walkhighlands

Glen Etive 7 from Victoria Bridge

Munros: Beinn nan Aighenan, Ben Starav, Glas Bheinn Mhòr, Meall nan Eun, Stob a' Choire Odhair, Stob Coir an Albannaich, Stob Ghabhar

Date walked: 19/09/2020

Time taken: 24 hours

Another good forecast for the weekend saw us making some more big plans to get the Munro tally up after the forced downtime due to Covid. This time, the Glen Etive 7 from Victoria Bridge would be our intended target, with a high-level summit camp along the route at some point. We’d just nicked the last space in the very busy carpark early Saturday, as a Friday evening camper headed out offering his space to us. Once parked up, and ready to go we headed very briefly up part of the West Highland Way before spotting the old-fashioned sign pointing towards the footpath that takes you to Loch Etive.

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Following the path, we came to a stream where it was time to head uphill. With the forecast for hot weather combined with the amount of water which I tend to drink on the hills, I took the usual approach and encouraged Scott to do the same - drink as much as physically possible at any fill-up spots we came across, regardless of whether we needed a drink or not, to allow us to fill up and prevent potential dehydration and/or running out of water.

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The first spot we stopped at was the stream which descends alongside Clashgour Hut. The route to the mountains actually heads up a faint path before reaching the hut, and the path remains on the east side of the stream. It is boggy initially, and I imagine this to be a bit of a soggy slog in wetter weather unlike the recent dry-spell, but soon evolves to a brilliant path, allowing easy height to be gained with minimum effort, as well as plenty of water sources along the way. It was a gorgeous day, so we made the most of taking several stops throughout the ascent, getting some pictures on our phones and video footage on the GoPro. I don’t usually tend to take many pictures on the hills, as I’m the sort of person that sticks my phone in a pocket in my bag and can’t really be bothered with the faffing about to retrieve it for pictures during the hike. Sometimes I regret it, but there is something special about holding the memories as they are in your head – as the pictures often don’t do the landscapes justice anyway. Besides that, it’s nice to live in the moment rather than through a camera, when the pictures can often get lost to the ether if they’re not ‘insta worthy’ and sit on an undeveloped smartphone camera roll amongst another 10000 pictures of dinners and memes before being culled during a phone-picture purge. However, today was different and I had the luxury of stopping and enjoying playing photographer for the day. Well, at least for this part of the journey.

On the ascent we could see across to Allt Ghabhar’s impressive waterfalls which would be the descent route had you been just taking on the round of 2 which is recommended by Walkhighlands. I was a little disappointed that we wouldn’t get the chance to see the falls up close, but if anything, it just means it’s an excuse to return another time when next doing the hills without following the same route as I’ve done before.

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Passing another good water spot it looked like there was potential for this to be the last so we took yet another refill and then headed on the path which took a sharp turn to the right away from the main path, and begun to weave its way to-and-fro up the ridge. Zigzagging up the steep nose, we gained height ridiculously fast and in under 2 hours from leaving the car, we were already on the first Munro of the day. Some people prefer a gentle gradient to ascend the hills, whereas I quite enjoy a short, sharp steep hike as I feel it keeps my momentum going at a nice steady pace. Stopping and starting, or ever-changing gradients just make it a bit more difficult by always changing up the exertion levels. From the summit of Stob a’Choire Odhair, there’s sensational views across Rannoch Moor and across to the next hill of the day – Stob Ghabhar.

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After some snacks, more pictures and enjoying the views we headed off slightly south west and dipped to the bealach between the two hills. As I’m not necessarily great with heights, I was exceptionally anxious about the comment on Walkhighlands that states some may find the view back down to the coire intimidating. As always, my anxiety about this section proved to be wasted energy on my part! Other than being a wee calf-burner on some sections where it was steep, it was absolutely no issue and there didn’t feel like there was any exposure at all.

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It wasn’t long until we finished the steeper section and arrived at the top of the (less famous) Aonach Eagach ridge at around 2pm where we stopped for a quick snack. This ridge gave a brilliant walk across an arête – not too exposed at all with some very, very mild scrambling adding a bit more enjoyment than your standard walk uphill. I was actually quite sad that the ridge was over so quickly… maybe this is me finally ready for the real Aonach Eagach – who knows!

