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Sunshine on Buachaille Etive Mor

Sunshine on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby nigheandonn » Wed Aug 28, 2019 10:27 pm

Route description: Buachaille Etive Mor

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

Date walked: 03/08/2019

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I should know by now that it's when you have one specific plan for one specific time that it all goes wrong. I've had my eye ambitiously on the Clachlet traverse for a while now, but it was only when I thought about doing it from a base in the north and getting the early bus down to Bridge of Orchy that the plan really came together, and I realised that I could do it on my way to Skye - I've climbed a hill there this year already. So everything was booked - I'd have preferred to be staying in Glencoe village to do the Pap on Sunday morning, but the Kingshouse bunkhouse was what was available and meant not having to worry about catching a bus at the end, so that was fine.

Friday was a bit of a rush already - I'd been running about at lunchtime trying to buy new shoes, the old ones having come apart in holes, and then dashing round Glasgow trying to get all sorts of last minute things, before dashing to the bus station only to find no bus there - the bus that was supposed to have gone out again at 5 still hadn't come in due to issues further north, never mind the one I was supposed to be getting at 6.

Eventually a bus came in, and we got off, but there was still some doubt about whether the road would be open, and at Tyndrum it turned out that it wasn't - blocked somewhere near Bridge of Orchy. It was less than a week since I'd been diverted round by Dalmally on the way home from Tarbert, and this time it wasn't nearly as much fun - I'd seen it all before, and I didn't really know where I was going to end up. (Probably I should have either stayed in Tyndrum or gone on to Fort William, but I think I was too tired for decisions.)

So where I did end up was Glen Coe village, since the bus went that far in from the bridge - I meant to set out for the hostels and campsite, but I got in a muddle about the village road (I'd packed all the Western Isles maps for the following week, including for islands I had no intention of going to, but forgotten all about a Glen Coe one) and was well out the main road before I realised what I'd done. I knew I could go on to the Signal Rock bridge, or just find some flat spot off the road now I was past the houses, but instead I stumbled over the campsite - mostly caravan site - at the visitor centre, with helpful envelopes giving you instructions on what to do if you came in late. I still had to put up the teeny tent in semi-darkness and long wet grass and a cloud of midges, and a state where I was really too tired to feel hungry, but at least I felt found rather than lost.

I did my best to get out early in the morning, but I was slow and the wet tent wasn't very cooperative, and I only caught the early bus through the generosity of the driver, who saw me waving wildly from the end of the drive and came screeching to a halt! But having made it to the Kingshouse, and had a shower and some breakfast, I felt more up to thinking about what happened next.

Even if it wasn't a bit late for setting out for Bridge of Orchy, I felt kind of like I'd been through an epic already - and I'd burst a great red blister on one heel rather than have it burst itself, and wasn't sure how much skin I would have by the end of the day. So a more sensible trip seemed called for, and although Buachaille Etive Mor has never been on my shortlist, it was the obvious objective - the one decent trip in walking distance from the Kingshouse.

The weather was stunningly good, and the mountain stunningly beautiful, although it does look rather daunting from this side. The West Highland Way was ridiculously busy with people from some kind of race, coming through in droves but all quite polite, and with midges which weren't polite at all, and I made my way along to where the path turns off to Lagangarbh.

Triangular hill

The hill looks much more manageable from this side, a good path leading into a climbing valley and winding on in.

Path to Coire na Tulaichean

I knew I didn't have nearly enough water for a day like this - I'd only grabbed a half litre bottle on my dash through Glasgow, although I did also have some orange juice that I couldn't drink yet because my mouth still tasted of toothpaste - so I was waiting for the place where I would cross the burn, which turned out to be a nice fast running spot. Since I couldn't carry much I decided to put a bottle's worth inside me and then take a full bottle with me, and that seemed to work quite well to keep me going.

Further in the path becomes well made steps, climbing up the side of the valley. I stopped to let a Dutch family go past me, as they had to be going quicker to have caught me up, but it turned out we went at much the same speed on average, as they took longer breaks, and I passed them again later and then was caught again. A handful of people passed us coming down, as well, but it wasn't as busy here as I had thought it might be.


Above that again it opens up into a kind of upper valley, broader than the space between the rocks further down.

The upper valley

Up until now I had been basically looking at rocks from below, and they had been mostly worn greyish - but now I was looking down on the lower rocks from above, and they were, if not quite red, definitely very pink. (I don't think there really is a Gaelic word for pink, anyway, so maybe they're red to a Gael.)

The views out of the valley were opening up as well, over the reservoir to a kind of double headed hill beyond - I didn't know enough about these hills to the north to start identifying them, although I was pretty sure Ben Nevis wasn't in the picture yet, as it's always identifiable.

Pink rock

The upper section is rougher - sometimes steps still, but more often just a kind of worn line over the rocks, which have sometimes settled into unofficial steps, and a good bit of looking around to see where the path goes next, although it always does.

The top of the valley

Eventually, with a choice of faint paths, I decided I preferred straight up over easy rock to any of the loose lines skirting it, and finally came out onto the ridge and a view over to Glen Etive.

Stob Dearg

The dramatic part of the ridge is really the Top of Stob na Doire - Stob Dearg is almost behind you, pinker than ever and a long toil up over stony ground.

Onto the ridge

Once up, it turns out to be a short red ridge, and now that I was out of the confines of the valley the view north was even more extensive, with Ben Nevis finally in view among a crowd of companions.

Hills to the north

The main summit cairn is at the very end of the ridge, a little top perched above nothingness.

