Wonderful (& longish) Etive 8 Ridge Walk - Creise to Starav
by Alteknacker » Sun Jun 14, 2015 12:18 pm
Munros included on this walk: Ben Starav, Creise, Glas Bheinn Mhor, Meall a'Bhuiridh, Meall nan Eun, Stob a'Choire Odhair, Stob Coir an Albannaich, Stob Ghabhar
Date walked: 11/06/2015
Time taken: 15 hours
Distance: 56.1 km
Ascent: 4391m41 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
I love dramatic mountains – those that really flaunt their character, like the Cuillin Ridge, Liathach, Stob Dearg, the Cobbler, Suilven... Those that make you catch your breath the first time you see them. Hills with the WOW factor.
Ben Starav is one of those mountains for me. It also has the great advantage of being several hours closer to my home than the North West Highlands.
I first caught sight of it - rather fleetingly, due to uncooperative cloud - a couple of years ago when topping out on Binnean nan Bian; and it immediately went on to my “to do” list. Last year I got a much better view of it when on the Buachailles, and had a better chance to see its potential attractions.
I'd also noticed that the hills at the other end (Black Mount hills?) looked pretty good too. This is a pic taken looking across Rannoch Moor on the day after we did the Buachailles.
Moreover, I'd spotted that there seemed to be whole series of hills stretching to the East of Ben Starav that more or less formed a ridge. A look at the map confirmed this. The only issue was that the ridge isn’t continuous: there are numerous outliers, and doing them all in a day looked like quite a large undertaking. So I played around with various routes. The basic concept was as always with linear ridge routes: park at the end point, and cycle to the start point, so as to get maximum time in the hills. Originally the idea had been to ascend Starav first; but in the end I decided to reverse it, because I wasn’t at all sure I’d have the mental fortitude to bag Stob a Choire Ochair at the end of a long day.
I've titled this WHR "Etive 8 Ridge Walk".
But there are 9 munros, aren't there???
Yes, indeed! And therein lies a little lesson about haste and speed..... Revealed below.
For a variety of reasons (mainly because whenever I’ve been free, the weather gods haven’t played ball) I hadn't made it up to Scotland so far this year. I’d been scanning the long range forecasts with increasing irritation when I suddenly noticed on Monday that 12th June looked like being a perfect day. It wasn’t very convenient work-wise, but with some frantic moving about of appointments, etc. I managed to arrange things so I could take the Thursday off.
Unfortunately, in all the haste, I hadn’t really studied the route properly and marked it up on the maps, and this was to have consequences.
Leaving home at 16.30, I stopped at Tebay Service Station to get something to eat, and rather hurriedly marked up the planned route on my maps. More haste, less speed: I completely overlooked Beinn nan Aighenan .
With the inevitable traffic jams on the M6 I didn’t get to Loch Lomond until 22.15. Where the view across the loch was just sensational, and augered well for the next day.
Turning off the A82 down the Glen Etive road, the temperature alarm in my car sounded, meaning that the external temperature was below 3 degrees! Strange June!!
There's been a thread in WH recently about yobbish camping in Glen Etive, and I certainly noticed a lot of wild campers. But it all looked pretty civilised, fires notwithstanding (and admittedly viewed at a distance); but it also looked OK the next morning when I cycled up the glen. It is truly a magical place, so I hope the magic that can benefit the many isn't spoiled by a few.
At about 23.30, my tent was pitched, and I was snuggled up in my sleeping bag (far too warm!!) before midnight, with my alarm set for 03.30. It was still astonishingly light, and I could see clearly tomorrow’s end goal.
And an added bonus: none of the biting beasties in evidence! Too cold!??
The next morning it was still amazingly light, with odd wisps of mist randomly hanging around. Now I could see that, not being familiar with Glen Etive, I’d parked way too far up the glen. So after packing up, I drove down to the end point, parked the car, and then cycled up the glen to the start point. As I did so, low cloud started to form quite rapidly in the glen.
Digression: for anyone who hasn’t tried it, I can strongly recommend using the bike method for long linear routes. It opens up whole new possibilities when you only have one car, and it’s particularly useful if you live a long way from the Highlands, and want to get the absolute maximum hill time within a limited available time slot.
