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A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!


Postby EuanWardrop » Sat Aug 29, 2020 6:31 pm

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

Date walked: 27/08/2020

Time taken: 8.5 hours

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Well, what a day that was!

Coming to the end of 2 weeks of annual leave I decided to try and book a night away and catch a few Munros before returning to work. After a bit of research and booking an Air BnB in Drumnadrochit I settled on Buchaille Etive Mor on the way up and the 2 at Loch Lochy on the way down on the Friday. I had checked the weather and it had looked like it would be okay at least on Thursday and hopefully improving on Friday.

Now I'm not particularly superstitious but they say bad things come in threes... Bad Thing number one was me overfilling my camelback on Wednesday night and it leaking over my waterproofs in my bag. Bad Thing number two was me forgetting to put my contacts on before I left the car.(My glasses steam up constantly when walking.) And Bad Thing three was me losing my way on the ridge, coming off the wrong side and having to scramble/slide down a daft route and being very lucky to make it back to the car in one piece!!

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Now for the long version....
IMG_8627.JPG
Its up there somewhere!

IMG_8629.JPG
Bridge posing!

IMG_8632.JPG
Start of the path up

IMG_8638.JPG
Clag starting to close in

I had set off about 6.30 from Bathgate and after a quick pit stop at the Green Welly Stop arrived at the car park and set off for 8.45ish. The path was good and we made sure to take the right fork to take the walkers route. We entered into the coire and the path began to climb steeply, with some slight scrambling over the burn required. The weather was closing in and didn't look like shifting. The going was still pretty steep and the rain was starting now. I went for the waterproofs but then remembered the accident last night :( Still, my jacket was fine and Cooper was enjoying sniffing out the path upwards. After an hour or so of hard slog I stopped for a breather and consulted the map. I reckoned we were about 3/4 of the way up to the ridge. The path at this point was quite hard to find and I think we had come off it slightly and as the clag had come in it was hard to pinpoint it. Luckily I heard some voices to my right and it was two people coming down on the path. I asked them if they had been up already but they said they didn't fancy the scramble at the top so were leaving it for today. I was slightly perturbed at this as I hadn't seen any scrambling mentioned at this point on any previous reports :shock: Nonetheless we carried on upwards, very steep steps at this point and eventually came to the scrambly section right at the top of the Coire onto the ridge. I found it ok but the rain certainly didn't help and I took my time making sure that my feet weren't going to slip before moving on up. Thankfully this didn't last too long and it was a relief to make the ridge.

I turned left and headed up towards Stob Dearg. This went on a little bit longer than I expected and the path wasn't quite as obvious, it reminded me a bit of the top of Schiehallion but the boulders weren't quite as big. The ridge narrowed and we reached the top at about 11. Good enough timing I felt. A quick bite to eat and we headed back down to the bealach.

We got down to the junction for the path back down the Coire quick enough and pushed on. This section was reasonably flat and I was happy with the time we were making. Then we came to the long climb up towards Stob na Doire. This was pretty hard going as it is quite steep and seems to go on for a long time with a few false summits. We finally arrived and this is where things started to go downhill.....

Quote from the Walkhighlands route guide "Care is needed at the summit in poor visibility, as the terrain has led some walkers to descend southeast from this point; note the turn in the ridge for the descent to the next bealach." I'm sure you can guess what happened next. The clag was thick here and visibility was pretty poor. I chacked the map a few times and was sure I had turned enough to avoid the SE descent, but.... I hadn't! :shock:

We descended on some loose scree to start and I felt I was following a path but I think in hindsight this was just a rock chute. I descended a bit further and began to get a bit worried I had missed the path. I was sure that I had turned right enough at the top however and so instead of turning West to regain the path turned further East, looking for a path that was nowhere near where I was. I think if i'd been a bit more experienced I would have turned and went back to the summit to try again but at this point I didn't feel as though I would be able to make it back up the scree so kept on going down. There were a few hairy bits in the scree and I crossed over a few chutes trying to find some sort of path. The cloud cleared for a brief second and I could see a road in the distance at the bottom of the glen. I'm sure you have worked out that this was the Glen Etive road but in my mind I thought this was the Lairig Gartain road/path. I felt if I could work my way to my left I would hit the down path eventually and that would let us complete the route. I think I had given up on the second Munro at this point.
IMG_8684.JPG
We came down here

