Tuesday, 10 December 2013

East Etive Munros, Nov'13

At the beginning of November, we'd organised two days to bag the Munros on the eastern side of Glen Etive.

Heading up Ben Starav, Glen Etive behind
Our first day began mild with just a gentle breeze. The first snow of the year had arrived, with the trees still holding onto their leaves. We met near the end of the glen and walked over the River Etive via the bridge put in place many years ago by the military. The building at Coileitir have been upgraded and a tall deer-fence errected around them. A path works its way around this, looking promising at first on the wooden walk-way, but rapidly disappears into wet soggy ground ! The summer greens had gone and the golden browns of the brittle grasses had replaced them. We walked up the worn path onto Ben Starav's northern shoulder, getting onto the snow-level at around 700m. The views were stunning ! Higher up and further on, the wind had picked up and it began to snow - that wet kind you get when the temperature is just around 0 degress, yuck ! And we were into mist, so no views from the summit !

On Ben Starav, before we entered the mist
In white-out, a bit of navigation was required - Ben Starav's summit topography is slightly complex to say the least - the ridge twists south-east, then north-east, then east with cliffs and drops on northern sides. Down to the col between Ben Starav and Glas Bheinn Mhor, the decision was made to not make the 3 hour detour to Beinn nan Aighenan and back as we'd probably be walking in darkness for a couple of hours at the end of the day. So before we headed up Glas Bheinn Mhor, we had time to get out of the wind and get some lunch behind some of the snow banks at the col.

Fading light on Beinn Trilleachan
Up to Glas Bheinn Mhor was a pleasant trudge over a light covering of snow. Breaks in the mist gave us some great views, one back to a very snowy Beinn nan Aighenan, which underlined we'd made the right decision not to detour to there. A fine walk back down to Glen Etive as the sunlight began to fade, giving some lovely light over Beinn Trilleachan. A curious stag was waiting back by our cars and very happy to be the subject of our photos !

On our second day we were joined by more keen Munro-baggers, we were 7 in total. Our objective was to get to the summits of Meall nan Eun and Stob Coir' an Albannaich - however the weather was having other ideas !

Heading up Meall nan Eun
Weather had deterioated overnight, with quite a bit of rain and snow falling, increasing the levels of rivers. We gathered at the same spot as yesterday, got our kit ready and headed over the River Etive. Everyone already had full waterproofs on, but seemed in good spirits. Over the Allt Ceitlein, we walked along the faint path for around 2km to meet a burn coming down from Lon Tubhaidh - it was well in spate and challenging to get across. In fact, we toyed with the idea of abandoning the hike at this point, however, with a bit of persistence (and in my case wet feet), the group got over and started uphill.

On Meall nan Eun's summit
Snow level was much lower than yesterday and reminded us that winter was just around the corner. Further on and higher up, the snow was thicker and in places had drifted into deep pockets. Just before getting onto Meall nan Eun's plateau, we had a quick stop at a sheltered hollow to fasten everything down - we were about to get into a strong wind for the last mile or so to the summit. We did get some views from the top by the small cairn and a few photos were taken, but we quickly made the decision not to linger in the strong and cold biting wind, and instead about-turn and retreat. We made it back to the hollow we'd previously paused at, this time stopping for a well deserved break to get some food and hot-drinks in. And we were being rewarded with some great views.

You're probably thinking 'what about Stob Coir'an Albannaich ?'. We'll just have to leave that for another day - unfinished business and a freebie for all in the group mayebe early next year. As we returned to the cars, the mother of thunder and lightning storms errupted. Soooo glad we decided not to continue onto Stob Coir' an Albannaich - that would have been terrifying 3,000 feet up ! Pink lightening - I'd never seen that before ! We tried to meet at the Glencoe Mountain Cafe for some soup and food, however the storm killed their power, so off to the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum instead (good choice !).

More photos of the days are on our Flickr site.