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A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Wee Etive

22 November 2015
A second day in the Glen Etive area on this weekend, saw John lead some of the group from yesterday onto the wee Bhuachailllie....

Heading up Etive Mor After the good day we had on the West of Glen Etive on the Saturday, we couldn't surely have an even better day on the Sunday, could we? Diane, Mike, Andrew, Hanne, Jackie and Christina had all elected to do both days, and our plan was to take in the two Munros on Buachaille Etive Mor, one of the most iconic of Scottish mountains, and possibly the most photographed.

The forecast was for high cloud, light wind and sunny spells, so we met at the pull-in at Altnafeadh with high hopes. The Coire na Tulaich approach did not look too snowy, and we joined a few other parties on the gradual ascent up the well-constructed path. Within minutes we encountered our first taste of what was to be our main problem - verglas. This is a thin coating of ice over rock which turns an easy walk into a skating rink full of traps for the unwary. It is too thin and occurs on rocks in such a way as to make walking in crampons a bind, yet walking without them difficult and even dangerous.

Looking over Glencoe We persevered, spurred on by the excellent crisp weather. At least when we got onto the snow it would be easier...wouldn't it? Er, no. We watched the parties ahead floundering and skittering on the powder snow that was lying over the icy rock higher up. No amount of metalwork was going to make this easier or safe, and reluctantly we realised retreat was the only option, (as did everyone else, other than one brave fellow who forced his way up a loose snowy gully that made my heart pound!).

On Etive Beag Consequently we were back down at the cars for 12 noon. What to do? The day was too lovely to give up, so it was quick logistical shuffle, (including some difficult parking due to some inconsiderate folks taking up way too much space at the beehive car park!), and we were on the way up Stob Coire Raineach, the north easterly munro on the Buachaille Etive Beag, the smaller of the two Buachailles, (yet higher - the Gaels named their mountains by way of bulk rather than height).

The splendid new path makes the ascent a doddle, and we joined many other happy parties on the sunny, snowy bealach. The snow conditions were much more favourable than in the North-facing coire, being exposed to the sun. We made rapid progress to the summit, where the views were quite wonderful, took many photographs, and sang 'Happy Birthday' to Hanne, who was '33 again'. Aye, right!

Successfully bagged ! Andrew and Mike wanted to try and squeeze in the second summit before dark, but Mike needed to catch his flight back to London, so only Andrew went for it, the rest of us electing to descend in a relaxed manner back to the cars. The icy steps called for extreme care still, and someone managed to take a slip on an icy runnel right at the end. Unfortunately, they were small enough to fit into the runnel, and found themselves lying on their back, looking up at the sky in a pool of water, Oops. There were no real injuries other than a bruise to both their arm and ego, and we all had a giggle.

So the morale as ever was 'plan but be flexible'. The conditions seemed perfect, but the icy Northerly wind had meant that whilst beautiful, the hills needed respect today in their early-season carapace of ice, and a route review was necessary. We had made the best of a retreat, and were rewarded for our efforts with superlative views.

Photos by Andrew Pennill.

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