I drove up to Fort William on Saturday, in no particular rush. I planned to sleep overnight at the foot of Buachaille Etive Mor, with the intention of climbing its little neighbour, Beinn a’Chrulaiste the next morning.
I got in to town with enough time to catch the stores before they closed. I wanted to get a Jetboil stove for my morning coffees when I car camp. Normally I have standard stove for camping in general, but if its just a coffee I need to get started in the morning, the Jetboil is quicker and more efficient. I managed to secure basic Jetboil Zip in Nevisport. So I was set up for my morning brew.
I wandered the high street for a short while before getting more supplies at the supermarket, then heading to my favourite eatery of late, the Grog and Gruel for a quesadilla and make good use of their wifi. I managed to get my Castle Tioram Video that I shot in February edited and uploaded. You can see photos/blog post here.
I also sat and researched the hill I’d be climbing tomorrow. Beinn a’Chrulaiste is not a big hill, which was exactly the reason I wanted to explore it. I needed a location for a work project which would mean lugging clothes and models up a hill which ideally would have epic vistas as a backdrop. With the Buachaille in the back ground this seemed the perfect hill.
I read about a few routes and I watched a video about a short sharp ascent up a granite buttress called the ‘Pink Rib’. I’d look out for that the following day when the weather was forecast to be fine. I drove back to the Buachaille parking spot which was directly adjacent the ‘Pink Rib’ route.
I had a really comfortable sleep in the car and woke with the sunrise. This didn’t mean however that I was keen to get up an at ‘em. I was so comfortable that I stayed in my sleeping bag, persuading myself that on the day of the shoot, we wouldn’t arrive here till about 10am. As good an excuse as any!
Around 9am I put my new Jetboil to the test and it performed admirably. It boiled a mugs worth of water in under 2 minutes. Coffee and breakfast done, I made my way to the bottom of the ‘Pink Rib’. As I got closer I realised there was no way I could responsibly take a pile of gear and models up this route, but I had been spying an easier looking route which was almost as direct. A heathery slope which veered up and to the left at about 45 degrees. Or so I thought. This was where I had my wobble. I not sure if its age, the fact I was on my own, or maybe just tired, but as the slope steepened I found my self filling with anxiety. I knew in my head it wasn’t that steep. If I had my snowboard on I’d be totally at home flying down such a gradient, but I couldn’t help thinking about landslides and or losing purchase and falling down the slope.
I gathered myself. Checked if I was near the top on a map, which I was, and pushed on through. 5 more minutes scrambling and I was walking casually onto the plateau and through the peat hags wondering what all the fuss was about. It had taken just under an hour and the views across to the Buachaille were indeed a worthy backdrop for a photoshoot, however, I’d be bringing them up the path from Altnafeadh if we were to come here at all.
I carried on to the summit proper which was a simple walk passing a few other walkers and the last patches of snow I might see for a long time.
I would take the longer route down the path to Altnafeadh to gauge whether that could be used on the day of the shoot. On the way I heard a distinct peeping call of a bird I’d never heard at all. I didn’t have my binoculars with me, but I could just make out the pair. Looking like waders I thought that they may be Dottrel, I know they are rare, but do breed at altitude. Much like myself a pair of walkers closer to the birds froze when they heard them. The birds didn’t hang around and I called down, asking if they could see what they were. The chap who was closer than myself thought they may be Golden Plover. Indeed the call did remind me of a shortened versions of the Lapwing’s call, another plover. I think this was more likely.
The path continued down the westerly slope, offering still spectacular views of Glencoe. The sheer drop down to the road was stomach churning and steeper now, but not as anxiety inducing as earlier. The path itself was fine, but very muddy and slippery at times.
I made it down to the roadside and followed the A82 along the West Highland Way, back towards the car.
If you read blog a few posts ago, you may know I witnessed the aftermath of a red deer failing to look both ways when crossing the road. Well, as I followed the same stretch of road, I’m 90% sure I passed the remains of said deer. And as I did so, a handsome raven floated down beside me. No doubt he’d been attending this banquet for a while and he wasn’t about to leave it to me. I quietly put my long lens on my camera and proceeded to grab shots of the bird having his lunch. He would occasionally fly back up to the path beside me, then back down to the carcass. Despite the grim circumstance, it was a lovely encounter with a beautiful bird.
I moved on and left raven to it. The sun was out and I was in a t-shirt. Very different to last year, when I would still be snowboarding up the hill in the snow.
I popped back through Glencoe and on to Signal rock for a few more scouting sessions then onto the scree sloped below Aonach Eagach to explore opportunities there. It was a bit of a scorcher for the start of April, saying that, the photoshoot is for Spring/Summer clothing and is due in under 2 weeks. Not sure whether to wish for good weather for work or snow for leisure. I think though you know what I’d really prefer.