The Roaches

Memories from the Scotland walking trip - 2006

A crack team of 7 travelled up to Fort William on the Sunday with the aim of conquering some of Scotland's finest peaks.

Alison, however, planned on floating in the hotel pool for a few days. Macca and Ken, fresh from their Dales Way exploits and Jon Gilson were up for taking on the 'big boys' for the first time.

For some the aim was to ascend Ben Nevis whilst for others the gloomy recesses of Glencoe were to be experienced.

We awoke on the Monday to fine weather and hangovers. Macca, Ratboy and Jon were aiming for the ascent of Ben Nevis (4406 ft) via the Carn Mor Dearg arete. Ken, Terry and myself opted for the more enjoyable ascent of Bidean Nam Bian (3766 ft) in Glencoe.

The 'hidden valley' on route to Bidean Nam Bian. It is believed that many of the MacDonald clan escaped into this hanging valley to escape the massacre of Glencoe - many died due to ill-fitting boots and gaiters.

Ken and I had resisted ample opportunities to do away with Terry who was doing his best to annoy us with the usual regular 'pole' activity and factually incorrect wittering. The weather was glorious. A steep ascent led us onto the main ridge where the sun lit up the view into Glen Etive and the various peaks to the south.

On the main ridge. Terry looking visibly knackered as he views the final climb to the summit of Bidean Nam Bian (Peak of the mountains).

The final climb to the summit of Bidean was a highly enjoyable walk in superb weather. The clouds came and went which offered teasing glimpses into the glens and onto the surrounding peaks.

The combination of sun and cloud was just right for 'Brocken Spectres' which meant that Terry wasn't the only ghostly apparition seen on the hill. Terry spotted an eagle which looked suspiciously like a raven, heard both barking dogs and a multitude of helicopters as the lack of oxygen began to take its grim, maddening, toll.

Ben Nevis (far distance) and the Aonach Eagach ridge (middle distance) from the summit of Bidean Nam Bian.

A text was sent to Ratboy to check on his position on Ben Nevis. I jokingly asked if Macca had thrown up yet but was unaware of the fact that he was already on the way down after aborting his brave attempt.

Macca's glasses steam up as he views the hotel bar from the CIC hut.

Macca would like to make it known that his decision to abort the summit attempt was due to his glasses steaming up and nothing to do with the 15 pints he had drank during the previous night or the 2200ft of steep climbing that awaited him.

A GPS view of Macca's failed attempt on the Ben. The previous nights festivities coupled with the fact that he'd never climbed anything as high before meant that there was only going to be one outcome - failure.

Note the tomfoolery in the forest at the foot of the Ben. Macca insists that the path was difficult to follow whereas we are convinced that he was chasing a rather attractive goat.

A GPS view of Macca's preferred and usual route for the week.

Jon enjoying the 'footpath' up to Carn Mor Dearg. Ratboy was so far ahead he needed to use a small telescope in order to obtain this shot.

In the meantime Ken, Terry and I were enjoying the delights of Bidean and nearby Stob Coire nam Beith. That was until the descent.

The descent from the main Bidean ridge is steep, rocky and requires the crossing of a stream at multiple locations. The previous years events on the Ring of Steall had cemented the view that wet rocks aren't to be trusted - especially when jumped on. With this in mind I placed my feet carefully in order to prevent another soaking.

Ken hadn't experienced many descents like this in his long walking career and it showed. He fell on no less than three occasions, each one seemingly more spectacular than the last. Two of the falls occurred within the space of twenty yards, one in a stream, one on steep rock and the other on small boulders. A cut finger and grazed arm was Ken's reward for such (un)surefooted behaviour along with constant offers of assistance from the experienced Terry.

We finally made it to the road and yomped the final two miles along the A82 back to the car. An excellent day's walking was enjoyed by both parties - what next?

The Tuesday saw a few of the group taking a short wander up Glen Nevis. It should be noted that nobody attempted the wire bridge over the River Nevis - chickens!


We awoke on Wednesday morning to a murky grey sky.

Macca had already dismissed any chance of walking and Jon, due to the first recorded case of lack of sleep caused by too much ale, also decided to give it a miss. The plan was to bag the highest of the Mamores, Binnein Mor, from the Mamore Lodge.

Terry decided that the final stretch of the West Highland Way (Mamore Lodge to Fort William) was to be the order of the day whilst Sean, Ratboy and Ken were ready for the Mamore tops. Macca decided to catch the Fort William to Mallaig train, Jon wandered onto the top of Cow Hill and Alison continued to shop sleep.

As the walkers headed SW to the Mamore Lodge the weather improved considerably and by the time we reached our destination the views were magnificent.

The Pap of Glencoe and the Mamore Lodge from the track to Loch Eilde Mor.

The 5 mile\2500ft walk to the foot of Binnein Mor's NE ridge skirted the side of Sgor Eilde Beag and meandered through Coire an Lochan before reaching the bealach between Binnein Mor and Binnean Beag . The clear weather of the morning had turned darker and cloudier as we climbed steeply up the NE ridge. A short level plateau took us to the base of the final rocky ridge to the summit.

About to tackle the upper section of the NE ridge of Binnein Mor.

After an enjoyable thirty minute scramble we hit the summit. The cloud cleared to give us fine views of the western section of the Mamores and over to our next peak - Na Gruagaichean.

The summit ridge of Binnein Mor.

The summit of Binnein Mor (3700ft) from the slopes of Na Gruagaichean (3398ft).

The twin tops of Na Gruagaichean.

Ratboy took numerous, excellent shots, with his digital camera which he later found had 'crashed' earlier in the day. Only a single picture survived.

A quick ascent of Na Gruagaichean's smaller top resulted in us reaching the col and the path back towards the Mamore Lodge. Ken was more than happy by the fact that he had borrowed Terry's gaiters as the descent was wet and marshy.

Later that evening Terry offered to give Ken the gaiters but this kind offer was refused as they were too dirty. Terry completed his 15 miler in 5 hours. Macca thoroughly enjoyed his train journey and took some superb shots of the hills and lochs around Mallaig.

The best of which can be seen below:

An excellent few days was enjoyed by all. Excellent walking, drinking, shopping and floating and most importantly excellent weather.

Jon had achieved a lifetime ambition in climbing Ben Nevis whilst Macca achieved a lifetime ambition in drinking lager, bitter, red wine, Guinness, port and whisky in a single night. Maybe, just maybe, something similar may be arranged for next year?


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