Buachaille Etive Mor
Stob Dearg (1022m); Stob na Broige (956m)
- Pronunciation: Booerchullah Aytcher Moar; Stob Jerrack; Stob na Brogg-yer
- Translation: Great Herdsman of Etive; Red Peak; Lively Hill
- Total distance: 15km
- Total time: 7hrs 30mins
- Total ascent: 1021m
- Weather: Very low cloud and generally light wind.
- Start / end location: A82, just before Altnafeadh [Grid Ref: NN221 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 again last night (5th night in a row): this time at a quiet spot close to the start of today’s climb.
The weather was once again proving to be a bit fickle. Last night, when we headed to bed the moon was shinning brightly (only 2 or 3 days until full moon) and the temperature had begun to drop. All very promising signs! However, as if triggered by our 06:00 alarm clock a short shower rained down on our ‘van skylight. We rolled over to wait for the snooze alarm to go off. At 06:15 we got up.
Overnight the cloud had returned and the cloud-base was now quite low: at only about 400m elevation. It had stopped raining though and the forecast had suggested a mixture of sunshine and the occasional shower. So at 08:15 we were walking along the road towards Altnafeadh and the start of the climb.
Buachaille Etive Mor is an iconic mountain. There probably isn’t a Scottish landscape calendar anywhere that doesn’t feature a picture of “The Buachaille”, as it is affectionately known. It is the big brother of the mountain that we climbed yesterday. [In Gaelic, Mor means “big or great” and Beag means “little”.]
The Buachaille comprises four named peaks and an unnamed top. From NE to SW they are: Stob Dearg (1022m), unnamed peak (902m), Stob na Doire (1011m), Stob Corrie Altruim (941m) and Stob na Broige (956m). It is, however, only the peaks at either extreme that qualify as Munros.
The start of the climb from Altnafeadh begins with a crossing of the River Cougall before the path rises steeply into Coire na Tuliach. The start of this corrie is in fact more like a ravine with high-sided walls formed from the two north to NE buttresses coming down from the 902m unnamed peak and from Stob Dearg. Towards the back end of the corrie the path rises very steeply to reach a col at around 850m. This back-wall of the corrie sees large deposits of snow, and can be prone to avalanches, with several recorded fatalities in this gully. Despite a reasonable layer of snow the conditions were quite safe today. The route did, however, warrant more breaking of the trail up the snowfield. This time in quite steep conditions.
Without any incidents we came over the top lip to reach the col, followed shortly by a party of about 10 others (today is Saturday after all, and The Buachaille is a favourite of many). From the col we turned east and after only a short climb reached the summit of Stob Dearg (1022m or 3,353’). It was such a shame that the cloud level was so low: we could only see a few metres from the summit cairn. Whereas, on a clear day, the view from this peak is simply astounding. We’ve climbed this it several times over the years and always been rewarded with magnificent views: to the Nevis and Mamore ranges in the north, other Glen Coe peaks to the west and the whole expanse of the desolate but beautiful Rannoch Moor to the east. I guess that is the difference when you’re not “in a rush” and can choose the best days for views!
From the summit we quickly descended back to the col, which we crossed before beginning the ascent of the unnamed 902m peak. But before we completed the ascent we stopped for a flask of tea, a sandwich and piece of ginger cake to keep us going.
Once at the top of the 902m peak I took a quick compass bearing from the map before setting off along the ridge towards Stob na Doire, which was completely hidden in the mist. It was actually quite taxing climbing up yet more snow slopes. From the top of Stob na Doire it was a good descent down to another col before starting up another climb to the summit of Stob Corrie Altruim. However, this was also the col that we would need to return to in order to descend from the mountain back into the glen, so I took a bit of time to ensure that I was happy with this descent route before beginning the climb up to Stob Corrie Altruim. From this top there was only a modest drop in height to the next and final peak of the day, Stob na Broige (956m or 3,136’).
On Stob na Broige we sheltered behind a rough boulder semicircle and had our second flask of tea and more lunch. We then made our way back to the col, climbing over Stob Corrie Altruim once again. On the way we passed the group that had been following our route earlier in the day. By the time they had reached the top of the second Munro the cloud had lifted momentarily and we managed to photograph them on the summit.
From the col our descent was due north, initially down a reasonably steep snowfield before it began to follow the course of a small stream leading into the Lairig Gartain.
The last time we walked along Lairig Gartain was with Andy and Tracy many years ago and I remember then that there was little in a way of a consistent path, with Andy and me enjoying jumping over endless peak hags. Now the path is really good, and in no time at all we had walked the 2.5km back to the ‘van.
Yesterday, when we were on Buachaille Etive Beag (the Little Herdsman) we saw a herd of around 21 deer. Not to be outdone today, on its big brother, we passed a herd of over 35 deer. Well, The Buachaille is the Great Herdsman after all!
Today, our Munro count reached double figures.