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A Taste of Glencoe in the Pale Winter Sun

A Taste of Glencoe in the Pale Winter Sun


Postby Sabbathstevie » Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:25 pm

Route description: Buachaille Etive Mor

Munros included on this walk: Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor), Stob na Broige (Buachaille Etive Mor)

Date walked: 21/11/2012

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 13 km

Ascent: 1110m

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The first winter snow atop the peaks of the Scottish hills and mountains is probably a welcome sight to many of the users of this forum however for me, with a paltry 7 munros under my belt and a complete lack of winter skills or equipment with which to tackle it, the arrival of the white stuff rings a disappointing death knell for what has been an otherwise fantastic first year of beginning to explore our famed peaks.

I’d kept back a handful of holidays that would otherwise be spent somewhat lazily for the opportunity to finally head to the celebrated mountains of the west. Despite best efforts, the weather on my available days throughout the walking season had always, my wanderings on the rocky “little” mountains of Harris notwithstanding, confined my altitude addiction to the more rounded hills of the east. And while I have a great love for the hills and glens of the Mounth, I couldn’t help but be jealous whenever reading a fellow users report which showed me everything I was missing to the west of the A9. :think:

Additionally, while I wouldn’t exactly consider myself to be an unsociable walker, the prospect of finally getting up to the hills around Glencoe and Fort William only to find them swamped with hundreds of other eager walkers of a sunny weekend certainly didn’t appeal - as a reluctant city dweller, I go to the hills to escape from people! Using a well planned weekday looked like the best way to get a bit of peace and quiet to accompany the jaw dropping vistas I craved. :thumbup:

So which hill? My maiden drive through Glencoe only 3 years ago had imprinted, as it must do for everyone who sees it, the harsh stab of Buachaille Etive Mor deep within my memory – a tolkein-esque caricature of the unassailable mountain. You only need glance at the many glowing reports already attributed to this glorious rock in order to appreciate fully why this is one of our most iconic. I couldn’t hope for a better introduction to the west and despite good showings from equally impressive contenders in the surrounding ranges, I quickly decided that the big Bookil was really the only way to go.

The only thing now in my way was the weather – as we slipped into November and the first serious snowfalls deposited themselves unceremoniously across the higher summits, I started to think I’d missed my chance, and began to start consoling myself for the long drought until spring however I spotted a thread on the general discussion board which suggested that mild temperatures had led to a quick thaw of most of the recent snows. A quick check of the really useful Glencoe webcam ( http://www.glencoemountain.co.uk/webcams.html ) confirmed that my target had only the gentlest dusting atop its highest peak. The troublesome snow might have gone, but MWIS portended my next challenge as “extremely limited mobility” atop western summits owing to storm force winds – after battling with them down in Edinburgh, I can’t say I was about to argue that they would be at least a little troubling above 3000 feet. At the point when I was almost about to give up (planning walks for me seems to take almost as much effort as actually completing them – hence the lengthy preamble) , a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of the Met Office website, which predicted reasonable amounts of sunshine in Glencoe for Wednesday 21st. I reran the forecast looking at just Stob Dearg – showing some light snow but still fierce winds…should I or shouldn’t I? :eh:

A plan was swiftly hatched; Philip and I would head for Glencoe regardless. If the weather gods smiled on us then the big Bookil would be our target. If the weather turned sour, then we both agreed that as newbies to this hallowed ground we could explore a low level walk like the lost valley to still make the lengthy drive worthwhile. Sorted. :wink:

Wednesday came and the forecast got better and better, though I’m glad I chose to ignore MWIS’s dire predictions and stuck with the optimistic outlook offered by the met office. I spent some time trying to decide whether this one might be too much for my tiny jack Russell, Maggie, and had almost resigned to leaving her on the bench but as I prepared to leave, she had caught sight of me in my “walking gear” which led to an associated burst of excitement which I was far too soft to deny – if I was going to add to my munro tally then she would be adding to hers! We left a mild Edinburgh at our usual 6 am. I can’t help but always spraff a little about the hills that can be marvelled en route and this was no exception, being the first time I’d been on the road north and west from Killin since I’ve had my “baggers” eyes in. Most daunting looked to be the hulking mass of Ben More, towering above the road to Crianlarich with slopes that spoke of nothing other than an unrelenting climb, its high summit wreathed in wispy morning fog and a blanket of snow as we drove past. One for a cool spring day, I think. Similarly majestic were the great cones of Beinn Dorain and Beinn a Dothaidh on the road north from Tyndrum, but the most impressive views were those of the white-tipped Black Mount, looking fantastic against the ever lightening sky and providing a stark contrast to the flatness of the Rannoch Moor on the opposite side of the road.

