Friday, 15 March 2013

Beinn a Chrulaiste - Glencoe

One of the interesting dynamics of going anywhere with a large group is the way that complete inertia can take over if you are not careful . Clearly we weren’t careful.
After a decadent night of eating and drinking....and eating....and eating.... it was never going to be a “OMG it’s early” kind of a start and, coupled with inertia’s deadly twin, “faff”, it meant that it was nearly lunchtime before we set off and some of us were not equipped for winter mountaineering anyway. Now, I’ve never pretended to be an intrepid mountaineer but this was bordering on couch potato behaviour.

This only gave us time to tackle a little lump of a Corbett called Beinn a Chrulaiste conveniently situated behind the Kingshouse Hotel which we did as a “point to point” walk from the foot of the Devils staircase to the Kingshouse hotel giving us a grand total of 2046ft accumulative ascent. The path wasn’t particularly boggy or rocky although Andy seemed to be able to locate any bog on the hillside and disappear thigh deep into it.
Hill fog had been forecast but the swirling mists and clouds were high enough to offer us some spectacular views down into Glencoe and the black rock of the Bhuachaille Etive Mor streaked with white snow against a pale misty sky gave it a majestic presence. The Himalayas don’t have the sole claim to awe inspiring views! It’s that tricky time of the year for deciding what to wear when out on the hills, whether walking or running.   
With lots of snow high up its always tempting to go out dressed as though you are about to tackle an ascent of Everest so having succumbed to temptation then it was only inevitable that I would be peeling layers off within a few hundred feet of climbing. The sun was giving out some warmth and it felt spring like although the snowy tops and far off dark clouds served as a reminder that winter could yet return to Glencoe with late snows.

Although a seemingly insignificant little hill when compared to its brothers and sisters close by the great thing about Beinn a Chrulaiste is its location at the entrance to Glencoe giving views of not only the mountains of Glencoe and Lochaber but also of mountains as far away as Schiehallion in Perthshire and of the flat expanse of Rannoch Moor with its pools and lochans sparkling vivid blue in the sunlight. Although I was disappointed not have been able to make an attempt on some bigger hills maybe sometimes its a mistake to ignore what some of the smaller hills have to offer in favour of always searching for a bigger challenge.

After a quick drink in the cosy snug of the Kingshouse Hotel and a few minutes making friends with the tame deer outside it was back to the cottage and time to get ready for the obligatory run around the hospital lochan. Andy, Lisa and I set off in the half light of dusk into the woods. It was a still evening and the waters of the lochan were like a sheet of glass with the trees and mountains reflected in it.
By the time we returned to the cottage, Bill and Louise had arrived. “Inertia” and “faff” are not two words that you would associate with those two and true to form they had spent the day exploring high summits behind the ski centre. Bill and Louise joined us for a quick bite to eat at the Clachaig inn but for some strange reason we didn’t stay really long enough to take in the atmosphere or listen to any of the live music. 
The following morning again wasn’t an early start apart from, needless to say, Bill and Louise who took off on an expedition to bag some far flung Corbett in the valley behind Ballachullish. The rest of the group drifted back their separate ways.
It was lovely to go back to the cottage in Glencoe. Every time I go I wonder why I don’t go back more often and visit this wonderful place. A lovely fire in a wood burning stove is just the right thing to come back to after a day on the hills.

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