I think we could all get used to this very un-Scottish spell of weather! Dry and sunny conditions across the board gave us plenty of choice for a hill walk in the West Highlands. Given that our last trip had been to An Caisteal and Beinn a' Chroin near Crianlarich, we set our sights further west. And eventually settled on the unmistakeable Buachaille Etive Mor: a weekday seemed the best time to choose such a popular hill, and low enough to escape the forecast patchy cloud risk for higher Munros. After a fairly long drive up the A82, we couldn't resist a quick stop to admire the classic front-on view of Buchaille Etive Mor:
We eventually arrived at the car park at Altnafeadh well after 10.30am - at least you don't need to worry about daylight hours at this time of year. The roadside layby was full and the rougher parking area on the south side of the road nearly was too. There was only one space remaining unless you had a 4x4 car... right in the middle of a massive puddle, making us look a bit stupid while attempting to make the leap to dry ground from the passenger side. The driver's side was even worse! Anyway, suited and booted and off on the path to the SMC hut.
Crossing the river, there was a nice view of Buachaille Etive Beag, which had been our backup plan if the cloud was down in the morning on the big Buachaille.
Buachaille Etive Mor looked pretty impressive itself though, and the ascent out of the top of Coire na Tulaich looked intimidatingly steep (and snowy) from below.
What a beautiful coire it was, with magnificent rocky scenery in all directions and a good path underfoot. Good views soon started opening out behind too:
As height was gained, the top of the coire started to look a little less fearsome. In the end there were no issues: snow only covered the path at the very top, and was easily avoided by climbing up steep grass for a few metres on the right. The panorama from the bealach was superb. Ben Nevis the only hill to the north in the clouds - MWIS was spot-on with its forecast today.
After the dramatic ascent, the ridge to Buachaille Etive Mor was a slight anticlimax... but the views from the summit certainly weren't! Ben Nevis was now cloud-free although a shower was moving in over the west coast. The sheer scale of Rannoch Moor was apparent - you don't really get a full appreciation from down below:
Creise across Glen Etive:
A couple of unexpected encounters on the summit. First, a friendly raven obviously hoping for food (he was rewarded!) hopping around the summit shelter. Secondly, a loose five pound note! There was no-one else around at the summit... but if you lost a fiver on Monday at the top of Buachaille Etive Mor, get in touch with all the details of where you sat
I descended the ridge a little way to the north-east to try and get a view of Crowberry Tower, but it must have been further than I was prepared to go. Time to head back towards the bealach, this time with views ahead to Stob na Doire and Bidean nam Bian:
Stob na Doire is a shapely peak - from this side it seems more deserving of Munro status than Stob na Broige further along the ridge.
View back to Stob Dearg:
Another steep climb up to Stob na Doire (and a steep descent from the other side), but the views more than make it worthwhile. Stob Coire Altruim and Bidean nam Bian from the descent off Stob na Doire:
As we ascended to Stob Coire Altrium beyond another bealach, Bidean disappeared from view as a shower moved in and cloud covered the summit. Cloud had generally been increasing through the afternoon and a number of hills to the south were also in cloud. Would we be next? Perhaps time to pick up the pace a bit. For now, there was still blue sky overhead - Stob na Doire behind enoying the sun, with the steep descent route from earlier in view.
Thankfully there's very little descent and re-ascent needed between Stob Coire Altruim and Stob na Broige, so it was a straightforward walk across to the second Munro. The added bonus from this end of the ridge is the view over Glen Etive, although right into the sun at this time of day:
All of a sudden the cloud on Bidean had vanished and blue sky seemed to be rapidly increasing to the north and west again. MWIS had suggested an increasingly sunny evening - was it arriving early? After the early fog it must've been a good day for climbing Ben Nevis:
The Aonach Eagach ridge also looks dramatic from here (from valley level it doesn't look like much at all). Definitely one on the list, but need to get some more scrambling experience first...
Back to the bealach between Stob Coire Altruim and Stob na Doire. Like on the ascent, the top of the path into the coire was snow-covered, but easily avoidable to the side on steep grass. It looked like someone had slid down it, but looked a bit steep for us. Looking down the coire into the Lairig Gartain:
Last view of Stob na Doire, with the snow at the top of the coire in view:
Buachaille Etive Beag from the descent route:
The descent turned out to be the steepest part of the day: hands briefly needed in quite a few places. There's also quite a lot of slabby, steeply sloping rock, which might actually be quite awkward if wet. Some nice waterfalls to the right of the path though. Looking back up:
Once down in the Lairig Gartain the path's pretty much level all the way back to the car park. The end of the coire path is quite entertaining - it descends to the burn crossing on a narrow ridge being undercut on both sides by the River Coupall and the coire burn. Might not be around for too much longer...
The river crossing was easy today on stones above the lowish water level. The path along the glen floor was very smooth, descending very gently towards Glencoe. One more small burn crossing with views to Stob Mhic Mhartuin on the north side of Glencoe:
Just the last half-mile or so back along the A82 to the correct car park - a bit of a shame to end the walk this way! At first we followed the roadside verge, but this turned out to be very unpleasant: lots of lorries speeding past a couple of feet away. The track marked on OS maps to the north of the road is overgrown and boggy. However, there's a faint path following the south side of the road. This was also a little boggy (even today, in fairly dry conditions) and with lots of litter probably thrown from passing vehicles but better than staying on the verge. We didn't hang about, but at least the views ahead to Beinn a' Chrulaiste were still excellent.
One final view of Buachaille Etive Mor from near the car park:
Lovely sunshine to end another amazing day then (although still with the puddle to negotiate when climbing back into the car!). Surprisingly, most of the drive back between Glencoe and Crianlarich was in patchy rain - we were lucky to avoid all the showers today!
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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.