Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Clachaig Customers Donate £517

Got any small change, mister? So the saying goes as we ask you to donate your change at the bar once you've bought a round. And let's face it, we don't give you a lot of it.

Rescue Team members out training in some wild conditions

So, all the more pleasing to know that we've just handed over £517 to Glencoe Mountain Rescue, raised through the collection boxes at Clachaig Inn. Thank you from us, and thank you from them.

Handing over your small change is one way of donating to the voluntary team. Signing up with EasyFundRaising and donating while you shop online is another and it won't cost you a penny. More details on our web site.

Bolder! Hungrier?

Definitely bolder. Perhaps hungrier? With a general rise in the temperatures now chances are the grass and the green shoots are going to think about making an appearance, particularly at lower altitudes. And these guys look ready to munch as soon as it does!

Book a stay at Clachaig Chalets and you never know who you'll see in the garden!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

(Not so) Smart Cars

Aren't Smart Cars brilliant! With little wheels in each corner they're really manoeuverable and can park just about anywhere!

Smart cars; not so smart owners? (Yes, you know who you are - and so do we!)

Monday, 22 March 2010

And relax

Does your life go flying past at 100mph? Do you ever wonder where another week has gone? Despite the fact that it's fairly steady here in Glencoe at the moment, in that lull between the peak of the winter and the Easter holidays, it's still all go. So much to do. So much to organise. So much to plan. The truth is that I doubt that we would have it any other way.

However, every now and then you've just got to step back a moment, take a deep breath and relax. And no better place than the beach - the first visit of the season.

The west coast by Arisaig is still waking up. The only camp site open is Invercaimbe, but with camping right on the beach and views like this (and no one there) who cares! And while it might not be quite warm enough for sunbathing, there was barely a cloud to be seen and the wind was perfect for an hour or two with the power kite.

And so back to the grind...

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Tiger or Sheep?

Looking at the Glencoe hills today, it doesn't look there'll be much in the way of avalanche activity. After months (yes, months) of cold weather, we've finally had a good old west coast thaw, and it's all looking a little spring like out there.

No, not a view of Glencoe today

The rather exceptional conditions of the last couple of weeks have passed (though it's still very much winter at 1000m). And there were plenty of exceptional avalanches. The upper part of the west face of Aonach Dubh, the face to the north of the Red Burn on Ben Nevis, a huge slide on Creag Meagaidh, and some tree-busting snow on the approach to Sgurr a'Mhaim in the Mamores to name just a few. And all these avalanches have something in common, apart from the fact that by Scottish standards, they were fairly big. The debris from each one crossed onto usually 'safe' paths, and this has created much discussion in the hillwalking world. But this blog isn't about that debate. Instead, it's about my holidays, quite a few years ago.

Summer in the Hushe Valley, northern Pakistan

I know, it's supposed to be about Glencoe. There is a link, albeit tenuous. And the link is avalanches that encroach into 'safe' locations.

Moonrise over K6, or K something or other anyway

It was a trip to a small trekking peak in the far north of Pakistan. We were a small group, and 3 of us had just flown across from India where we'd been biking over the highest road pass in the world, the Kardung La in Ladakh. We were fit, going like express trains (until we took the porters on at a game of cricket at 14,000 feet at least), and the sun was out. It was a superb trek into some of the most spectacular scenery on earth.

Crossing the glacier, early morning on summit day. Masherbrum behind.

One of our number had transferred to our trip from another one which hadn't run. That one was a trek. This one was a trek with a bit of a climb in it. Climbing wasn't on the agenda and so there wasn't a huge amount of enthusiasm for taking on the climbing bit, despite the fact that we were effectively 3 experienced climbers and just 3 trekkers. Whilst certainly not 'guides', we had it fairly well covered when it came to keeping an eye.

Off the glacier and up the ridge to the final steep section

As summit day came, we were still hopeful that our trekker could be persuaded to come along. Go on, find the Tiger in you we thought. But no. Our trekker coudn't be persuaded to come along for that 'dangerous' climbing carry on. No, instead, they'd enjoy a nice safe day catching some rays back in Base Camp.

