Sunday, 14 April 2013

The end of my time in Glencoe, but not the end of the blog.

 A blog post to sum up my 4 years in Glencoe….where the hell do I start?

I only came here for a summer to save some money, and somehow forgot to go home.

"I'm definitely leaving at the end of next season"…I said that so many times to my co-workers at the Clachaig that it has become a long-standing joke, and I'm not sure any of them really believed that I meant it this time. I have lived and breathed Glencoe since 2009, almost obsessed with the staggering scale of opportunities that it provides for somebody like me. But it's time to move on, to go and explore the nooks and crannies of somewhere else, to be new somewhere again.

About 11am on the 30th August 2010…I was soloing up the cruxes of North-East Buttress on Ben Nevis. A thin layer of frost was coating the holds of the "Forty-foot Corner" - I was out of my depth but didn't know it, and I topped out onto the summit of the Ben feeling more amazing than I'd ever felt before.

At the time I remember thinking that soloing North-East Buttress would be my "big climb" of my time living in the Highlands. It would be a one-off. But like everything that becomes an addiction, you always need one more hit. And the rest is history….

I'm going to let some photos say the rest, but I owe a huge thankyou to all my friends and co-workers at the Clachaig Inn over the last few years. Some of you helped shape me in ways you probably don't know, and I doubt I'll ever work anywhere as brilliantly mad again.

So the end of my time in the glen, but not the end of the blog. Now I'm off to see what living in the Cairngorms is all about, after a month on Skye. See you out there folks.

Alex Roddie and myself climbing on the East face of Aonach Dubh, June 2009. Still very new to the Glen and climbing as many mountain rock-routes as possible.

 Rannoch Moor, Jan 2010. Temperatures of almost -20C and weeks of high pressure made for an unforgettable first winter in the glen.

Glen Etive, April 2010. Somewhere to go for peace and quiet.

 The Aonach Eagach, Dec 2011. It was here that made the decision to stay in Glencoe, looking down on a cloud inversion in Sept 2009.

Soloing Castle Ridge (III**),  Ben Nevis Dec 2011. My first "big" winter solo. I ended up soloing about 100 winter routes up to grade III,4, during some exceptionally good winter seasons.

 Inside a snow-hole, Creag Meagaidh, Jan 2011.

 A cloud inversion on the Cuillin Ridge, Skye, March 2012. Two great days soloing Pinnacle Ridge (Diff***) and Amphitheatre Areté (Mod**) and the Northern and Southern sections of the Cuillin Ridge.

First ascent of "West is Best" (V.Diff*), Aonach Dubh West Face, May 2012.
 Glen Etive, Nov 2010. Photography and climbing have battled it out as my "main" hobby throughout my time in the Highlands.

Soloing The North-East Ridge of Aonach Beag (Diff*), May 2012. A very memorable solo of a remote and adventurous route.
 The Isle of South Uist, Nov 2010. A visit to my good friend Julie MacIntyre in the Outer Hebrides.

 The Aonach Eagach, July 2012. The Ridge would become possibly my most photographed subject in the glen
 A trip to Glenbuck Bothy with my girlfriend Nicole, May 2012.

 Soloing East Buttress (Diff***), Beinn Eighe, July 2012. A superb route and a great introduction to climbing in Torridon.

 Ben Lui, Jan 2011. One of the absolute most beautiful days I've ever seen on a mountain.

 Sgurr nam Fiannaidh, Feb 2011. One of countless sunrises I spent on mountain-tops.
 The view from Carn Mor Dearg, Oct 2012. Mountain "enchainments" starting becoming an interest in 2012, on this occasion Carn Mor Dearg, Ben Nevis and the Aonach Eagach back to back in 9 hours.

 The view from Gearr Aonach, March 2011. Early rises would become a bit of a speciality, and I would start going to very great lengths in order to get certain photographs.

 The Northern Lights, Rannoch Moor, Oct 2012. A photo I'd dreamed about taking for years previously.

Soloing "Archie's Ridge" (III,4*), Aonach Dubh Dec 2012.
 The Great Ridge of Garbh Bheinn (DIff**), July 2011. One of the best mountain routes I've ever soloed.

Watching sea eagles on Mull with Nicole, Feb 2013.

 Ben Nevis North Face July 2011. The prominent North-East Buttress, V.Diff*** (left-hand skyline ridge) was the route by which I summited Ben Nevis for the first time.

Soloing "Pioneer Gully" (III*), Coire an-t Slugain, Feb 2013. The start of an exceptional 6 week period of winter conditions.

The famous snow areté in "Staghorn Gully" (III***), Creag Meagaidh, Feb 2013.

 Soloing "Taxus" (III***), Beinn an Dothaidh, March 2013.

 The view from Ben Nevis, Nov 2011. Sat on the summit of the Ben at 10am in unbelievably warm November temperatures. I went on to climb North Buttress on the Buachaille the same afternoon.

Soloing "West Gully" (III*), Beinn Udlaidh, March 2013.

 The beach at Traigh Allt Chailgeag, Durness, July 2011. Several trips to the far North-West, and I was blown away by the landscape every time.

 The West face of Aonach Dubh, Mar 2011. This face would fascinate me more than anywhere else in the glen, and climbing here would always be a memorable adventure.

Stob Ghabhar, Feb 2010. Sunburnt in February.

 Soloing the probably first ascent of "The Surprise" (Severe*), Aonach Dubh, Aug 2012. The Un-named Pinnacle would become a favorite haunt during summer 2012.

Ben Nevis, March 2012. I started actively seeking out cloud-inversions whenever they were likely. Get in the right place at the right time, and they are one of the greatest natural wonders you'll ever see.

 The Clach-Glas-Blaven Traverse (Diff****), Skye, Sep 2011. The best route of its grade in Scotland? Still the most enjoyable summer mountain day I've had.

Nicole entering the deepest sea-cliff in Scotland, Isle of Mull, Feb 2013. I was fortunate to be able to visit 10 of the Hebridean islands during my time in Glen.

 Sea-cliff climbing at Reiff, Inverpollaidh, July 2009. 

Alex Roddie on the crest of the lesser known Aonach Eagach of Bridge of Orchy, Feb 2010.

Bidean nam Bian, the queen of Glencoe, March 2011. My favourite mountain on the mainland and one with peerless character and presence. I lost count of the number of times I stood on the summit of Bidean and Stob Coire Sgreamhach.


  1. Some cracking photos there.

    While it may be sad to leave Glencoe, having been to the Cairngorms, I think you'll enjoy it there just as much.

    Good luck with your new venture.

  2. Fabulous photos. Have reblogged it at BoggyBrae blogspot.

  3. It has been a pleasure following you and Alex's adventures over the years. The glen will be an emptier place without you.

  4. Some stunning photos here. Keep it up!

  5. An amazing set of photos and memories - I hope you move goes well.

  6. Sad to see you go, the posts have kept me connected with a part of the world I love and I have been touched by the honesty, humour and genuine emotion of your posts.

    Wish you the very best for the future and hope you continue to write!

  7. Well James, you have certainly been very lucky with the weather. There is nothing like being on the spot to take advantage of such superb conditions. Really enjoyed looking at your excellent pics over the seasons.

  8. I'm just blown away by your photo's, your blog has made me realise that I want to spend more time in Scotland in the winter. Keep up the good work.