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The Munros 2019 – Getting Going
by bernadettewalsh » Sat Jan 11, 2020 2:50 pm
Route description: Buachaille Etive Mor
Munros included on this walk: Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor), Stob na Broige (Buachaille Etive Mor)
Date walked: 04/05/2019
Time taken: 9 hours
Distance: 13 km
Ascent: 1110m10 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).
2018 had been a tough year personally and the fall out, in terms of the Munro project, had been a substantial lack of progress. I had made just one visit north and notched up a mere five Munros in the whole year.
What 2018 had given me though, was some extra - fairly lucrative - work and, with the readies safely stashed away, I was able to ditch the unreliable VW Caddy and equip myself with a younger, hopefully more reliable, vehicle. Additionally, the purchase of a Renault Kangoo would enable me to fit out the car as a micro camper. No longer would I have to rest weary bones on a self-inflating mattress that I couldn’t fully stretch out on, with all my gear squeezed in around me, to say nothing of Ben, my wonderful Border Collie and Munro buddy. This was truly going up in the world… luxury!
I spent Easter in an orgy of arranging and re-arranging the contents, getting them into some sort of accessible order, so that everything I needed was close to hand and each move I made didn’t necessitate a major reshuffle of the entire vehicle. By the end of April all was good to go, needing just a bit of luck in the meteorological department. The burden of 230 outstanding Munros were looming over me and, with the first five years of this ten year project already a thing of the past, time was closing in. All-in-all, my mind resembled a pressure cooker of apprehension. I needed to get started.
The first weekend in May looked a possibility, though with cold temperatures of -5 at 900 metres, alongside strong winds. However, it promised to be mainly dry, bright even, just sporting just the odd sleet shower, if the forecast was to be believed. As luck would have it I was working in Glasgow on the Friday and, being not far off 100 miles further north of home, I would get a leg up, so to speak. Eventually, I left Scotland’s biggest city and within two hours was parked up at a favourite spot I had found last year, just off the A82 overlooking Loch Tulla and under the mighty presence of Beinn Achaladair. Alongside all the food, gear, maps etc., I had packed up all those old anxieties that accompanied me at the beginning of each Munro year. What, with the mind working as if on speed, and the patter of rain on the roof, sleep was evasive and the small hours stretched out endlessly, until I finally went into a deep sleep just as I meant to be getting up.
Although there were thousands of steps to go, stepping out of my pyjamas at 6.00am on this bitterly cold morning, just felt like one too many. I took a peek outside the window only to find that last night’s rain had - in fact - fallen as snow, down to alarmingly low levels. If this was the picture close by Bridge of Orchy what would it be like in Glen Coe I wondered, inclined to imagine a snow fest with walking conditions way out of my league. With such an image careering around my imagination motivation to get up and go was, to say the least, somewhat lacking. Rolling over to catch up on some shut eye seemed a much better idea. By 6.30am though, the nagging inner voice could be silenced no longer. I didn’t come all this way to give in so easily. I should at least go and see what the score was, so I braced myself for the cold and set about the day.
Travelling further up the A82 confirmed the scene of my imagination and the seemingly impenetrable Stob Dearg rose up majestically, imposingly, at the entrance to Glen Coe, dressed for winter. I parked where suggested and, looking towards where I supposed my route to be, through the Lairig Gartain, I saw that it was mainly snow free. I’ll just see how far I get I thought, a mantra to start each day, that had served me well till now. Had I read the route through again last night, I would have known that I was really destined to clamber up a steep gully housing the Allt Coire na Tulaich. A gully that today was invested with snow. I might also have brought to mind the warnings about this sheltered, north facing crevice which, “holds snow late…” and “…with slopes that are very steep and often iced, usually with a cornice at the top”. They go on to state that “In winter this is a notorious black spot for avalanches and there have been several fatal accidents involving hill walkers. The usual rules with all winter hill walking ascents apply even more so here – do not attempt it when there is snow lying unless you have a high level of winter skills and are equipped with crampons and ice-axe and aware of the current avalanche risk.” Snow was lying and I was attempting it without crampons, ice-axe, or any winter climbing skills!! I had no way of knowing if this was all superficial snow, representative of last night’s fall, or if - higher up - it was impacted snow, the remnants of winter. Nor did I know how much more of it there would be the higher I got.
Easter had been blisteringly hot, too hot for me to go walking, and I had presumed it would have seen off the last of any lingering snow from the mountains. But, in these cold, sun starved, northern gullies who knew what remained. Buddha like, I repeated my mantra again and I truly was prepared to about turn and admit defeat as the better part of valour, to misquote the popular phrase. How far I got was higher and higher and though treats of avalanches were non-existent the snow had packed into ice and the way up was a careful orchestration of hands and feet. I knew I needed to be careful but never felt in any actual danger though, nevertheless, I pulled up onto the ridge with one long sigh of relief. The ridge that accommodates the two Munros on Buachaille Etive Mor comes as a surprise as none of it is visible from the main road and one assumes that slopes on all slides of the mountain fall away at the same angle, to make the perfect mountain shape. In fact, at the back of this bride of mountains trails a long ridge, like her veil on a breezy wedding day rising and falling with the wind, till eventually resting at the foot of Stob na Brioge, the second Munro on today’s outing.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, long before then I had to conquer the first Munro. I climbed up through shafts of deeper but less impacted snow, and around the hills I could see that last night’s fall had begun to evaporate into the rock. From the top of Stob Dearg, after letting out a hooray of celebration, I begun to soak up the magical views, south east to Rannoch Moor but my eye was captivated by the hills to the north, the Grey Corries, and with the eyes just diverted a little west over the Aonachs and the mighty Nevis range.
