Thursday, 29 January 2009

Winter Experience Lectures

A reminder that the Winter Experience Lectures start up again next Tuesday, and run every Tuesday for the next 6 weeks. Presented in association with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. these lectures are provided FREE of charge and provide an overview of some essential skills for the winter hills.

The topics covered include Avalanche Awareness, Winter Mountain Navigation and Winter Mountain Safety. See the poster or the Clachaig What's On listings for February & March for details and further information.

Come along 7.30pm for 8, grab a beer and prepare to be both entertained and educated.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A82 Clachaig junction bridge nears completion

Its been a year in the making but the end is now very near. The replacement of the bridge at the junction with the Clachaig / old village road and the A82 has been a fairly major civil engineering project.
For much of 2008, traffic along the A82 was diverted over a temporary Bailey bridge whilst the old bridge dating from the original construction of the road in the 1920's was removed and a new one built. As you can see, the Bailey bridge has served its purpose and has now been removed. The fine tuning is now taking place, with the temporary road being removed, piers being faced with natural stone and the finishing touches being added to the new and improved parking by Achnabeich (below).

Once finally clear, access to the Bidean path over the bridge should be much safer than before. In addition, the small loop of the old road has been rationalised to provide safer junction access and improved parking. Its a real win for the many folk who want to head up towards Bidean nam Bian via Coire Beith, or who just fancy taking a photo of the iconic view of the Elliot's cottage and Loch Achtriochtan.

Totem Pole author confirmed

Further to our post below, we've now firmed up the details for the Paul Pritchard Lecture at Clachaig. See the Clachaig What's On listings for March for further details.

Copyright Paul Pritchard

Paul Pritchard was one of Britain's leading rock climbers until his now infamous accident on the Totem Pole, a sea stack in Tasmania. The story of the accident and the long period of recovery that followed was told in his award winning book "The Totem Pole".

12 years after his last visit to Clachaig, Paul returns to present his lecture "The Longest Climb".

The lecture is timed to be part of the week long Fort William Mountain Festival - so all in all a great time to visit, get some fresh air and enjoy a bit of entertainment through the evenings.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

A tragic day

If you've started your Sunday morning with a bowl of cornflakes and the papers then chances are that you've seen Glencoe making the headlines, and for all the wrong reasons. An avalanche in Coire na Tulaich on Buachaille Etive Mor struck a group of 9 climbers heading up the coire at around lunchtime yesterday, killing 3.

The reason for attending the avalanche rescue training course at Nevis Range last weekend was to prepare us with the necessary skills in the event of being called to an avalanche incident. Little did I realise that I'd be called on to use pretty much everything we covered over the weekend just 7 days later.

It was all a bit odd really. One minute you're trying to round up the kids for a walk before a coffee shop lunch, the next its drop everything and you're belting up the glen at breakneck speed with the adrenalin already pumping. And after an afternoon at the sharp end, its back home in time for tea and back to family life again. Did all that just really happen?

Mine is not to comment on the detail of the events, and certainly not to make any judgement about them. However, as the day would have it, I was 2nd on scene and quickly had to draw on a variety of skills - from making primary assessments, through to probing techniques, to casualty handling intended to give the very best chances of survival, to simply hoping that the cornices still hanging above us weren't going collapse again just yet.

Accidents do happen. And if you're going to have any chance of altering the odds of you being involved in them then I'd recommend some well timed training.

Keep an eye on weather and avalanche reports for Glencoe on the web. And why not attend one of the FREE Winter Experience Lectures at Clachaig Inn, which will include information on avalanches, on Tuesdays during February & March.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


Busy working on a new shirt design. Still a work in progress. What do you think?

Monday, 19 January 2009


A fairly quiet weekend at the inn. Not surprising really given the forecast. "Damaging gusts to 85 mph..." I believe were mentioned on Friday's outlook. A good weekend then to head to the hills for a training weekend on Avalanches, organised for members of rescue teams across Scotland by the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland.

Our base for weekend was the swanky new HQ for Lochaber MRT in Fort William. Always used to think that our relatively new base here in Glencoe was quite good. But the new build on the edge of town takes things to a new level. I mean, they've even got a dishwasher! With its location, size and facilities, its not only an ideal base for co-ordinating the many rescues on Ben Nevis (& elsewhere) but could also serve as an excellent training & meeting base for events such as this.

However, once done with the Friday night lectures, we spent most of the weekend out in the white stuff at Nevis Range. Conditions for the weekend proved to be ideal, with snow accumlating fast and constantly changing the snowpack, and making some more 'realistic' rescue conditions.

Tom bravely takes one in the rear in the name of 'live' education.

The weekend covered a wide range of topics from avalanche prediction and forecasting, transceiver search techniques, probing, SARDA dogs, casualty triage & evacuation, and drinking beer whilst discussing it all afterwards.

Our casualty appears to have no pulse - hardly surprising as its a plastic dummy.

Testing conditions for the final live scenario, including this casualty which isn't a dummy!

The SARDA dogs didn't seem to notice that it was bloody freezing!

And, of course, to finish there was a 'terrible accident' which involved an avalanche which wiped out a climbing party which consisted of a remarkable mixture of course leaders and plastic dummys, some of whom had transceivers and some of whom didn't. Go fetch!

Keeping the probe line organised in challenging conditions.

I have to confess that as I woke at some ungodly hour on Saturday morning to rain hammering against the velux window I did wonder whether signing up had been one of my brighter ideas. With 20+ years in Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team I've seen more than my fair share of avalanches in Glencoe and the terrible damage that they can do. However, the course was an excellent refresher on some skills which I've not had to draw on for a few years, and also provided me with an ample portion of new ones. Plus, I got to use the new Mammut Pulse Barryvox transceivers which the team acquired just last week.

