East and west of Etive

Munros east and west of Glen Etive, 11-13 May 2019

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. Three days hiking up some fine mountains either side of Glen Etive. We were aiming to bag 7 Munros over the days including Ben Starav. Steven Fallon and David Murray were leading.

Munros east and west of Glen Etive

Ben Starav and neighbours

After a few soggy days, Scotland was looking forward to a glorious spell of weather. We were heading down Glen Etive to hike up the mountains either side of the glen over three days.

I arrived on the Friday afternoon and found a good roadside spot to park my van for a few nights. David Murray was also bringing down his van and before he would arrive, I thought I'd head up Beinn Sgulaird from the Etive side. It's a long time since I'd been in from this side, usually it's ascended from the Appin side. A wee cycle up through some forestry, some hiking over rough ground, more gentle higher up, I ended taking a fairly direct route all the way to Beinn Sgulaird's summit. Fine evening views, I quickly returned to ready myself for the next few days.

David and I met our group of enthusiastic baggers down Glen Etive under blue skies. We'd debated route and decided to opt for a clockwise traverse of Glas Bheinn Mor and Ben Starav, hopefully adding in Beinn nan Aighenan on the way. Our group chatted and getting to know each other as we headed down the track over the River Etive, around the buildings at Coileitir and up the rough path on the eastern bank of the Allt Mheuran. Up to the col between Glas Bheinn Mor and Stob coir'an Albannaich, time to stop for elevensies and to take in the now unfolding views over the Blackmount and beyond.

Up to the summit of Glas Bheinn Mor, a bit over easy scrambling followed by a delightful grass-covered crest took us to the small cairn on the top where cold breeze ensured we kept our layers on.

Leaving Glas Bheinn Mor behind, the group split into two - those who wanted a 2-hour detour to Beinn nan Aighenan and those who didn't. David led the latter, aiming over Ben Starav and getting safely back to the roadside.

I joined the group for the detour, which firstly involved a steep grassy descent avoiding some crags on the way. Down to the bealach below Beinn nan Aighenan, we started meeting several other groups of people all enjoying the mountains in fine weather. We left our sacks just above the bealach (ah, joy) for the final ascent up Beinn nan Aighenan and were soon up on its summit, photos taken and views drunk in.

About turning, we hopped and hiked our way back to our sacks and the bealach below. Suprisingly there weren't many opportunites to refill water containers on the way. Ben Starav next, which meant a 450m ascent, some steep, some boulderfield, a weird stripe of quartzite to pass and a short ridge to traverse. We were on the summit at last, joined by a lone-hiker in serious training for something epic in Greenland ! The views were stunning with great visibility. Some of the surrounding peaks were still snow covered, Stob Binnein to the south-east having by far the most.

The final downhill of the day next, 1000m descent ! There's a boulderfield to content with first, but this was over and done with quickly, thereafter a fairly gentle hike led us downhill. We met someone around halfway down in her tent set up for the night (we met her again the following day, apparently she had to wait for the sun to melt the frost on her tent in the morning before she could pack it away). Back at the roadside, we found out that we returned just over an hour behind the other half of our group !

Meall nan Eun and Stob coir'an Albannaich

Our second day in Glen Etive began the same as the previous, in bright sunshine and clear skies. And like the previous day, we opted for a clockwise traverse of the Munro peaks.

Down to the River Etive, this time we turned left and followed the fine estate track north-east up to the bridge over the Allt Ceitlein. Over this, then turned right, the track gradually became rougher, then merged to a path, progressively fainter as we made progress and eventually disappearing into the long grass and undergrowth. As a group we drifted into two smaller groups, with myself leading the front group. Higher up and at the bealach between Meall nan Eun and and Meall Odhar, the group relaxed for elevensies on the white slabs, while I recci-ed a route up through the crags on the north-western side of Meall nan Eun.

The route worked a treat, and in what felt a very short time we'd left the craggy ground behind and were up on the wide grass-coverd crest of Meall nan Eun, striding out aiming for the summit cairn. With the clear condtitions, views were vast !

A gentle gradient led to towards the base of Meall Tarsuin, from where a faint path twisted a route up this bump (where we re-homed some tadpoles) and down to a col below Stob Coir'an Albannaich. This mountain looked mighty from here, all crags and cliffs where some of the winter's snow still clung on in the form of cornices. There's a chink in its armour, a slanting grassy rake which led up onto its eastern shoulder. We took this route and were soon on Stob Coir'an Albannaich's summit.

Although many sources suggest a direct descent north-west down to woodlands below, we chose a more relaxed route, heading to the col between Stob Coir'an Albannaich and Glas Bheinn Mor. A small cairn now marks the point of descent from where a path zig-zags down to the col. From the col, the group were now on familiar territory and each could hike at their own pace back to the roadside, stopping to look at the waterfalls on the way.

Beinn Fhionnlaidh and Sgor na h-Ulaidh

The midges were out this morning ! That's the first of them biting me this year.

Today's group had a few folk from the weekend and some others joining, some of whom were enjoying their chat on their drive up so much so that they missed the turning for Glen Etive ! So part of the group headed of and I waiting for the others - when they arrived, my goodness the pace was fast ! But this worked and we caught the rest of the group where the track meets the edge of the forest. We could now relax.

Another glorious day with blue skies and warmer than the weekend. Altogether we wandered down to the bridge over the Allt nan Gaoirean (repaired and much improved since my last visit) and began our uphill hike aiming for Beinn Fhionnlaidh. The group gradually split into those who wanted to bag both Beinn Fhionnlaidh and Sgor na h-Ulaidh (the keen group) and those wanting to head just for Beinn Fhionnlaidh (ie Jackie and myself). The keen group were led by David and they hiked ahead, higher up aiming directly uphill on the scree following the cairns. I knew a wee shortcut and we caught up with the keen group on the crest. On the summit of Beinn Fhionnlaidh we enjoyed lunch while taking in the views and snapping away taking pics.

Returning, we had a bit of fun with some easy scrambling on the 'bad step', before going our separate ways lower down - David and his group headed around Beinn Fhionnlaidh under its crags and off to Sgor na h-Ulaidh, whereas Jackie and I took a leisurely pace back to Glen Etive.

For me, this was 3 days in glorious conditions with a lovely group of people. I hope we'll see you all again soon.

More photos by Steven Fallon with a few contributions from some of the participants are here on Flickr.

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