Stob Dearg - 1022m
Stob na Doire - 1011m
Stob Coire Altruim - 941m
Stob na Broige - 946m
Sunday 7th November 2010
Weather/Conditions: Blue skies, good visibility and little wind in the morning. Quickly gave way to a front from the south resulting in cloud and heavy, cold winds. The temperature noticeably dropped during the ridge walk and this front brought the first snows of winter to the Buachaille.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 11km / 1050m / 6h 30m
Accompanying: Bealach MC: Colin, Dave and Dougie
Morning at Lagangarbh
At least in the morning, this was one of those perfect mountain days. A good forecast prompted us to stay in Glen Coe for a while longer so four of us left the hut and started up the Coire na Tulaich path towards Stob Dearg. It was beautiful morning in every way, only to get better. The skies were tones of deep blue I hadn't seen in a while, the northern mountains snow-dusted but benign.
Being here reminded me how much I loved the Highlands and I'm starting to feel at home... Colin and I struck off ahead of Dougie and Davie and headed in a more direct line up the corrie's screes. I made the most out of the brief scrambling. It was fun while it lasted, but felt easy - much easier than when I was last here in December 2009. I came up with Michael Coffield on a day graced with extreme winds, blizzards and spindrift. Getting back down into this coire had been much harder than on a day like today. Very, very hard.
Propelled upwards by the promise of sunlight on the ridge, I topped out to a stunning morning. It's times like these I feel like the happiest guy on Earth, even with the bank of clouds on the southern horizon. With the winds carrying it north, it would hit us sooner or later so I felt a hint of urgency of reach Stob Dearg. With four of us on the ridge, we headed to the top. It's a great hill for false summits but it didn't bother me - I just sucked in the weather, in awe at the scale of the world. I often cast my mind back to December when conditions had been so very different.
Then as the summit itself came into view at the end of the ridge, my thrill grew even greater with the sight of Rannoch Moor framed in it's entirety beyond. Standing on this summit, on the edge of a moor so flat, the air so crystal clear, my head filled with the volume of space. I was way above the world now, touching a deep blue sky reflected pure on the loch-studded Moor. This is so damn natural - this is why I come back again and again. It's the greatest thing on the planet. The greatest thing I know.
I had a look down the famous East Face of this mountain. Last time I got a view on this summit, I was thirteen years old and knew none of the scrambles or climbs. Now I kind of knew what I was looking for, and walked down the top of the North Buttress. A couple of ridges weaved up - was that Crowberry Ridge? One thing was for sure - it was a damn long way to the bottom. But I like the thought of Curved Ridge someday.
Stob na Doire
As perfect a morning as it was, the sublime conditions would not last. The skies were paling to the tune of high cirrus and the southern front literally gobbled up one peak after another. We returned to the head of Coire na Tulaich. Colin descended this way - he had to get home, but Davie, Dougie and I stayed up to complete the whole ridge. Having made my fourth ascent of Coire na Tulaich this would be the first time I'd ever link all for Buachaille Etive Mor Tops.
The wind definitely brought a drop in temperatures, not only in wind chill but in true air temperature (It seemed) which would be curious because the weather front came from the warm south. It was swarming each peak and soon it would reach us. With some other walkers about, we scurried up Stob na Doire and headed off soon after since I was wearing a pair of shorts and was none too warm.
Stob na Broige and Descent
Stob na Doire has a steep but easy ascent so I set off ahead of the other guys, in dire need to warm up. It was getting desperately cold and kept a steady pace to Stob na Broige, the second Munro. At the culmination of my first end-to-end traverse of this ridge, I sat in the summit cairn where I quickly warmed up without the wind chill factor. I took my boots off, blow dried my socks 'outside' and waited for the others to arrive.
With cloud brushing the summit, I probably spent fifteen minutes there. It was relatively warm. Bearing the wind, we headed back the way we came, turning off at Coire Altruim.
It's amazing what a couple of hours can do to these mountains. In the morning they had been spectacular. Now they seemed lifeless in the flat, clear air of a front. However that's not to say I didn't enjoy them. The walk was mentally over and we only had to get back to our digs at Lagangarbh. The coire descent had seen interesting area where the granite sheets had been verglassed. Caution was needed and a little climbing skill too - but it was just fun. The walk through Lairig Gartain was pleasant and a damn sight warmer than on the ridge. A good path facilitates ease of access, as in much of Glen Coe. Follow this by an unattractive road-walk to the digs and we were done.
A couple of cool things to finish off the day: We went in to tidy the place up, and later on I looked out the window. The Buachaille was covered in snow.
I'd heard snow was coming but it was great to actually see it. Writing early December, I might not have guessed the several feet of snow we've now received over the intervening month. So early in the season, too.
Last of all, I picked up some dropped trekking poles from the Altnafeadh car park and located him later on. I finally got them back to the owner late-December, but I did think they would be my own for a while...! (Updated 2010-12-25)
(0.00) 9.30am Lagangarbh
(1.35) 11.05am Stob Dearg
(2.05) 11.35am Stob Dearg (left)
(3.00) 12.30pm Stob na Doire
(3.35) 1.05pm Stob Coire Altruim
(3.50) 1.20pm Stob na Broige
(6.30) 4.00pm Lagangarbh