Ulog 19: Serious Bagging in Glen EtiveOctober 6, 2018
Munro bagging is a very popular activity in Scotland, where I live. “Munros” are mountains over 3,000 feet (914.4m), and there are 282 of them. I’ve climbed 92, and I’m hoping that Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain, will be my 100th.
I’m hoping that will be soon!
My Serious Bagging challenge met a hiatus recently, as I fell and sprained my ankle. However, after resting for four weeks, the ankle has just about healed, so the Serious Bagging challenge is on again!
There are five Munros quite close together in a very remote and beautiful part of Scotland called Glen Etive. To reach them you have to drive about 10 miles down a single-track road, and then walk in several miles before you even see the summits of the hills.
© OpenStreetMap contributors
Some people do all five of these hills on the same day, a huge challenge, covering 25 km and 2443m of ascent. I was keen to try this myself, but it would mean a very early start, with the sun going down at 7pm. However my friend Karen, who was joining me for the walk, had had a tough week at work and did not want to get up at 4am so we could get the two and a half hour journey underway and arrive at the start of the walk by sunrise at 7am!
And in retrospect I think that was very sensible. Instead, we set of at the more sensible hour of 6am, and started our walk just after 8.30am.
On the way we were treated to a spectacular double rainbow display over the iconic mountain Buachaille Etive Mor, which means Great Shepherd of Etive. The Great Shepherd towers majestically just beyond the junction of the road to Glen Etive.
The photo was a little out of focus, as it was the first pano shot I’d ever taken with my new phone. But it was an amazing sight to behold.
The day started out beautifully clear and crisp, a lovely autumn day. Karen had climbed Ben Starav, the largest mountain in the group, a few months before, so we decided to tackle the group from the opposite end, in reverse from the popular way round described in our online guide. Meall nan Eun would be the first mountain of the day.
As we started the walk, we saw Ben Starav reflected in the River Etive.
We headed away from it, and soon walked past Glenceitlein Cottage at the entrance to Glen Ceitlein. It must be a lovely place to live! Though cold and isolated in winter.
We didn’t see a single soul for the duration of the walk up the first two Munros. Glen Ceitlein was very isolated and very boggy.
Beinn Fhionnlaidh is at the left, and Sgor na h-Ulaidh to the right.
The easy part of the day was almost over. After walking over flat, boggy ground for a few miles, we were faced with a steep, craggy, pathless escarpment to ascend. It was only about 150m, but it was wet and slippy. We were glad when we reached the top of it.
This frog was trying to hide in the grasses growing on the escarpment.
Once we reached the top of the escarpment, it was still quite a long, though much less steep walk to the summit of Meall nan Eun. It’s very rounded at the top, a bit like a loaf of bread. Its name means “The rounded Hill of the Birds” (although we didn’t see any birds there!)Summit cairn of Meall nan Eun
It was also very cold, unsheltered with a cold wind. We found a bit of shelter behind the cairn, and had an early lunch before setting out for the next Munro, Stob Coir’an Albannaich (“The Peak of the Scotsman’s Corrie”). Despite its mouthful of a name, Stob Coir’an Albannaich is a hill that I’ve admired for some time, because of its distinctive shape. It has a very round shape with sheer, steep sides and a kind of curly topknot.
Stob Coir’an Albannaich photographed from Beinn Fhionnlaidh earlier this year.
To reach Stob Coir’an Albannaich, we had to walk over a minor top called Meall Tarsuinn. This was the view of our way up to Stob Coir’an Albannaich from Meall Tarsuinn.
From Meall Tarsuinn we had to walk down to the bealach at 750m and then up a kind of rake to reach the shoulder of Stob Coir’an Albannaich. As we climbed the views behind us became increasingly impressive, despite the low cloud.
From there it was a short, steep ascent to the summit, the little topknot of Stob Coir’an Albannaich.
The summit cairn was suitably distinctive for such an interesting mountain – covered in green moss, with steps leading up one side.
The summit cairn of Stob Coir’an Albannaich.
We were both blethering away happily as we descended the more rounded slope leading down from the summit. I wasn’t really bothered that the path seemed to have petered out completely, as I could see the next hill we were aiming for straight ahead.
What I didn’t realise was that we were heading towards the steep sides of Stob Coir’an Albannaich.
The view back to Stob Coir’an Albannaich, with its steep slopes curving round to the “topknotch” summit.
I suddenly noticed that… oops! Things were suddenly loooking very steep! We had to retrace our steps back up the hill, and then start traversing round to where the gradient was a bit gentler. It was still quite a steep descent, but we were soon at the bealach, looking up at the next hill, Glas Bheinn Mhor.
It looked awfully big!
This would be Munro number three, and the last one of the day. Forget trying to do all five! We were already pretty tired.
There was a short, steep climb up a rocky escarpment (with a good path this time) and then a long, gentler ascent to the summit. We decided it was time for tea, and sat down to rest and take in some views – possibly the best views of the day, over Loch Dochard out to Loch Tulla and the Orchy hills.
Loch Dochard, Loch Tulla and the Orchy hills.
Ahead of us was the big beast we had to climb, Glas Bheinn Mhor.
Fortified with tea, we set off.
The closer we got, the less daunting it seemed. But unfortunately, clouds were also gathering. By the time we got to the summit, and did a high five, we could barely see more than five feet in front of us, never mind any views.
Still, we felt a sense of achievement as we set off down what we thought was the other side of the hill. I didn’t check my bearings properly, and I just set off blithely on what looked like a path. But if it was a path, it was the wrong one. It was only when the clouds momentarily cleared that I noticed something didn’t seem quite right. I checked my bearings, and… we had to retrace our steps about 80m back up the hill. I think tiredness and just wanting to get down the hill were to blame!
Once we were securely on the right path we were greeted by a friendly couple whom we’d met just as we started out that morning at 8.30. They had gone in the other direction, to climb the mighty Ben Starav and then Beinn nan Aighenan, another big beast that sits behind Starav. And now they were about to do their third Munro of the day – the one that we’d just done.
The walk out was beautiful, though very long! We passed this beautiful gorge, which I hope to explore further one day.
These three mountains take my Munro tally up to 92, so I’ve eight more to go before I reach my 100th. The weather for this weekend is looking pretty good at the moment, so I’ll probably be heading for the hills again!