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I'm loving this. I really am! (Buachaille Etive Mor).

I'm loving this. I really am! (Buachaille Etive Mor).

Postby johnscot55 » Sat Aug 11, 2018 12:31 pm

Route description: Buachaille Etive Mor

Munros included on this walk: Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor), Stob na Broige (Buachaille Etive Mor)

Date walked: 07/08/2018

Distance: 13 km

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Before I begin can I just say the primary reason for me posting this report has changed this year. Last year I posted a couple of reports of walks with my grandson Matthew. I hoped that they would make reasonable reading and entertain a few Walkhighland members. While I hope that this may still be the case, I've come to realise the best reason for me to write a report is to leave some kind of digital memory of our walks that I hope Matthew can access in the future and be reminded of great times. Anyway, here it is.
Bouyed by a successful test climb of Buachaille Etive Beag a fortnight before, my grandson Matthew (and me ) had been desperate to return to Glencoe/Etive to bag the Big One, Buachaille Etive Mor. With the school summer holidays coming to an end next week and Mondays and Tuesdays being the only practical days for me to tackle a climb, we couldn't be too fussy about the weather forecast. Matthew was hoping that this walk would give him Munros 8 and 9 and perhaps one more next week would get him to 10 before returning to school. After continuously checking all the mountain weather sites, neither Monday or Tuesday looked like they would provide the kind of views I had dreamt of seeing on this walk, but Tuesday seemed marginally better, so Matthew stayed with us on Monday night to facilitate an early start. And so it was with the words of his Mum and more vocally his gran lodged firmly in my brain, we set of around 7.15am tuesday morn.
"Do not begin this walk if the weather isn't right."
"Turn back if the weather deteriorates."
"Don't take any risks."
"Don't get into any SITUATIONS".
Etca, Etc.
The drive up through Callander to Tyndrum only served to deepen my concern that this day wasn't going to have the outcome that both of us were hoping for. Rain, some heavy, and low cloud, which unlike a fortnight ago did not brighten much as we passed Bridge of Orchy and rose up onto Rannoch Moor. I began to form plans b,c and d if BEM did not pan out. The Pap of Glencoe, a low level walk round by the Three Sisters, go on to Fort William just to see Ben Nevis. I knew none of these would appease Matthew though.
As we rounded the bend that brings BEM into view, my heart sank. BEM was swathed in cloud and I could see Matthew was also disappointed.
"Let's get up and have a look."
I drove past the corner at Altnafeadh, turned round in the layby at the top of hill and drove down to the layby at the foot of the Devil's Staircase. It was 9am. The rain had stopped, but banks of cloud were swirling around and Coire na Tulaich was filled with variable amounts, one minute mostly visible then almost disappearing from view. There was one other empty car in the rough ground (it's in terrible condition) across the road. It seemed The Buachaille was going to be quiet.
"Let's give it a few minutes."
As we waited a car with Dutch number plates pulled in behind us and a "mature" couple got out, quickly prepared, and set off across the road.
Now if I had been on my own, I would have definitely (although somewhat nervously given the scarcity of other walkers) have set of up the hill with the option of returning if I felt it was the right thing to do. Only myself to think about and I could deal with the disappointment. But having a duty of care to a 10 year old, and mum and gran's warnings fresh in my mind, the decision is not so easy.
At about 9.20, the Buachaille had briefly the least amount of cover since we had arrived and in that instant we looked at each other and I said "Let's go."
Unfortunately, the midges must have heard me too, because when we got out the car to prepare we were immediately engulfed in a cloud as thick as that which was covering the Buachaille. I quickly grabbed the Skin So Soft, dispensed some in Matthew's hands and told him to rub it onto his face. When I next looked he had about 20 dead midges spread over his face. Why are we doing this again? As quickly as possible the rucksacks were sorted out, boots on and we were off at around 9.30am.
starting out.

We stopped at the SMC cottage for the obligatory photo and from there I watched the Dutch couple ahead stand for some time at the fork in the path studying their map before heading off in the direction of the curved ridge route.
obligitory SMC pic
We followed on and took the right fork towards coire na tulaich. The Dutch couple went out off sight and we didn't see them again. From the roadside coire na tulaich looks pretty formidable but at least by the time we reached the foot of the coire the mist had mostly lifted from it. We began the climb up the coire and pretty soon Matthew came out with the title of the post.
"I'm loving this. I really am" A phrase he repeated many times heading up the coire and a few times beyond that.
short break in the coire to take in the view
another view from the coire

