Buachaille Etive Mor Guards the Entrance to Glen Etive
Three hill-days to go to complete my 3rd Munro round and the longest of these was going to be this collection of 5 peaks hidden away at the foot of Glen Etive. Whilst they are generally split into 2-3 separate days, the distance required to drive to them and the effort needed to climb the first one have always persuaded me to tackle all 5 in one gruelling day! With one notable exception, the hills form a long undulating ridge far from the roadside and with a fair amount of up and down - so you know you’re in for a big day!
Ben Starav From Glen Etive
Starting from the western end, Ben Starav is a brute of a mountain which will take at least 3hrs to climb. Then comes Beinn nan Aighenan, probably the most awkwardly placed Munro in Scotland stubbornly sitting as it does 2 Km S of the main ridge and accessed via a frustratingly low bealach. Then it’s back to the main ridge for shapely Glas Bheinn Mhor before another low bealach leads to big Stob Coir’an Albannaich. Finally, rougher ground leads over a minor top before one last climb leads to Meall nan Eun, the baby of the group. It’s a long way back to the car!
Ben Starav From the River Etive
I started, as on previous visits, from the end of the access track to Coileitir, a 30-min drive down Glen Etive and a couple of miles short of the road-end at the head of Loch Etive. The familiar pyramid of Buachaille Etive Mor made for a grand sight in the early morning sunshine as I entered Glen Etive in pursuit of my hills.
Toiling Up Ben Starav!
Once over the River Etive (the bridge is essential), a muddy path leads to the Allt Mheuran which can usually be crossed where you meet it. There then begins the long, unrelenting climb up Ben Starav’s N ridge. The ridge narrows as you approach the summit and the views are very impressive across Loch Etive and N towards the Glen Coe hills. But it’s probably the climb you’ll remember. I know I do!
Ben Starav From Beinn nan Aighenan
Three hours from the car and I was standing beside the summit cairn of Ben Starav (1078m; rustling hill). Nothing remains of the OS trig point and the summit is surprisingly flat for such a big, steep-sided rocky mountain. Normally you’d want to linger, but there is still such a long way to go….
Ben Starav From Glas Bheinn Mhor
Descending quickly to the first of several frustratingly low bealachs, I reluctantly left the main ridge to traverse to Munro No 2. For this, I had to descend all the way to 618m before re-ascending over 300m to the isolated summit of Beinn nan Aighenan (960m; hill of the hinds). From here, you can see all the remaining hills and it’s a sobering sight if you’re planning to do them all today!
Beinn nan Aighenan
It’s best just to keep your head down and plod steadily on. I know I did - back to the depressingly low bealach and back up the other side until I regained the main ridge and, after a steep climb, triumphantly secured my 3rd Munro of the day: Glas Bheinn Mhor (997m; big green-grey hill).
Glas Bheinn Mhor
You’re never on level ground for very long on this route and there’s not much of it on the steep descent to the next bealach at the head of the Allt Mheuran.
Stob Coir’an Albannaich & Glas Bheinn Mhor From Ben Starav
This is where most sensible folk would peel off left and return to Glen Etive! Me? No, I just had to toil up another steep slope before running out of path and crossing rougher ground leading to the surprisingly small summit of Stob Coir’an Albannaich (928m; peak of the corrie of the Scotsman). The summit cairn sits on top of a strange grassy mound perched on the edge of the mountain’s sheer N face. It’s a great spot, even if late-afternoon fatigue can take the edge off the aesthetics!
Stob Coir’an Albannaich
As the autumn sun started to sink in the W, I trudged wearily on heading E looking for the wee cairn that marks the descent route N to the next bealach. No worries today (it stayed clear all day), and I was soon down at 754m and traversing the intermediate top of Meall Tarsuinn over indistinct ground for the final climb of the day. One last ascent and I had my 5th Munro of the day: Meall nan Eun (928m; hill of the birds).
Meall nan Eun
The sun really was low now so I wasted no time departing from the flat summit and following the broad NW ridge for the descent into Glen Ceitlein. There are some awkward steep granite slabs to negotiate on this descent and it is better to trend to the right to avoid most of them. You run out of path for a while and it can get quite soggy, but eventually, a clear path emerges on the N side of the Allt Ceitlein and this leads all the way back down to Glen Etive.
Glas Bheinn Mhor From Beinn nan Aighenan
Headtorch on, I followed the path under a bright crescent moon until it intercepted a vehicle track in the main glen that leads back to the Coileitir access track. By the time I reached the car, I had been walking for 11 hrs, covered almost 30 Kms and had climbed over 2700m.
And boy, it felt like it!
Late Afternoon Sunshine on the Etive Hills
Check out my plans for similar walks at: http://www.hillways.co.uk/summer/summer.htm