The Glen Clova Hotel was packed the small bar only a few seats the rest were full with meals being served that looked great so I has a quick pint after dinner and back to the bunkhouse. It would be a long night and though 3 had left that evening a day early they had felt that the bothy was so tight to sleep in with 10 bunks in a small place. I had another restless night and was up early meeting a man from Dundee in the kitchen half asleep with a dram! He vanished into the night/ morning he was a bit drunk and hard to chat to. The plan was that we also were going home as one of our group was unwell that morning. I looked at the plans for the new accommodation as the bunkhouse was to be renovated in January and it will change beyond belief with no kitchen planned. I think that will mean that only those with cash can now afford it. We paided £20 a night the usual price was £25 and it was warm and dry and had showers but crammed into one room and the kitchen with only a few cups, one kettle and a few bowls was poor. What can you do, 3 left early and have to pay for the night they missed and it sours my memories of a great place. Things change but I visited this place for many years when at RAF Leuchars and we used to have a great time with the local keepers and climbers.”
A few of the group went for a short walk Joe had walked back to Auchallater over Jocks Road in the thaw carrying all his gear rather than spend another night in the bunkhouse. Yet it was a lovely morning a huge thaw had stripped the hills bare but the sunrise was special.
The drive back was fine the roads black again and the thaw taking snow away at an alarming rate, the A9 was quiet and after a stop at Ballinuig for a bacon and egg roll it was head for home. We met Elgin City young footballers heading down to Stirling for a match and caught up with an old pal Graham Tatters and his pal giving up his Sunday to drive the kids down, it would be along day for them. Getting out of the car the body was sore after the hill day previously I had the” tin man legs”.
In all a good weekend and I got my washing done early and gear sorted. Also had a look what gear I can offer away to someone who may use it as winter mountaineering is a costly business. I am amazed what I find that I have hardly used and trying to minimise my gear.
The hill was great as always and the hard work the long drive and the limited sleep but what a great day on the hill in a superb area that has so many memories. I had a great adventure on the Classic ice climb Look C gully many years ago (1984) when it was not really in good condition. I ended up climbing as a 3 as my partner ran off he did not fancy it and was with Grahan Stampyand Dave Tomkins. Most of the others had abseiled off due to conditions but my mate Dave Tomkins lead the crux a wild pitch on thawing ice, poor belays in the dark by head torch. We pushed on and the top was very avalanche prone and I was so glad to get to the relative safety of the fence line on the plateau. Then we had to get off it was a long night and the gear was still frozen when we arrived off the hill and took ages too get off. We got to the pub just after closing time but it stayed open and we had a grand night. That was another special night and many others climbing mainly in winter in these two Corries where many were introduced to winter climbing.
We used to stay in the Youth Hostel Squash Court it was freezing especially in the winter the temperature was well below zero and the only warm place was in your sleeping bag. Now I moan about a 10 man room in the heat? The helicopter from 22 Sqn RAF Leuchars used to use this area for training as it have everything with winter corries and summer cliffs for winching. We also used to do some winter skills with the aircrew in winter corrie and helicopter drop offs were grand, sometimes even to Lochnagar or Creag an Dubh Loch. The Wessex would at times park near the Hotel and have lunch using the Hotel phone as a contact in the days before mobile phones. In the bar there is still an old Neil Robertson stretcher a last memory from another era?
I have so many tales a few that can never be told but what a stunning glen, lots of wild life and fauna and great hills that offer so much more the summits of the popular Munros, Corbetts and tops. The area has a few aircraft crashes that can make a navigation day a bit more interesting and worth a look round if you fancy something different as is the great glen walks and the wander into Corrie Fee or Winter Corrie. The forestry has lots of tracks ideal for mountain bilking and the summer rock-climbing is great fun with most of it roadside unusual for Scotland.
Glen Clova a glen for all Seasons?