I had lost count of the number of times I have parked at the foot of Buachille Etive Mor, looked out of my car at the rain and the clag, and said "no", I want to save this for a better day.
Today is actually not much better but I had lost patience waiting for this one and decided to head up anyway. There was some mist covering the tops but there was no rain and conditions were pretty good. I already knew that I would not get those clear views down to the A82, past the curved ridge and across the Rannoch Moor which are so famous.
I started out from the car park at Altnafeadh and started to walk over the footbridge over the Coupall.
You can see from the pictures that the cloud level was pretty low at the start of the walk and the view up into the corrie was a bit intimidating.
As I have always wanted to do this walk, I have over-studied it on many occassions. I had long since came to the conclusion that the Curved Ridge scramble was out of my league but became a bit nervous even about the Corie Na Tulaich route. Obviously this is a little bit intimidating from the roadside but now having done a few Munros and believed I was ready for the challenge.
Soon I came to the split in the track and remembered to stick to the right before I ended up on the Rannoch Wall
The walk up into the Corrie was pretty uneventful but a beautiful walk and (I would rate) a medium level ascent challenge. There was no hands-on scrambling on this route but the gradient was pretty steep at some points and quite continuous from the road level, around 300m, to the bealach, roughly 900m.
As I gained height, there were some glimpses of decent views prior to entering the clag. The A82 was still visible and the views across the road to the Mamores was partially visible.
The final stretch to the bealach was tricky underfoot and a little steep but again, nothing too challenging. At this point, I caught up on a young couple who had been in front of me all the way up the corrie. We exchanged a few words and continued to walk together up to the summit. They were really experienced and excellent with navigation skills. This felt comforting as we entered the clag.
The final stretch from the bealach to the summit was only about 600m with ascent just over 100m more. The only real trouble with the navigation was knowing if the cairn was the true summit, as the edge of the ridges on the 3 sides was not visible from the cairn
The young lady done some work with the GPS and map and declared this was the real summit.
I walked a little bit further to just check the land sloped away but didn't go too far as I didn't want to take the fast route back to the car
From here there were zero of those classic views over the Rannoch moor or down the A82 or up Glen Coe. I was a little disappointed but balanced that by the fact I was standing on top of Stob Dearg. This is pretty much a life time ambition after seeing the gateway to Glen Coe when I was young(er)
After a short break, we continued back to the bealach and started on the ridge walk toward the 2nd Munro and initial target of the Munro Top Stob na Doire
As we progressed along, there were some gaps in the clouds which gave tremendous views to the valley below and a real feeling of height.
The ridge walking was easy at this point and a pretty clear path to follow. Looking back along the ridge, as we approached Stob na Doire, I could see Stob Dearg from the "back-side"
The pull up to the 2nd Top was quite steep in parts but a clear line. However, as we exited the top (still in clag) it would have been easy to take the south ridge exit from the summit, it seems the obvious choice in the clag. However, the correct standard route is the path to the south-west. The descent was quite steep but only about 150m to the bealach and the 860m point that would be our eventual exit to the Coire Altruim.
Continuing the short ascent along the ridge to the second Munro Top of the day, Stob Coire Altruim. From here, the clouds parted sufficiently to give some brief glimpses of the White Corrie Munros to the south.
The remaining ascent from Stob Coire Altruim up to Stob na Broige was fairly easy walking as the back end tops were not as high as the front ones.
I was looking forward to the views down loch Etive but again, I was deprived by the summit clach. There was enough visibility for the summit snaps but nothing more than 50m or so.
The return route to the exit from the ridge was uneventful but pleasant. I had a sense of accomplishment, having done BEM but there was still the descent to come.
The decent was pretty standard winding path but then we hit some slabs of rock and water pouring down them. I wasn't ready for this and it took a but of 5-point contact to slide of the slabs.
From then on, the walk was straight forward but, as always, the final stretch felt a bit long. By many comparisons it is not bad (mileage-wise and ease of walking) but still it seem to drag on. Once into the glen, falling the river was pretty easy walking along the Lairig Gartain.
Then the final stretch of about 1km along the A82 was probably the most dangerous part of the day.
And a final look back at the Big Bookle and a sense of ticking one of the list of those "must do" hills.
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