Near the top of the coire we actually overtook 3 guys and a small dog and I'm guessing they were from the other car. Now me and Matthew actually overtaking another person or group on a hill is completely unheard of, so I would say to these guys if they should read this report, get your act together guys :lol: The dog actually wanted to come with us. Maybe he was fed up waiting for them :lol: We in turn were overtaken by a young guy with yet another small dog and a lone chap from Switzerland.
There was a bit of scrambling to do before we eventually popped out of the coire. Close visibility was not too bad, but a glance along the ridge only just managed to reveal a small cairn which I believe may mark Feadan Ban. Please tell me if I'm wrong. Not very promising. However, we were turning east and heading for Stob Dearg. Now more exposed we were buffeted by stronger intermittent gusts of wind and occasional rain.
However I was happy that we were at least going to summit Stob Dearg and that, no matter what, the walk would achieved something. A new Munro for Matthew and I, which was more than I thought we would achieve when we were sitting in the car a few hours before.
We finally reached the summit of Stob Dearg and it felt fantastic to be on top of this mountain which I had driven past and admired so many times but never dreamt I would one day climb. We explored a bit and it was a bit disappointing not to have the unrestricted views we were hoping for but at least there were some and at one point it cleared sufficiently for us to see the expanse of Rannoch Moor with the ubiquitous Schiehallion poking up in the distance.
exploring Stob Dearg summit
view down to A82 at Altnafeadh
We were having our first proper snack break when the young lad with the dog appeared.
Stob Dearg summit
He had been exploring along to the end of the summit and after a good conversation I took his picture on his SLR and he took our pic on my phone.
got our picture taken
He said he was off to complete the ridge so we finished our snack and decided to also walk along a little further. There was two more summit like areas, the last of which was at the end of the summit ridge.
view along to the end of the ridge
We retraced our steps back to the main summit and began heading back to the coire top.
Five minutes down from the summit the three guys (and small dog) appeared out of the mist which had rolled back in again and they were delighted to know that they were "almost there", but confirmed that "this'll be it for us".
Heading back to the coire top I still hadn't made up my mind if "this'll be it" was going to apply to us as well. Nothing beyond the immediate beginning of the ridge was visible after the coire top, so I returned to the topic of conversation we had been having on and of for the last hour. How far are we going today.
"Well no matter what we do now, the day has been successful and worthwhile. A new Munro."
But I already knew the reply.
"No it wont. I don't want to say I have climbed Stob Dearg. I want to have done Buachaille Etive Mor and that means ridge and Stob na Broige. Anything else is FAILURE!"
Oh dear. No pressure then!
"We'll make a decision at the top of the coire."
Glum silence!
As we approached the coire two men popped out and they became the eighth, ninth and also the last people we were to meet that day. We exchanged pleasantries and they set off towards SD.
Now I had a decision to make.
Visibility was still iffy, it was raining intermittently, windy, and there was no sight of Stob na Doire whatsoever. I know what gran would be saying. I love walking with Matthew, but it does make decision making more difficult. In the end the desire from both of us to complete the Buachaille won.
"OK. Let's go." Matthew smiled and we set off into the mist. I'm guessing this was about 12.30 or so.
We chatted our way along the ridge till the mass of Stob na Doire appeared through the gloom. The stiff pull up to the summit confirmed to us what I've read some others feel about this summit. FEELS like a munro. We decided to have another short break here. The summit was completely enveloped in cloud with no forward view and I must admit I briefly thought about retracing our path back to the coire, but I was certain I had found the correct path of the summit and this was confirmed when, for a brief minute or so, the view ahead cleared sufficiently for us to make out our way ahead. Also the path down Coire Altruim was revealed so I knew where the exit of the ridge was should we need it before completing.
We descended from SnD into the slightly clearer bealach below and took note as we passed the descent path. Along a grassier knoll that had some cairns on it, and then another pull up to another summit cairn yet again mired in the clag and we celebrated completing the Buachaille. WHAT? You ask that's not right :roll:
OK. This is where some of the experienced guys and gals start shaking their head. I knew there are four summits on the ridge but the Walkhighlands print out route map only shows three. I later realised that there is a generic Buachaille Etive Mor printed over where Stob Coire Altruim should be and actually if you expand the map with your fingers Buachaille Etive Mor suddenly morphs into Stob Coire Altruim. So in our minds and on the map (I'm actually going to split the blame with Matthew here :lol: ) the first summit after the descent path was Stob na Broige. Where had SCA gone? Was one of the lesser bumps we had gone over actually a top. As we sat at the cairn, Matthew was so happy to have completed the ridge. But I was pretty sure this was not right. I left him at the cairn and looked around for a continuing path but in the clag found none. Maybe this IS Stob na Broige!! I returned to the cairn. Time was getting on. It was around 3pm now with a long trek back to the car still ahead of us. Bad Grandad now :twisted: I decided to let Matthew think we had completed the Buachaille (maybe we had) and I would investigate further when I got home. Hopefully we had, but if we hadn't, I would be disappointed, and he would be gutted and I would have to deal with the fallout.
We took a final snack, slung our rucksacks on and began the journey back towards Coire Altruim. About 10-15mins down from the summit we had a fantastic slice of fortune. We had not seen anyone for around 2.5 hours, but out of the mist two figures appeared. It was the two guys we had last seen at the top of Coire na Tulaich. We chatted again and I decided to tell them my doubts about our completion.This of course alerted Matthew as well. The gents (I wish I had gotten their names) generously allowed us to accompany them back to the summit where one them (I'll call him the one with the beard :D ) confirmed with his map and GPS that we were indeed on the summit of Stob Coire Altruim. D'oh😩!!! It seemed we still had a bit to do.
This experienced duo soon established the direction to Stob na Brioge and again graciously allowed us to accompany them on the trek to the final summit. It turned out one of new companions was a "Munroist" while the "bearded one" was well into the 200s bagged.
After establishing Matthew's name and questioning him on his walks, they both marvelled at his ability to walk and talk continuously without drawing breath :lol:.
In good company time passed quickly and soon we approached the final summit. It felt fantastic. The feelings of doubt that maybe we hadn't completed this walk were swept away and replaced with certainty that we had. Thanks a lot gents.
We sat with them in the horseshoe of stone beside the cairn and scoffed the last of our food. It was now well after 4pm and not wanting to make our new friends feel they had to accompany us any further, I told Matthew we should be on our way. We set of back towards SCA but were soon overtaken by our two friends. As we headed towards the descent path the skies began to clear and for the first time we saw the impressive Stob na Doire and the descent path we had taken some hours previously. It looked mighty impressive and it's NOT a Munro!!!
returning to descent coire. first view of Stob na Doire as the clag cleared.
first proper view back along the ridge
We also had a view back to Stob na Broige.
stob na broige