As we followed the road around the scarred slopes of Meall a’ Bhuiridh, the jagged thrust of Stob Dearg appeared dramatically in the pale early morning sunlight, its top looking frosted and resplendent against the fast moving bruise of broken clouds which raced overhead. I’d hoped to stop and take a few shots of this, the mountain’s most terrifying aspect, but the parking lay-bys on both sides of the road were frustratingly and wholly occupied by HGVs, their occupants presumably enjoying their breakfast rolls with the best possible views. And who can blame them. :lol:


our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



We were the first car into the car park at Altnafeadh and set off briskly by 08:30 – it was significantly cooler here than in Edinburgh! The cloud was beginning to clear all around but the Bookil continued to look menacing, with Stob Dearg appearing to lurch forward from this angle like some great hunched beast, attempting to break away from the rest of the ridge. We followed the well made path up into Coire na Tulaich; the ground either side of the path was saturated with the recent rain but as we ascended so the path became both rockier and drier.

1. Buachallie Etive Mor.jpg
Buachaille Etive Mor


We climbed slowly but steadily, with the ridge high above seeming like a distant and hopeful prospect. Maggie followed her usual mountain pursuit of dancing between rocks and ridges with apparent nimble delight, much to Philip and my chagrin. The views behind us continued to open up with each step and providing reason enough to stop and catch our breath - far below another walker and further back a group of three had also joined the long ascent.

2. Coire na Tulaich.jpg
Coire Na Tulaich


As we neared the top of the corrie, the previously dry rocks were replaced with those with an imperceptible coating of ice, leading to a few nervous slips. The patches of snow were increasing in number and size, and Maggie took great delight in rolling in each one. As we approached the steepest part of the climb where the final 30 metres or so of the corrie appears as an almost vertical wall, we made a slightly mad and inexplicable decision. “Well the path curves round this corner and presumably goes all the way to the top…but this looks like a short cut!” I exclaimed, pointing to a jutting series of snow covered rocks which looked, from this angle, a bit like a staircase to the ridge. I’ve no idea what provoked us to depart from the path, but it soon became apparent that this wasn’t a way up of any sort – effectively a steep gully that probably houses a stream in wetter conditions. It was quite snowy, slippy and more than a little hair raising as we hauled ourselves up on narrow footholds to the top of the ridge – an unexpected and nervy but completely exhilarating scramble. The pic below shows the rough route we followed though I’m afraid I don’t have any close ups – my hands were busy grasping at frozen rock! :crazy: The walkers below must have been questioning our sanity… has anyone else taken this route? Maggie of course made the ascent without any problems.

ascent route.jpg
Path (I think) in yellow, our route in red...


We emerged, with pulses racing, onto the snowy ridge and marvelled at what lay before us. The views across to the mighty Mamores were amazing with Binnein Mor looking particularly enormous, while Ben Nevis and the Carn Mor Dearg arête beyond were stunning to behold, as was the steep cleft on the opposite side of the ridge down to Coire Cloiche Finne. After the calf straining trudge up Coire Na Tulaich, the gentle and broad ascent of Stob Dearg was almost pleasant, with its red shattered rocks proving no difficulty despite the thin covering of ice and snow.

3. Fionn Ghleann.jpg
Fionn Ghleann


4. Maggie on Ridge.jpg
Maggie exploring the ridge


We arrived onto the dramatic and airy summit of Stob Dearg in an almost perfect moment of serenity – the icy wind that tore across the rest of the ridge abated to barely a whisper and the low sun shone brightly through the momentarily cloudless sky, casting a pale glow on all before us. Though the views in all directions are to be savoured, the sharp drop to the great emptiness of the Rannoch moor is an image that will live long in my memory. :shock: We lingered briefly, claiming Munro number 8 for Maggie and I, and number 6 for Philip, before retracing our steps back to the ridge as the bitter wind returned from its absence and brought with it a mercifully short-lived clump of frozen fog. On our return to the ridge we passed both the lone walker, who was impressively completing his last set of Glencoe hills, and a group of three guys who were all enjoying the superbly atmospheric weather and relative quiet that we had been rewarded with.

