Glencoe Instameet

Glencoe Hidden Valley
Looking up towards the Hidden Valley in Glencoe

I’m writing this one week after the event, though I backdated the post date for accuracy. I knew this instameet would be different from the the start. The first reference I saw was the hashtag #glencoe15. This in itself was a departure from the usual #insta… or #somethingmeet. I new it would be popular as the location itself is a gift for photographers and a staple for most Scottish Instagrammers.

Organiser Rab has some skills, and employed a web based signup which meant attendees would receive automatic updates in their email, and could also arrange car sharing if needed. A very efficient and successful process, indeed quite a number did sign up.

On arrival at the carpark Instagrammers from all over Scotland (and even France) were gathering. As the clock struck ten, thirty Instagrammers set off towards the Hidden Valley. The initial walk in is simple as you head down across the river then soon you are ascending up between the first two of Glencoe’s three sisters.

The weather was fantastic, walking up through moist, lush green gullies, over boulders, ferns and river. Blue skies with puffy white clouds overhead made for perfect conditions and a very pleasant walk.

As we levelled out in the Hidden Valley, also known as the Lost Valley, or by its true name Coire Gabhail, we rested, spreading across the flat valley floor, surrounded by high peaks of Beinn Fhada and Gearr Aonach. This is where Clan Donald would hide pilfered cattle after raids on neighbours herds back in the day. We congregated around a large glacial boulder, swarming over it for a group photo opportunity.

lost valley
The flat elevated riverbed of the Hidden or ‘Lost’ Valley.

Everyone explored, wandered and photographed their way around the dry riverbed and surrounding valley, before a group of a dozen of us decided to continue further up the head wall and onto Stob Coire Screamhach, the neighbour of Argyll’s highest peak, Bidean Nam Bian.

We worked our way up the right hand side of the river, until we were below the bealach which became a steep scramble, especially towards the top of the loose scree slope. As we came out on top of the saddle, the views towards Loch Etive opened up under a leaden sky, full of texture and tones. It was threatening, with a few spots of rain, but never really came to anything. This just added atmosphere to the photos we were taking.

It was a short meander through the broken granite from the bealach to the summit of Screamhach and the weather so benign, there was no rush to leave the summit. There was no wind to speak of, which is rare on a Scottish mountain top!

Stob Coire Screamhach
Reaching the summit cairn of Stob Coire Screamhach

While we were at the summit, those that had not come with us went on to explore Glencoe Lochan, a beautiful ornamental loch near Glencoe Village, and some went on to the stunning Loch Etive, which we could see below hanging cloud from the summit.

loch etive
Loch Etive receiving a top-up

Remember to visit Instagram #glencoe15 to see everyone’s photos from all of these beautiful locations.

The walk down was tough on the ankles and knees. The loose scree giving way all too easily underfoot. At one point I heard shouting from members of our group behind and to the right. I wasn’t sure what they were shouting, till I looked directly uphill only to see a large rugby ball sized boulder spinning down the slope, having been dislodged by another group further up. All I could do was turn my back and clasp my hands to the back of my head. With some relief, the boulder whizzed past an my right side without striking us like a set of bowling pins.

We soon came across a large remnant snow patch on which we all took the chance to sledge, ski or glissade across, avoiding falling through, or getting too wet. It would have been a lot easier if the whole descent had been on snow (especially if I had my board with me!).

The ankles and legs just about held up as we made it all the way back to the car park and after seven or eight hours it was a relief to change out of my boots. It was around three days before my thighs were back to normal, but a great day was had.

The Instagram meet was so successful, the people, fantastic company, and the results are a tribute to the photographic talent that Scotland has to offer. Credit goes to Rab for kicking the whole thing off and to the ‘others’ for making it a day to remember.

Visit the hashtag #glencoe15 on Instagram to see the results. 

Gearr Aonach
The buttress of Gearr Aonach, the middle of the three sisters of Glencoe