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There was one final pull up onto the summit of Stob Ghabhar’s summit, where we met a man and an incredible husky who was keen for some tuna sandwiches – a dog on the hills always makes the day better. We knew we’d have to make our way onto the next targets of the day regardless of how friendly our new canine companion was and so took a bearing along the northwest ridge, as opposed to the usual descent route had this just been the two, which would see you head south. The route would take us along what felt like the long, long, long (did I say long?) ridge from Stob Ghabhar to Sròn a Ghearrain and Stob a’ Bhruaich Lèith before finally reaching the nose of Meall Odhar – a distance which we had hugely underestimated while carrying all of our kit on an exceptionally hot day. The ridge itself actually makes for good going with a decent track on nice easy grass, and continues on enjoyable undulating ground to reach the nose.

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Once we had arrived at Meall Odhar, it was a case of finding the best route to reach Lairig Dhochard below - every angle seemed to look onto ridiculously steep ground to reach the bottom of the drystone dyke below that ran towards the next hill of the day. After some careful winding through various crags and steep dips and horrifically uneven ground, Lairig Dhochard was reached with a bit of relief as we arrived at the end of the wall. It was once we were off this, I had the thought ‘this is why these hills probably aren’t usually linked up’ – unless of course you’re Steven Fallon and that’s exactly who’s route we’d been following. We had looked up and were tempted to follow the wall directly to the ridge, however we were mindful that our perception of depth from this angle may have been skewed and the best way to avoid becoming crag fast was to contour round slightly and then follow up a series of grassy (but boggy) ledges between the crags. The climbs were steep at first, but soon relented to allow us an easier but steady-paced climb to reach the exceptionally broad, flat summit of Meall nan Eun.

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With heavy packs and a long day, we’d decided it might be best to camp on this hill as we didn’t want to be trudging over difficult ground in a bid for a decent camp spot, which we may never have achieved. Although we were disappointed that it had taken us so long to reach this point, we knew with an early start in the morning we could make up some time (well, at least we were hopeful on Saturday night). With the summit being so spacious and flat, along with good soft ground, it did make an excellent candidate for a summit camp with the best ground so far, and provided excellent views across to Nevis and Lochaber, Aonoach Eagach, the remainder of the Etive hills, the Glencoe hills and the Cruachan range with a stunning sunset as a backdrop as the night wound down. We definitely couldn’t complain and a hard day’s expedition to get here is always worth the effort. The sun disappeared and dusk rolled around, which always fills the sky with an abundance of beautiful colours to marvel at. Sunrise and sunsets may be special, but I have to say I think dusk has to be my favourite time of day for the lighting and sense of calm and quiet that fills the air. As the light dimmed, it was actually a surprisingly cool night out on the tops for such a warm day, but this only made the tent felt extra snug and cosy tonight. As much as this is an advantage to having the tent, I couldn’t help wonder how incredible it would feel to bivvy under the clear darkening September sky, staring directly into the realms of outer space with no tent obstructing the experience. With those thoughts, I drifted off and was only awoken once with some deer outside the tent through the night – or at least the evidence pointed towards deer with hoofprints and some droppings the next morning.

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It was yet again another spectacular morning and another beautiful sunrise against the endless vista of Lochaber hills. The wind remained still and we knew we’d lucked out again with the weather. Packing up the tent, we started heading downhill on the western slopes and up over the obstacle that is Meall Tarsuinn. It isn’t so much an obstacle, just a bit of a pain to ascend and descend, when we knew we had another four Munros to tackle that day.

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From there, it was more downhill over some decent ground and a faint path to follow to the 754m point below. Looking for water, we couldn’t see any near the path so grabbed a quick snack and looked out for the grassy rake which cut up the slope in a southwesterly direction to give us a good ascent. A mild scramble at a couple of sections, but that’s only because of my short legs – I’m sure anybody else would easily be able to step up hands-free! Ridge reached after a quick climb, it was an obvious and formidable-looking ascent directly up to the next summit of the day with some good views down the steep slopes which fall away from the summit ridge. We met our first person of the hills today here, a man from England who’d stopped for a chat on his way down – turned out he’d camped out too. After the brief hello, we arrived at the summit which was perched above some of the cliffs, totally unknowing when looking to the gentle rolling slopes to the west which we’d be descending down. We met another 2 people at the summit, both of which had also camped – one on Meall nan Euan but further down the hillside from us. The Etive hills were definitely proving popular for high-level camps and walks this weekend!

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We followed the ridge round to see some good views below, but it hadn’t been anything we couldn’t see from the summit so we then began the descent on the initially gentle slopes that were heading in a southwesterly direction to reach the 870m mark before steepening and zigzagging on some loose gravel and scree path to drop a further 130m to the bealach below. Thankfully there were some water sources here at the bealach which meant we could get a decent snack and refill done here as the sun was definitely impacting the speed and hydration levels of the day and we’d not filled up since the falls the previous day. We knew we didn’t want to hang about too long as we still had another 3 tops to gain that day along with a long walk out so back onto a good path which was steep at first before easing off to provide an easier ridge walk to Glas Bheinn Mhòr.