Dismounting my bike at the bridge at 06.00, I discovered another haste-induced omission: no lock for my bike! (normally I chain it to a tree). So I stashed it under the bridge, and set off towards Creise. After a couple of hundred metres I encountered the toughest scrambling of the day: climbing down into and up out of the stream gorge! It also involved wading the stream. There was no hint of either of these obstacles on the map....
After a longish walk in – of a rather telmatalogical character (go on, check it out! WHs revel in this!!) – particularly challenging in approach shoes - Sron na Creise begins to show through the low cloud.
I decide at the last minute not to go for the “direttissima”and go slightly to the right of the line, giving a much more straightforward ascent – much as I fancy the scrambling, I’m conscious there’s still a long way to go today.
Soon I’m out of the clag, and it turns out I’ve been in a cloud inversion. Wonderful views now!
Cloud inversion. Stob Dearg in the foreground, and the unmistakable Ben in the background.
On a small as well as a large scale.
Glen Etive in the morning sunlight. It doesn’t get much better than this!
Glen Etive cloud inversion.
Stob Dearg again - can't stop snapping...!!!
Topping Sron na Creise, Ben Starav looks like a looooooog way away (double peaked hill to the right, Stob Coir an Albannaich to the left).
From Sron na Creise along the ridge to Stob a’ Ghlais Choire,
Creise from Stob a' Ghlas Choire. There's a still a lot of the white stuff about....
Approaching Creise. Ben Starav on the extreme right hand side still looks a very long way away!!!
....and then on to Creise itself – easy ridge walking. It’s now 07.45, and time for croissants with marmalade. Perfect
I now start to think about water. I've brought 2 litres, but I'm indelicately perspiring, and there is no way it will be enough - I've got through 8 litres on previous ridge walks on hot days - all lost through sweating and breathing: what my doctor brother calls "insensible loss". I will need to fill up at every opportunity I get if I'm not to get completely dehydrated
The detour to bag Meall a’ Bhuiridh doesn’t look too bad – less than 200m ascent at each end.
Meall a' Bhuiridh from Creise.
An easy scramble down rock steps gets me quickly to the bealach and from there to the 2nd Munro of the day.
Rannoch Moor from Meall a' Bhuiridh.
Looking back from Meall a' Bhuiridh to the ridge.
Then it’s back to the ridge, and on to Clach Leathad. From here the views are truly spectacular. Time for another croissant and to try to assimilate the experience properly. The day is turning out to be every bit as good as the forecast promised.
View from Clach Leathad: Stob Ghabar to the right, and Stob a Choire Odhair to the left.
From Clach Leathad it's a 400m drop into Bealach Fuar-chathaidh, followed by a long pull up to Stob Ghabhar. But it's all pretty straightforward walking.
The 400m drop from Clach Leathad into Bealach Fuar-chathaidh, with the Aonach Mor ridge to the right.
Looking NW from Bealach Fuar-cathaidh to Stob Coire Sgreamach and Bidean nam Bian.
Looking SE towards Rannoch Moor from more or less the same place.
It's now a reasonably easy climb up on to the Aonach Mor ridge, and then a pleasant up-and-down walk to Stob Ghabhar (although I imagine it could be quite tricky in clag, with the very varied topography).
Looking back towards Clach Leathad from the Aonach Mor ridge on the way to Stob Ghabhar.
Approaching Stob Ghabhar, there's a partially collapsing cornice...
It's odd that there seem to be multiple tracks of people zig-zagging across the snow. I just can't imagine anyone would be crazy enough to do that (although I may be irrationally nervous about cornices and avalanche danger). But the answer to the mystery is revealed later in the walk...
And so on to Stob Ghabhar, and the moment of truth.
Stob a Choire Odhair from Stob Ghabhar, with Loch Tulla in the background.
Getting to Stob a' Choire Odhair from Stob Ghabhar involves just over 600m of ascent and descent, and it's clear it's going to take around 2.5 hours to do. I could leave it now, and maybe come back another time and do it from Victoria Bridge...??? I sit chewing a cheeze, salami and Branston Pickle sandwich, luxuriating in the views, prevaricating - just trying to put off the decision.
Get thee behind me, Satan It would be crazy to have come all this way and not to do it. So I leave my rucksack next to the cairn, take a long drink and a deep breath, and head off.
