I’ve driven through Glencoe more times than I can remember since I started hillwalking, each time always looking up to the Pap of Glencoe in wonderment at it’s fine shape and great vantage point over the village below it. For some strange reason though, it never actually occurred to me to go up it until recently. I try not to get too obsessed with thoughtlessly ticking off all the Munros anymore like I was when I started out six years ago and this was a great opportunity to remind not just myself but any keen hillwalker, just how special these often ignored hills are. It turns out that what the Pap of Glencoe may lack in stature, it most definitely makes up for in it’s colossal character.
I was in Fort William for a few days with Dyan and we had done Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean in the Mamores the previous day. Our legs (mainly mine!) weren’t feeling up to the task of another long walk so this seemed the perfect compromise for both of us. The walk starts from the edge of the forest next to Glencoe village. It’s a fairly steep hill due to it being about 700 metres high and only two miles to the top. This, coupled with the ever-rising sun meant we were quickly shedding our winter clothes and within about half an hour I was dressed for summer in just shorts and t-shirt. A big change from the previous day, walking through thick snow for hours on end.
It felt like every step we took, the views got dramatically better all around us. With the great summit of Bidean nam Bian to the south east and Beinn a’Bheithir towering above Ballachulish on the shores of Loch Leven to the west. On top of the great weather and views, the bonus was that we were out on a Monday so we hadn’t even met anyone yet and were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves for most of the day.
As we reached the bealach between the Pap and Cnap Glas, the path veers left to head north west up the final scramble to the summit. Feeling confident, I avoided the path as much as I could to find my own way up the rocky ascent. It was fairly tame though so there was no danger at all and before we knew it, we were at the summit and totally spoiled for views. Whether we were looking north east to Ben Nevis and Stob Ban where we were the day before or west down Loch Leven which opens out to Loch Linnhe, it was all utterly spectacular.
On the top, the weather was so calm, peaceful and warm, we just had to sit down for an hour to enjoy it fully. Not many things beat sitting on a summit in Scotland under a clear blue sky with views like this all around you, especially when it’s a Monday and you’re not stuck at work in an office like you should be! We didn’t want to leave but had vague plans to catch the sunset from Conic Hill over Loch Lomond later in the evening so pressed on back down, this time taking the scree laden route straight down to the south west from the summit.
I never like taking the same path down a hill as the one I went up, this was why we chanced it with the scree for the descent but it was a bit of a trudge further down. I’m not sure how I would tackle it next time. Maybe do it in reverse just for a change but taking two steps up and one step down is never a fun way to go up a hill and that’s what would happen on the scree. That’s something to worry about another day.
Once we’d slid and trudged our way back to the forest at the base of the hill, we realised we had no more energy for walking and didn’t want to ruin an amazing day by overdoing it. We decided that instead of going to Conic Hill, we’d take our time on the way back, stopping often for photographs and to dip our feet in the River Coe. It proved a little too cold for me though and Dyan showed me up by walking around in it no bother at all.
So a cancelled plan to walk a few Munros which would have maybe been too much for our weary legs turned into a fantastic day up a tame little hill that boasts one of my new favourite views in Scotland. I’d call that a success wouldn’t you?