Mountain blog: When choosing the wrong top can make you late for Reunion Dinner

By Emily Donoho at

We’d intended on climbing Meall nan Eun and Stob Coire an Albannaich, two Munros up Glen Etive.

James and I were still in our winter baselayers but it was in the realm of 15 degrees and we felt knackered and overheated as we slogged up towards the saddle between Meall nan Eun and its neighbouring top.

It was March and Scotland was experiencing the first spell of sustained clear, sunny weather in some time, and the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club was in Glen Coe for its Reunion Meet.

The group spanning the generations was based at King’s House Hotel.

Clear: March offered the first decent weather of the year to venture on the Scottish mountains.

For us, there was no obvious route up to the summit, just a hairy scramble over steep grass and rock.

It petered out onto a broad plateau that formed into a ridge snaking to a high top a couple kilometres away.

But Meall nan Eun is a domed summit, not a long ridge.

As we stared at the ridge, at the domed mountain next to the one we were on, and at the map, it dawned on us that we’d climbed the wrong mountain.

Not Meall na Eun, but a satellite top of Stob Ghabhar called Meall Odhar.

There was swearing, then waffle about what we needed to do, because the ascent route up vertical grass was not a wise descent route (it wasn’t a wise ascent route, either, but it’s always easier scrambling up).

Generations: The Reunion Meet gives walkers of all ages the chance to share their love of the hills.

Our options were to climb over Stob Gobhar, which would bring us out at Victoria Bridge, far away from the car and the King’s House, or to scramble down a potentially climbable nose back to the approach path, or to follow a route down the side of the mountain to another path that went into Glen Etive, but five miles or so away from the car.

First, we attempted option two, the scramble, but the grass was steep and wet, the crags unfriendly, and it seemed as though a slip on the grass could send you down a long way. Continuing further would be stupid. We clambered back to the summit.

I called Mark Brims, a fellow GUMC member, and let him know we might end up in Glen Etive, or Victoria Bridge, because we were idiots: we had done the wrong hill.

Then we debated whether we should try for Glen Etive or Stob Ghabhar and opted for Glen Etive, hoping the little footbridges would be intact.

It was more sensible if they were, but we’d be getting wet if they weren’t. The descent route, at least, took us down an easy angled grassy shoulder, and once off the mountain we came to the stalker’s path (with intact-enough bridges) leading to the Glen Etive Road.

Mark had driven down the road looking for us. Not knowing that, we’d hitchhiked back towards the King’s House, but met Mark driving the other way a mile or so from where we’d been picked up.

We jumped from our hitchhike lift to Mark’s car, and he chauffeured us back down the glen to rescue our car.

One rushed change of clothes later, we were in the café with the crowd, eight current members and twelve old members.

Stunning: Majestic views over the mountains around Glen Coe.

The King’s House staff were running off their feet to feed us all from the small kitchen in the café.

The hotel itself has been closed since November for refurbishment, although at the time of this writing, no work has been started on it.

Now a bit about why we were at the King’s House.

Since 1991, Glasgow University alumnae who were GUMC members in the late 1940s (when the club started) have organized a gathering at the King’s House Hotel for current members and alumnae, old and new.

The hotel had been owned by Kitty Leitch, an ex-GUMC member and one of the founders of Reunion Meet, so it had always been a natural place to meet.

This weekend would be different for everyone because Kitty, now in her 80s, had sold the hotel and grounds to the Black Corries Estate last year.

The estate has built a bunkhouse and a dining area with a small café/bar, which are now open.

After dinner we had a small traditional music session in the café: me on uilleann pipes, Katie Bowen on fiddle, and Alison Lambie on piano accordion.

Finale: Musicians among the climbing club entertain members on Saturday night.

On Sunday, another brilliant day, everyone made their way to Clashgour, the GUMClub’s hut up Glen Kinglass, for the traditional picnic.

There was a lot of talk about where to hold Reunion Meet next year.

No one thought King’s House café suitable, and the hotel – which is undergoing refurbishment – is very unlikely to be reopened by this time in 2018.

We discussed the merits of Inveroran Hotel and Bridge of Orchy.

Whatever the venue, it was clear that everyone was keen for the tradition of Reunion Meet to continue and to connect with other generations of GUMC alumni.