A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Glencoe Munros

13-15 October 2018
We're in Glence to bag the Munros on Etive Mor, Etive Beag and Bidean nam Bain ! Johnny Walker was leading....

Last weekend on the Mamores we had had a nice Saturday, but paid for it on Sunday and Monday with heavy rain and winds. This weekend the forecast promised a wet Saturday, (though thankfully Storm Callum had passed to the south of us on Friday), and then reasonable days Sunday and Monday. We therefore stoically donned our waterproofs at the foot of the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor, comforted that we would hopefully get the chance to dry out the next day!

Day 1 - Etive Mor

We met at the layby opposite the SMC hut at Lagangarbh, and with this being such a popular hill, even the weather could not deter folk, and we set off alongside a few other parties. The work the National Trust has done in Coire na Tulaich, the main walker's access point to the seemingly impregnable mountain, is to be congratulated. What was once a wet and turgid scree scrabble is now a well-engineered path, that only breaks down just before it reaches the high bealach.

We followed the leading groups, keeping a reasonable distance to avoid any dislodged rocks, and sure enough there was the loud shout of "below" during the ascent, so we were well advised to. Reaching the bealach, you turn hard left, and ascend the delightful rough red granite that gives the peak its individual name of Stob Dearg, or 'red peak'. In clear conditions, the summit usually affords wonderful views over Rannoch Moor as far as Schiehallion, and myriad other peaks in the near and far distance. Today it was like being in a Tupperware box, all clagged-in as we were in cloud, so we made do with a sandwich and moved on.

The second Munro of Stob na Broige comes after the impressive top of Stob na Doire, which must vie with Stob Coire nan Lochan in the glen as 'Top Most Likely to be Named a Munro Sometime'. I mean, it's a cracker, and whilst the lower Munro is a nice hill and commands great views down Glen Etive, it is a bit of an afterthought after Doire! Ah well, we did 'em all anyway.........

For the descent you need to retrace your steps back to the bealach at the foot of Stob Coire Altruim, and then you start deceptively easily on a new path. That soon reduces to a succession of slabby sections which leave you feeling a little insecure, and indeed I bypass the lowest one, where the consequence of a slip is fairly serious, rejoining the path a little lower down. Then, apart from the burn crossing that wasn't as easy as it could have been due to the rain, it was plain sailing on the improved path down Lairig Gartain. That used to be one of the boggiest paths in the area, but again the NTS have done sterling work.

It was a really good day despite the persistent rain. The lack of wind meant it wasn't as unpleasant as it could have been, though we were soaked through by the time we got back to the cars. The forecasts were promising better for Sunday, and our fingers were well and truly crossed.

Day 2 - Bidean nam Bian

The rain finally stopped around 6am on Sunday, and we joked that as MWIS was pessimistic, we would go with the MetOffice that were giving a dry, bright day with little wind. But it happened! We met at the large car park on the A82, and after a briefing on the day, made our way across the River Coe and started the steep ascent into Coire nan Lochan. It is on a great path, but is rather unrelenting, save for a pause at the 'Bad Step' which has gotten even trickier due to erosion and rock fall. We negotiated it safely though, and finally got to the eponymous lochans, where we turned left on the east ridge of Stob Coire nan Lochan.

The ridge starts broad and rocky, but narrows delightfully, and has a nice little breche that requires an exposed down climb on great rock with lots of holds, so we all enjoyed that. Eventually it spills you out quite suddenly on the flat summit, where the views were fabulous.

The continuation means losing 140m to a high bealach, and then an easy but loose path up and onto the summit of Bidean nam Bian, the highest summit in Argyll at 1150m. Again, the views were wonderful, and we took our time admiring them whilst Orion nipped over to Stob Coire nam Beith as he is collecting 'tops' too. We didn't mind at all, sipping our tea and soaking it all in.

Once he returned we picked our way easily down the ridge south easterly to the head of Coire Gabhail, A.K.A. 'The Lost Valley', and the start of the rocky ascent of our last Munro of the day, Stob Coire Sgreamhach. This we dispatched quickly, sharing the summit with a nice Dutch couple (with shiny new ice axes, a little early!), and a group of young folks who had been chatting and laughing their way noisily around the route behind us. Hey, they were enjoying themselves....nice to see young 'uns having such a good time on the hills.

The descent into the Lost Valley is steep and loose, and despite NTS' valiant attempts to construct a path, the erosion is quite an eyesore and getting worse. Not good. We had to be careful, as this type of terrain is rarely anyone's favourite, but we slowly and surely lost height until we were on what I promised was a 'good path'....I think there were some in the group who would beg to differ! I suppose it is knowing what it used to be like affects my judgement of good and less so sometimes ļ

We did a lot of ooing and ahhing, as the coire is a spectacular place, and the deer joined in with some serious bellowing as they announced their presence in the rut. As we got lower, we joined the last of the day-trip tourists coming up into the valley, exchanging cheery greetings as we revelled in the splendid end to the walk. Orion's wife Virginia was waiting at the car park with some mince pies, most welcome they were too. A splendid day and a treat after the soaking of the day before.

Day 3 - Etive Beag

The final day of the long weekend saw us again bagging two more Munros, the very amenable Buchaille Etive Beag. This is a shorter day than the others, between 5 and 6 hours taking your time, and we had really good autumnal conditions to round off the trip, with views down Loch Etive that never cease to come up with the goods. It was busy on this popular mountain, especially with various kids and dads, it being half-term holidays. Budding munroists in the making.

Glencoe. Famous, infamous almost with its history, but what a place to walk.......

The photos above were taken by Paul Hastie and Johnny Walker. More are here on Flickr.

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© 2018 Steven Fallon