Directly west, lay two of my conquests from last year, on the lesser ridge of Buachaille Etive Beag. The first of these Stob Dubh, signalled the landmark 50, giving my Munro bag its first significant numeral. Completing the 360o visual feast by looking South I was pointed to the direction of the second reference for today's walk and made my way back down to the bealach where I had joined the ridge. Now I carried straight on, this time toward Munro no 2. Before then I had to surmount Stob na Doire, which many mistake for the second Munro, such is the climb to its crescent. However, the powers that be consider this great eminence to be too closely associated with Stob Dearg to be considered a Munro in its own right and so its designation remains a 'mere' top. Far in the distance, as if continents away, lay the true summit of the only other Munro on this ridge but, before then, Stob Coire Altruim barred the way.
If effort and distance were taking their toll on this non-sleeping hill walker, then the vista in every direction, and at every angle, was a compensation of no small measure. The panorama lifted mind and spirit, even if body was lagging behind a bit. Among this mountain scenery superlative adjectives were silenced, by their inability to adequately describe the scene.
Just then, as if in answer to prayer, I was encouraged by two people on their way back. “It's really not a far as it looks”, they said, and “once up Stob Coire Atlruim there is very little ascent left to do.” Or, to be more accurate, what they actually did was point and say “once up that one”, the common vernacular used by those of us who are Gaelically challenged. Despite the lack of lyrical oratory their common vernacular was still music to my ears.
The result of Stob na Broige being promoted to Munro status in , after a con-flab of the Munro Society and Ordnance Survey, to agree the accuracy of the measurement, was that hoards of us Munroists now walk the full length of the ridge to bag 'the other one' and, for our endeavours, are left wonder struck when the stunning view of Glen Etive hits the retina.
While having the summits all to oneself is a sought after ideal, having other bodies about did mean I could nab someone to take a more presentable photo, with less of the depressingly evident wrinkles and alarmingly large liver spots, so apparent when selfies speak truth to age! This was much more like it. A seemingly fit hiker, seen in their element, showing off the labours of the day.
Additionally, it's always lovely to chat with people who are on exactly the same wave length, and compare outings in words we could actually articulate, signally the direction of “that one”, or “the pointy beyond that one” or even the one just to the left/right of that one.” Having exhausted such powers of identification with some fellow Munroists today, I made my way back along the ridge to reach the point of descent. En route I passed a group of effusive Dubliners, that I had first seen going up to Stob Dearg as I descended. One of the party seemed truly staggered to see me again. “Have you been all the way over there he asked”, “Of course”, says I. “Dear God, that's fantastic, it's amazing” he said, and then next, “Jeasus, you're grand”, reinforcing utter disbelief. I carried on somewhat lifted by this little exchange until an uneasy trickle of self-awareness chilled my spine. What sort of figure, I wondered, did this 5 foot minimus of 65 year standing - nearly on her knees and sporting a collection of wrinkles and liver spots - present to the more common hill walkers, many years younger and much less vertically challenged. However, my euphoria, at having started this year's endeavours, with two more Munros bagged on such a classic walk, was not easily punctured. Though, in reality, I must admit it was a little dampened. Clearly, the 20 year old, I remember bouncing over the hills wasn't evident to those who saw me now.
Age it seems couldn't be ignored and Buchille Etive Mor, the rockiest of the Munros I had tackled yet, had left me - after hours of traversing boulders - desirous of a surgeon who could, using keyhole surgery, infuse my hip joints with vast quantities of WD40. I took a circuitous route, parallel to the ridge, to make use of the grassy banks, alleviating the friction from the rocky paths and adding a little absorption to the shock of the footfall. Before long at all, I had reached the cairn which marked the way off the ridge down to the Lairig Gartain, which turned out to be my return route rather than, as I had thought earlier, my direction of approach. I was relieved to see that going down beside the Allt Coire Altruim was going to be snow free and all that stood in way was one bank of snow just under the ridge and that was easily crossed. Getting back to the glen was steep with a little bit of scrambling but I was floating on cloud cuckoo, regardless of the dent to my ego and lack of WD40. What I might have passed over, for the excuse of snow and lack of motivation, had turned into a victorious day.
Munros 2019, I was on my way.
by Grisu » Mon Jan 13, 2020 5:29 pm
by Sgurr » Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:11 pm
bernadettewalsh wrote:What sort of figure, I wondered, did this 5 foot minimus of 65 year standing - nearly on her knees and sporting a collection of wrinkles and liver spots - present to the more common hill walkers, many years younger and much less vertically challenged.
You have many such encounters ahead. I think I was only 64 when someone asked (on the Ring of Steall) "Do you mind me asking how old you are?" I think there are many more of us on the hills these days, and I am afraid I now BOAST of being 80 on tops of significant mountains, and especially Munros. Long may you carry on.
by bernadettewalsh » Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:27 pm
Thanks for your encouragement Grisu. Actually, I spend the spring and summer walking and only after that write up my walks. Even later this year so yes, the date is right and it does refer back to May of last year - Must do better.
Yes, there are certainly more of us about and you have certainly given me something to aspire to Sgurr, Munros at 80, amazing, definitely something to boast about . I would love to pick out my favourite mountains to do again, once I've done all 282 Munros - joints permitting
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