Multi-activity Weekend

I’d originally been booked for some freelance work on Ben Nevis this weekend, but the company involved cancelled the trip, so I found myself with a free weekend as Mrs P was off to a friend’s wedding down south. I was out climbing with one of my buddies on Monday, and a “plans for the weekend” chat ended up with a plans for a trip into Garbh Coire on Beinn a Bhuird to climb ‘Squareface’; one of the classic climbs in the area.

Sadly, the promising weather forecast for the Cairngorms didn’t materialise, with the west looking best for the weekend, so a last minute change of plans saw us head for Glen Nevis for a spot of climbing on Saturday, followed by a bike trip up Glenfinnan and some munro-bagging on Sunday.

We had an excellent day at Poll Dubh, ticking off a number of excellent little multi-pitch climbs on several of the outcrops, although there’s such a variety to choose from that one day’s activity barely scratches the surface at whatever grade you happen to climb at. The routes are interestingly varied, with even the easier routes sometimes requiring a bit of thought and ingenuity to make upward progress. We finally called it a day around 7pm, when the cooling temperature brought out the midges in force.

After a quiet night on the Glen Nevis campsite, we were up and away to Glenfinnan in good time, although a lack of anywhere decent to get breakfast in Fort William before about 9.30am on a Sunday reduced us to MacDonalds for something to eat on the way out. I’ve never been entirely convinced by Fort Bill’s self-proclaimed status as the ‘Outdoor Capital of Scotland’, and this didn’t do much to sell me it in preference to Aviemore, which I reckon probably has a stronger claim to the title.

Once at Glenfinnan, we parked up at the NTS visitor centre and made our way up the glen on the tarmac road that leads to Glenfinnan Lodge. We passed Corryhully bothy, where a couple of folks were making ready to leave, and dropped our bikes at the bottom of the return path from our planned route for the day; the ridge walk round Sgurr Thuilm and Sgurr nan Coireachan. Conditions were excellent, with the sun poking in and out from behind high level broken cloud. Although a haze made photography a bit challenging, visibility was pretty good, with Ben Nevis and Bidean nam Bian coming into view as we made our way up Sgurr Thuilm, and an amazing panorama which included the distant Cuillin on Skye and Rhum our reward on the summit. The game of ‘spot the peak’ kept us entertained as we made our way round the undulating ridge, swapping stories about previous trips and brainstorming various future possibilities.

By the time we’d made our way over Sgurr nan Coireachan and down the long ridge back to the estate road, we were both feeling pretty weary, and it was a definite relief to jump on the waiting bike and freewheel back down the road to the car, with the dogs trotting alongside. Arriving back in Fort William, we discovered that, not only does it not open until 9.30am, but it also shuts at 6pm, and it was up to the petrol station at Ballachulish to maintain the honour of Lochaber by serving up a selection of cold drinks, ice cream and crisps for the return journey home.

Back home on Monday morning, I’ve got that vague ‘beaten up’ feeling that’s the mark of a cracking weekend – can’t wait for the next opportunity to go a few rounds with some more Highland bruisers!