A favourite howff


ENJOYED a grand walk up to Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe today and as usual I stopped for brew at my favourite howff, a natural shelter that I had regularly used as a youngster when I came here to climb, for it was on that west face of Aonach Dubh that I learned to rock climb.

Well over forty-odd years ago, spotty faced and skinny, nervous and unsure and shown the ropes, literally, by cockily confident gangrels. There was little difference in age between us, I recall, but light years in experience, in attitude as well as experience. I learned much from them but more importantly, in climb after climb, I learned to love this corrie, its crags and its burn, and its little howff.

I stop by it every time I’m in this area. The floor is still hard-packed and firm below its rock-overhang roof. Its protective dry stone wall has been built with loving attention and there is a density in the structure which cries out its impunity to the elements. Across the corrie, beyond the roar of the burn, the East Face of Aonach Dubh rears up steeply, vertically. I once knew that crag well, almost as intimately as I knew any portion of stone in this rocky land. I wonder if I would have experienced such a connection if I had learned to climb on an indoor climbing wall?

It’s a curious thing but I just like to sit within the damp walls of this little howff and enjoy a brew while I slide into a dwam of nostalgia.

It was from here that I first climbed Bidean, on a dank wet day that made the porphyr too slippery for rock climbing. We went for a pad instead, up the length of the corrie, past the lochans and over boulder scree to reach the foot of Stob Coire nan Lochan’s east ridge, just where it levels out to become Gear Aonach.

A rocky scramble took us to the summit from where a southerly ridge sweeps down into a fine bow-shaped col. Little did I see that day of the great crags of Dinner Time Buttress and Church Door Buttress as we made our way steeply up the other side to the rocky summit of Bidean nam Bian.

Today I just wandered up to Stob Coire nan Lochan and enjoyed a nice wee circuit of the corrie. The route to Bidean was mobbed – almost like the Lake District, but there was no-one else on the ridge above Aonach Dubh. I had it all to myself, and do you know this – although the weather was mostly fine and clear, there wasn’t a wind turbine to be seen in any direction. Not one.


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