5. Rannoch Moor.jpg
Rannoch Moor from a nippy Stob Dearg


6. Maggie at Stob Dearg.jpg
Maggie at Stob Dearg


As we began the tiresome ascent of the middle peak of Stob Na Doire, I couldn’t help but think that this was one of those bizarre Munro anomalies that I’ll never quite get my head around – why isn’t it a separate Munro, while the smaller Stob Na Broige is? From all angles it certainly seems to be separate enough from the peaks at either end of the ridge and as we trudged up the deeper, soft snow on its northern flanks it certainly felt like another bloody Munro! :lol:

7. Buachallie Etive Beag.jpg
Buachaille Etive Beag


8. Maggie climbing Stob Na Doire.jpg
Maggie Climbing Stob Na Doire


While reaching the summit of this “top” didn’t reward us with another Munro scalp in the bag, it did provide some truly staggering views – notably that of Bidean Nam Bian, whose complex, pointed ridges projected above the bulk of the rest of the mountain, rising over our views of the smaller, but still impressive, Buachaille Etive Beag. The horseshoe of Beinn a Bheithir beyond also looked fantastic, if a little steeper than I had imagined. For me, the Scottish hills look at their finest when clad like this, with only the summits dramatically frozen in white. I like the contrasting tops and bottoms far more than I do a solid blanket of white, green or brown.

9. Stob Coire Altrium, Beinn a Bheithir.jpg
Stob Coire Altrium, Beinn a Bheithir


10. Creise.jpg
Creise


The path now descended down the much steeper southern side of Stob Na Doire, revealing a wonderful snaking ridge up Stob Coire Altruim and eventually to the final target of the day, Stob Na Broige. We passed the steep path down into Coire Altruim which would later provide our descent but for now headed upwards toward Stob Coire Altruim itself – another climb which looked benign from above but at this point in the day proved to be more of an energy thief than we might have first thought. Once reached however, the narrowing ridge to Stob Na Broige posed no further difficulties and we were soon atop our final peak of the day, enjoying the some of the finest views towards Loch Etive and of the surrounding hills.

11. Glimpse of Loch Etive.jpg
Glimpse of Loch Etive


12. Sunny Beinn Mhic Chasgaig.jpg
Sunny Beinn Mhic Chasgaig


13. BEB.jpg
Buachaille Etive Beag again


14. Lairig Gartain from above.jpg
Lairig Gartain from Above


15. Stob Dearg and Stob Na Doire.jpg
Stob Dearg & Stob Na Doire


16. South West from Stob na Broige.jpg
South West from Stob Na Broige


After retracing our steps to the path into Coire Altruim and descending slightly, we found a suitable wind break in which to stop for some lunch, as the gradually setting sun bathed the steep flanks of Buachaille Etive Beag in the kind of crisp glow that you only seem to get at this time of year, before embarking on the descent proper. My picture from the bottom looking back up really doesn’t highlight the nature of this descent; although nothing was too difficult this felt to me like a much longer section of the same rocky down-scramble off Meall Garbh that I’d encountered up at the Tarmachan Ridge in Perthshire – long sections of steep, sloping slabs of rock which were nerve-tinglingly slippy and must be crossed with great care.

17. Descending to the Lairig Gartain.jpg
Descending to the Lairig Gartain


18. Coire Altruim.jpg
Coire Altrium


After a cautious but steady descent, we emerged onto the track through what would otherwise be a very boggy Lairig Gartain, enjoying the stunning sunset views of the glen, of the mighty mountain we had beaten to our right, and of it’s no less impressive littler brother to our left. The few stream crossings en route which must in good weather be nothing more challenging than stepping over on large rocks were a little more difficult given the volume of rainfall in the preceding days – leaving me having to pick up a small, tired dog before leaping across. Maggie, never one to miss opportunity, must have enjoyed the experience for when I put her back down on the other side she slowed her usual enthusiastic canter to a somewhat pathetic crawl, only to wag her tail happily again once I bent down to pick her up. I had to wonder who indeed is in charge in this relationship, as I completed the walk out back to the car with her sitting a happy and proud under my arm! :lol:

19. BEB in the sun.jpg
BEB in the Fading Sunlight


We arrived back at the car just after 15:00, making a reasonable 6.5 hours for the round. As we drove off south, we couldn’t resist one final shot of the great tooth of Stob Dearg in the last rays of the sun, to remind ourselves that forever more, we will have stood atop that monolithic pyramid as its respectful conqueror. Hello, mountains of the west. You were amazing. I can’t wait to meet the rest of you.

