Passing the century by the head of Loch Etive – [# 99 – 101]

Ben Starav (1078m);
Beinn nan Aighenan (957m) and
Glas Bheinn Mhor (997m)

  • Pronunciation:              Ben Starav; Bine Ner-nigh-yan; Glaz Vine Voar
  • Translation:                   Mountain of the Rustling Noise, or of the Block of Rock; Mountain of the Hinds; Big Grey-green Mountain
  • Total distance:              22.3km
  • Total time:                    8hrs 43mins
  • Total ascent:                 1974m
  • Weather:                       Mainly bright, but with cloud generally covering the higher tops. Dry all day and warm when not in the breeze. Quite windy at times on the summits and ridges.
  • Start / end location:   Approximately 3km from the head of Loch Etive just opposite Coileitir cottage marked on the map. [OS Map Sheet 50 – Grid Ref: NN 137 469]
  • Map:                              A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

On the summit of Beinn nan Aighenan - our 100th Munro

As we travelled through Glen Coe en route to Glen Etive the clouds were quite low covering all the glen’s tops. However, by the time we reached our parking spot near the head of Loch Etive the clouds had lifted a little and the day’s weather looked rather more promising.

Elaine ascending the broad ridge to Ben Starav with Glen Etive in the background

Elaine on the summit of Ben Starav with Loch Etive in the background

We parked up once again at the same lay-by that we’d used yesterday and took the same track to the bridge over the River Etive: this time wearing our lighter-weight walking boots for the first time this year. Once over the river we turned right and followed the track towards Coileitir cottage, where a walkers’ path then skirted to the left around the cottage boundary before dipping back down to the riverside. We followed the path along the riverside for another ½ km until it was joined from the SE by the confluence of the Allt nam Meirleach and Mheuran burns, at which point we turned SE and followed the path until a stalkers’ bridge provided dry passage across.

Once across the burn we continued to follow the path that headed up the glen carrying the Allt nam Meirleach but before we entered this glen we struck off left and took a path southwestwards up the north ridge of Ben Starav. The path soon swung slowly round to the south and then proceeded all the way to the summit. For the last few hundred metres of ascent the path was obliterated as it entered a huge boulder field, where it was fun progressing by leaping from rock to rock.

Cameron scrambling up a quartz vein on Ben Starav

Athough many of the summits to the east of us were beginning to clear of cloud and mist, unfortunately Ben Starav remained resolutely shrouded which was such a pity as the views to the west down Loch Etive would have been stunning. Whilst we lingered on the summit at 1078m or 3,537ft, the mist did clear momentarily and offered a glimpse of the wonderful panorama that we were being denied. Of particular interest were the Etive Slabs located due west on the hillside across the other side of Loch Etive. These slabs are quite a famous rock climbing feature that rely on excellent friction to conquer them. Almost in a blink the misty curtains were drawn and the view was shut out: such a shame.

Descending from Ben Starav towards Meall nan Tri Tighearnan

From Ben Starav we followed the steep but short-lived ridge east to the top of Stob Coire Dheirg, passing a beautifully impressive vein of solid white quartz. We continued along the ridge for another 750m until we reached the lowest col at 766m. Here we met Mags and Iain who had reached this point by the path up from north that followed the course of the Allt nam Mheuran (the path that we’d used part of earlier in the day) and were now enjoying a well earned break for something to eat. They couldn’t quite decide whether they should do Glas Bheinn Mhor or Beinn nan Aighenan first. Our only advice to them was that we seem to have the “curse” of attracting the mist to whatever summit we end up on and that if they wanted a view it would be prudent not to follow us!

Looking east towards Glas Bheinn Mhor from Stob Coire Dheirg

We left the ridge and dropped south to a bealach at around 620m that sat at the base of the NNE ridge from Beinn nan Aighenan. We climbed this ridge, which consisted of a series of easy rocked outcrops lower down and an obvious path higher up which quickly brought us to our second Munro of the day at 957m or 3,140ft, and our one hundredth of the adventure so far: it was so good to reach another milestone … and yes, the summit that was earlier clear was, as predicted, shrouded in mist (it is a curse!).  After a brief snack at the top we were then greeted again by Mags and Iain, who had clearly not heeded our warning and were now standing alongside us in the mist. We told them about our adventure and that this summit was our hundredth Munro: they were really enthusiastic about our adventure and we exchanged stories about one another’s recent mountaineering exploits.

Cameron on the summit of Beinn nan Aighenan

We left Mags and Iain to enjoy the summit “view” as we retraced our steps back down the ridge then up the other side to regain the col at 766m on the connecting ridge between Ben Starav and Glas Bheinn Mhor. From this col we climbed east towards Meall nan Tri Tighearnan and then onwards to our third Munro of the day. The climb up followed a straightforward path and after an 80m drop beyond Tighearnan we had soon covered the 320m of ascent to reach the summit of Glas Bheinn Mhor at 997m or 3,271ft.

Cameron and Elaine on the summit of Glas Bheinn Mhor

Our descent was achieved by continuing east and then steeply NE to reach the col at the top of the Allt Mheuran burn. Here we picked up a good stalkers’ path that followed the burn all the way until it reached the bridge that we’d crossed earlier to the SW of Coileitir cottage. This proved to be quite a lengthy descent and the path near the bottom section was rather boggy in places.

Not far beyond the bridge we once again passed the cottage, then crossed the River Etive before being reunited with our car. It had been a long day with 1974m or nearly 6,500 feet of ascent, but nonetheless had been very rewarding and allowed us to push our Munro count into treble figures.

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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5 Responses to Passing the century by the head of Loch Etive – [# 99 – 101]

  1. Roy Starkey says:

    Hi Folks – Congratulations on your “Century” – glad to see that the winter weather is giving way to Spring sunshine and that the “glaciers” are receding!
    We’re heading for Skye over Easter and will be passing through Glencoe on Wednesday – staying in Glencoe Village overnight. Where will you be that evening ? We’ll almost certainly eat at the Clachaig Inn.
    Best wishes

    Roy & Mary

    • Cameron says:

      Hi Roy,
      We’re planning on climbing Aonach Eagach Ridge tomorrow (Wednesday) and will stay in the Glen Coe area another night so that we can meet up with you and Mary at the Clachaig Hotel for some dinner. I’m guessing you guys will be tired after a long drive from the Midlands, and we’ll be knackered after hopefully another successful day on the hills.
      We’ll see at 18.45 in the lounge bar tomorrow – and look forward to catching up again.
      Regards,
      Cameron

  2. Mags says:

    Hi !
    We really enjoyed meeting you both on Sunday and spoke at length ( with envy) about your challenge and the life changing decisions you had both made. Well done and good luck.

    • Cameron says:

      Hi Mags,

      Likewise, it was really great meeting you and Iain at the summit of Beinn nan Aighenan a few days ago: and well done on remembering the web address for our site.

      We had a lovely day completing the “Ben Starav Three”: although with almost 2000m of ascent it certainly made it feel like quite a demanding outing.

      Since we met you guys we’ve had a brilliant traverse of the Aonach Eagach Ridge (including the Pap) in superb bright sunny weather. The only problem for me now is that because we’re making some rapid progress I’m following behind on publishing my blog accounts. Finding broadband wifi is also limiting uploads, especially of our photos.

      However, I do hope the you manage to stop by the site again from time to time – and may be even join up with us on one of our future outings.

      Very best regards,

      Cameron

  3. chris sumner says:

    Hi Guys, congrats on the century, i’m thinking of coming up to Loch Etive to not only wild camp but to bag my first munro 🙂 i thought it would be a nice couple of days away for myself and my Fiance before we get married in two weeks

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