Monday, 14 October 2013

Glen Etive Munros

Panorama - Bidean to the Buchailles
Saturday, 12 October 2013
Ascent:        1625 metres
Distance:     19 kilometres
Time:           7 hours 15 minutes

m    Glas Bheinn Mhor                 997m     2hrs 15mins
m    Stob Coir' an Albannaich    1044m     3hrs  30mins
m    Meall nan Eun                       928m     4hrs  20mins

A phone call late on Friday prompted a late trip to Glasgow to collect Gregor. The forecast out west was for exceptional visibility and it had been 6 weeks since he had been in the hills. The problem was that he needed to be in Glasgow by 6pm the next day which meant we had to find a 5-6 hour walk with less than a one and half hour drive.  He had climbed all the munros south of Fort William apart from three of the Glen Etive munros and, he thought, Sgurr na h Ulaidh during his second round. I still needed to do this and one of the Etive munros, we had climbed Ben Starav a couple of years ago and I had climbed Meall nan Eun and Stob Coir' an Albannaich 4 years ago with a friend who was about to finish his round. We decided that Glen Etive was probably too long an outing and to climb Sgurr na-Ulaidh which would take less than 5 hours and left home at 8:30am.

As we were driving over Rannoch Moor down to the Buchaille, which looked resplendent in the crystal clear morning light, I remembered that we had done Sgurr na h-Ulaidh about 8 years ago along with Bidean and Stob Coire Sgreamhach so we decided at the last minute to head down Glen Etive and see if we could charge round the three remaining Glen Etive munros. It was well after 10am before we began the walk and as always we spent the first half hour wading through the dreadful bogs beyond Coileitir. We climbed fences, crossed ravines and fought our way through long grass and boulders before we reached the path which ascends the Allt Mheuran. We passed some others on the way and then decided to cut up through the corrie below Glas Bheinn Mhor before reaching the bealach. The stags were bellowing and behind us was the perfect amphitheatre of Glencoe peaks with Ben Nevis poking its way into the panorama. It was one of those rare and precious days when the views just knock you out.

We were on Glas Bheinn Mhor by 12:30pm and spent 15 minutes having some lunch and feasting ourselves on the views in all directions. Mull and Rhum were visible and to the south and east Ben Cruachan, Ben Lui, Ben More and Stobbinnein loomed large. We returned to the bealach and then made the steep climb up the zig zags until we reached the upper slopes of Stob Coir' an Albannaich. The slopes from here are gentler and we wasted no time reaching the summit where we met a couple from Stirling whom we had joked with earlier in the day. We teased Gregor about his wet feet in trainers (non Goretex) and he made a number of ageist comments about his father. We finished our coffee and then began the descent to the east. After half a kilometre a small cairn marks where a path descends northwards down a gulley and  provides the route over to Meall nan Eun via the intermediate hill of Meall Tarsuinn.

Gregor was anxious to get back as quickly as possible and because I had already climbed Meall nan Eun, we decided that he should climb the final 125 metres to the summit and I would make a descent from the bealach down the burn and meet him on the path further down the glen. I lingered for a while believing that I had 25 minutes to spare before I set off and then negotiated several rock bands before reaching a faint but boggy path. Further down I started looking for Gregor who should have been making a more direct descent. Once on the path I stopped on a couple of occasions but he still did not appear. I continued down the treacherous path thinking that he would catch me shortly. By the time I reached the end of the glen and the track back to the footbridge over the river Etive, I decided to wait and after he did not appear after 15 minutes I started walking back up the track thinking that something must have happened.

I met a walker whom he had been behind on the ascent of Meall nan Eun, she did not remember seeing him until I mentioned he was wearing trainers. "Oh yes there was someone who arrived at the summit just after me and he turned straight round and started running down." That's my boy. So either he had turned an ankle on the descent or had somehow got in front of me. She had a telescope and I was able to view the  7 or 8 people who were still coming down the path, none of them looked to be moving fast. So I began to think he must be down. I turned the telescope down the glen as he appeared coming back up the track assuming that I must have turned an ankle or kicked the bucket.

We charged off down the path, me embarassed about the search I was about to make and the four people whom I had involved in my quest to find him and Gregor simply wanting to get home asap. It was 5:30pm by the time we were down and we began a fast journey home. We had lost about an hour and a quarter looking for each other. I reflected afterwards that it had been a perfect day for walking and although the ground was boggy and difficult there were no real obstacles on his descent. In fact it was probably a faster route than I had taken given the rock bands that I had threaded through. I should have charged down the hill instead of pottering along like a pensioner.

Looking back to River Etive on initial ascent
Bidean to Ben Nevis from  Glas Bheinn Mhor
Bidean and Ben Nevis behind north spur of Albannaich
Final ascent of Glas Bheinn Mhor from east
Ben Starav from Glas Bheinn Mhor
Stob Coir' an Albannaich - Summit ridge 
Stob Coir' an Allbannaich summit
Looking east from Stob Coir' an Albannaich
Meall Tarsuinn traverse, Bidean behind
Beinn Beithir to Bidean from Meall Tarsuinn
Glen Celtein 
Glen Celtein towards Meall nana Eun on far right

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