20. Stob Dearg.jpg
Stob Dearg Sunset
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Sabbathstevie
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Re: A Taste of Glencoe in the Pale Winter Sun

Postby laconic surf » Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:45 pm

Stevie,
A great addition to the collection of big buchaille stories. I took almost exactly the same route as you onto the ridge :lol: When you're there it just seems so natural to scramble straight up. A small rock fell splitting open my knuckles whilst i did, at the time I was already hanging on to a very loose handhold - some look fine, then suddenly come away in your hand :shock: :lol: But I agree, a thrilling way up.
Having been up on Creise on saturday, it probably was the last w/end without crampons and axe, so if you don't fancy winter climbs I dare say there's not many finer mountains to end 2012 on.
Great report, and well done to Maggie :wink:
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Re: A Taste of Glencoe in the Pale Winter Sun

Postby ChrisW » Thu Nov 29, 2012 3:29 am

Fantastic report Stevie, I get a bit like you with the planning stage of this hiking lark and can sympathise :lol: Well done on getting out there and indeed up there. One photo there really steals the show again, and strangely enough its got your wonderful little mutt in it ......."Maggie at Stob Dearg" is a cracker. I like the way she conned you to get a carry home too :lol:
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Re: A Taste of Glencoe in the Pale Winter Sun

Postby basscadet » Thu Nov 29, 2012 9:40 am

Aye, this fair brightened up my morning :D What a well written report with fabulous photos :clap:

I love the photo of Maggie atop Stob Dearg :thumbup:
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Re: A Taste of Glencoe in the Pale Winter Sun

Postby Fudgie » Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:05 am

Excellent report Stevie and it's just a wee bit obvious that you enjoyed it :lol: There is something about Stob Dearg that is inspiring and no matter how many times I drive past it, I can't help but stare at it. I'm sure you'll be back in Glencoe soon 8)
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Re: A Taste of Glencoe in the Pale Winter Sun

Postby Sabbathstevie » Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:35 am

laconic surf wrote:Stevie,
A great addition to the collection of big buchaille stories. I took almost exactly the same route as you onto the ridge :lol: When you're there it just seems so natural to scramble straight up. A small rock fell splitting open my knuckles whilst i did, at the time I was already hanging on to a very loose handhold - some look fine, then suddenly come away in your hand :shock: :lol: But I agree, a thrilling way up.
Having been up on Creise on saturday, it probably was the last w/end without crampons and axe, so if you don't fancy winter climbs I dare say there's not many finer mountains to end 2012 on.
Great report, and well done to Maggie :wink:


Thanks Laconic - good to hear that we weren't the only people to take the less obvious path. I think I'll see how flush I am after the financial haemorrhage that is Christmas before deciding whether I can stretch to crampons, ice axe etc...even tyhen it would be for use back on the rounded hills of the east! :lol: As for Glencoe, although there are plenty of other stunning mountains round here, I can't help but think it wont be too long until I'll be back worshipping at the goddess again... :wink:

ChrisW wrote:Fantastic report Stevie, I get a bit like you with the planning stage of this hiking lark and can sympathise :lol: Well done on getting out there and indeed up there. One photo there really steals the show again, and strangely enough its got your wonderful little mutt in it ......."Maggie at Stob Dearg" is a cracker. I like the way she conned you to get a carry home too :lol:


Too kind as ever Chris, thank you. As for the cute female conning me into a carry home...story of my life! :lol:

basscadet wrote:Aye, this fair brightened up my morning :D What a well written report with fabulous photos :clap:

I love the photo of Maggie atop Stob Dearg :thumbup:


Oh thanks Basscadet. I think maggie is going to become a minor munro celebrity! Was certainly a wee bit easier going than your Aonach Eagach epic though, bloody hell! :crazy:

Fudgie wrote:Excellent report Stevie and it's just a wee bit obvious that you enjoyed it :lol:
Thanks Fudgie, what gave it away? 8)
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Re: A Taste of Glencoe in the Pale Winter Sun

Postby Sabbathstevie » Sun Dec 02, 2012 6:12 pm

Dug out a few more pics to add the post...
Attachments
image.jpg
BEB
image.jpg
Snaking Ridge
image.jpg
Distant Stob Coire Altruim
image.jpg
Frozen Ridge
image.jpg
Rannoch Bleakness
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Re: A Taste of Glencoe in the Pale Winter Sun

Postby shelbyandamonkey » Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:55 pm

marvelous report pal! Beautiful pics....gorgeous dug! Loved this hill too, it's glorious :clap:
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