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Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor


Postby dogplodder » Wed Apr 15, 2020 10:19 pm

Route description: Buachaille Etive Mor

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

Date walked: 26/06/2019

Distance: 13 km

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It felt strange to have climbed 221 Munros and not to have done Buachaille Etive Mor. Every year I schemed how it might happen but it never did. When Moira and I walked the West Highland Way in April 2018 it lay there so temptingly as we passed, but Moira had already done it and I wondered if I'd left it too late.

Stob Dearg from West Highland Way
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Then something happened. In June my friend Ruth was coming on holiday to a cottage in Strathnairn and was up for some walking. We had done a bit of walking together in the distant past, but not recently. On one memorable occasion in early May 1987 a group of us including Ruth and husband Malcolm camped at the west end of Glen Muick and climbed Lochnagar in the morning. It was a very cold night and Ruth hadn't complained so I knew she was unlikely to be fazed by anything I might suggest.

Lochnagar summit with James, my two sons, Malcolm, me and Ruth (1987)
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But rather than dive straight in we first climbed a Graham near the Braemore junction and all went well with that. So then I made my suggestion. Would she fancy a visit to the Great Herdsman, an epic walk which on a good day would be exceptional (I know how to sell things) .... and she agreed. Then much scanning of the forecast and we picked a day that looked good the following week. Game on!

I made an early start from home to pick up Ruth from Strathnairn for the drive down to Glencoe. It was back in a previous age when sitting one metre apart from someone not in your household for a two hour drive was a normal thing to do. I'd known Ruth a long time, since an out of the blue phone call in 1979 about a first year student coming to Dundee uni needing accommodation and did we know of anywhere? I'm not sure who was more crazy - us for having a lodger along with three small children aged 5, 3 and 1, or Ruth for agreeing to come!

But at least one positive thing came out of that year for Ruth. She met her future husband when he came for his tea one night. Again the result of a phone call, this time from Aberdeen about a young guy just started work in Dundee and having to eat his tea sitting on his bed in his B & B. Could we make contact. We did and the outcome from that was beyond what we could ever have imagined. He put a shower in for us, for one thing!

When we reached Altnafeadh the weather was perfect and the mountain ridge looked stunning. I always feel a buzz of excitement starting any walk but after all the years of waiting for this one I felt like dancing!

Classic roadside shot with SMC hut in foreground
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We took the path over the footbridge and past the SMC hut to begin our ascent into Coire na Tulaich. Our route for the day was exactly the WH one so I don't need to go into detail describing it.

Into the jaws of the mountain
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Coire na Tulaich
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Zoomed to Blackwater Reservoir with Easains centre left
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The path was mostly good. At one point it was less obvious and we wandered off on a parallel path higher up which involved a slight scramble to get back on track. In the course of her work Ruth organises excursions and walks for international students but they would mostly be low level walks. For someone who hadn't done anything on this kind of terrain all that recently she rose to the occasion without any questioning of the wisdom of the idea - and I was grateful to her for that!

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It can't have been an easy holiday for Ruth. She and Malcolm had booked the cottage in February, just a few days before he died. It was sudden but not unexpected. A stent inserted in his airways 16 years earlier was starting to unwind, putting him into a life threatening situation. The procedure had saved his life then but the stent was now breaking down and it was deemed too dangerous to operate. His response to his precarious position was to go on exactly as before, going to work each day with a walk at lunchtime up the Law (hill in Dundee) and when increasing breathlessness curtailed that, the same distance on the flat. Malcolm was not one for drama and for him it was business as usual.

About to emerge from the shadow on to the ridge
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Heading first for Stob Dearg
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During the Dundee years I shared many a walk in the Sidlaws, Angus glens or Perthshire with Malcolm and Ruth, often with an assorted troop of folk, some on the hills for the first time. I think those from other countries valued the experience the most and this may have been part of what led Ruth into her work with Friends International from her original career in Physiology.

United Nations climbing Ben Chonzie (2000)
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One time when some students were struggling with the distance, Malcolm went off on a detour over craggy ground to collect the mini bus and bring it to the nearest point, before heading back along the path to meet them. That's the kind of guy he was and all done unassumingly and with his droll NE sense of humour. I always thought Malcolm did "Scotland the What" sketches better than the originals did!

Malcolm
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There was no bitterness with Ruth. She was so thankful for the extra 16 years she'd had with Malcolm and that he'd been able to see their four children growing up, that it helped her through the pain of grieving. It was a privilege to walk with her that day and we talked about Malcolm a lot.

Approaching Stob Dearg summit with Rannoch Moor below
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Another walker appeared at the right moment and offered to take our photo.

The two of us at Stob Dearg summit (1022m)
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Zoomed to Ballachuilish bridge
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Rannoch Moor
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Zoomed to Ben Nevis and Mamores
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We found ourselves rocks to sit on and were joined by a pair of ravens hoping to share lunch. I often see ravens at summits and think of Elijah being fed by ravens..... and wonder why these ones have got the idea the wrong way round?

Summit ravens
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Descending on gravel is more tricky than going up, but the descent off Stob Dearg wasn't too bad. Coming off steep Stob na Doire was more awkward.

Descending Stob Dearg
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A pool on the ridge making me think of my dogs
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It's a fabulous ridge to walk and we were surprised to see a number of folk climbing Stob Dearg and going straight back down. We were glad that with the benefit of an early start we could take our time to enjoy it.

