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Oh Starav Wonder, Starav Light! Three in Glen Etive.

Oh Starav Wonder, Starav Light! Three in Glen Etive.


Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:36 pm

Route description: Ben Starav and Glas Bheinn Mhor

Munros included on this walk: Beinn nan Aighenan, Ben Starav, Glas Bheinn Mhor

Date walked: 26/06/2013

Time taken: 12.5 hours

Distance: 21 km

Ascent: 1890m

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I was lucky enough to have a couple of midweek Annual Leave days, and I had been fantasising for weeks in advance about nipping quickly into a phone box, metamorphosing into my bobble-hatted avatar and bagging a few Munros :D . Specifically, I had never yet ventured into Glen Etive, and I had my sights set on Ben Starav and at least one of its two sister Munros, Beinn nan Aighenan and Glas Bheinn Mhor. And maybe – just maybe, if the weather turned out well and I didn’t run out of steam – I might just manage to get round the three of them in one outing :? , although I knew in advance that it would make a very long and arduous day’s walking for a chubby forty-six-year-old.
The day finally dawned, and for once the weather turned out better than the forecast: only “30% chance of cloud-free Munro summits” according to the www.mwis.org.uk website the day before, but in fact when I got to lower Glen Etive I could feast my eyes on the classic view of the whole ring of hills from Ben Starav (far right) over its east Top of Stob Choire Dheirg and on round to Meall nan Tri Tighearnan and Glas Bheinn Mhor, bathed in morning sunshine and with all the summits completely cloud-free, at this early stage anyway :D . That long north ridge of Ben Starav provided an obvious, if arduous-looking, Stairway to Heaven.
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I got parked easily in the rough parking area just opposite the start of the track to Coiletur Cottage in lower Glen Etive – in fact, I was the first car there: the joys of midweek walking :wink: . It didn’t take long to stoat down the track and over the River Etive bridge, taking the right-hand fork shortly thereafter (signposted “Hill Track”) to arrive at Coiletur Cottage, where a signed bypass path skirts the perimeter fence on the left. The website’s route summary had warned that this could get a bit boggy at the top, but in fact it wasn’t too bad, and I continued on the well-maintained path on the other side of the cottage to reach the extremely scenic bridge over the tumbling Allt Mheuran.
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On the other side of the bridge, a pretty good path continues on the right-hand side of the stream for a few hundred metres until a smaller path branches off to the right to head up Ben Starav’s obvious north ridge. As many others have written, this gives a fairly unrelenting ascent :shock: : Starav is a big brute, and with the start being almost at sea level, there is pretty much 1000 metres of straight ascent. The spectacular surrounding scenery, particularly back up north with increasingly stunning views of the Glencoe giants, does provide fairly effective analgesia however.
I also had some time to ponder Starav’s name. There seems to be hot debate as to whether it comes from a Gaelic word meaning “sturdy and muscular” or from a completely different Gaelic word meaning “rustling” :wtf: ... so I’m glad that one’s cleared up, then. I didn’t hear any rustling (I’m a bit deaf, admittedly :lol: ): it did certainly strike me as “sturdy and muscular”, however. Let’s settle for Old Muscly-Rustly, eh?
At first the north ridge gives good going on a grassy path. Higher up however, at the second of two levellings, the terrain becomes much rockier and things start to get interesting :? , with the final rocky ridge up to Starav’s main summit rearing up deliciously ahead, and a tantalising sheer drop down towards the Allt nam Meirleach on the left :D .
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A bit higher up, and although that last bit of ridge was still looking just as delicious, it was also starting to look like a very effortful slog up a prolonged boulderfield :shock: .
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Yep, right enough. The path tries its best, bless its shattered quartzite socks, but the last hundred metres or so of ascent really is just one long boulder-hopping extravaganza :crazy: .
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This slowed me down a lot, and it was with considerable relief that I finally reached Ben Starav’s airy summit cairn and rather sad-looking rump of a Trig Point :) . About three-and-a-quarter hours from the car already: my optimism about my chances of getting round all three hills was fading fast :-| . Still, Starav is undeniably a spectacular hill, and the summit didn’t disappoint.
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To the south, the classic view down Loch Etive opened up, with Ben Cruachan to its left.
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To the west, Beinn Trilleachan was stealing the show, with the famous Trilleachan Slabs glinting in the sun – a Mecca for Rock Jocks, I believe. Difficult to believe that this hill is only a Corbett – it looks higher from here.
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And to the north, beyond the steep slopes of Stob Coir’ an Albannaich, all the Glencoe hills were backed by the Mamores and even – I think – the Nevis range in the far distance.
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However, I was determined to get at least one of the other two done, so enough with the photography already. From Starav’s main summit, a clear path continues to a minor south-east top, which also sports a cute wee cairn. And from this spot, I finally got a good hard look at the deeply secretive Beinn nan Aighenan, a hill that sits so far back from the road – from any road – that, as Ralph Storer puts it in his ‘Ultimate Guide’, “it requires considerable effort just to lay eyes on it”.
It turns out to be another fine-looking mountain. However, three things struck me immediately:
1. It still looked a long way away; and
2. It looked a fair old way down and then back up again; and
3. Its north-west ridge looked a tad steep in its middle section.
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Sadly, all three of these first impressions turned out to be completely true :( . However, the weather was pretty much perfect, and Aighenan was looking extremely tempting: I knew I was going to have to go for it, even if it meant that I had to bail out on Glas Bheinn Mhor.
