Buachaille Etive Beag, Glencoe

Buachaille Etive Beag is a ridge in Glencoe that comprises two munros: Stob Coire Raineach and Stob Dubh. It is less well known than its neighbour Buachaille Etive Mor, but it is also considerably easier. As the weather forecast wasn’t wonderful for Saturday, we chose this ridge for this weekend’s outing with two of Chris’ old work colleagues, as we wanted to take them out in Glencoe and it would be doable even if the weather was poor.

The walk starts at the car park opposite the “beehive” cairn, which you see on the right before you pass the Three Sisters.  We started in the drizzle along the good path that heads into the valley. As you progress, you need to make sure you take the path that climbs up the left hand side of the valley rather than the one that follows the stream along the bottom. The path soon steepens and becomes almost a stone staircase, which means you rapidly gain height but also have to stop to take your waterproofs and extra layers off! This path takes you straight up to the bealach (saddle), part way along the ridge, which boasts some nice flat rocks that are perfect for a sandwich and drink stop.

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Almost at the bealach

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From here you can choose which peak you climb first; we went north-east (left from the bealach) and up the short steep ascent to the smaller of the two munros, Stob Coire Raineach. As we left the bealach, the cloud came in, so it was a misty and atmospheric climb, with just the briefest of glimpses of how amazing the views from the top must be. The wind caught us occasionally on the way up which was nice and refreshing but unusually, there was very little wind at the summit. After trying and failing to take a few photos through the breaks in the cloud, we headed back down the stony hillside.

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Summit of Stob Coire Raineach

The climb to Stob Dubh is longer than to Stob Coire Raineach. When you look the opposite way (south-west) from the bealach, the summit that you can see is not Stob Dubh: you have to climb this, and then there is a little bit of descent before the final ascent to the second summit.

As we came down towards the bealach, the clouds cleared so we were able to distract ourselves from the effort of the second climb with the stunning views, both back across Glencoe to the Aonach Eagach and forwards, down to Loch Etive. The cairn marking the summit of Stob Dubh is not right at the end of the ridge, and it is worth continuing the short distance past this highest point to get the best views (and have another sandwich).

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Looking out to Loch Etive from the summit of Stob Dubh

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Team photo

To descend, you simply retrace your steps along the ridge, which is nice and wide but still has some very steep drops off either side, making it a pleasant ridge-walk.

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The Lairig Gartairn and Buachaille Etive Mor behind

We had a final pause for a drink and a snack at the bealach again before descending the path back down into the valley. Here, the steps that brought you quickly up seem a lot bigger (particularly for little legs like mine) and make it hard on the thighs and knees. However, it doesn’t last for too long and you are soon back on the flatter ground leading to the car park.

This only took the four of us about 4 ¾ hours, so there was plenty of time for a drink at the Clachaig before heading back to Stirling, where there was still time for a cup of tea and a chat before going home for dinner.

Details

Distance: 10km

Time: 4-6hours

Summits: 2 munros, Stob Coire Raineach and Stob Dubh

Comments:

A nice ridge-walk that doesn’t take too long and isn’t too strenuous; perfect for anyone wanting to experience the beauty of Glencoe without taking on some of the more challenging routes.

Not too much bog…. I actually took my gaiters off, which doesn’t happen often these days. We would recommend good boots though as the terrain is rough and rocky.

Most useful piece of kit/advice:

Jessica says: Remember your poles, they were great for getting me up the steep bits and helped my knees going down the big rock steps.

A Quality Mountain Day in Glencoe

Saturday was to be Chris’ last quality mountain day (QMD) before heading off for his Mountain Leader assessment, and what a quality mountain day it was!

Bidean Nam Bean and its neighbour, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, have been on our radar for a long time; we have just been waiting for a decent weather forecast to get out and do them. So we picked up our friend, Kirstie, at 7.30am on Saturday and drove up to Glencoe in the sunshine feeling very excited. We parked at the smaller of the two car parks halfway along the glen giving fantastic views of the Three Sisters, and set off towards the footbridge across the River Coe, whose water was a very enticing turquoise below.

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The path rises steeply up the valley

The path leads up between Aonach Dubh on the right and Gearr Aonach on the left, into Coire nan Lochan. Once up fairly high the towering walls and pinnacles of Stob Coire nan Lochan are very impressive. There was still a lot of snow in the gullies running down between the towers, which was marked with the zig zagging tracks of skis.

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Coire nan Lochan

Here we left the path and moved up the slopes on the right to the bealach (saddle) between Stob Coire nan Lachan and Aonach Dubh, then followed the ridge to the summit of Coire nan Lochan, admiring the crumbling pinnacles along the edge.

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The views were amazing: it was so clear that mountains extended in all directions and Ben Nevis was clearly visible, huge behind the Aonach Eagach ridge. From this point, you can see much of the rest of the walk: the ridges between the summits of the two munros and the path out through the Lost Valley (Coire Gabhail). We could also see that the descent into the Lost Valley was covered in snow and very steep.

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View of the ridge to Stob Coire Sgreamhach

We descended down to the next bealach with Chris spotting us on the steep sections and began climbing the ridge to the summit of Bidean nan Bean, which still had some snow on it. Here, we again marveled at the views and enjoyed a sandwich stop, during which we were joined by a Snow Bunting that wasn’t at all bothered by our presence.

Wandering along the next ridge section was lovely: the visibility was by far the best that I have ever experienced in Glencoe, and we gained the second munro summit easily.

We then had to decide how we were going to get down; this was causing a sort of bottleneck for all the other walkers up there, as the summer descent route was covered in what looked like an almost vertical wall of deep snow, which was clearly unusable without crampons and axes.

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The way out

Some people were either going all the way back the way we had come, making an extremely long day and others were going to try to get down the ridge beyond Stob Coire Sgreamhach. We decided to simply climb down the snow-free rocks and grass, thus bypassing the steepest section of snow. This wasn’t easy and Chris did an excellent job of guiding Kirstie and I down. The pair of walkers following just behind us and knocking rocks down towards us, did not help our descent. So, if you are ever above a group on steep, loose ground, please wait for them to move to safety before trying to descend yourself…..it might save a nasty accident!

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A steep descent!

Once onto the snow, we were able to move quite quickly down the slope and into the Hidden Valley with its towering cliffs on all sides.

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It’s a beautiful place, with the entrance blocked by gorgeous woodland and massive boulders, the smaller of which are worn smooth by a river that seems to have now disappeared underground. Picking our way through this was good fun and we saw a Blaeberry/Bilberry bumblebee (Bombus Monticola) queen on the flowering Blaeberry/Bilberry. These are my favourite bumblebees and are quite scarce. You are most likely to see them in upland areas; they are easily identifiable by their big red bottoms and yellow striped thorax.

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The Lost Valley

The walk out from this point is lovely, with waterfalls and pools on the right, so clear you can barely see the water, spring flowers emerging and steep cliffs above.

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Two of the Three Sisters

So altogether we had an absolutely fantastic day, perfectly finished by a delicious meal at the Rod and Reel in Crianlarich.