Adventure Diaries: The Three Sisters
Despite the forecast of a weekend of thunder and lightning, we decided to head up to Glencoe to get some miles under our feet.
Having scoured the map for a few hours, we settled on climbing the Three Sisters – a majestic trio of buttresses rising abruptly from the side of the A82. The route would summit a couple of Munros – Stob Coire Sgreamhach and Bidean nam Bian – the highest Munro in Argyll at 1150m, with each summit linked by a spectacular ridgeline.
Having arrived at the base of the mountain mid-afternoon, we decided to split the hike over two days, so we hiked in on the saturday, ascending 870m onto the northern ridge of Stob Coire nan Lochan. As it transpired, the northern ridge is littered with huge boulders, so camping spots were in short supply. Nontheless, after much searching we found a tiny patch of heather just big enough for the tent. It was a comfy spot, with a stunning view over Glencoe itself. The only downside was that we were perched only a few metres from a substantial precipice. We’d have to be careful not to hit the whisky too hard!
As we settled in for the night, warming up some food on our homemade soda-can stoves, we watched clouds form as the air rose up the side of the peak across the valley. It was mesmerising to watch after a hard climb – much like those bothy nights spent staring into the fire. Every now and again, we’d find ourselves engulfed in cloud – but the weather passed over quickly, and the last rays of sunlight broke through the clouds to cast light onto the valley below us. Not long after dark, we were fast asleep.
In the morning, we woke to the familiar pitter-patter of rain on the tent. We brewed some camp coffee and holed up waiting for it to pass. By the time we’d got our caffeine hit, the skies were clear and we opened the tent on top of the world, ready to continue up the mountain.
Within an hour, we’d reached the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan and dropped onto the northwest ridge. As we descended into the saddle, the buttress before us looked intimidating. We negotiated a patch of snow that covered part of the saddle before beginning the steep ascent up to Bidean nam Bian – clambering up a series of huge boulders to reach the cloud-covered cairn at the top. After the obligatory summit photo and a few swigs of water, we continued on to Stob Coire Sgreamhach. From here, the horseshoe on which we were climbing was laid out before us, showcasing the dramatic ridgeline in all its glory.
Soon we began our descent from the mountain. To be honest, we probably didn’t plan our exit too well. We missed the route down into the valley, and ended up descending a near vertical face that was covered in loose rock and scree. It was a slow and sketchy route, dropping from about 900m into the valley below, but we took our time and ended up meeting a guy from Holland mid-way down. He’d also taken a wrong turn, but it was strangely reassuring that someone else was there with us.
Before long we were in the base of the valley, filling up our bottles with beautiful clear highland water from a nearby burn. We eventually joined a trail, which felt like bliss after our treacherous descent, and staggered back to the car. Our legs ached, our muscles were tired, but it had been an epic 24 hour adventure – the ideal escape from the city.