Creise Backcountry

My 5th consecutive day at Coe

The day started fine, with mist hanging low over Rannoch Moor and the sky above all blue for yet another day.

I wandered over to meet Scott & Mick who were sorting their gear for the mission ahead. I was introduced to Paraffin, who of course I recognised as another local, but had never spoken with. We chatted about the plan for the day and did a buddy check with tranceivers.

The plan was to cross from the summit of Meall a’ Bhuìridh at Glencoe Mountain Resort, and cross the connecting ridge to the neighbouring mountain of Creise. Plan a was to descend into the Cries Bowl, immediately after crossing the ridge. There was a possibility of a Plan B, which was Rankin’s. This was plan B as we didn’t think it would soften enough with its northerly aspect and would remain bullet proof all day. It was a line that Paraffin had been eying up for several years. It was looking unlikely though.

skier and snowboarder hiking Scottish mountain
Assessing Creise Bowl

After breakfast we took the lift up and spent a few warm up laps in Main Basin. The snow was pretty slushy now as it was after 11am, later than a normal start, we were wanting things to soften up a touch.

We packed our gear onto our packs and started across the summit of the ski hill, gradually descending the rocky steps of Rubicon Ridge.

We stopped to survey Creise Bowl. Our intended route looked like it would be very short. The warm weather meant the snow had receded and gave no real option that didn’t involve a sudden stop among scree fields, resulting in a long down climb amongst the rocks. Our thoughts turned to our plan B.

Last little push up the ridge to Creise
From Rubicon Ridge Coire Easan lies below
Clach Leathad from Rubicon Ridge
Looking down the length of Creise

We continued across the ridge, which was snow free. On our left was the face of Clach Leathad with Coire Easain below. To the right, the deep gorge of Cam Glean lead out towards Kings House in the distance. Straight ahead was the snowier climb up to Creise and its long flat summit ridge.

The ridge itself was snow free and an easy walk. We stopped briefly for a water break then started climbing up the ridge. We were back into a mix of snow and rock, the sun softening the snow slightly. The pitch of the climb was an easy scramble with poles and still a fair bit of rock steps and hand holds.

Stopping on Creise itself

At 2:40 we were on the summit ridge and snacking, Paraffin transitioned onto his skis and skinned along the firm cornice, while the rest of us would continue on foot along the shallow rise towards the drop in for Rankin’s just beyond the summit of Creise itself.

I had been a bit nervous as this was my first real mission away from the ski area. It was a line I was unfamiliar with so I felt a touch of trepidation as I looked over at an unfamiliar view of the normally familiar ski hill.

All the shots I took were with my iPhone. I decided to concentrate on the task at hand and not distract myself with gadgets, camera’s and GoPros. That would be for another time. 

Looking back at the ski hill Meall ‘a Bhuìridh
Above a cornice looking across to Clach Leathad mountain in scotland
Looking across Clach Leathad
Scott scoping Cam Gleann below
Hiking towards the drop-in for Rankin’s ©Scott Johnston
Paraffin drops in to the shoulder above Rankin’s (to the left)


We arrived at the drop-in and I had my first look over the edge. Rankin’s was on! Thankfully it didn’t look all that bad snd there was no cornice to speak of. That had sublimated away to leave a nice little transition. 

Paraffin took the lead and dropped in first. I listened to the sound of his skis as he made a few turns onto a shoulder above our planned route. It didn’t sound too bad, but I could tell it wouldn’t be soft further down. The slope lay in the shade and had done most of the day.

Scott dropped second, followed by Mick, then without thinking too much, I dropped in once Mick was out of the way. We gathered on the shoulder before the main event.

Scott, Mick & myself dropping on to the shoulder above Rankin’s ©Paraffin
Scott’s ‘moment’ on the 45 degree icy pitch of Rankin’s ©Scott Johnston

Scott set off down the steep slope and disappeared, Paraffin, Mick and myself followed. The snow rapidly firmed up the further we descended into the shadows. I picked my way down the steeper section, ice axe in hand, being cautious not to pick up too much speed.

Although I didn’t see it at the time, it would have been around now that Scott had a moment where he lost an edge negotiating the 45 degree pitch and quickly put his ice axe to good use. Quickly stabbing the ice and bringing himself to a speedy stop.

Mick passed me on my right and I slowed to watch him negotiate the steepest section. Stopping, I thrust my axe shaft down into the ice and pinned myself to the face as I prepared myself. We all gathered before we turned our way down the lower section. A few cautious scraped turns then I was past the steepest section. Then on to the run-out where we started whooping, yelling and enjoying the last few mellower turns.

The Main gully is Rankin’s which does touch on 45 degree angles at some points.
Scott reliving his ‘moment’ as we excitedly buzz after the steep descent
Elated to have completed Rankin’s (over my shoulder, main gully)

We ran out of snow and we all collected like some kind of flotsam on the strand line. All of us were chattering, buzzing on what was a short but intense little adventure run. The adrenalin continued to pump as we transitioned out of ride mode and into boot-pack mode. We had a long walk ahead to get back to the car park. It was now just after 4:00pm.

Looking up at Dragon Bowl. Rankin’s out of shot on left.
My Lib Tech Split BRD rode well on the icy pitch
Mick starts the long walk out

The return

Immediately we had a small gorge to cross before we got down to the valley floor and across Cam Gleann. If  there had been snow at this level and had ski lifts still been running, we could have made our way back up to the bottom of the plateau, but this was not the case, so we traversed the lower ski hill and skirted round the bottom of Creag Dubh. Stopping for a brief rest we then dropped to the moorland, level with the car park. We were spread out now and it was a weary trudge over bog and tussocks before finally making it back to the car park, probably around 6:00pm.

The long walk out
Looking back up Cam Gleann you can see Rubicon Ridge leading left to right and up on to Creise
A selfie with Rankin’s over my shoulder top right
Tackling Rankin's in  Glencoe's backcountry.
Paraffin’s picture captures us before the trudge around Creag Dubh ©Paraffin

After a few fist bumps and saying goodbye, I changed out of my steaming boots and grabbed a coffee for the drive home.

It was not only the end of an epic day in the backcountry, but the end of the mightiest 5 days of snowboarding at Glencoe.

I felt very thankful, to the guys I’d just spent the day with and for being able to enjoy 5 full days of pretty amazing weather and of course the Mighty Coe festival itself. Thanks again to Scott & Paraffin for the video too. You should also go check out Scott’s Instagram.