Glencoe round

I came to Scotland on the 13th June to take up a position as a seasonal ranger with Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National park. I needed to find a job I could do whilst recovering from back surgery and was ready to get out of construction and back to my first passion, nature conservation and working with the land. As someone who identified as a mountain/trail runner before my injury nightmare and surgery rehab, Scotland would be a fine playground to get back to running and exploring in the hills. I progressed well, up to around 40 miles, 10k ft climbing and most importantly was gaining confidence in my body again to respond to what I asked of it. I wanted to finish my Scottish adventure with something big though, or as big as I could do after two months of training and 2 years of injury woe. This led me to think about all the big Scottish rounds, but I was in no condition to try a Ramsey, Tranter or Rigby and so when I learnt of the established Glencoe round at a mere 24 miles and 15k f of climb the game was afoot. I had previously only ever driven through Glencoe so I did not know any of the mountains or lines. I downloaded Finlay Wild’s GPX file from when he whipped around in 6hr 35mins and booked a night at the Clachaig inn.

Aonach eagach the final nail in my coffin

The route itself is 8 Munros and ‘all the 3000ft tops and an extended Aonach Eagach from the Devil’s Staircase’

Included peaks: An t-Sron, Stob Coire nam Beith, Bidean nam Bian, Stob Coire nam Lochan, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, both tops of Beinn Fhada, Stob Coire Raineach, Stob Dubh, Stob na Broige, Stob Coire Altruim, Stob na Doire and Stob Dearg before crossing the road at Altnafeadh to return by Stob Mhic Mhartuin, Sron a’ Choire Odhair-bhig, Spot height 903 (A’ Chailleach?), Sron Gharbh, Am Bodach, Meall Dearg, Stob Coire Leith and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh

The route I took

I set off just after 6am from Clachaig straight up a pathless climb to An t-Sron it was a beautifully clear, crisp summer morning which was convenient because after taking 1hr 15mins to cover the first 2 miles and 3k ft of vert I realised that I was severely underprepared for such an endeavour and it was going to be a long day. The cloud floated around the tops as I climbed up to Stob Coire nam Beith, creating the glorious majesty that can only be found on a summit just after sunrise. Onto Bidean nam Bian and out and back to Stob Coire nam Lochan and I was well and truly cooked. I never intended on doing a fast time but the crushing reality that my 10hr target was well out of my current capabilities did take some digesting. I was eating well, although I realised that if I completed the round I would likely run out of food due to my slow pace. The other issue that presented itself was the lack of water sources. Even throughout the hot weather and drought the UK had been experiencing, I had not struggled to find water on my runs, but they had mostly been consigned to Loch Lomond national park and the Ochils, Glencoe was decidedly more severe and I was thirsty. Over to Stob Coire Sgreamhach along the ridge and a steep descent to set up the climb to Stob Coire Raineach and Stob Dubh. Utilising the technology so I could follow a GPX was brilliant, but not knowing what was to come and how to prepare for it was a challenge. This descent being a prime example, there is a lot of scree running on this round which I was unfamiliar with, leading to lots of debris in your shoes and having a wee pair of gaiters on would have helped immensely. Alas I did not have any and so my shoes were full of rocks which eventually lead to a couple of fair sized blisters on the souls of my feet. Running over the two peaks of Etive Beag was still enjoyable and taking a pathless line off the summit of Stob Dubh allowed me to startle quite a few deer and look on with envy as they effortlessly bounded over the terrain.

My first broken spectre on Bidean nam Bian

I kept telling myself that all I needed to do was claw my way up the grassy ascent of Stob na Broige and over Stob Coire, Stob Na Doire and Stob Dearg and get to the A82 and that was the bulk of the round accomplished and I was home and dry. In theory I think I was right, but I was so dehydrated and weak limbed that the more runnable section that leads up to Meall Dearg was still just an afternoon stroll. I did get to refill though before the climb which was very much needed and I knew I was going to finish at this point. From Meall Dearg over to Stob Coire Leith and Sgor nam Fiannaidh the Aonach Eagach ridge was patheticlly slow, my leaden limbs didn’t fancy any technical rock but blunder on I did, and having accepted the day was always about finishing, I got my head up and took in the views which were still unrelentingly stunning after 12 hours. I most admit I did swear at the rocks a lot on the final descent as I tried to nimbly flow down the scree when in reality I clunkingly fell down the final 3000ft to the road.

I had a brilliant day really, not in terms of performance but it was never about that, I wanted to finish these 3 months in Scotland with a grand day out and a body that would allow me to do the things I love. My two biggest mistakes on the day, if we ignore the fitness and lack of familiarisation would be not taking poles and wearing gaiters, I know for next time.

I ended up taking 13hrs 37mins to complete the round covering 24.7 miles and 15,561ft

Kit used

  • VJ Xtrm 2 shoes
  • S/lab 5 vest
  • Compressport free belt pro
  • Mainly ate Lidl cereal bars and a few Torq gels I had lying around because the post office strike delayed my delivery of Maurten which I was going to try. It only added up to just over 2000 calories which wasn’t enough neither was the 3 litres of water I drank
On the way up to Stob Mhic Mhartuin, no water, no legs and still a long way to go

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