Fiona, and thanks for your company!