Up the Wee Shepherd’s Back Side and a bit of a Hooley

I stayed up late (for me) on Thursday to watch the election results starting to come in, but nevertheless made a reasonably early start on Friday. I generally try to avoid heading off into the wilds at weekends as Sonia is around and I’m not fettered by the need to go to work. However, I’d not been out for a while due to poor weather and the odd good day having been earmarked by the dentist and similar attractions, so I felt justified in absenting myself from the family home for a couple of days.

The Bongo transported me to Glen Etive on Friday morning and I parked at Dalness. Friday’s target was Buchaille Etive Beag – the wee shepherd of Etive – and I was making the less popular ascent from Glen Etive, rather than Glen Coe. Cuckoos could be heard shouting about their plans to hijack some poor wee bird’s home as I started the steep ascent from the road. The weather was clear and – at low level at least – pleasantly warm. There were clouds, but they were patchy and high, so there was lots of sun and visibility was excellent with the tops clear. The wee shepherd was mostly snow-free, but as the views opened up there were plenty of distant corries glinting white in the sun. The route up was straightforward, though unre-bloody-lenting at times. As my chosen approach was less common than the “main” route, I met no-one until the top.

Friday

Friday’s route

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Looking along Glen Etive

Descent was a rerun of the ascent (but in the opposite direction!) Back at the van, I drove along to the head of the loch where there is a wee car park and I set myself up for the night. Initially there were a few other cars, but all except one soon departed and my fellow campers set up a tent a hundred yards or so away and I saw no more of them, but certainly got whiffs of a very appealing barbecue.

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The mighty Ben Starav

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Another view from the car park

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Someone says the newly-bearded Graham Norton looks like me. Can’t see it myself!

I wasn’t badly provisioned: I had some carbonnade of beef I’d made a week or two back, so I sat and looked at the view. The latter was dominated by the vast bulk of Ben Starav – the first time I’d seen it from such close quarters – and what a brute it is. The book says there are three Munros in the complex with another two outliers. Just doing the three main peaks is a 20k, 1700m day and including the other two would be serious indeed. I considered the possibility of coming back with a tent and taking two days for the whole shebang, but I must admit the thought of carting a tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear etc. up there does not immediately appeal. We’ll have to see…

The weather forecast had suggested Friday would be good – which it was – but that Saturday would be lower cloud, plenty of rain and some wind. I woke up Saturday morning to a glorious day: little birds singing their hearts out, the sun streaming down and Ben Starav looking every bit as impressive as it did on Friday. After breakfast I drove back along the road to my starting point for Sgurr na h-Ulaidh, which I thought as Ben Hooley. The wee parking spot I’d noticed the day before was still occupied by forestry vans, so I had to drive a bit more until I found a big enough layby for me to park without disrupting other road users.

There is a huge forestry operation going on in Glen Etive: a notice board where I parked Friday night said there they plan to extract 250,000 tons of wood and ship it out down the loch. The result is that the terrain in places is very unappealing to the eye: there is the detritus of felled trees, masses of trunks sticking up and lots of forestry access roads, with great machine-made scars all over the lower slopes. Partly due to this, I opted to change my planned route on the way in and followed the red line on the map.

Saturday

During the ascent of Meall a Bhuiridh, I began to wonder whether I’d made the right decision as I peched my way up another unre-bloody-lenting slope, but all was well and I eventually reached its top, strode over to the bealach and began the climb to my target.

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The view from Meall a Bhuiridh

The final ascent was again hard-going over rocky terrain but following the line of an old wire fence, now dilapidated and rusty, eventually led to the summit where I was again rewarded with some fine views. I took the blue line back down, but varied it to contour round and avoid going back over the minor summit. The full impact of the devastation caused by the logging was now evident, though there were good tracks back to the road and thence to the awaiting Bongo.

Despite the gloomy prognostications of the meteorologists it had been another super day.

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The desolation of Smaug?

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At least there were good tracks

I mentioned the cuckoos earlier, but I should also say I’ve never seen so many spiders as I did on this expedition: the ground was alive with the wee chaps scurrying away from my arrival.

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