walkhighlands

A Nice Day for a Scramble on Buachaille Etive Mor

Munros: Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor)

Date walked: 26/02/2019

Distance: 6.53km

Ascent: 825m

I could almost believe that I fell asleep on Valentines Day and woke up in the middle of July, the weather was so unseasonable warm and the snow conspicuously absent. Rather than bemoaning the abrupt interruption of winter adventures we decided to make the most of the weather with a scramble on Buachaille Etive Mor. Our chosen route was to climb Stob Dearg via Lagangarbh Buttress and come down via Creag a' Bhancair Skyline.
The night before we checked out the route with binoculars to minimise the risk of any nasty surprises and concluded that it really did seem snow free.
The next morning we set out at 8:30 for the the short walk in to Lagangarbh Buttress which was easily identifiable, with a gully running down its centre. A detailed description of the scrambling route is in most of the scrambling guidebooks and is graded as 2/3.
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The Route

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Lagangarbh Buttress Ahead

In many parts of the UK it was the warmest winter day since records began, there was very little wind, and even the rock was essentially warm and dry. The only thing missing was blue sky, the clouds were mostly above the summits so visability was good but the atmosphere was hazy, so unfortunately the photo's are rather drab. Still you can't have it all and the route was great fun and Buachaille Etive Mor as imposing as ever.
After leaving the path to make our way up to the buttress we decided to try scrambling up the slabs in the centre of the stream. After a few tentative moves on slimy rocks we decided this should only be attempted in a prolonged drought and resorted to the rough path up the heather. :lol:
Lagangarbh Buttress route is left of the gully that splits the buttress. It starts on easy angled rocky steps, which were dry, superbly grippy and with a plethora of small features to admire and hang on to. :D
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Start of the Scramble on Easy Angled Rock

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and Series of Easy Steps

We always seem to start scrambles carrying our trekking poles, trying to hold the rock with poles in our hands or cursing them as they refuse to balance small ledges unless they can commandeer the best holds. It was not until we reached the second large heather terrace we finally stopped to put the offending articles away. Moving up the rock suddenly became much easier :lol:.
Although the first part of the route had been easy enough we anticipated the scrambling ahead would be more exposed and we may welcome some protection from a rope. We decided to get geared up whilst we could do so in comfort!
In fact there was only a short section of exposure that made me feel nervous and we didn't use the rope but there were enough loose stones to make me grateful of the helmet.
Following the route instructions we were weaving backwards and forwards to avoid steep walls some running with water. Most of the route was quite slabby and where there were harder steps the rock was consistently rough with good handhold. The situation was magnificent.
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Lovely Rock

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Scrambling in the Shadow of Stob Dearg.

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Glen Coe

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Easier angled rock.

Then up ahead loomed the final steep buttress. :crazy:
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First Glimpse of the Imposing Final Buttress

But before we reached it there was quite a walk up grassy/heathery steps.
And then we were standing before the steep face looking for an easy corner to climb but could only see a dark and slimy looking chimney :( . Fortunately this was not part of the route and just behind it was a much more inviting dry corner of stepped blocks. Some easy bridging and a foot jam took us up to a grassy platform.
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Route up the Final Steep Buttress

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Bridging up the Corner

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Topping out on the Grassy Platform

Leading away from platform was a sloping edge with very tentative handholds, :crazy: followed by some exposed ledges, narrower but more secure.
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Edging along squeeking softly to myself.

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Exposed Ledges

This was the crux, serious enough to cause consternation but short lived :D and followed by an easy scramble to the top of the buttress.
The quality of the rock and the splendour of the mountain combined to make a really enjoyable route.
The only downside is that the scramble finishes at 750M so we still had almost 300m of ascent to reach Stob Dearg. The ridge across the top of the eastern face of Buachaille Etive Mor was a direct approach to the summit and although it was rough going through boulders and scree it was not overly steep and provided close up views of impressive buttresses.
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Rough Path to the Summit

and back along Glen Coe
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Glen Coe

We reached Stob Dearg at 13:00 and it was a busy day up top, with walkers and climbers enjoying the unseasonable weather. There was no sign of the raven so often seen here scrounging food in return for photobombing summit selfies. I wonder if he is still about?
We relaxed whilst waiting for Jeremy Jetboil to do his stuff and heat the water for our much needed brew. No snow to melt today. :lol:
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Relaxing on Stob Dearg

and then wandered along to the true summit for a photo before heading down.
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True summit

The only snow on the hill was in Coire na Tuilach, with a few metres typically covering the top of the path. We saw a couple of walkers, obviously disconcerted too find the snow but determined not to be thwarted having come so far, crawl up to the coire rim.
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February Snow in Coire na Tulaich

Our descent route was the ridge banding the west side of Coire na Tulaich. This ridge is considered an alternative winter route to avoid avalanche risks in Coire Na Tuilach and we wanted to explore it in case we ever felt inclined to come this way in true winter conditions. We also wanted to reach the Creag a' Bhancair to add a scrambling end to the day.
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Ridge Banding West Side of Coire na Tulaich

On such a beautiful day it was nice to be out in the open rather than enclosed in the coire and there was a faint path weaving its way through rubble and steep grass. Crampon scratches confirmed we were on the right route. After a fine start their were plenty of obstacles to avoid, including some substantial crags and loose rock. If you are not familiar with the terrain I imagine it would be tricky finding the best route down in poor visibility and snow.
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Avoiding Crags

Lower down it would be possible to continue on steep grass slopes to meet the path at the bottom of Coire na Tuilach. We however continued straight down to the slabs that make up Creag a'Bhancair Skyline, which is listed in the guidebook as a grade1 scramble. Once again we were pleasantly surprised by just how good the rock was, as we clambered down the slabby outcrops with good fingery handholds.
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Scramble down the slabs

A fun way to finish a day spent on Buachaille Etive Mor's less trodden paths and an unexpected summer adventure in the middle of winter.
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Looking back at the Lagangarbh Buttress Route

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Location: Nr. Grantown-on-Spey
Activity: Mountain Walker
Place: Northern Cairngorms

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Statistics

2019

Trips: 6
Distance: 49.43 km
Ascent: 4659m
Munros: 4
Corbetts: 1

2018

Trips: 14
Distance: 123.49 km
Ascent: 9930m
Munros: 8

2017

Trips: 30
Distance: 476.92 km
Ascent: 34652m
Munros: 31
Corbetts: 2

2016

Trips: 50
Distance: 744.97 km
Ascent: 46992m
Munros: 53
Corbetts: 5
Grahams: 2
Hewitts: 2
Wainwrights 3

2015

Trips: 45
Distance: 640.19 km
Ascent: 41603m
Munros: 50
Corbetts: 3
Grahams: 3
Hewitts: 2


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