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‘Adopt a munro’ - taking soil on Buachaille Etive Beag

‘Adopt a munro’ - taking soil on Buachaille Etive Beag


Postby JWCW2014 » Wed Sep 20, 2023 12:43 am

Route description: Buachaille Etive Beag

Munros included on this walk: Stob Coire Raineach (Buachaille Etive Beag), Stob Dubh (Buachaille Etive Beag)

Date walked: 10/09/2023

Time taken: 5.75 hours

Distance: 9.85 km

Ascent: 928m

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Earlier this year I signed up for the James Hutton Institute’s “Mountain Heights, Hidden Depths” project that is seeking to investigate soil in alpine areas of Scotland. Stob Coire Raineach became available and so, after adopting it, I received the sampling pack and instructions. The project sends you three sample tubes and asks you to collect three samples from different vegetation types near the top of a munro - for Stob Coire Raineach the grid references for sampling were all pretty near the summit which made this an enjoyable but not arduous addition to the day.

An old friend, Etienne, was on his annual visit from Spain and staying with us immediately after returning from the Affric/Kintail way. My son, Charlie, had been keen on these two hills after seeing the photos of my previous trip there in early Spring - though I warned him that the very cold and sunny conditions that day lead to fantastic visibility - and were unlikely to be repeated on a cloudy September day….

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ASA might take me to task for selling these hills based on this photo


After an early start - with both passengers using this time for an extended nap much to my envy - we set off just after 8 from the beehive car park, only experiencing some minor bother from late summer midge.

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Stopping for water


With the sampling sites all fairly close to the summit and with Charlie coming along it made most sense to take the same route as I had previously to minimise distances - so it was another trip up the well made motorway to the bealach.

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As we climbed the clouds promised to clear and the odd dash of sunshine lit up parts of Glen Coe. It was maybe optimistic given the damp feeling on the air, but I was hopeful we’d at least get some of the day with visibility.

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Higher up the clouds were down and optimism dashed though these hills do have a good atmosphere even under cloud.

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We reached the cairn at the bealach and decided to head for Stob Dubh first and Stob Coire Raineach after, to take the samples. Before we pressed on we stopped to take on some food.

Etienne and I have a long and shared tradition of drinking copious amounts of teas, particularly maté, and we’d brought the stove, gourd and maté along to stop for a brew. When we assembled our brewing kit we discovered the stove had been left at home on the kitchen table. This was failure 2 of 2 after we’d forgotten a lighter on a trip to East Lothian beaches - we don’t make a terribly organised team it seems. The maté tea would have to wait until later.

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We continued up the slope and onto the ridge, the low cloud giving a feeling of the sides dropping off into nothingness. Unknown to me Etienne suffers from vertigo and remarked that he was glad the cloud prevented views. I explained that though it looks steep in cloud, it’s certainly not a walk with much exposure or sections that are likely to induce the dizzies.

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Charlie enjoyed the slightly narrower ridge section up to Stob Dubh, despite or possibly because of the lack of views. We’d seen few people given our early start and there was a wonderful still atmosphere at the summit, nothing around us but swirling grey and the low whistling of a small breeze.

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Back along at the bealach we stopped again. A group of people arrived, one of their party touching the cairn at the bealach clearly assuming they’d reached the top (visibility had reduced further making it look like a high point). His friend disabused him of this notion and he appeared to bristle a bit.

I was asked whether Stobh Dubh was safe and if it was ‘worth bothering with.’ I didn’t really know how to answer either question without either being patronising or philosophical - so just said that we’d enjoyed it and I enjoyed both hills on my last visit.

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Rather than use proper navigational methods to drop us on the grid references for sampling - something I’ve not had to bother with at this level of accuracy since orienteering at school - I had preset my gps with them making tracking down the exact spots a simple affair. The first was about halfway up the slope from the bealach to the top of the hill.

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We stopped and dug out some earth after displacing a very small patch of vegetation, took the photo to show the sample spot and vegetation type and recorded the GPS coordinates. Charlie enjoyed helping with ‘proper’ science - using a table knife to scoop out some soil - and we proceeded on up the hill.

It was growing wetter so we didn’t stop long at the top. We headed straight on and dropped down to a small flat boggier section of land where the second sample site was located. After this the third was further on, slightly downhill, on a broad slope that was strewn with large boulders. After dropping a bit of height, and with no views of the A82, this space felt really tranquil - unusual for such a busy hill.

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Sampling completed we headed back to the bealach and downhill. In true Scottish form once we dropped 200m or so the top suddenly emerged from cloud and a faint trace of blue sky emerged.

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Losing more height and the sun was breaking through, dropping small patches or light on the sides of the hills.

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We reached the car and headed for home - after a short stop at Tyndrum where the sight of sweaty and slightly mud-caked people measuring out green herbs from a ziplock bag (to make tea) drew stares from the table next to us.
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JWCW2014
Walker
 
Posts: 429
Munros:98   Corbetts:5
Fionas:1   Donalds:1+0
Sub 2000:12   
Islands:11
Joined: May 31, 2022

Re: ‘Adopt a munro’ - taking soil on Buachaille Etive Beag

Postby jmarkb » Wed Sep 20, 2023 7:45 am

Great report! That's an excellent project to be taking part in: I didn't hear about it soon enough and all the hills are booked up now. There is a recent Scotland Outdoors podcast all about it at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0g898d1 which is really interesting.
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jmarkb
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Re: ‘Adopt a munro’ - taking soil on Buachaille Etive Beag

Postby JWCW2014 » Wed Sep 20, 2023 9:12 pm

jmarkb wrote:Great report! That's an excellent project to be taking part in: I didn't hear about it soon enough and all the hills are booked up now. There is a recent Scotland Outdoors podcast all about it at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0g898d1 which is really interesting.


Thanks for sharing that jmarkb, I’ll give it a listen. The latest email from the project suggested they’ll be reopening munros not samples next summer so there may be an opportunity to get involved then.
User avatar
JWCW2014
Walker
 
Posts: 429
Munros:98   Corbetts:5
Fionas:1   Donalds:1+0
Sub 2000:12   
Islands:11
Joined: May 31, 2022

Re: ‘Adopt a munro’ - taking soil on Buachaille Etive Beag

Postby jmarkb » Wed Sep 20, 2023 9:17 pm

JWCW2014 wrote:The latest email from the project suggested they’ll be reopening munros not samples next summer so there may be an opportunity to get involved then.


Ak, OK, thanks - I'll keep an eye out!
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jmarkb
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 5904
Munros:246   Corbetts:105
Fionas:91   Donalds:32
Sub 2000:46   
Joined: Oct 28, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

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