Peter’s Round of Glen Coe, 11 June 2006

So I’d successfully completed Tranter’s Round in July 2005, folk were asking ‘what next?’ and the obvious answer was a round of Glen Coe. Now, to me, this meant neither just the classic round of five original Munros nor some half-hearted update taking in the three new ‘Munros’ and ignoring such distinctive peaks as Stob Coire nan Lochan, but an unambiguous circuit of every 3000ft top and extended Aonach Eagach from the Devil’s Staircase (so why run along the road from Altnafeadh to Allt-na-reigh when it’s so much more logical and aesthetic to run along the hills?). On which note (talking of logic), there’s very little backtracking on the route I took, with only the reascent of Bidean from Stob Coire nan Lochan (thought preferable to skirting it), a diagonal traverse up the NW flank of the Buachaille Etive Beag to capture Stob Coire Raineach and the slight reverse from Stob Dearg back to the top of the Coire na Tulaich path deviating in any way from a pure, circular tour. At an estimated 31.1 kilometres, it’s little more than half the length of Tranter’s over the ground, but packs an estimated 4610 metres of ascent (more like a three-quarter Tranter’s) into that compact frame and seemed to suggest a good 12 hour challenge (this last figure plucked almost out of the air!).

Having previously linked the Aonach Eagach to the Devil’s Staircase on a round trip from the Kinlochleven side, I made two further reconnaissance runs linking the complete Bidean group and the two Buachailles respectively by my proposed route, but subsequently ran out of time to stitch the whole round together in 2005 and had to shelve the project for the year. So the weekend of 10–11 June 2006 offered the first suitable slot, the forecast promised clear sky and sunshine, Saturday 10 June looked pretty hot (27°C) but Sunday 11 June looked a little better (something like 19°C originally forecast, but stealthily creeping up to 22°C?), I was feeling good and decided to go for it. As with my Tranter’s Round account, most of the real information is contained in the following table, but I’ve added some further notes afterwards...

