As the regulars know, I passed a certain milestone 9 months ago, my 60th birthday.
I’d planned something special hill wise but due to the visit to North Wales and Snowdonia the following day plus other factors, the ascent of Buachaille Etive M(h)or had to wait.
I’d heard the access Coire still had snow in June so I thought to leave it to July and as Euan was up for it we decided to go at some point…
The big Buachaille and me?
We go back to the late 70s as I had spent many weekend and week-long breaks camped in its shadow across the road from Altnafeadh beside the River Coupall and I’d wandered all over the Glencoe/Rannoch Moor area (and spent many an evening parked in the public bar of the ‘Kingy‘). I first climbed the hill in ’78 but not the today’s prefered ascent route but a route variant slightly up a ridge to the right of the Coire Na Tuilach which I remember as a long slog…I was now to ascend the tourist route to the top of this impressive mountain.
A quick text on Saturday afternoon and even quicker ‘Yes’ reply set the wheels in motion and the usual palaver of getting radios, maps, antennas and scran sorted out took care of Saturday evening. The ‘excitement’ of returning and hopefully completing the ascent was my excuse for some fermented apple juice later Sat evening. The rukkie packed, water bottles filled and scran all tucked away very early Sunday morning, it was time to set out on the latest adventure albeit to an old friend.
The miles north flew by as surprisingly the roads were very quiet and with no delays at the roadworks before Ardlui it was up a familiar road where we climbed up past Loch Tulla and as we topped the Rannoch Moor road summit, we could see our destination under cloud. The forecast had promised it would clear around midday and hopefully afford us the views from the summit of Stob Dearg, the highest top of the massif. It did not disappoint.
We reached Altnafeadh where we parked and got ourselves set up. Rukkie, boots on and off across the road to the path in a gentle introduction to the foot of Coire Na Tuilach, the grassy path was soon left as we headed up a rough sometimes broken path with high walls of rock rising steeply on both sides with cloud settling in the top of the Coire and we slowly tramped upwards, a scramble here and a slow steep rising broken path but I knew the serious stuff was yet to come. I’d never taken this route before but I had descended it and the memory had lived on.
We took a break for scran and water but never stopped long and as we rose the way got steeper and the going underfoot got crumblier until we met the loose scree. I felt sometimes I wanted or the scree wanted for me to slide back down and a decision to literally just hands and feet it up but just before the top I moved right to some broken rock and found this much easier but with great care and hand holds were double checked.
The coire was soon exited and the obvious path through the rock field towards the summit. The cloud was still down but visibility and a good path meant good time to the summit. We had got there!. I’d alerted a time of 1 pm on the SOTA website but I’d surprised myself with ascending the hill in just 2 hr 20 mins, the scree section did take some time. It was now just the back of 11am.
A bit emotional ? yeah, I guess I was.
Euan had found a nook to have his lunch, me? radio time..
I first caught Iain WJZ on Ben More in the Crianlarich Hills area on my handie then it was time to throw up the mast and beam. ‘Is that to watch the World Cup?’, ‘Are you broadcasting something’ but one woman caught it correct’ VHF radio!’. The hill was busy and I explained to more than a few interested parties about SOTA and the benefits of carrying radio equipment to the summits especially on VHF. I’d known it would be a hard hill to activate on 2m but in 20 minutes, I had the four contacts needed logged. I eventually got 6, disappointing but the hills locale doesn’t really help much. I could hear stations from the Edinburgh , Northern Ireland and Glasgow areas but my puny 4 watts wouldn’t help. I did give out many CQ calls but nothing after my 6th contact….
After Iain WJZ, I caught and returned a STS with Robin PKT who was NE of me in the Dalwhinnie area on Geal-charn. A quick chat then it was off to work Mark LEW who was further E on East Lomond hill in Fife. One to find and Ken KCD in the Falkirk area answered my call, the hill activated (four contacts are the least necessary to activate the hill), 8 points for this hill were mine. Ken had spotted me on the SOTA website, thanks.
I continued to call and look through the bands when I got a call from Kenny XBK who had driven to a high point near Mauchline in Ayrshire to return my call, much appreciated. I chatted and left to find others but one more contact made, Jim GLM who was on Meall Nan Caorach, NE of Crieff I though this was a unique for me but I’d worked the hill before but contact with Jim made it four STS for the day. I’d chatted with Jim before going back and chasing more contacts…but no more logged.
The cloud now lifted and the views were exceptional in all directions although Bidean Nam Bian stayed under cloud all day, Ben Nevis did show briefly.
I had said to Euan I wouldn’t do my usual long radio stint and we discussed our options, we decided on the ridge walk to ‘bag’ Stob na Brioige, the other Munro top and descend down the path through Coire Altrium but before that we had the geocache to find just below the summit…a quick find, the log signed.
Had I bitten off more than i could do?
We followed a good path and ascended Stob na Doire, a 1101m Munro top (not a Munro) where I heard Iain WJZ on Stobinnein and got myself some more chaser points. I also heard fellow blogger Graeme HLQ who was out on Beinn an Lochain to the S of me, Graeme had replied to my text to say he was heading out to SS 016 but I received at 16.19 whilst heading down Coire Altrium, typical and more amazingly I got texts coming in on the least expected spots, all of them late. I finished speaking with Graeme when I realised this top was a HuMP so I’ll send a log to Summitbase . It was now down a steep hillside along a reasonable path and as I ascended the next little lump, I said to Euan just to head on and bag Stob na Broige as I was now feeling it. He set off making good time as i could see him moving upwards, I had only another 300 ft to ascend but sensibly I headed down through a large snow patch and a well maintained path towards the Lairig Gartain then out to the main road. This very steep path shows signs of recent improvements and although the odd rock slab area is to be carefully maneuvered, the path itself is good, my thought was that the large snow patch will at sometime head down the Coire so I hoped it wouldn’t be today. I kept looking back but no sign of my son. I took the usual breaks on the descent and finally I crossed the River Coupall and started down an excellent path and noted the path heading up to Buachaille Etive Beag‘s munro tops. Maybe.
I remember trudging up this way in the 70′s on a few occasions heading towards Glen Etive on what was a mucky, muddy sometimes disappearing path but now this was luxury. A big thanks must go the NTS staff and volunteers who improve these paths. I had said to Euan to prepare for a muddy out but was glad it wasn’t.
I toodled along and soon saw Euan on the grassy part out of the Coire and we soon bagged the last geocache of our day midway down the Lairig.
We soon reached the main road and walked back to the car…
Oh and another milestone, I bagged my 200th cache today and my first 5×5 cache..
The hill was bathed in sunshine as we headed back home.
Maybe the its wee sister the Beag next time?
The next morning?
Oh boy, achy thighs….
My 70th birthday hill is waiting on me…
My Google contact map HERE
Some Buachaille Etive Mor facts:
Meaning ‘Great Herdsman of Etive’(amongst others)
Has four peaks, Stob Dearg (red peak) 1,022m, Stob na Doire (Peak of the Grove) 1,011m , Stob Coire Altruim (Peak of the Corrie of rearing) 941m and Stob na Droige (Peak of the shoe) 956m.
Stob Dearg – Munro, Marilyn.
Stob na Doire – Munro top, HuMP.
Stob Coire Altruim – Munro top, Murdo.
Stob na Droige – Munro.
Most photographed mountain in Scotland (needs verification ?)
and my favourite mountain….
My thanks go to Wikipedia, Peakbagger and any other sites I have linked to…