I meet several walkers heading the opposite way, the first of the day; and we exchange commiserations about the brutality of the climb. I alert them to my rucksack at the cairn, so that they don't think someone has despaired after the climb and thrown themselves off the cliffs.
As I scramble down the rather steep path, there is a loud cracking noise and a small avalanche crashes down the rock face on the opposite side of the valley.
Just over 45 minutes later I'm on Stob a' Choire Odhair.
Looking over Rannoch Moor from Stob a Choire Odhair.
ridge and bealach I've just come along: Clach Leathad on the RHS from Stob a' Choire Odhair, with Bidean nam Bian in the centre background.
Looking back towards Stob Ghabhar from Stob a Choire Odhair. That's going to be a beast of a climb back!! Stob Choir an Albannaich just showing on the extreme LHS.
And it is! It's a really steep drag up to the top, which I reach at about 13.00. I walk the last 15 minutes or so with another walker, and we sit on the summit and chat for a while. Then it's back in motion.
Looking West from Stob Ghabhar. Stob Coir an Albannaich just left of centre, and Ben Starav behind. On the extreme left is the "missing" Beinn nan Aighenan.
From here it's essentially an easy ridge walk west for about 4 km to Meall Odhar. It makes a really pleasant change after the up-and-down character of the route thus far.
Looking (west) towards Meall Odhar from Stob a Bhruaich Leith, about half way along this section of ridge
Looking back east from Meall Odhar towards Stob Ghabhar.
But more up and down is to come!
A significant drop into the bealach Lairig Dhochard - oh dear!
250m down into Lairig Dhochard and 300m back up to Meall nan Eun. I'm quite tired now, but not the kind of "one more step and I'll die" tired; rather the "pleasantly tired because it's been worth it". The sun is wonderful, but also somewhat energy-sapping.
Every depression in the ground on every climb seems to be full of the wee biting beasties, but there's quite a reasonable cool breeze that keeps them low, and - mercifully - I remain unbitten. I wonder if they're put off by my walking tights (which I have to say, I think quite fetching... )
On the way up to Meall nan Eun, looking back the way I've come from Lairig Dhochard.
On the path to Stob Coir an Albannaich: saw lots of these beauties all day - wonderfully fearless.
]Stob an Choir Albannich showing at its alluring best!
From Meall nan Eun it's a fairly gentle descent for about 100m, followed by a gentle ascent to Meall Tarsuinn. This is followed by a short drop into a bealach before quite a steep 300m pull to the top of Stob Coir an Albannaich. I take my time: I need to conserve some energy for the last 2, and the sun is really burning, factor 15 sun screen notwithstanding.
Approaching the top of Stob Choir an Albannaich, Ghlas Beinn Mor and Ben Starav behind.
Looking North West from the top of Stob Coir an Albannaich.
Just before I took this last picture, there was a small herd of deer just above the cornice. Upon sighting me, and pondering the matter for a minute or so, they took off across the snow... It didn't look like they'd paid much attention when the perils of cornices and avalanches were being explained during their winter skills course. But the mystery of the footprints across steep corniced snow slopes was explained.
Heading down from Stob Coir an Albannaich, towards Glas Bheinn Mor. I think it must be the Cruachan group in the background. But how on earth did I manage to miss Bheinn nan Aighenan on the left hand side???
Looking back from the ascent to Ghlas Bheinn Mor toward the south side of Stob Coir' an Albannaich (I think), with Stob Ghabhar in the far distance.
Notwithstanding an earlier complete refill of my 2 litre water bottle, I'm running low again (and nothing has come out the other end!!!) . But again, the views in all directions are sensational. I chew on a sarny, and catch my breath.
Approaching the top of Ghlas Bheinn Mor. The path is clear and easy to follow.
[Cruachan group (zoomed) from Ghlas Bhienn Mor. Another bunch of hills with a serious WOW factor!
A reasonably straightforward route to Ben Starav ahead, via Meall nan Tri Tighearnan.
Though quite a slog up to Stob Coire Dheirg. But I'm actually feeling in reasonable shape; which makes it all the more annoying that I missed Bheinn nan Aighenan! It's quite surprising how easy it is to miss a hill that's 200m or so lower than the surrounding peaks. Anyway, perhaps that last 500m of ascent and descent would have been the last straw...