Just about to 'top out' on the summit ridge.

Off we went. It was a ridiculously early start. Headtorches for the first couple of hours, a stunning dawn on the glacier beneath Masherbrum, and then a morning ascent up to the steep bits to the top. And what a view! Base Camp was clearly visible on the glacial moraine below. The views from Trinity Peak down to Layla Peak and beyond were just something else. As we sat in the warmth of the sun, we thought about our trekker who'd decided to stay in Base Camp.

The avalanche came down from high up on Trinity Peak - and kept on going

And then we spotted the avalanche. It came from high up on Trinity Peak. A huge cloud of snow rolled down the mighty face, billowing and growing as it went. Cameras clicked and we looked on as we witnessed it's progress. But then we realised that it wasn't stopping. The big cloud reached the bottom of the slope and then continued across the glacier, over to the far moraine and straight on towards - Base Camp.

Base Camp - there under that white cloud!

We were relieved to find that the experience in Base Camp hadn't been too harrowing. They too had watched the avalanche tumbling down the slope. And across the glacier. A huge wind blast hit the tents and for several minutes everything disappeared in a blizzard of icy crystals and snow. By the time we returned the sun had melted all evidence of the incident, and the porters had sorted the tents out again.

But it left us all wondering. Tiger or Sheep? Which life to lead?

Monday, 15 March 2010

Oh! Deer.

We've heard a few stories recently about how this harsh winter has been affecting the local deer population. Being a deer can't be a whole lot of fun at the best of times. Dodging cars at 70mph on the A82 across Rannoch Moor, being rained on constantly and not being able to apply enough Skin So Soft to escape the midgies.

However, this year its even less fun. With all the snow and the persistent frost, we're told that many red deer are in danger of starving to death, as the food supply is frozen. No surprise then, that the deer are coming down lower and getting a bit bolder when it comes to getting a nibble of grass.

These guys have been around the car parks and the chalets at Clachaig since Friday, and don't seem that bothered about the many photographers queuing up to take their photos. Redcurrant Jelly anyone?

Friday, 12 March 2010

On the write track!

Here at Clachaig we're fairly well versed on the events of the morning of 13th February 1692, so when a new member of our team announced she planned to use The Glencoe Massacre as the backdrop to her new book we were pretty impressed. Well a couple of years have passed, several dozen beer mats, napkins & waitress pads have been collated and our 'newby' has finally completed her magnum opus. "In Corrag, Susan Fletcher tells us the story of an epic historic event, of the difference a single heart can make – and how deep and lasting relationships that can come from the most unlikely places.”

We are all very proud of Sue and raise a glass - or two - to her literary success. However, as the saying goes 'life imitates art' Sue has sadly moved on to pastures new, leaving behind some great memories and many new friends. We all miss her cheery smile here at Clachaig and hope she'll return to write the sequel very soon.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Why do my days never go to plan?

It all started off so well. I had a plan and I was going to stick to it. In fact, so confident was I of my plan, and the need to get a few things on my 'to do' list ticked off, that I even told people I'd be at my desk all day. After all this time you'd think that I would have learnt that when it comes running this show things never go to plan.

Today's little interruption was a rescue call out to No. 2 gully on the west face of Aonach Dubh. Either oxygen bottles are getting heavier and I'm getting slower, or helicopters are getting quicker. Regardless, my attempts to beat it to the scene fell a few hundred feet short. However, it was a nice day to watch some fairly impressive flying as the chopper flew deep into the depths of No. 2 to winch the casualty, and also to admire the view and take a couple of photos.

Here's one from the approaches to the Dinner Time Buttress looking across the foot of the west face into Coire Beith. Its hard to capture on an iPhone camera, but the avalanche debris at the foot of the face is just amazing. Huge long run outs beneath no. 4 and no. 5 gullies, and it just keeps on going all the way down over the waterfall and lower.