The end of the ridge

I had it the summit to myself for a few minutes, and sat down where I thought I was out of the way to eat my lunch, only to find a steady stream of people appearing out of said nothingness - the scramblers' route definitely seemed to be busier than the walkers' one.

A long way down

The mountain views were good, but my favourite was over the stunning emptiness of Rannoch Moor, with Schiehallion in view as guardian of the far end.

Rannoch Moor

Although the very end of the ridge is obviously the recognised summit and gathering place, I wasn't convinced that it was actually the highest point on the ridge, and visited a few other candidates, with and without good cairns, on the way back along.

Stob Dearg summit?

A much longer ridge stretches off in the other direction from where I first came onto it - green this time, and at first a walk and then a fairly steep ascent to the Munro Top of Stob na Doire, which is really the stand out peak off the ridge, despite its status.

Stob na Doire

The peaked top has a good view of some other little peaks on Stob Gabhar and Creise, in among a landscape of ridges.

Stob na Doire summit

The descent from here is steeply down the spine between two valleys, a loose stony path which reminded me a bit too much of some of my less favourite descents in the Lake District. But I have my set way now of dealing with stuff shifting under my feet, which is slow and steady - people can dash down past me if they want, and some of them did (including a father and young son speaking two languages at random), but it just makes me unhappy, and I wasn't short of time.

Precarious descent

By coming over the top I seemed to have changed area completely - instead of looking over Glen Coe, I was now looking into and beyond Glen Etive, with the great wrinkled mass of Beinn Ceitlein running parallel, and a glimpse of Loch Etive, as well as a view through to Cruachan, which it would never have occurred to me was so close if it hadn't been for the detour of the night before.

Beinn Ceitlein

The last two tops on the ridge are a good bit lower than the two already visited, although they're on the far side of a decent dip, and a fairly steep ascent up to Stob Coire Altruim.

Stob Coire Altruim

The cairn on Stob Coire Altruim marks the viewpoint at the end rather than the true summit, and since I didn't know it was a Munro Top at the time I can't swear I went over the highest point - I just can't imagine that I didn't, because I had, for instance, gone to the highest point of the little 860m top, out of habit!

Another nice bit of ridge led on, among the new surrounding hills.

The last ridge

Stob na Broige had two cairns on two neighbouring mounds, and more midges than I expected in the middle of the day.

Stob na Broige summit

The view from here was stunning, and stunningly different from the first views from the northern end of the ridge - down Glen Etive to the sea, a kind of reverse of the view I'd had from Taynuilt earlier in the summer.

Loch Etive

Coming back along the ridge the obvious parallel hill now was Buachaille Etive Beag, all scored and lined on the other side of the valley.

Buachaille Etive Beag

There are two things I find interesting about the names - that Buachaille Etive Mor is not, as everyone calls it now, the guardian of Glen Coe, but the guardian of Glen Etive, and the implication from the pairing that the true line into Glen Etive is not the modern road, but the Lairig Gartain. Of course, in the days of access from the sea Glen Etive may well have been the more important place.

The path down starts from the dip below Stob Coire Altruim, not the lowest point further along - looser and rougher than I expected at first, and then a bit more solid but rockier - never just a walk down, and with the burn tantalisingly out of reach for a long time until I could finally cut across to it for more water.

The top of the path

Further down I managed to get properly stuck in a place of sloping rocks where I couldn't reach down far enough to get myself onto flatter ground below, and ended up making a wet detour across a grassy hillside which really probably wasn't any better - maybe I just lost my nerve, because no one else seemed to have any trouble...

Beyond that is was easier but still a long way down, stretching out much further than it looked at first, until I was finally at the river crossing in the Lairig Gartain.

Crossing the river

This was reminiscent of the Lake District on a larger scale again - I've done a few of these walks out between parallel hills, although the scenery isn't usually quite as dramatic.

But it was still a long way out, and my feet were getting sorer and sorer in the new shoes - sore toes from all the slow downhill. Eventually I sat down to sort out the laces, and that did seem to fix things - I was still sore from a long day, but not nearly so battered, so maybe my feet had just swollen in the heat.

Out to the road, and the crowds taking each other's photos while standing just off the road, for no very apparent reason, and a fair walk still to the Kingshouse, keeping to the grass verge where the WHW heads off uphill, because I decided I'd had enough up for one day.

Next: A historical wander to Ba Bridge

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Re: Sunshine on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby katyhills » Fri Aug 30, 2019 4:52 pm

Lovely. Really enjoyed your report and photos. :D
It's a great walk, and on a good day like that, the views all round are pretty hard to beat. Bidean looks even better when seen from the Little Herdsman [B. Etive Beag] . It's a really nice walk too, if you get a chance to do it and haven't already done so :)

If you take a look on a map - you'll see just how many hills are visible to the north that are in your Nevis photo. The Mamores, the Glen Nevis hills, The Grey Corries and The Easains. :)
The view down Etive is stunning from there too, isn't it?
I'm the same - I take it easy on loose, scree filled descents. The knees won't allow anything else :wink:
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Re: Sunshine on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby Colin1951 » Fri Aug 30, 2019 10:37 pm

Nice photos and report. 2 things wrong with it though: Stob na Broige is rightly #2 summit due to the vast number and wonderful aesthetic of the routes of ascent on to Stob Dearg - the route up the Corrie which you used is probably the least aesthetic of them - and secondly (and this is only a personal viewpoint) some parts of the Lake District might resemble aspects of Glencoe- not vice versa. Personally I think a more apt comparison for the Lakes is the Trossachs - smaller in scale, more mixed<, more pastoral.
Only saying...🙄.
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