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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

The wee buckle in winter

The wee buckle in winter

Postby scotdavid63 » Fri Feb 26, 2016 3:48 pm

Route description: Buachaille Etive Beag

Munros included on this walk: Stob Coire Raineach (Buachaille Etive Beag), Stob Dubh (Buachaille Etive Beag)

Date walked: 17/02/2016

Time taken: 4 hours

Distance: 7.5 km

Ascent: 900m

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Whenever I head off on walks I try to find reports that are relatively recent and also similar time of year, particularly in winter.
We had started the day at Bridge of Orchy but the boy was in a bad place and the snow/clag was fairly incessant so stopped at 500m (original plan had been to head up to the 800m or so point where you split one way or another). On way down met a munro compleatist who was heading up as he thought the weather would break. Tried to persuade the boy to head back up but not happening. We had three nights in Ballachulish to come so headed on up the road.
On way up we agreed that if weather improved we'd try again so the Wee Buckle it was destined to be.

As per guide books and reports, hard to miss the beehive cairn on the RHS of the A82 after the big Buckle, just slow down after the Glen Etive turn off ...
The path split is much less than 0.75km from the car park, more like 400m or so according to my Suunto GPS. Head left and you start picking up vertical pretty quickly, path is in good shape at this time of year, easy to follow until you hit the snow level. Met two guys bouncing down, one carrying crampons in his hands ! Asked if he had needed them and he said "only for the last bit of Stob Dubh. We had ours (in my rucksack) so that sounded fine and he also remarked that the weather was now much better !

We could see a couple of groups up in the snow, some doing their winter skills training, followed the footprints heading to the bealach as they were obviously heading to the right place. Snow was pretty deep in a few places, a couple of feet for sure but not deep on the bealach. As we hit up the ascent to Stob Dubh the weather started to turn, had a wee chat with a Welsh mountain guide who had a huge group (all with crampons on) but he said they had them on because it was their first real chance all week rather than needing them, he didn't reckon they were needed as there was only some "crispiness" on the wind slabs.
Wind howling and a bit of snow reduced visibility so off we trudged, crampons still in rucksack. Bashed up as fast as we could, very quick photo and trotted back to bealach asap. Bit of a shame not to see Glen Etive side but it was bloody cold with the wind chill and numb-nuts boy had left his hat in the car ! However, his mood and engine were completely different to the morning attempt at Bridge of Orchy so it was a pleasure to be with him and he moaned only a little. These newer jackets with full zips and prow are bloody tremendous, almost like having a balaclava on !
As we started up for the top to SCR the weather cleared again and we passed the big group with the Welsh guide. Their footprints/tracks had been very useful for us heading up Stob Dubh, now our turn to lead the way.

SCR ascent very straightforward, plenty of rocks sticking through the icy snow covering so just worked a line to save having to stop and stick the crampons on. Got to top super quick and were rewarded with cracking views over to Mamores, even the dog was pretty happy now (that's him over 75 munros now). Welsh-led party was coming along slowly, enjoying themselves and indeed wondering about the boy and dog being up there - did not tell them he's only 13 and now at 80 munros !

Now then though, spotting the tracks down was not so easy (due to the blizzard having covered them) and we started our descent a little too far over back towards the Stob Dubh side. However, as we moved down the first 50m -100m it was easy to traverse over. Visibility and soft snow made the first part of the descent a lot of fun !

We were a bit under 4 hours, fast down and pretty focussed on the way up. What a difference when the weather changes in your favour and when your walking partner's black cloud lifts ! Just as well we did these as Friday/Saturday were write-offs weather wise and Thursday we did a bit of skiing. !
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