Adventures in Glen Coe: Buachaille Etive Beag

My favourite winter hill walk to date involved taking in the two Munros of Buachaille Etive Beag – Stob Coire Raineach and Stob Dubh – in Glen Coe. These were also my first Glen Coe Munros and I could not have asked for a better way to round off 2017. My dad and I were presented with fantastic and dramatic panoramic views throughout our walk and I have taken my total to 19 Munros so far, leaving me looking forward to the first adventures of 2018!

[December 2017]

With a couple of hours of driving to reach Glen Coe and begin the day’s adventure, we set off from Ayrshire at 0600 to give us plenty of time to make the most of what we were hoping would be a fine day in the hills. The air was crisp and clear as we left and headed north, passing through the outskirts of an unusually quiet Glasgow and onwards to Tyndrum, where a much needed toilet stop was taken! It was then on to Glen Coe to begin my last adventure of 2017 and my first Munros this winter.

We arrived at the car park in the glen, sorted our kit and set off at 0845, following a well constructed path towards the Lairig Eilde. It was July since our last Munro-bagging outing so we were keen to bag a couple of hills before the end of the year. We made good progress towards a junction in the path just over half a kilomere from the car park where the main path through the lairig disappears and the ascent of Buachaille Etive Beag begins.

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Easy going to begin our day – Stob Dubh in the distance.
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A dramatic Aonach Eagach topped with snow

We made steady progress up the steep – but still good – path to the bealach between the 2 targets of the day and met the first signs of snow around 500m, although the snow was fresh and only a slight amount had fallen, meaning there was no need yet for an ice axe or crampons (despite having new crampons that I was desperate to try out). The path soon became slightly more treacherous as patches of ice meant we had to zig zag on and off the path for a good while until the top of the bealach was reached.

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Amazing views towards a cloud-capped Bidean Nam Bian

We opted to tackle Stob Dubh first, as recommended by the Walkhighlands route as this was the furthest and biggest Munro of the day. As we started our climb, a small amount of cloud began to surround the summit of Stob Coire Raineach, so we were glad of our decision as this would give the cloud some time to pass and hopefully clear before we summited this hill later in the day.

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Cloud beginning to surround Stob Coire Raineach, a clear Stob Dearg beyond
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My dad having a wee “lightbulb moment”!
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The Mamores, Stob Coire Raineach, Beinn a’Chrulaiste and Buachaille Etive Mor

Again, steady progress was made through the slight covering of snow and we soon reached a cairn at 902m, where we were met with utterly fantastic views towards our first target of the day, Stob Dubh.

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Stob Dubh
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Bidean Nam Bian

From here it was a simple walk along a lovely ridge towards the summit of Stob Dubh. The going only became slightly steeper when we were on our final approach to the summit, which we reached with no dramas and were greeted with fantastic views down Loch Etive and across to many neighbouring Munros, including Buachaille Etive Mor and Ben Starav. We reached the summit cairn at 1045, 2 hours after setting off.

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Stob Dubh summit cairn, Bidean Nam Bian beyond
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Enjoying extensive views from the summit

We took a short detour further along the ridge to reach another cairn with slightly better views down Loch Etive and after taking a few photos, started back long the ridge towards our second and final target of the day.

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Good views down Glen Etive towards Loch Etive
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Lairig Eilde and a cloudy Aonach Eagach on descent of Stob Dubh

We made quick progress back to the bealach, simply retracing our steps to do so, and after a quick food and water stop we began our ascent of Stob Coire Raineach, our second Munro of the day. The ascent was slightly steeper than Stob Dubh, but we still made good progress, stopping occasionally to take in the ever-improving vista behind us.

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Hard to ask for better views

After another short burst of effort, we reached the summit of Stob Coire Raineach just before 1215. With more fantastic scenery to admire, we soaked in the views for a while and took a heap of photos before starting our descent to the bealach and then back towards the car park.

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Looking back towards Stob Dubh from the summit of Stob Coire Raineach
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Summit pose 2.0

The descent to the bealach was steep but fairly simple as we were able to follow a few footprints from the day’s other walkers, however once we started the descent into the Lairig Eilde, things became slightly trickier. The north-facing path was now more frozen than earlier in the day and more ice on the steps and rocks meant we had to carefully weave our way down adjacent to the path, being careful not to slip on suspiciously ground-coloured ice.

After only one or two occasions where our progress was slowed to a crawl thanks to the ice we were soon below the snow line again and could make quicker progress back to the car. We were passed a couple of times by people in less-than-sensible clothing and footwear for the weather, but I suppose this is quite a typical sight in and around an area as popular and beautiful as Glen Coe. Still, I wouldn’t have fancied wandering about in trainers along the slippy gravel paths of the Lairig!

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Slow descent, but fantastic views!

We reached the car once again just before 1400, a little over 5 hours after setting off. Considering our last winter Munro-bagging trip took almost an hour longer for only one (albeit steep and difficult) Munro, we were happy to have done 2 in slightly less time.

Although we had more than enough time to drive home at a leisurely pace, we had decided before our trip to book in to the camping cabins at the MacDonald Hotel in Kinlochleven, where we had stayed during our trip along the West Highland Way. A much needed sleep was preceeded by a fantastic burger and chips at the Tailrace Inn in Kinlochleven, rounding off what was a fantastic day in the hills and a perfect way to end a selection of amazing adventures in 2017!

On this trip, I also had the chance to properly test out a new pair of winter boots – The North Face Verto S4K boots. These were comfortable and warm and very lightweight compared to my old kicked-in Meindl boots. They’re rated B2 and my new Grivel Airtech crampons are a good fit, but due to the pleasant conditions I never got a chance to try these in anger. I also had a chance to try my new winter rucksack, a Montane Medusa 32l pack. This was also very comfortable and lightweight, so I am very happy with all my winter purchases.

 

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