For the first day we chose the two summits of the Buachaille Etive Beag, (the Little Herdsman of Etive), as they have good access, are lower than the Bidean massif, and therefore less snowy, and a good introduction to the area. We made quick progress up the good (though unfortunately eroding, given its age) path to the bealach, and then after plenty of photographs, (two of the guys are professional photographers), turned NE and up the rocky broad ridge to the first summit. The views were predictably fabulous, and much snapping ensued. It is always good to be able to sit back and let the vistas speak for themselves, rather than having to enthuse about their presence through a veil of mist or rain, assuring folks that it really IS breathtaking, if only they could see it! It was 360 degree mountain beauty. Wonderful.
The view SW was over to our second, more snowy summit of Stob Dubh, framed as it is to the eye by Loch Etive and Stob Coire Sgreamhach. This evidently called for some ‘skills’, and after descending to the bealach, we had a quick-fire session on step-kicking, self-belay and ice axe arrest, which the chaps literally threw themselves into with gusto. I was very pleased with their enthusiasm and quick-learning, so was happy to press on higher. The ridge to Stob Dubh is not terribly narrow, but under snow and old cornices it is sufficient to get the pulse racing on the last few steps, especially for those not keen on any exposure at all. Again, despite some wobbly knees, everyone made it up steadily and safely, their progress a credit to them.
After many, many photos, (and why not, it was worth it!), we made a pleasant and steady descent for a celebratory, ‘isotonic’ pint, dinner and then Saturday night in the Clachaig. It was packed as usual, but the duet were too quiet and genteel for the noisy chatting crowd, and it wasn’t until they ramped it up around 11pm that the usual jigs and reeling took place amongst the more restless. Still a good night nevertheless, but not up to ‘normal’ Clachaig standards I am afraid.
Sunday promised to be even better weather-wise, and didn’t disappoint. We did the round of Coire Lochan, up the NE ridge, down the NW and into the coire. It was simply splendid. Alpine in feel, the deep spring snow readily avalanching on slopes all around us as we ascended safe from any danger, but adding some real frisson, especially as we saw several off-piste ski tourers make daredevil descents on both Coire Lochan and off Bidean nam Bian. The route narrows towards the top, and some careful down-climbing is required on a little notch, made interesting by the snow cover. We chatted to a chap descending, who had opted to bypass this, but I judged that to be more dangerous on the wet and loose snow and rock, so we simply cleared the snow, uncovered the holds, and made a textbook crossing.
The way is then steep but simple, and before long we were on the large and spacious summit. I will just let the photos speak for themselves rather than rattle on more.
The descent West was done through virgin snow covering boulders, and I had some fun slipping and ploughing through to clear a good track for the team. Once past the top of Broad Gully all difficulties cease, and it was just a case of chat, photograph, slip and slide down, photograph, photograph, chat. I knew I had a happy team!
An exceptionally enjoyable trip for me, and I do believe for the guys too. The weather, the conditions, the location, the company, the craic - Unbeatable all. Thanks for all being such sports, and see you next year in Kintail.....please bring the weather with you again!