View back to the red peak
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Ahead to Stob na Broige and Glen Etive
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View back to Stob na Doire (the non Munro on the ridge but probably harder work)
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View west from Stob na Broige
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Stob na Broige means "the peak of the shoe" from which I guess we get the word brogue. My dad never had walking boots but he'd go off into the hills in his kilt and his brogues and was one of the most sure-footed walkers I knew. You don't hear of brogues so much now.

Glorious landscape seen to perfection
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Ruth at Stob na Broige summit (956m)
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The family wrote a tribute to Malcolm that I was asked to read at the funeral. There was one part of it I knew I would struggle with. I think you will understand why.

"A few days after Malcolm left us, we went for a walk through the woods at Balmerino. As we began to drive home over the Tay bridge, the setting sun touched the horizon. While we crossed the river, the sun set as we went, throwing its light up into the misty sky and across the water. By the time we reached the other side, the sun rested just beyond the horizon, but its soft light lingered on to guide us home. We saw him in that sunset, and will remember him in many more. Malcolm held strongly to the hope of life after death, and as surely as we saw the sun set, for him it rose again in a better place."

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I think deep down most of us grasp at the hope that death of a loved one doesn't mean the end of them. We hear of new stars appearing in the sky to watch over us - not to mention Rainbow Bridge where we're promised our beloved dogs are waiting for us. I think it's meant as a comfort to someone torn apart by the raw pain of loss and we know there's no substance to the idea but we say it anyway.

Except that in this worrying time of lockdown we've just had Easter and the true message of Easter isn't much to do with chocolate and bunnies but is of someone in history, like us but also very different, who went through the curse of death and broke it. If that's true it's worth paying heed to. A solid message of hope in these dark days. As someone I know said last week, having faith doesn't change the evil of cancer or coronavirus but it does help you deal with it. Her husband is battling cancer so she knows.

This report is a tribute to the magnificent Buachaille Etive Mor which has meant so much to many of us. I'm so grateful to have been there. But it's also a tribute to a man who worked hard for his family, was generous to his friends (even if it meant starting a rewiring job after a busy day at work), loved the hills, had a great sense of humour and put himself out to help anyone who needed it.

We lingered on the peak of the shoe that beautiful June day. It was a touch of heaven. Eventually we had to leave and set off with the sun on our backs along the ridge to take the path by the Allt Coire Altrium down into the Lairig Gartain. It was steep and at one point we edged down carefully where it felt a bit exposed. After that all was plain sailing as we reached the Lairig Gartain path and made good time back to the A82. What a day we'd had on an epic mountain ridge and Ruth none the worse for her two Munros and a peak in between!

Stob na Broige, Stob na Doire, Stob Dearg - Great Herdsman of Etive
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Last edited by dogplodder on Sat Apr 18, 2020 4:42 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby gammy leg walker » Thu Apr 16, 2020 8:56 am

A fine tribute to this magnificent mountain,and to Malcolm.I always look forward to reading your TRs.

GLW
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby tweedledog » Thu Apr 16, 2020 10:04 am

A fine day out and an equally fine tribute...
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby Mal Grey » Thu Apr 16, 2020 10:10 am

A lovely read and a fine tribute to both man and hill. Thank you.

BEM was my first Munro, in 1981 I think.
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby fiona_b » Thu Apr 16, 2020 9:07 pm

Thank you a very enjoyable read. A magnificent mountain. :clap:
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby Graeme D » Thu Apr 16, 2020 9:32 pm

A poignant and heart-felt tribute to a great mountain and also to a fine friend that you have lost yet is still there with you. :clap:
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby shredder » Fri Apr 17, 2020 10:43 am

Found this a moving read. Quite a mountain and quite a man. :clap:
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby lowland » Sun Apr 19, 2020 9:32 am

:D
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby Anne C » Mon Apr 20, 2020 9:52 pm

Lovely and moving report. Like GLW, I always look forward to reading your reports too. Great photos, what clarity! I had thick clag last year on Stob na Broige last year :( so good to see what we missed.
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby celt54321 » Wed Apr 22, 2020 3:02 pm

Thanx for posting..lovely read.
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby dogplodder » Sat Apr 25, 2020 1:45 pm

gammy leg walker wrote:A fine tribute to this magnificent mountain,and to Malcolm.I always look forward to reading your TRs.

GLW


Thank you Gammy, that's kind of you to say that. :wink:
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby dogplodder » Sat Apr 25, 2020 1:46 pm

tweedledog wrote:A fine day out and an equally fine tribute...


You will be one of the few people on this site to have met Ruth. 8)
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby tweedledog » Sat Apr 25, 2020 1:50 pm

dogplodder wrote:
tweedledog wrote:A fine day out and an equally fine tribute...


You will be one of the few people on this site to have met Ruth. 8)


My greetings to her, and to you of course.
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Sun Apr 26, 2020 2:50 pm

Stunning report, with great justice to the land and its inhabitants, particularly your remarkable friends. I love the way you weave together the hills, people, photos, the past, the present and the spiritual. Just beautiful. :D :D :D
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Re: Touching eternity on Buachaille Etive Mor

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Apr 28, 2020 10:15 pm

A very moving tribute, a great report, and a wonderful day casting a perfect light over both...
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