I dropped down after a few stumbles and slips and the scree gave way to grass and heather. I felt this was positive as at least we were losing height. However the terrain got worse with sheer cliffs and the grass was very slippery with the rain. I think it was at this point I realised I was in some real bother. I checked my phone but It was almost dead and had no signal anyway. ( A GPS is getting purchased!!!) Cooper could also clearly sense things weren't right and was requiring a lot of cajoling to get him to keep coming down. He is fine going up but there were times he had to drop down little drops and it wasn't obvious where the best route was he was panicking and barking a lot. I had to resort to sliding down some sections as I felt that was a slightly better option than trying to stand and maybe falling.
IMG_8685.JPG
Slightly Further down

We reached our nadir about 2/3 of the way down just as we were coming out of the clag. Again I could see the road but I could not see any route down. We were surrounded by cliffs with 20-30ft drops all around. I had managed to keep calm most of the way down by looking ahead slightly and planning a route down little by little. At this point however I was close to panicking and really thought we had had it. I stopped and had a bite to eat and feed Cooper a little, it took a few minutes to gather myself before I could go on again. I seen a little route round an outcrop and managed to find a slightly easier route down. At this point I was soaked through and was beginning to feel tired as well as noticing the little cuts and scrapes I had picked up when coming down. I really had to struggle with Cooper as he was not happy at all on this section. There were times I had to hold him in my lap and slide down a few meters, which he was not a fan of at all. This final section also had a few 7-8ft drops which had to be navigated. This was a real challenge as I had to lie flat and try to lower Cooper by his hips so he could stretch out his paws and then drop him down. I dropped my bag down first and on the last one of these it rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled about 200ft away from where we were. This was a stark reminder of what could happen to us but I managed to keep it together and after this last drop I knew we had pretty much made it past the worst section. I managed to retrieve my bag and by now the road was much closer. A slow walk down the much less steep slopes was pretty uneventful until my left leg disappeared into a bog and left me flat on my face! After the day I'd had I just had to laugh at this! :lol: :lol:

I finally made it to the road and, given I thought I was on the West of the ridge, turned right along the narrow road. "I'll be back at the car soon!" After a couple of miles and checking my map a few times I got the feeling something wasn't right. I stopped a passing car and a kind couple from Alnwick informed me that we had been walking the wrong way! They must have been able to see I was struggling and very kindly offered us a lift back to the car. Such a generous offer given that I was soaked through and Cooper was black! If you are reading this thank you so much, absolute heroes! We reached the A82 and came out at the King's House junction. It was only at this point that I realised the scale of my mistake! I have never been more glad to get back to the car. I got into some dry clothes and drove onto Drumnadrochit for some fish and chips and a sausage for Cooper! I decided not to do the Loch Lochy two given the state of my gear.
IMG_8687.JPG
Reward for a very good boy!

I know that a more experienced walker probably wouldn't have got themselves into such a situation but I wrote this report so hopefully others don't make the same mistake! I know I'm lucky to have got down without anymore than a few bumps and bruises. A GPS will certainly be invested in and I can "Put this down to experience" as my dad told me after I informed him what had happened! Sorry for the long length of report but hopefully it helps!
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby KatTai » Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:47 pm

Glad you made it down safely! Sounds like a very scary experience :shock:
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby Mal Grey » Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:21 pm

Thanks for sharing, quite a day out.

I think many of us have descended a wrong ridge in the mist over the years...
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby NeepNeep » Sun Aug 30, 2020 7:41 am

Excellent write up - these are the experiences we learn from, thanks. Many of us have done similar. I have come 180degrees incorrectly off the summit before - requiring a lengthy tramp round back to the car....and they are many more little errors that I know about but my groups don't... :D :? Sounds like you did well. Well done for not panicking....that's the first key step.

Enjoy your other adventures....I'm sure you will.

Bet that lift and hot food was damn good!!!
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby gaffr » Sun Aug 30, 2020 8:07 am

Hello...Always worrying to find oneself on the wrong side of a hill and to be honest enough to put this out on a Forum.
May I ask if a Compass was carried along with the Map. Also did you really expect to find 'a path/road' in the Lairig Gartain.
I have only been this way once, in clear weather, out to reach Stob na Broige before descending to the Gartain and onto the the tops of BE Beag. At the col after Doire there is a path marked on the 1:25,000 map descending to Gartain....never been on this so don't know of the quality of it.
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby Stokesy75 » Sun Aug 30, 2020 8:33 am

I had the fear just reading this! :D Glad you and copper made it down safely, think these terrifying experiences are a lesson we’ve all had at some point, and I’ve just written a walk report that touches on maps and gps at the end.

