I just went to my bed last night instead of blogging, so this is yesterdays events. I've always known Bidean nam Bian was going to be a bit stickier than the rest, being the biggest mountain I'd climb while the May snows are still clinging on.
I set off from the hostel just after 10am, along the road past the Clachaig. When I met the A82, I took the old Glen Coe road which is more fascinating than I'd expected. Ignoring the roar of traffic and litter from the road, there's more there to see than appears from the car. Aonach Dubh's north face revolved so slowly, and I could get a much better look than normal at the cliffs. There are schist erratics in the glen - one place where you really won't find schist. My guess is they may have come from the Moor. I passed old clachans or shielings (one or the other) with great trees growing out of the heads of what are now ruins. They didn't seem to be rowan as I'd have expected, but looked intentionally placed. I wouldn't mind knowing if there's a significance here.
I turned up into the Lost Valley. At the boulders I met four young girls who were sheltering out the rain. Cheers for the chat (and the sandwich). At the head of the coire, snow was still thick in every gully of Bidean. Weather was reasonable, but I already knew the snow would be in a bad way. I seem to be pretty terrified of snow when there's a chance of it falling on me. I don't feel I fully understand it as a medium to know how far I can push it.
But at this point, these were just little thoughts. You've got to go and look, and make a decision on practical observation.
I made it up to the head of the valley and started up the snowfields. I'd seen footprints from afar that might have been psychologically reassuring; they turned out to be raised prints - which means they're old. (Note I just said psychological - I was trying my best to talk myself into going up!)
The snow itself was like slush and my axe was just disappearing into it. The headwall of the coire was banked out. I just got a feeling in my gut that wouldn't go away. I think that feeling comes when I don't fully understand the situation I'm getting myself into, whether there's a valid risk or not. It could have been absolutely okay; I just didn't know. But that's the point: I didn't know so it was a risk too far. If I weren't alone, I might take a chance and reason out, that if I started a wet-snow slide there would be someone to help. I wasn't taking the chance today. I was also bearing a tiredness from yesterday, so stopped to consider my options. After five minutes of standing around watching cloud brush against snow-bound cliffs, I turned around, confident in my decision.
Once off the hill, I walked back down the length of Glen Coe. The walk down the glen became grating, and to be honest I was pretty pissed off when I got to the Clachaig. A cheeseburger sorted that out, and soon I was back to planning and working out how I can make time back rather than feeling sorry for myself. I knew I'd come around some tough moments when I started this walk. I was in one now!
In need of some maintainence, I even went back to the Clachaig a second time, later on, for fish and chips. (My bank account hates me)
All in all I had a good end to my day. I was walking back to the hostel in the twilight of sunset last night once more feeling really damn good, if a little awed by the challenge that lies ahead.
I'm back to where I was yesterday morning: behind schedule by two Munros! One simple problem (a bit of snow) and the wheels rolling back over me. I'll find somewhere in the future to slot Bidean in, but for now I'm moving on. Today is the Buachailles, with Peter and Andy.
A last enormous thanks to the Glencoe Independent Hostel who have put me up for the last few nights. It's been an amazing stay but I'd better move on and get Munros climbed! They've offered an incredible hospitality during my stay and I couldn't have asked for more. If you're in Glen Coe, get here! They're amazing, and have treated me so well. So many, many thanks.