And then the sun came out so I thought I'd try something a little arty. Which was nice.

The view down to a frozen Loch Achtriochtan and the Aonach Eagach was nice too. Although the snow at this altitude was softening slightly, the ground under foot(boot) was rock hard. That'll be the permafrost then!

Finally, a view back down the glen. Can you see my office window?

And to all those I told I would get that job done today, definitely, I promise I'll get it done tomorrow. Probably.

P.S. See the STV News report (including my 15 nano seconds of fame as I pack a rucksack!)

Friday, 5 March 2010

Licensing, and time for a wee rant

Sorry folks, but I had to get this off my chest.

Some two years ago now, in readiness for the new Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, we spent a huge amount of time and money making sure we got our renewal for our premises licence in by the deadline of 7th March 2008. Full drawings for the hotel had to be redone from scratch, forms were filled in, hoops were jumped through, "i"s were dotted and "t"s were crossed. Fees were paid. But given the importance we made sure it was done correctly and on time. All to make sure we were ready for 1st September 2009 when the new Act was due to take effect. There were also numerous other things to have in place by this time which I won't bore you with now.

So why tell you this? Well today (5th March 2010), we finally received our Premises Licence. That's the one that by law we had to have 7 months ago. Okay, we'd been assured we were legal and the licence had been approved if not yet issued. But that's two years to issue a license! Two years? And the funny part? Clachaig was one of the first wave of applications that had to be made. We're one of the first businesses in the area to get the licence issued. Most others are still waiting. The time, the stress, and the hassle this caused us back then. Ooh, it makes me mad! Two years! Does anyone have contact details for the Guinness Book of World Records?

Okay, rant over. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Time perhaps to chill over a pint or a dram, (now we can officially sell them).
Or better still, both. I see tonight there's a new beer on tap. A 1488 Whisky Ale from Traditional Scottish Ales. At 7% ABV I'd better take it easy, but I'm feeling better already.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Going Commando

The peace of a lovely spring-like afternoon was shattered when the Boots Bar suddenly went 'Commando'.

Taking a short break from their 10 day mountain training course, 42 Commando Royal Marines from Plymouth popped in for a quick refresher.

Having recently returned from a tour in Afganistan, the more wintry and slightly less arid conditions of Glencoe probably provided a stark contrast. In the morning they completed a quick run up Bidean Nam Bian and during their course they will be doing night navigation exercises & cliff assault techniques.

Monday, 1 March 2010

The mother of all (Scottish) avalanches?

I was definitely not going to mention avalanches, or even the snow today. But, day dreaming and trying to find myself some motivation to look at the VAT returns, I found myself staring out of the office window at the West Face of Aonach Dubh. (Well, you would wouldn't you if your office window had a view like this!) And then I noticed something a little odd.

Can you spot it? Look very carefully.

Does this help? There's a huge crownwall running all the way across the upper slope from somehwere above D buttress along the way across to a line somehwere below the summit as viewed from Clachaig. Wouldn't like to guess how big it is but to be able to see it so clearly from here I'd hazard a guess at 2m+

The debris has swept right across the snowy slope and in some places has gone over the cliffs on the west face. A quick peak through the telescope suggests that the bits at either end which haven't slid are extremely unstable and will probably slide in due course, possible with the sun watrming the slope.

It's huge.

Fortunately, this part of the mountain doesn't see much footfall. However, looking into Dinner Time Buttress and the top of no. 2 gully, which is a popular ascent / descent route, another crownwall is clearly visible. This is ever so slightly higher than the point at which Glencoe Mountain Rescue attended an incident last weekend.

Wish you were here? But not up there!

I've left all these photos at max size so that you can check the detail better. Click to make it big! (and make sure you link to them rather than nicking them for your own blogs, please!) I also hear reports of a huge avalanche on Ben Nevis, tracking all the way down to the half way lochan.

Glencoe has never looked better. But keep it safe out there.