Regroup,recharge and look forward to more hills better prepared 👍
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby rockhopper » Sun Aug 30, 2020 10:42 am

EuanWardrop wrote:At this point however I was close to panicking and really thought we had had it. I stopped and had a bite to eat....
Right thing to do when this happens - stop and take stock, think, plan then move.

EuanWardrop wrote:I know that a more experienced walker probably wouldn't have got themselves into such a situation...
:lol: I think many of us can think of times when we've got ourselves into tricky situations....we're maybe just not as honest as you :wink: It can be easy enough to head off a summit in the wrong direction especially if in clag and you don't take a bearing before moving on.

That did sound challenging - glad you and Cooper got out OK in the end - cheers :)
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby MountainTrail » Sun Aug 30, 2020 11:43 am

I've been there and got the t shirt

I would say I am reasonably experienced on the hills , but in the heat of the moment it's all too easy to make a wrong turn and end up off track

Every day is a school day as they say

Cooper probably had a great time though lol
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby grantus » Sun Aug 30, 2020 12:18 pm

Looks like the wee dug wants something more than fish and chips. A juicy steak perhaps. Not a nice feeling being scared and alone in the hills. Glad you made it back safely!
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby mrssanta » Sun Aug 30, 2020 8:10 pm

Well done to you for being brave and honest enough to write this up. This is how we all learn. But eeeek!
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby JohnZD » Sun Aug 30, 2020 10:08 pm

gaffr wrote:Hello...Always worrying to find oneself on the wrong side of a hill and to be honest enough to put this out on a Forum.
May I ask if a Compass was carried along with the Map. Also did you really expect to find 'a path/road' in the Lairig Gartain.
I have only been this way once, in clear weather, out to reach Stob na Broige before descending to the Gartain and onto the the tops of BE Beag. At the col after Doire there is a path marked on the 1:25,000 map descending to Gartain....never been on this so don't know of the quality of it.

Was up there on Saturday...the path is very prominent and top quality...descending without it would be hard work..
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby gaffr » Mon Aug 31, 2020 8:36 pm

Hello....thanks for the previous reply John ZD.....just checking my notes for this day out with my wife in September 1997.
As would happen with these forum reports the earlier revived report came to light about a curved ridge ascent and traverse of the BEM summits. The path descending into the Lairig Gartain from the col after Doire is shown in one of the images...as you say it looks good.
Our own day out was up the Curved Ridge then along the the other summits out to Stob na Broige. From there we made a fairly direct descent to the Lairig Gartain to engage with the BE Beag two summits.
As said earlier the day was dry and had warm sunshine and in those conditions it did seem fine.
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby Sgurr » Mon Aug 31, 2020 9:42 pm

I see you have totally blanked out the map in the attempt to carry us with you through all the confusion. I have landed up on the wrong summit before, but that on a beautiful day with forgiving terrain. Have only a couple of times wondered how the heck we were going to get down. Most of us have been there...well not exactly there, wouldn't quite know where it was. Thanks for the write up....always more interesting that the standard circuit of the standard red route with standard photos. Title dragged me in anyway.
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby JohnZD » Mon Aug 31, 2020 10:05 pm

gaffr wrote:Hello....thanks for the previous reply John ZD.....just checking my notes for this day out with my wife in September 1997.

Well, the reason I posted is, I was up with my daughter on Saturday. I also need to check my notes but my first trip was along BEM, I believe descending from the very end down to the high point of the saddle, and up onto the BEB tops. This was November 87..89. My OS map doesn’t even show the path we're discussing. On that day I met 2 walkers. On Saturday, I reckon Sauchiehall Street was quieter.
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Re: A Close Shave on Buchaille Etive Mor!

Postby gaffr » Tue Sep 01, 2020 8:21 am

Yes that would be the reason for the Path being established into Gartain from the .806 area....it was during the !990's that Stob na Broige was upgraded to have the Munro status. Along with I guess Stob Dubh on BE Beag and several others ....probably includes the three main Torridon big hills getting a second Munro.
Looks as if those reaching Stob Dearg and getting out to Stob na Broige return to .806 for the descent into Gartain....hence the formation of the path?
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