We found the beginning of the Coire Altruim descent path and began our way down. As I mentioned in a previous post, Matthew is definitely quicker ascending than descending so this was quite a slow process. This path is quite steep, decent in places, especially near the top, but there are also parts that were quite tricky and care is required especially if wet. Some bum sliding was required and I had to assist Matthew a number of times, but eventually we reached lower ground of Lairig Gartain and headed towards the river crossing.
Before we reached the river, I checked my phone and realised that I had a message from Matthew's mum.
"Is everything ok?
I didn't seem to have a signal but I fired off a one word reply, YES, and hoped that it had left my phone and made it's way to an anxious mum.
We reached the River Coupall and were presented with the last problem of the day. Not deep, but the days rain meant crossing would not be straightforward. There certainly wasn't an obvious way across and a quick check around didn't reveal anywhere where crossing would be easier. (I'm surprised there are not a few bigger stepping stones here).My first suggestion that Matthew remove his boots and socks did not work as he found difficulty keeping his balance in the cold water. Back to the bank and feet dried and rebooted, we went with plan B. We held hands and ran as quickly as possible through the river and emerged, feet soaking, on the other bank. It seems that weathertite boots does not include complete immersion!
The hard work done, we began the long squelch back along the Lairig Gartain.
back along the lairig gartain
I reckoned it was going to about 7pm or just after when we would get back to the car and I knew his mum and gran would be waiting to hear from us.
Lairig Gartain
As we walked along the path by the river, the sun actually appeared and began casting shadows. A bit late but welcome nevertheless.
Matthew and Stob Dubh
Lairig Gartain 2
we were up there!
Matthew sang his way along the path till we hit a layby on the A82 and walked the half mile or so back to the car. I hoped the midges, which had not been a problem during our walk, were not going to be our welcoming committee.
on the road with the wee bookle behind

It was actually 7.15pm when we reached the car, 9 3/4 hrs after we left. A bit outside WH's 7-9 hour estimate but not to bad for an" old un" and a "young un" giving the weather conditions. It was a marvellous feeling. High fives were given and I thought back to the morning sitting in the car when I was swithering as to what to do, and how that had led to the adventure we had eventually experienced.
back at the car

We quickly changed before the few midges that were around sent a message to their friends that dinner had arrived. We set off towards Tyndrum, but pulled in just up the road for a pic of BEM from a different angle.
another view of The Buachaille
Back in the car I was able to get through to Matthew's mum, who along with his gran, had started to become a teeny bit anxious. It was decided Matthew would stay with us again that night as he and his young brother were due to spend Wednesday with us anyway. Arriving back in Cumbernauld, Matthew decided he wanted a McDonald's and despite this definitely not being my dinner of choice, I decided to have one too. Transpired it was a pretty good shared ending to a brilliant day.
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Re: I'm loving this. I really am! (Buachaille Etive Mor).

Postby Yorjick » Sat Aug 11, 2018 3:38 pm

An excellent account of a day to remember.

I can relate to your comments about decisions being harder when responsible for another as I have taken my son out on the hills a few times.

You are getting him off to a great start to his Munro bagging career!
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Re: I'm loving this. I really am! (Buachaille Etive Mor).

Postby ArgyllGoSlow » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:14 am

Great story from start to finish.
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