Another break and some more food to fuel, as we could see it looked like a lengthy ridge to reach Ben Starav with potential to have some up and downs along the way, including over the minor top of Meall nan Trì Tighearnan. Right enough, it was a long ridge and was feeling reminiscent of Mullach na Dheiragain on the Mullardoch round after quite a long day before and a camp the night before. What felt like forever passed, and we had eventually reached the Bealachan Lochain Ghaineamhaich below Ben Starav where we ditched the bags to save us some weight on the route up and back down again. Another swift refuel here and we started up the hill. It’s a brilliant peak, with a good path up to Stob Coire Dheirg before it narrows to a brilliant arête. There is a track below the main ridge, but if you fancy some scrambling action I’d recommend sticking to the crest for some interest. Scott opted for the path for speed, but I stuck to the crest of the ridge for some scrambling action. Finally the narrower crest is finished, and a path over loose ground heads fairly steeply uphill to the 1068 mark – which is disappointingly NOT the summit quite yet but takes you onto the final section of the hill that contours round the cliffsides to Starav’s main summit point which is 10 metres higher.

After a decent rest at the top with some exceptional views down into Loch Etive below and a quick chat with another couple who were sat here, we headed back down ready to collect the bags. What we didn’t realise was that where we’d ditched the bags to the summit and back down worked out at around 3.5-4km in distance not to mention ascent and that we should have taken some water. Scott was first to reach the bottom, grumpy and well ahead of me as he was desperate for a drink, which I hadn’t realised as I sauntered along the top adding some more scrambling fun on the way back. Sorry Scott!

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Reaching the bottom, time for a re-set and we knew we only had one hill of the day left to go – Beinn nan Aighenan. A faint path leads downhill for quite some time, which we had been expecting due to the map, but didn’t realise it was a further 170m drop from the bealach which we were already on to the next low point underneath Beinn nan Aighenan. This was our last target of the day and it definitely made for slow, tired going. We’d met a few people on the way here who had asked where we’d come from and if we’d camped out which they were impressed by. Truth be told, despite my cheery voice, I was completely and utterly shattered by this point and the only thought getting me through was that this was the final climb of the day – I’m not sure if my legs could take anymore ascent after the last couple of days again as we’ve done so many big multi-days to make up for lost time over the last few months. The ridge gains height fairly gradually, which makes it a bit of a boring slog, before finally it steepens compared to the previous slog, to gain some quick height onto the very final pull of the day. I actually overtook Scott on this final push – which always shows he’s done in as he’s generally the faster of the two of us on the hills. The cairn was reached where I lay down for 5 minutes while swatting away ked after ked after ked – pesky wee buggers that kept landing on me the entire final ascent – presumably since I’d been sweating so much across the day in the height of the sun. I later discovered that one of the wee buggers had been in my hair and was washed out in the (very late) shower by the time we arrived home.

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We begun the descent by following a very slight path, to discover it didn’t really go anywhere but instead died out and morphed into a heather-clad, ankle-rolling, uneven pain in the backside and all I had was visions of breaking my (already weakened) ankle or doing my knee in so horrifically it would finally collapse after the trauma it has been through over the last few weeks, and that’s what I wanted to avoid. No embarrassment of Mountain Rescue today, please! We were hoping to aim for Coire a’ Bhinnein which meant that we had yet another bloody ascent to do up to the 744m point before some further ups and downs to reach Bealach Fraoch. We followed what appeared to be a dried-out grassy gully, as the gradient was less steep than the surrounding slopes, while winding our way round a couple of craggy areas and aiming for the path at the fords we could see far below. It was a heather-bashing event the entire way, with some wet slopes making for plenty of heart-in-mouth slips along the way.