Looking at it more positively, it's a reason to come back and get up into these hills again, perhaps at a time in future years when I can only manage 1 or 2 hills in a session. Certainly Starav bears repeated close study. And that's where I'm now headed.
Wild rock formations on Stob Coire Dheirg.
Looking back from Stob Coire Dheirg, with Glas Bheinn Mor in the foreground, and - in the far distance to the right - a little purple pimple that I think is Creise. It looks a long way away...
From Stob Coire Dheirg, it's a comparatively gentle walk up to Ben Starav, albeit with some careful negotiating of the blocky ridge necessary.
Glen Etive absolutely sensational in the evening light. What could be better than this...???
And then on, along a blocky arete, to the final goal: Ben Starav. The magnificent!
The summit beckons...
Looking back towards Stob Choire Dheirg. The path is pretty straightforward.
And on to Ben Starav itself....
... from whence the views are simply stupendous. I sit down for 15 minutes, chewing on yet another salami, cheeze and Branston Pickle sarny, and trying to absorb and imprint on my memory the magnificence of the views.
To the south Loch Etive;
Looking more or less west from the summit cairn...
To the north Glen Etive (I lost count of how many pics I took of this...)
19.30. Now back to the car. And I still hadn't noticed that I'd missed Bheinn nan Aighenan !!
Starav jealously guards its summit with a hedgehog back of large boulders, which with tired legs take a bit of negotiating...
Looking back at the "hedgehog"...
One could do worse than spend a day scrambling on its rock faces.[/url]
There's an easy descent to Glen Etive along a long shoulder, giving breathtaking views of the glen.
The end in sight.
A final farewell to Ben Starav the magnificent
Setting sun illuminating the Starav crags.
"Hasta la vista", as someone once famously said somewhere, as I recall (I have to get back to Bheinn nan Aighenan - but I hadn't realised my omission at this stage).
I reached the car a couple of hours and a couple of litres of stream water later. And after recovering my bike from beneath the bridge under which I'd left it 16 hours previously, I headed back south. I decided that, with a 6.5 hour drive ahead of me, my usual stop at an establishment of cultural, historical and architectural interest for a jar of hop-flavoured liquid was imprudent; so I just kept going, stopping only for a couple of large coffees, and getting back just after 04.00.
It was such a wonderful day, I'm still trying to assimilate and internalise it. I can only recommend it unreservedly to anyone who likes reasonably long days, and I hope that the pics do it justice (I know I'm a terrible photographer).
by roscoT » Sun Jun 14, 2015 12:50 pm
I think you and I differ on what is considered a 'reasonably' long day though! 50K+ and 4OOO+m ascent? Unbelievable
by Riverman » Sun Jun 14, 2015 1:06 pm
by basscadet » Sun Jun 14, 2015 1:29 pm
We tried roughly the same route over 3 days, but no luck with the weather at the end, so had to miss out on Etive on that occasion
by hooter2014 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 4:20 pm
by Huff_n_Puff » Sun Jun 14, 2015 5:50 pm
Congrats on making such a stunning trip
by Borderhugh » Sun Jun 14, 2015 5:53 pm
by simon-b » Sun Jun 14, 2015 6:07 pm
by Petr Dakota » Sun Jun 14, 2015 7:56 pm
Good effort and great time in the great area
Glad you had the good weather for your trip - superb view and photos
...just one question : Who is the masochist now ???
by 2manyYorkies » Sun Jun 14, 2015 9:05 pm
I was just about to write a short report on a quick stroll up Fionn Bheinn, but I think I should go off into a corner and hit myself with birch twigs for not including all the other Fannaichs in that walk, as the bar now seems to have been raised a tad higher....
by mgmt! » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:49 pm
- Posts: 540
- Joined: Oct 18, 2010
by jupe1407 » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:59 pm
by IanEzzi » Sun Jun 14, 2015 11:02 pm
I'd been contemplating the Starav Ridge starting from Victoria Bridge and I certainly have no reason not to now, might even bag Aighenan while I'm there
by Mancunian » Mon Jun 15, 2015 8:34 am
By the way, for whatever reason you named yourself "Alteknacker" (I'm sure you know what the german meaning is) your TR shows that you are the exact opposite!
Thanks for sharing this truly amazing experience.
by Bonzo » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:15 pm