Waypoint Distance
(km)
Ascent
(m)
Time Comments
Actual Split Total
Start at Clachaig     06.04 0:00 00:00  
An t-Sron           No distance and times logged because I’ve never quite decided where the top is!
Stob Coire nam Beith 2.5 1050 07:13 1:09 01:09  
Bidean nam Bian 0.6 70 07.20 0:07 01:16  
Approx. 25 mins (possibly 30) lost to mistake on Bidean Despite the good forecast, the day started cloudy, windy and chilly and, despite ‘knowing’ the ground, I managed to convince myself briefly that Stob Coire nan Beith (although I’d already correctly logged my time on reaching it) was just a bump on the ridge and that Bidean (not a very major cairn for such a major peak) was only Stob Coire nam Beith, so ploughed on towards the Bealach Dearg looking for Bidean until the height loss started to scream that something was wrong. At which point I recognised Coire Gabhail below me through the clearing clouds, realised I’d missed the turning for Stob Coire nan Lochan, briefly considered just skipping it before telling myself that the whole round would be ruined if I did and headed back to pick it up (which explains the 42 minute split)...
Stob Coire nan Lochan 0.8 115 08.02 0:42 01:58  
Bidean nam Bian (again) 0.8 150 08.17 0:15 02:13 Split time back to Bidean shows just what the mistake cost me!
Stob Coire Sgreamhach 1.2 130 08.37 0:20 02:33  
Beinn Fhada 0.5 50 08.50 0:13 02:46  
Beinn Fhada (NE top) 0.5 50 08.58 0:08 02:54 Left Beinn Fhada by a rotten stone shoot not far past the NE top, but don’t recommend scree running in Inov8 Terrocs (a well-worn pair in this case) because it tears the softer studs from the centres of the soles!
Stob Coire Raineach 3.0 525 09.59 1:01 03:55 Took a rising traverse from the Lairig Eilde to the bealach between Stop Coire Raineach and Stop Dubh, but should point out the obvious obstacle of the major gully splitting the NW flank of Stob Dubh, which you have to either cross (as I did) at a breach in the walls higher up or avoid by staying below it.
Stob Dubh 1.6 210 10.26 0:27 04:22 It was so cold and windy ascending Stob Dubh that the (light) rain was stinging and I was starting to consider the possibility of aborting the round, but things started to improve on the Buachaille Etive Mor.
10 min stop in Lairig Gartain Peanut butter & banana roll etc. + water refill from helpful walker in absence of obvious running water source.
Stob na Broige 1.4 470 11.32 1:06 05:28 A real grind up from the Lairig Gartain and still cloudy when I reached the top, but the day started to brighten up for good not long after that.
Stob Coire Altruim 0.6 35 11.42 0:10 05:38 An easy top to follow, but great running along much of the ridge of the Buachaille Etive Mor!
Stob na Doire 1.0 200 12.02 0:20 05:58  
Stob Dearg 2.0 175 12.29 0:27 06:25  
Cross road at Altnafeadh 3.0   13.05 0:36 07:01  
12 min stop above Altnafeadh Peanut butter & banana roll etc. + water refill from burn.
Stob Mhic Mhartuin 2.2 420 13.51 0:46 07:47  
9 min (‘sunscreen’) stop Really didn’t want another ‘big’ stop, but the sun was starting to blaze, I needed the sunscreen and the only stuff I could get was thick, oily and took a lot of spreading out/rubbing in...
Sron a’ Choire Odhair-bhig 1.1 140       No time logged because of doubt over exact summit location.
Spot height 903 (A’ Chailleach?) 0.7 115 14.27   08:23  
Sron Gharbh 1.5 110 14.47 0:20 08:43  
Am Bodach 1.0 130 15.03 0:16 08:59  
Meall Dearg 0.7 120 15.22 0:19 09:18  
Stob Coire Leith 1.1 255 16.04 0:42 10:00 255m ascent calculated from large-scale insert on reverse of Harvey’s map.
Sgorr nam Fiannaidh 0.8 90 16.22 0:18 10:18 Sgorr nam Fiannaidh descent by slope S of summit, which covers more distance but is probably safer and quicker than path by Clachaig Gully. Had been slowing up in the sun on Aonach Eagach and thinking that mistake on Bidean had cost me an 11 hour round, but realised about halfway down it was still on!
Finish at Clachaig 2.5   16.59 0:37 10:55 Total time logged 10 hrs, 55 mins and 31 secs.

Further Notes

As with my 2005 Tranter’s Round, I carried jelly babies, dried fruit and assorted cereal/chewy bars, but also took two big rolls with banana and peanut butter packing an estimated 550 calories each, which I was very glad of on my two major stops. For the record, I also consumed five chewy bars and 250g apricots on the hill and 10 jelly babies on returning to my van (making a total of about 2400 calories for the complete round), but started the day with a good breakfast and finished it with a cracking dinner! The 2.5 litre Platypus in my Lowe Alpine Wadi sack (new this year) was topped up once (adding less than a litre in the Lairig Gartain) and refilled once, meaning about 6 litres of water drunk on the hill, and my choice of the same footwear (Inov8 Terrocs) was made more with long-term comfort in mind than any suggestion that they’re the optimum hill shoe. So this pair were already fairly battered before I started, I’ve noted their shortcomings above for scree running and might also point out several short (unlogged) stops to empty them of the gravel that possibly found its way in as much through the holes in the uppers as over the tops, but have to say I still prefer them to a slighter, tighter hill shoe for a longer day out. As before, most of the height was gained by walking, but I ran some gently ascending ridges and (obviously) most of the descents and was pleased to break 11 hours even though that could have been 10½ but for the mistake on Bidean. While I’ve no doubt that someone with more genuine pace could knock a couple of hours off that time quite easily, I’d be mighty impressed if anyone came close to the 7 hours 5 mins Bobby Shields recorded for the ‘classic’ round, still feel that my longer route (a great day out by any standards!) is a good 12 hour challenge for more average runners and like to think of my time as a success in that context.

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