However, I wasn’t down from Starav yet. From the minor south-east top, the path takes a sudden dive down a rocky slope to reach a fantastic arête that runs out to the Top of Stob Coire Dheirg.
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I scrambled along the crest of this for a bit, enjoying myself enormously but making slow going, before I spotted a bypass path down to the right. I cut down to this, and thereafter made much faster progress along to the cairned summit of the Stob, which turned out to be another grand viewpoint. The ongoing route down to the Bhealachan Lochain Ghaineamhaich (just try spelling that one, or even saying it, after a few beers :wtf: ) and on to the lower bealach with Aighenan, was very clear from here.
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No time like the present, then! The path from Stop Coire Dheirg down to the cairned Bhealachan et Cetera et Cetera et Cheathairadh was straightforward enough, although the subsequent falling traverse on the wee path on the right crossed some rougher terrain, and the steady fall from the 766m altitude of the cairn on the Bhealachan down to the much lower 615m altitude of the bealach with Beinn nan Aigheanan was a real heart-sink moment :( .
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It proved to be just as long and arduous a slog up to the summit of Aighenan as it had looked :shock: . The middle section did indeed get fairly steep, although the path makes sterling work of finding the easiest way up, and no actual scrambling was required. All the same, it was again a great relief to get to the summit cairn. The Mad-Eye Moody expression I seem to be sporting in this photo is no doubt partly due to my hysterical euphoria at having made it up there after all :lol: , but also partly due to a tricky auto-timer shot with my camera perched very precariously on a shoogly wee boulder :wtf: .
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Aighenan’s summit is another amazing viewpoint, though, and feels truly remote. To the north-west, Starav was rustling its musculature in the sunshine, with one of its two southern Tops – Stob an Duine Ruaidh, I think – looking impressively pointy on the left.
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To the north, Glas Bheinn Mhor was also looking impressive, with Stob Coir’ an Albannaich behind it in the distance.
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And to the south, once again that classic view of Loch Etive and Ben Cruachan.
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By now, I had pretty much resigned myself to going home without Glas Bheinn Mhor in the bag. However, the traipse back down Aighenan’s north-west ridge and back up to the Bhealachan Lochain Ghaineamhaich actually proved much quicker than on the way out. Beinn nan Aighenan is “Hill of the Hinds” – I didn’t see any deer, but I did encounter a whole lot of grouse (Grouses? Grice? :? ). Anyway, they seemed to be lucky for me, because I made it back to the Bhealachan for about half-four in the afternoon, which was a good half hour earlier than I’d expected. And, of course, Glas Bheinn Mhor was now not looking very far away at all :think: ... Oh, what the heck, I’d almost certainly end up driving home in the dark, but I was going to go for it :D . If it hadn’t been such good weather, and just a few days past midsummer’s day, I’d probably have bailed out, but I couldn’t resist carrying on and trying to bag the third one too.
Glas Bheinn Mhor is Gaelic for Big Greeny-Grey Hill: no arguments there. Unfortunately, to get to it, it is first necessary to climb Meall nan Tri Tighearnan, which is of course Gaelic for Confounded !?*!ing Nuisance of a Minor Hump :-x . It’s not even a proper Munro Top, and it only adds 70 metres of descent and re-ascent, but this late in the day that extra 70 metres was about as welcome as a cold fish supper :lol: . Ah well, at least the path up from the cairn at the Bealachan was a very straightforward grassy romp, and there were grand views back out south to Beinn nan Aighenan.
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From the cairn of Meall nan Tri Tighearnan, Glas Bheinn Mhor was finally looming very close indeed, and looking eminently baggable.
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...And it was :D !
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More grand views, with the big peaks of Glencoe and beyond looking spectacular to the north in the evening sunshine.
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To the south, Beinn nan Aighenan’s long east ridge looked absolutely delicious from here. Apparently the approach to Beinn nan Aighenan via the east ridge is a superb walk: the only drawback is that it requires an unfeasibly long walk-in from Victoria Bridge to get to the bottom of the blessed thing :wtf: .
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After all this grassy gentleness, the descent down to the bealach with Stob Coir’ an Albannaich was something of a shock to the system: it can only really be described as nasty, brutish and short :shock: .
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However, it is at least short, and I was soon down at the bealach where a good descent path romps down the Allt Mheuran, unexpectedly scenic and also unexpectedly dry despite all the recent rain.
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In fact, although there were a few squelchy bits lower down, this entire route was striking for its practically Saharan aridity compared with my last outing to Beinn a’Ghlo, a mudbath if there ever was one :lol: .
Sadly, the path may have romped down the Allt Mheuran, but I certainly wasn’t doing much romping myself :( : I was knackered by this time, and it took me a good three hours from the summit of Glas Bheinn Mhor back to the car. Although I’d texted my wife to forewarn her that I was well behind schedule, and although I did get back to the car with a bit of daylight to spare, I knew that I wouldn’t be back in Glasgow until well after sundown and that I’d probably be in the doghouse again :roll: ... All the same, I can’t say that I have any regrets. I definitely made slow work of these three, but it was nevertheless a truly amazing day’s walking from start to finish :D .
Last edited by bobble_hat_kenny on Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Oh Starav Wonder, Starav Light! Three in Glen Etive.

