The Little Herdsman of (Glen) Etive

Buachaille Etive Beag

Stob Dubh (958m); Stob Coire Raineach (925m)

  • Pronunciation:            Booerchullah Aytcher Bayk; Stob Doo; Stob Korrer Ran-yoch
  • Translation:                 Little Herdsman of Etive; Dark Peak; Peak of the Corrie of Ferns
  • Total distance:             9km
  • Total time:                   4hrs 45mins
  • Total ascent:                955m
  • Weather:                      Low cloud, rain, and light wind. Improved throughout the day
  • Start / end location:   A82, just past “The Study” [Grid Ref: NN187 563] Map:        A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

We wild camped along Loch Linnhe last night – between Appin and Ballachulish. This was our fourth consecutive night away from a site. Although we had a very blustery day yesterday (18Nov) we thought that the forecast showed some signs of the weather improving. Based on this, we got ourselves organized (last night) to make an early getaway and head back into Glen Coe to tackle Buachaille Etive Beag, which comprises two Munros. The alarm was set for 06:00.

Like all the best plans, as the alarm duly went off at 06:00 the rain was pelting on the skylight above our bed! Hmm, not very motivating for such an early start. Despite this we decided to get up and at least have breakfast then travel the 20 or so miles to the start of the climb and review the situation on our arrival.

So it was that we found ourselves at 08:30 parked at the bottom of Buachaille Etive Beag – in patchy rain and with low cloud veiling all the surrounding peaks. It would have been “oh so easy” to jump back in the ‘van and head to Tyndrum village about 20 miles further on. But Elaine is made of sterner stuff and we agreed that we ought to get back out into the hills and get some more Munros under our belts.

Cameron on summit of Stob Corrie Raineach with Stob Dubh behind

By 08:45 we had our winter boots tied, ice axes strapped to our rucksacks and were picking up the start of the path along the Lairig Eilde (Lairig simply translates to “pass” as in mountain pass). We stuck to this path for only about 0.5km until a fork was reached: the right continued up Lairig Eilde, and the left, which we followed, headed SSW and climbed quite quickly and steeply up to the col between the two Munro summits (at 750m). The path was superb and very easy to follow and about half way up we were watched by a wary herd of around 21 deer – well it is the “Little Herdsman” after all.

As it had stopped raining we were able to remove our jackets to keep our temperature down as we climbed higher.

The snowline was around the 700m mark, but was obviously thawing as it was very sticky underfoot. Ice was, however, still coating exposed sections of the path from about 600m up to where the snow was abundant above 700m.

Stob Dubh from summit of Stob Corrie Raineach

When we reached the col the wind had picked up sufficiently for us to pull on our jackets again and fetch out our hats from our sacks. From the col we turned NE and followed a broad ridge to quickly reach the summit of Stob Corrie Raineach (925m or 3,035’). We were both delighted that there were no false summits on this peak. The summit that we had in our sights from the col was the true summit – a welcome change.

The cloud level was generally slightly above the height of Raineach, but was covering the tops of most of its neighbours, including Bidean nan Bian, Aonach Eagach Ridge and Buachaille Etive Mor. However, we were able to look back beyond the col (SW) towards our next goal: Stob Dubh (958m or 3,143’). We could see from both the map, and our view from Raineach that there was a subsidiary top lying on the ridge between the col and Stob Dubh. Thankfully, we could also see that there was little drop on the other side of the “top” before the ridge continued to climb to the summit of Stob Dubh.

Elaine on summit of Stob Dubh

In the soft snow we were able to quickly descend from Raineach to the col where we had an early lunch before tackling the ridge up to Stob Dubh. The snow on this side was much thicker than on Raineach and it was quite a “pull” breaking a trail up to the summit. There were two peaks on the summit crest: the first one looked slightly higher, but as they were separated by only 150m (horizontally) we quickly bagged them both.

We hadn’t seen a soul all morning, but as we descended and when we were close to the col, we met up with a couple tackling Stob Dubh first and then Raineach. It turned out that the chap completed a round of the Munros this summer (2010) and had already bagged 30+ again on a new round. Although we didn’t ask, I got the impression that he had completed his round over an extended period – as is normal. It was great talking to him about how he felt when he climbed his last Munro to complete the list. (The chap was from the Upperward Mountaineering Club –

Cameron on summit of Stob Dubh

It took us only about 45mins – in improving weather – to descend from the col back to our ‘van, which was waiting for us in the car park at the start of the path. We were back in the ‘van with a pot of coffee brewing by 13:30.

We spent the afternoon planning what to do over the next few days as the weather is forecast to be “fair”, before we moved to a spot further along Glen Coe to spend the night. En route to our overnight spot we stopped to collect some fresh water to fill the ‘van’s tanks from a large mountain stream. It doesn’t get better than this.

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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