Saturday, 27 November 2010

Hourglass Gully, Bidean nam Bian (posted by James)

Deep cold on the cliffs of Bidean nam Bian

Not that I needed convincing, but yesterday proved to me without a shadow of doubt that I am either slightly mad, or just single-minded beyond belief.

I'd been on South Uist since tuesday visiting a friend, and the ferry didn't get me back to Oban until 6am Friday morning, so I wasn't back to Glencoe until 7am.

I hadn't slept on the ferry at all…a band of Gaelic-singing, accordian-playing Uist natives had kept me awake! But when I got back to Glencoe - a clear, freezing sky, and the promise of consolidated snow on the highest summits.

Only November?? Astonishing winter beauty on Stob Coire nam Beith.

So I got back to the Bothy, after 7 hours on a ferry overnight with no sleep, packed my bag, and set off towards my favourite of all places, Bidean nam Bian's north cliffs.

Hourglass Gully is possibly the steepest Grade I route I know, and forms a striking line up the West summit of Bidean. As it happens there had been some fresh snow, a lot of which had been deposited in the gully, so it was actually quite unstable.

Hourglass Gully (slightly right of centre), in spring 2009

There is a quite amazing cave half way up Hourglass Gully at the moment, where the snow has drifted against the top of a chock-stone. Huge icicles hang down into the cave, and there is an other-worldly feel to the place.

The summit ridges of Bidean are utterly spectacular now. Deep powder snow covering every rock, rime ice six inches thick sticking out horizontally from the cliffs. Small tornados of spindrift weave their way across the slopes. This is what I live for!


  1. yet again a good post. i havn't actually been on Bidean nam Bian yet but it is on the list. it's amazing what a sunny snow day can do to fatigue. sleep well.

  2. Stephen, Bidean is a fantastic mountain, undoubtably my favourite in the world (of the peaks I've climbed, of course!) It has enough variety to last a lifetime. Even in terms of walking routes, there are at least three all of exceptional quality in winter, and none of them easy ... for climbing there are infinite possibilities. Its only drawback is lack of obvious scrambling opportunities (although there are plenty of scrambles on the lower Three Sisters).

  3. Good photos! Climbed this yesterday with my uncle in deep spring snow: my first winter gully. Hard going but worth every bit of it. Slightly tricky at the waist of the hourglass where, without a base layer, after some thrashing around it was soon down to the bare, wet, smooth rock. We emerged into brilliant sunshine and pristine views in every direction. One to remember!