Postby mrssanta » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:56 pm

ooh that was a smashing report, I fair enjoyed it.
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Re: Oh Starav Wonder, Starav Light! Three in Glen Etive.

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:02 pm

mrssanta wrote:ooh that was a smashing report, I fair enjoyed it.

I just loved these three, and for once I really lucked out with the weather :lol: !
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Re: Oh Starav Wonder, Starav Light! Three in Glen Etive.

Postby Steve B » Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:34 am

Well done on a good walk. :clap: and an even better report :clap: :clap:
I wimped out of the middle one when I did this route :( . Good excuse to go back into Glen Etive though :D
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Re: Oh Starav Wonder, Starav Light! Three in Glen Etive.

Postby basscadet » Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:21 am

Oh that looked really good! :D

Canny wait to go back now after my south etive ridge failure.. :thumbup:
Hope I get the same weather..
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Re: Oh Starav Wonder, Starav Light! Three in Glen Etive.

Postby Bod » Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:39 am

Well done! That was a cracking effort and a very enjoyable report :D :D :clap:

I still have the second two to climb, as my day on Ben Starav proved only suitable to a single summit. A magical glen with wondeful hills :D
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Re: Oh Starav Wonder, Starav Light! Three in Glen Etive.

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Tue Jul 02, 2013 12:12 pm

Bod wrote:Well done! That was a cracking effort and a very enjoyable report :D :D :clap:

I still have the second two to climb, as my day on Ben Starav proved only suitable to a single summit. A magical glen with wondeful hills :D

It certainly is that! Although the Starav trio is arguably the finest outing, the Stob Coir' an Albannaich / Meall nan Eun pairing looks almost as good to me, plus I believe you can access Beinn Fhionnlaidh / Sgorr na h'Ulaidh, separately or (if energetic) together, plus several very tasty-looking Corbetts: there's enough in Glen Etive to keep a walker happy for a very long time. Can't wait to go back :D !
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Re: Oh Starav Wonder, Starav Light! Three in Glen Etive.

Postby rockhopper » Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:10 pm

good stuff, bhk - the ascent of Ben Starav is tough but well worth it when you get there ! - cheers :)
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Re: Oh Starav Wonder, Starav Light! Three in Glen Etive.

Postby gammy leg walker » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:27 am

Jings fair enjoyed that TR I hope when my time come for these I get weather like you had.

You also give me hope I can get round the 3 the same as you did.
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Re: Oh Starav Wonder, Starav Light! Three in Glen Etive.

Postby simon-b » Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:14 pm

Great views, Kenny. It's nice to see the clouds stayed off the tops for you that day. They didn't for some of us further north! It looks like you had a really good day.
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