And I got home just in time to think about (but not actually get) a mug of steaming hot tea before being called out for another foray into the driving sleat & snow to look for a lost climber on Sron na Lairig.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Paul Pritchard to return to Clachaig

Back in the days when we ran the Clachaig Winter Lecture series we had any number of personalities from the world of climbing, mountaineering and other 'out there' silly past times. And certainly, the 'big names' such as Chris Bonington & Doug Scott drew in the crowds. But of all the lectures, it was Paul Pritchard that sole the show with the biggest crowd one impromptu February night.
Paul's climbing antics were well known in the climbing circles, but it was a climb on the 'Totem Pole' in Tasmania that really brought him wider acclaim. His book of the terrible accident won the Boardman Tasker award for mountain literature.

For some time we've been trying to Paul back to Clachaig. But, as Paul now lives half way round the world, its been a bit of a struggle. However, looks like we've agreed a date for March to coincide with the Fort William Mountain Festival.

More details soon. But make a note in your diary for Monday 9th March.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Huntin', shootin' & fishin'

Plenty of hotels out there in the Highlands which are often associated with the huntin', shootin' and fishin' crowd. But not usually Clachaig. A surprise therefore when we discovered we popped up in the Winter 2008 edition of Irish Country Sports & Country Life.

Despite the label of being a climbers' hotel (used again in this article) it doesn't matter who you are or why you're in Glencoe. Everybody fits in at Clachaig. Its all just part of who we are. Nice to get some more publicity - thanks guys!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Car Park Extension

As promised, here's a few more photos of the ongoing works.

None of this work would be possible without being able to obtain various fill materials from others in the area. And we've been really lucky with the timing of things. Some resurfacing of the A82 has meant that we were able to secure some planings which will bind to provide a really strong sub base. Next up is some surface dressing which is hopefully coming from the soon to be finished works replacing the bridge at the Clachaig road/A82 junction.

The area set aside for a play area is clearly visible now. And though exact plans are still being worked on (along with a budget - jeez, these commercial things cost a bit more than a swing set from Argos!), we're hoping to be able to find room for a mid sized play frame and a couple of sets of swings.

As soon as the growing season starts, we hope to get some seed into the 'green' bits and have it all looking good for the summer.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Busy as ever.

Every January its the same. We go from the busiest week of trading (Hogmanay) to the quietest. Its as if all our customers are in one big bath and someone pulls the plug on the first weekend of the New Year and everyone goes whirling round and round, down the plughole and back to work.

So are we all sat on our laurels doing very little as a result? No, and neither are we dashing up those ice covered hills in anticipation of a great day out on the tops. No, we're mostly planning, scheming, cleaning and preparing for the year ahead. As busy as ever.

Not least of which is the ongoing landscaping work which you might just have noticed if you've been past Clachaig in the last month.

These photos were taken a few days ago and the site has moved on significantly already. More photos soon. The plan is to create further parking - probably 13 car spaces, plus 2 oversized vehicles with turning head, a new access through to the Chalet car park and a childrens' play area. The play area being at the foot of the bank where the drain pipe is currently visible, ideal for M&D to sit out by the Bidean Lounge seating and enjoy a drink while keeping a watchful eye.

If the saying that you learn something new every day is indeed true, then today's education has been in how much space you need for a swing in order to comply with British Standard EN1176 and keep your insurance company happy!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Happy New Year

Yes, a Happy New Year to all. And with the new year we've decided to take a new format with our Blogs. Instead of using the Clachaig web site we've opted to use Blogger as its a bit quicker, easier and allows us to display larger images too.

As ever at this time of year, we're catching a quick breath after a busy week or so over Hogmanay. Here's bar manager Jack's quick report of the frolics and festivities...

On Saturday 27th we reopened after Christmas to start of the festive celebrations with a bang. Johnny Hill helped them along with his usual, full of energy tunes. Sunday night saw acclaimed sessionist Scott McDonald take to the Boots Bar stage and he didn’t disappoint!

One of the best bands to grace the Clachaig, The Shoes were next up on Monday night, and with the pub getting ever busier in the build up to Hogmanay they took the roof off the place as only they can! The following night saw Bonnie and Jim wow the crowd in the Boots Bar. They may be relatively new to the Clachaig but are fast gaining a great reputation amongst our followers.

So on to Hogmanay itself, with crisp clear skies and low temperatures making a nice change from the traditional wind and rain, many of the punters enjoyed great days out on the hill before coming to Clachaig to start the build up to the New Year celebrations. As the evening progressed the party got into full swing (and the staff were being ran off their feet by you thirsty hungry punters!) When Flint took to the stage at ten the reaction of the crowd made it obvious this was going to be a special night! Auld Lang Syne was sung with gusto after the bells struck twelve and the party just kept on going! Through in the Lounge bar Scott McDonald played in the bells then continued into the wee small hours for the residents of the hotel and the self catering properties.

On New Years Day it was Pure Malt’s time to entertain the masses and it was a fantastic night had by all. Pure Malt are a class act and a Clachaig favourite. Rumour has it they even be playing Hogmanay itself next year, watch this space!

No time to rest for us though as we enter the weekend, we’ve got Graeme Pearson playing on Friday night then Bonnie and Jim returning on Saturday night. Should be a good weekend!

All in all another great New Year at the Clachaig, thanks to everyone who made it such an enjoyable few days and relatively stress free for our hard working and dedicated staff! See you next year!