A Diamond Jubilee, and a strangely timed Public Holiday on the first Monday in June ... what better way to celebrate it, I was thinking, than to climb a hill or two ? Being based in the central belt (as most walkers are, I’d suspect, statistically speaking), my Munros to date have pretty much radiated out concentrically from Glasgow ... in fact, I think I had climbed Ben Lomond about 5 times before I got round to doing any of the others. (Don’t knock it; it’s a great hill... ) For a while now, I’d been planning to venture that wee bitty further north to Glencoe, and today was the day.
Initially I’d thought of attempting Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach, but I was a bit tight for time and also had the remains of a blister from a recent epic bagging trip to Ben Lui and the other three Tyndrum Munros (well, epic by my standards anyway ). Being also a rather nervous 45-year-old Glencoe virgin so to speak (and no wonder in that hat, I hear you cry), I chickened out for the time being and went for the much easier option of the Wee Herdsman, Buachaille Etive Beag.
Luckily I’d managed to get a good early start and had a great run up the road, so arrived at the car park off the A82 well ahead of the crowds :
The path leaves from the right-hand corner of the car park, and heads straight up the glen of the Lairig Eilde, fairly quickly veering left onto the northwestern shoulder of the Wee Buachaille. There were impressive views of a snow-capped Stob Coire Sgreamhach at the head of the glen – so impressive that I nearly turned back to go up it instead, but after some soul-searching I decided to behave myself and pressed onwards with the planned route .
The path is moderately steep but very well maintained – God Bless the National Trust for Scotland ! – and it makes for very rapid height gain with surprisingly little effort, even for an old fatso like me. It seemed like no time before I was at the bealach between the Wee Buachaille’s two Munros, Stob Coire Raineach to the north and Stob Dubh along the attractively curving ridge to the south. I decided to do the easy one first and headed north for Stob Coire Raineach. Although still perfectly manageable, this was probably the most arduous bit of the route – the path is steep enough to be an effortful plod without being quite steep enough to give any scrambling interest. There is also a lot of loose rock about, which means that a bit of care is required on descent, which slowed my pace quite a bit. However, the summit of Stob Coire Raineach turns out to be a fantastic viewpoint, well worth the effort. The Aonach Eagach was looking predictably intimidating to the north (I will have to shed a few more pounds and perhaps invest in a reinforced pair of brown trousers before tackling that particular pair of Munros, methinks ):
Across the Lairig Eilde to the south-west, the complex geography of the Bidean nam Bian massif is very well seen from here, with both Bidean and Screamhach looking very impressive with lingering snow patches in their eastern corries:
And looking the other way, east across the Lairig Gartain towards the Big Buachaille, the usual descent route down Coire Altruim was looking unfeasibly scenic in the morning sunshine:
To the south, the Wee Buachaille’s other Munro of Stob Dubh was looking surprisingly impressive, showing off its surprisingly fine wee northern ridge:
After the slow plod down the rubbly path back to the bealach, things quickly became more fun again with a short steep climb on another rubbly path to the top of the rise of Point 902 (it really deserves a better name than that), where Stob Dubh’s north ridge begins and the views start to open out again.
A good path continues along the narrow undulating ridge (but never intimidatingly narrow) as it curves very attractively to the right, to reach the summit cairn of Stob Dubh:
Although I think the first and biggest cairn marks the true summit, it is worth continuing along to the smaller second cairn and then a wee bit further on yet, to get the best of the views south down the length of Loch Etive. Wow!
If anything, Stob Dubh has even better views than Stob Coire Raineach, particularly to the south and west . Bidean nam Bian was looking very Alpine:
The dramatic half-dome of Ben Nevis was looking surprisingly close to the north:
After a leisurely elevenses / early lunch, it was time to tear myself away from the views and set off back down. The walk back north along the ridge to Point 902 was just as much fun as on the way up, with continuing excellent views:
The steep descent from Point 902 to the bealach was a bit of a pain – lots of rubble & scree again; this could be a bit treacherous in wet weather, but wasn’t too bad in dry conditions. However, from the bealach, the path all the way back down to the car park is just one great big stone staircase, making for a fast and funsome romp back home. If there’d been a banister, I’d have slid down it .
I was back at the car within 5 hours, including that leisurely elevenses break. Despite my Glencoe nerves, the Wee Buachaille turned out to be an unexpectedly easy but still extremely enjoyable two-bagger.
On the way home, the Big Buachaille looked even more impressive from the A82 than it had from its wee brother’s summit. This may have been my first Glencoe outing but I certainly don’t intend it to be my last!
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