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High Camp above Glen Etive
by Jeremiah Johnson » Sun Nov 15, 2015 6:32 pm
Munros included on this walk: Beinn nan Aighenan, Ben Starav, Glas Bheinn Mhor, Meall nan Eun, Stob Coir an Albannaich
Date walked: 11/06/20155 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).
My pace quickened as I neared the top of the path. On my right the Abhainn Shira splashed down the steep hillside, through a series of short waterfalls, towards Loch Tulla away to the east. Alongside the stony path, lush green grass, wet from a recent rainfall and glistening in the late morning sun, was beginning to emerge through the acres of dead grass which dominated the landscape.
Cresting the rise, I gazed on the wild waters of Loch Dochard, reflecting the deep blue of a near cloudless sky.
Leaving the path, I passed clusters of vibrant yellow Tormentil and purple Saxifrage and an occasional Bog Cotton, swaying gently in the warm breeze, to reach a sandy beach on the west side of a grassy spit of land extending from the shore into the waters of the loch. In silence I sat, looking beyond the dark waters, quietly lapping at my feet, to craggy slopes which rose from the russet landscape to higher hills beyond, still holding the last remnants of the winter snow.
My plan was to climb Beinn nan Aighenan and Ben Starav camp high and complete the remainder of the Glen Etive hills the following day. In the heat of the mid-day sun I left the loch and ambled up the path.
To my left Beinn Suidhe impressed, dark crags falling steeply from its sharp ridge wedged between a blue sky containing occasional wispy clouds and the emerald foliage of a young forest hugging its lower slopes. Passing azure lochans on my right I reached the watershed and descended to Glen Kinglass where I lunched seated on sunny rocks on the River Kinglass, which gently flowed below my feet.
Short of Glen Kinglass Lodge I left the path and started to climb the steep grassy slopes of Beinn nan Aighenan’s south easterly ridge.
I continued my slow progress to a rocky spur giving fine views along Glen Kinglass to the impressive twin pointed summit of Ben Cruachan, connected by a narrow ridge falling to the snow covered northern slopes, glistening in the sun.
After a short rest I continued my slow ascent and reached the easier slopes of the ridge. From there I looked down to my left into Coire a Bhinnein and ahead along the bare rock strewn ridge which rose towards the summit but saw no deer on this “Peak of the Hinds”. I did see a Golden Plover wheel and glide between the ridge and the sky. Easily identifiable by its pointed wings, black throat and white underbelly, I watched its fine display for a while and listened to its mournful call becoming louder and more desperate as I ventured near. Preoccupied with the performance I almost trod on a new born Ptarmigan chick which scurried across the rocky ridge away from me. Almost immediately I heard the deep croak of the mother and saw her, apparently injured, crawl across the rocky ground in a wretched attempt to lead me from her vulnerable young chick.
Realising the distressed birds were rearing young I left them and walked up the rocky ridge into the silence of the mountain and walked to the summit.
I sat just below the sun drenched cairn, which provided views over to Ben Cruachan and across to the grey Atlantic, with the hazy mass of Mull and its Munro Ben More, prominent, and drank and ate.
Rested, I dropped to the rocky bealach, admiring en Starav to my left and to my right Beinn Glas Mhor, its southern slopes in shadow below its rounded summit, which, like the shapelier Stob Coir an Albannaich behind, enjoyed the late evening sun.
When climbing the Glen Etive hills from Victoria Bridge, Ben Starav is the awkward outlier but this splendid mountain, the highlight of the group, could not be missed and I left my rucksack on the col allowing me to climb unencumbered to the summit.
With the sun sinking lower in the sky and a camp spot to locate I didn’t linger on the sunny summit and returned to the shadow of the eastern slopes for my descent to the col. Feeling the effects of a long day in scorching conditions I wearily walked up the stony slopes, glad to reach the small cairn, marking Meall nan Tri Tighearnan, which offered an idyllic camp with fine views across Glen Etive to the Glen Coe hills and the Mamore group beyond.
After supper, I sat in silence, above slopes falling steeply to Glen Etive, sipping a malt and seeing the day out. It is for moments like this that I climb mountains. Unlike earlier generations who went to the hills to escape their dark, “Tressell” like, streets of mind numbing toil, poverty and premature death or those who climb mountains merely because they are there; for me, the joy of being among mountains, able to appreciate the shapes of the ridges and slopes, to enjoy the contrasting hues and colours of the fauna and foliage and to observe the animals and birds that inhabit them is, in itself, worth the effort required to reach high places like this. In this postindustrial age influenced by the “culture of speed” it was nice to be free of the mobile phone, in Barrie’s words “out of the hum and turmoil of the town” and in this precious, but increasingly elusive, slow time able to enjoy the silence.
Beyond Ben Starav’s north eastern ridge, I watched the last of the days sun slip slowly from a paling sky, to a band of dark cloud, spanning the western horizon. Above the jagged horizon the dying sun burned the sky a brilliant orange which faded slowly to pallid yellow as the hills surrounding me lost detail to the gloom of the midsummer night. I shivered as the air chilled and leaving my special spot quietly slipped into my tent and the warmth of my sleeping bag.
I awoke early to an already hot sun shining on my tent.
Lower down, cold air had slid in from the west and concealed Glen Etive in a sea of cloud which slowly crept higher up the hillside.
I ate breakfast gazing across to Beinn Fhionnlaidh and Bidean Niam Bian, clear above the cloud and sharp below a dark blue sky. Looking east, beyond a grey Loch Dochard, far below, the Abhainn Shira, led my eyes to the Bridge of Orchy hills in hazy silhouette, towering over Loch Tulla.
After breakfast I walked east over Glas Bheinn Mhor, dropping down the steep stony eastern ridge to a wide bealach before climbing a steep path, which twists up the western slopes of Stob Coir an Albannaich, to reach a wide ridge. In glorious sunshine I walked up easy mossy slopes to the summit cairn, perched on the edge of sheer cliffs, still corniced, falling steeply to the “Corrie of the Scotsman”.
North, beyond the Glencoe hills, Ben Nevis was prominent, dark cliffs fell steeply from the edge of the snow covered summit plateau to Coire Leis, concealed from view by the beautiful arête arcing gracefully from the Ben to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg.
A short distance east of the summit I dropped off the ridge, north, towards numerous glittering lochans on the bealach separating this impressive hill from the more rounded Meall nan Eun, my final summit. Two days of walking in scorching temperatures had tired me and I left the final summit of this great journey and travelled south to the waters of the Allt Dochard.
From there I slowly traversed the rough, pathless terrain towards a distant Loch Dochard and easier walking on the path alongside the Abhainn Shira back to Victoria Bridge and the car.
by The Rodmiester » Mon Nov 16, 2015 9:04 am
by Jeremiah Johnson » Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:11 pm
The Rodmiester wrote:Nice one Martin, you picked a couple of fine days for this one. There is something very special waking up on the summit of a mountain See you soon
Yes Rod absolutely true. This trip and the White Mounth were the highlights of this years walks. Hoping for many more epic days in the New Year. See you at the Christmas Meet. Cheers MG
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