It took what felt like forever to reach the soggy path below, and even longer to finally appear out at the vehicle track. I had brought my trainers so changed into these on the track to ease the boot pain of the walk out. Now let me tell you, the track which is marked on OS maps may have you thinking of a nice easy vehicle track – but rest assured this is sporadic, and often changes to mudfests or river crossings mixed with bog, which may be easy to manoeuvre in daylight but is exceptionally easy to doubt if you are on any track, let along the right one when it is pitch black. Head torches now on, thankfully we were able to access our location on OS Maps to be sure that we were on the right path as we were doubtful and wanted to be safe. We had been, thankfully. It was now dark, much later than expected and we still hadn’t eaten dinner, so “hanger” was most definitely setting in. You may see the posts of our trips and think how lovely it is that we do these trips together and how romantic, but on days or weekends like this, it definitely couldn’t be further from the truth at times. It was a long and silent walk out, in the dark, Scott in a bad mood and charging on ahead as usual, while I walked along behind him alone and in silence, going between cursing him for being such a grumpy pest messing with my mood or then becoming even more annoyed at him for overestimating our abilities on every hike we do and thinking we are capable of Steven Fallon’s routes & times even though the man runs the Munros. Sorry Steve! The usual rage on the walk out built up ‘how does he expect to be a mountain leader when all he does is charge ahead, puff on his vape grumpily, while waiting impatiently on someone who isn’t as fast as him before he takes off again’. His answer is always that when he walks all the hills with me, he expects me to be as fast as him and doesn’t understand how I can still be so slow (cough cough short legs cough cough), and of course he wouldn’t be this way with a group or a customer… I tried to make light that this is all good for his experience, but I think it might have been too soon for that as we plodded on through the dark and he stormed off again. Soon enough, the walk resulted in a rolled ankle for me and I went flying into a mud bank, which gained me some sympathy, then led to some laughter which lightened the mood where we began to chat finally after a sombre couple of hours (anyone that knows me knows how much I love to chat and love company, so it felt like a very long and lonely couple of hours in the dark). More wet socks and what felt like another million miles later, we finally arrived back on the good track at Clashgour hut where we’d turned off to start the walk which now felt like a lifetime ago.

On the drive home, just as we were approaching the Erskine Bridge, my phone pinged which showed a message from Police Scotland letting me know that they were concerned for my welfare and to call 101. I managed to get hold of my mum and as it turns out, she had called Mountain Rescue as she was worried something had happened to us because she hadn’t heard from us over the last few hours. I was completely and utterly mortified. Thankfully they hadn’t gathered as yet or sent anybody out as it had been a recent call and my mum had managed to call back, as did I when I called 101 mortified to let them know I was fine… safe to say, we’ve been overestimating our time now and making contact with everyone on the summits to let them know when we are saving phone batteries or heading into glens which block out phone signals! My mum has also been warned to never, ever, ever call MRT that soon – although I’m sure if we needed them, we would have been exceptionally grateful!


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Comments: 3



9 Fannichs and the conditions of a lifetime

Attachment(s) Munros: A' Chailleach (Fannichs), An Coileachan, Beinn Liath Mhòr Fannaich, Meall a' Chrasgaidh, Meall Gorm, Sgùrr Breac, Sgùrr Mòr, Sgùrr nan Clach Geala, Sgùrr nan Each
Date walked: 15/08/2020
Distance: 37km
Comments: 12
Views: 2618


Up in the clouds on the Creag Pitridh round

Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn a' Chlachair, Creag Pitridh, Geal chàrn (Laggan)
Date walked: 01/08/2020
Distance: 17km
Views: 403


Third time's a charm on soggy Sgurr Eilde Mor

Attachment(s) Munros: Sgùrr Èilde Mòr
Date walked: 26/07/2020
Comments: 1
Views: 474


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Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn a' Chaorainn (Glen Spean), Beinn Teallach, Càrn Liath (Creag Meagaidh), Creag Meagaidh, Stob Poite Coire Àrdair
Date walked: 24/07/2020
Distance: 40km
Ascent: 1850m
Comments: 3
Views: 785


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Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn a' Chochuill, Beinn Eunaich
Date walked: 17/07/2020
Distance: 13.5km
Ascent: 1221m
Views: 499


Cairngorms Long Weekend Part 1

Attachment(s) Date walked: 11/07/2020
Distance: 16km
Comments: 2
Views: 551


3 days and 5 Munros in the heart of the Cairngorms

Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn a' Bhùird, Beinn a' Chaorainn (Cairngorms), Beinn Bhreac, Beinn Mheadhoin, Ben Avon
Date walked: 11/07/2020
Distance: 64km
Ascent: 2520m
Comments: 2
Views: 953


Beinn Iutharn Mhor and Carn Bhac - our post-lockdown return

Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn Iutharn Mhòr, Càrn Bhac
Date walked: 04/07/2020
Distance: 32km
Views: 509

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Statistics

2020

Trips: 9
Distance: 219.5 km
Ascent: 5591m
Munros: 34


Joined: Jul 14, 2020
Last visited: Oct 26, 2021
Total posts: 27 | Search posts