I get emailed a fair bit during the 'season' by folks with questions about the glen, so in anticipation of this, I thought I would set up an FAQ section to answer some of the most common queries.
1. Who are you?
My name is Alex Roddie, and I've lived in Glencoe since September 2008, working as a barman at the Clachaig. Before that I studied Computer Science at UEA Norwich, although much of my spare time was spent escaping to the mountains. I am not much of a climber, but I enjoy mountaineering and I have climbed in Britain, the Alps, and Norway.
2. Will (insert name of route) be in condition tomorrow?
The short answer is, I don't know! A more complex answer will take into account my own recent observations and what I've heard from others, but as a general rule I am reluctant to speculate unless I have recent first-hand knowledge of the mountain in question.
3. Recommend me some routes.
Since this is a very personal thing, my recommendations aren't necessarily going to be useful to every climber, but I have particularly enjoyed:
Aonach Eagach crossing (Easy)
The easy route, Gearr Aonach (Easy)
Curved Ridge, Buachaille Etive Mor (Easy/Moderate)
North Buttress, Buachaille Etive Mor (Difficult)
Quiver Rib, Aonach Dubh, East Face (Difficult)
Shrike Ridge, Aonach Dubh, West Face (Difficult)
Agag's Groove, Rannoch Wall (Very Difficult)
Nirvana Wall, Aonach Dubh, Far Eastern Bs. (Hard Severe)
Great Gully, Bidean nam Bian (I)
Hourglass Gully, Bidean nam Bian (I)
N.C. Gully, Stob Coire nan Lochan (I/II)
2B Scoop, Aonach Dubh, West Face (I/II)
N.E. Face, Bidean nam Bian (I - II depending on line)
Dorsal Arete, Stob Coire nan Lochan (II)
North Face (ordinary route), Stob Coire Sgreamhach (II)
Boomerang Gully, Stob Coire nan Lochan (II)
Sron na Lairig (II)
Aonach Eagach crossing (II)
North-West Gully, Stob Coire nam Beith (III)
No.3 Gully, Aonach Dubh, West Face (III)
North Route (Direct), Bidean nam Bian (III)
4. Do you need a climbing partner next weekend?
Due to the shifts I work, I am almost never available at weekends. My days off are midweek. If you happen to be looking for a partner on a Thursday or Friday, and climb at my level (up to IV, or III mixed), I might be interested.
5. Can I use your photos on my website / in my publication?
Talk to my brother James, he's the photographer in most cases! All photos are ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, which means they may not be reproduced without permission. I will often be glad to give persmission for photos that belong to me, providing full credits are given.
6. Will I be okay crossing the Aonach Eagach / what's the Clachaig Gully path like?
The Aonach Eagach is perhaps justifiably the most popular objective in Glen Coe for the ordinary mountaineer. In summer, given good conditions, it is an easy scramble within the reach of most fit and steady walkers. Most people asking about the Ridge are thinking about a winter attempt. Under snow and ice, it is a serious (if not excessively difficult) undertaking requiring better than average fitness and a range of mountaineering skills. Ice axe and crampons are absolutely essential--twin axes and a full rack of gear are not required. Most climbers will opt to carry a rope and a few slings for the odd pitch, but not all will deploy them; this depends on the team. The most important skill on the Aonach Eagach is rapid but safe movement to avoid getting benighted.
The Clachaig Gully path is a tempting option as it leads directly to the pub and safety, but should be AVOIDED, particularly at the end of the day with darkness approaching. Many people have died here, often experienced climbers. A better option by far is to continue north towards the Pap of Glencoe, descending the good path towards the minor road near Glencoe village.
7. Do I really need an ice axe and crampons?
Surprisingly, a lot of people seem to think they can get away without winter equipment in winter! I have seen many walkers turning back when the snow gets steep and hard, or even more worryingly, keeping going thanks to the false safety of trekking poles. Poles are not a substitute for an ice axe and crampons in winter. Remember that the winter season, in the high mountains, potentially lasts from late September until early June. Unless you know for a fact that no snow is lying on your route of choice, I would always carry winter gear between the months of November and June as a matter of course.