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

East of Etive

19-20 March 2016
In this run of excellent settled weather, I was lucky enough to be leading two days in Glen Etive. The day time temperatures were positively Spring-like, following a frost over night, and the views were of inversions and many distant peaks, almost too much to take in! John was leading, this is his story of the weekend...

photo 1 One of the challenges this type of weather brings at this time of year is whether or not to carry winter kit, specifically axe and crampons? Surely the snow will be soft, and the going easy? I won't need big boots, will I? Well the simple answer is yes you do need the kit, and there will be ice where the snow has melted and re-frozen, and yes, big boots are required. Otherwise, at best your day could be curtailed early, and at worst....well.....

Saturday saw us make the relentless ascent of Ben Starav's NE ridge. It goes pretty much straight up from sea level, and can feel quite a pull. The views were spectacular however, and we were particularly inspired by the Alpine-looking final ridge. We met a chap en route who was feeling the strain, and as we donned our crampons, you could see he was not properly equipped, so he sensibly turned and descended. QED. What did he expect I ask myself?

The guys found the ridge exhilarating, and when we hit the summit, the views of Ben Cruachan poking above the inversion was heavenly. After a break and many photos, we carefully made our way down the airy ridge towards the col before Stob Coire Deirg, before taking a traverse on soft snow to the low point. The icy runnels demanded respect, and again, crampons made it much safer.

photo 2 It was then decision time - Did we go for the extra 500m of ascent and take in Beinn nan Aighenan, as it is such an outlier, or carry on to Glas Bheinn Mhor? We decided to go for it. The loss of height is psychologically challenging, but the splendid cramponing up to the summit made it worthwhile. However, once we got back to the bealach, it was clear we would run out of daylight if we pressed on for the third summit, and so we descended along the Allt nam Meirleach back to car. We didn't need head-torches however, as the moonlight was so bright, and it really made the return atmospheric.

A big day on rough ground meant everyone slept soundly that night!

photo 3 Sunday morning was even brighter as we met at the same place along Glen Etive. This time, after crossing the bridge at Coiletir, we turned left and headed for Glen Ceitlein. After a liberal application of sun cream (yes, sun cream!), it was the steady plod up the glen to the bealach at 633m. It would be fair to say this is a grind, even in such conditions, and we were glad to stop for a breather, snack, and to again don crampons.

The continuation up the North ridge of Meall nan Eun is just a boggy path through rocky outcrops in summer, but today it had a mountaineering feel to it as we picked our way through the icy snowfields. The shaded aspect meant again our ice tools were vital, but we soon came out onto the broad plateau, where the snow was slushy, so it was back to boots to the summit.

I won't rattle on about the views, but.....wow! ;)

photo 4 We then had to cross the intermediate hill of Meall Tarsuinn before the final excitement of the day, the icy crampon up onto Stob Coir an Albannaich. This spur is important to find in summer conditions as the safest way onto the final slopes, but today it was clear to see, and we made use of a set of frozen footprints to speed our way. The final pull up to the summit was hard work, and our youngest member of the party Katie even took to a wee crawl, much to our amusement!

The summit was chilly, so after some jubilant high-fives, it was off downwards for the long haul back to Coiletir and the cars. We did the route in 8.5hrs, which is good going if you factor in the crampon on/off scenarios, as well as the photo stops which were obligatory in such cracking weather. Two full days, very satisfying, with good company.

Some more photos are up on Flickr.

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