(Entry by Shona)
After heading up to Glen Etive yesterday and camping over night, we decide to do a group of 5 munros, starting with Ben Starav (1078m) at the bottom of the glen.
After a wee breakfast of porridge and coffee, we pack up our gear and drive down to the starting point at the road to Coiletir.
The first part of the hike is pretty good, when we reach the house at Coiletir, we head left around the back fence and along a very wet boggy path. When we reach the Allt Mheuran, we stop for a couple of minutes to take some photos. The cloud is lifting now, it looks like it will be a nice day after all.
After crossing the river, we pick up the path which runs up the edge of Ben Starav and it is a stiff climb, gaining height quickly. After about halfway, the path levels a little at Coire an Fihr Leith and we walk towards the huge bowl of the upper corrie.
We have fantastic views to the west, down towards Loch Etive. To the north we can see the southern peaks of Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag, Stob Coire Sgreamhach and Bidean nam Bian with Stob Coire Nan Lochan behind. To the east, we can see down into the valley to the spine of Glas Bheinn Chaol, and over to Glas Bheinn Mhor (997m) and Stob Coir an Albannaich (1044m), two of the other munros on our route.
We take some pictures, then start heading up towards the rockier summit. It is steep here and the path is very close to the edge. There are some unexpected drop offs and deep treacherous gullies. The dogs happily dance around as we carefully pick our way along the narrow ridge towards the summit.
It is windy at the top but the cloud has lifted and the views are amazing, so we take the time to get some good pictures. We carry on to get out of the wind and stop about 100 yards between the summit of Ben Starav and the next peak on its ridge (Stob Coire Dheirg) and have some sandwiches. It was a tough climb so we need to replenish our energy.
After passing the summit of Stob Coire Dheirg, we make our way to where the ridge drops steeply, down towards the bealach. There are a lot of loose stones and gravel on the path, so we choose or footing carefully. One slip here and we could end up hurt. A huge vein of quartz runs diagonally across the ridge and shines bright white in the sunlight. I stop to admire this natural beauty. All the surrounding rocks are grey and this stripe of white rock fascinates me. it truly is spectacular.
We carry on and soon reach the bealach. Looking north and down into the valley, we can see the lower path which follows Allt nam Meirleach and would take you back out to where we started if you were merely bagging Ben Starav, but that is not on our agenda. We are heading south, off the ridge and towards Munro number two, Beinn nan Aighenan (960m).
The path curls round the bulk of Meall nan Tri Tighearnan and drops down towards the stone covered plateau between the mountains. The dogs enjoy a well earned swim in some of the boggy water holes before we start the hard pull up the side of the mountain.
It is steeper than it looks but we make good time and are at the summit before we know it.
To the south we can see the summits of Ben Cruachan and its neighbours and we look back towards the eastern side of Ben Starav. What a mountain! From here, we can also see munro number three, Glas Bheinn Mhor. Lets get going! We head back down to the plateau and decide not to follow the path back to the bealach but to go straight up the south west edge of the mountain.
The grass is long, so it acts like steps, which makes the climb a lot easier. We zig zag our way to the upper slopes and pick up the path just before the little cairn on the ridge of Meall nan Tri Tighearnan, which is a subsidiary or ‘top’. From here, the path drops down again before then heading up towards the summit of Glas Bheinn Mhor.
It looks massive but it doesn’t take us long before we are sitting at the summit cairn looking at the map and checking where our route takes us next. We have a quick bite of chocolate before we head east and down the long, wide shoulder of Glas Bheinn Mhor.
The path heads north north east from here and drops steeply down to about 700m. Looking over, we can see the steep path zig zagging its way straight up the steep side of the lower part of Stob Coir an Albannaich.
As we reach the path, it is more like stairs. I cant begin to descirbe how pleased I am at that. I am not a great fan of dropping a lot of height between mountains! We are up on the flatter part of the mountain within 10 minutes. From here we can see the summit cairn and there are two ways that we can approach this. We can either head slighty west and up a more gentle incline or we can go north and go for the steeper, more direct route.
Eric chooses the easier option,much to my dismay. This way is long and drawn out and I feel that we are going out of the way to double back but I don’t complain, I just keep trudging on. It is cold and windy up on the summit. The cloud has closed in again and the rain has started. We get the map out and have a look to see if we can work out where we drop off for Meall nan Eun, the fith Munro of the day.
The path ahead doesn't look very clear and even looking towards where the map shows Meall nan Eun to be, we can't see anything that looks of munro height, apart from Stob Ghabhar. Of course, we only have other mountains as a guide! Hmm, we look at the map again. Both dogs cower from the wind and rain, nursing sore and scuffed paws and look up at us through depserate eyes. The rock here is very rough, so both dogs are suffering. Even Alfie with his paws of steel!
After much deliberation, we decide that, for the sake of the dogs and us, to miss Meall nan Eun and head back off the mountain. We head back along the path the way we came, but instead of turning south, we keep heading east. The descent is steady at first and we head to where the top of a deep gully starts. We didn’t realise that it was a gully until we got to is, as originally it did look like it led to a path. Neither of us fancy trying to head down that way, so we quickly bypass that and head closer towards the edge of the mountain.
The ground drops pretty steeply but it’s grassy, so we are able to pick our way carefully down from here, avoid various crags and gullies as we head lower. There are a few little streams to cross and I let my mind wander a little, which is just enouhg time to let me stand on a very slimey wet rock and slip into the stream. I land full force on my left hand side which hurt a little.
Thankfully Eric doesn’t see this clumsy mishap and I carry on, feeling rather foolish. About 50 yards ahead is a preservation area ringed by a deer fence. We manage to get the dogs through a gap in the lowwer fence near the stream and it’s an easy climb over for us.
It is harder going in here because everything is overgrown and uneaten. We fight our way through Birch saplings, long grass, marsh grass, hidden streams and deep heather, it’s a wonder we made it to the other side without getting lost or stuck!
This time there is nowhere in the deer fence to let the dogs through, so Eric climbs up and sits astride the fence and I pass Bracken up to him. He lowers her and then lets her go and she scoots off out of the way. Alfie isnt as easy, he is heavier and slightly less inclined to be lifted, so he tenses himself as I pass him up. Eric lowers him a little then lets go and Alfie thumps to the ground landing on his side. Poor wee scone, he is okay though and soon gets out of the way as Eric climbs down and lets me climb over the fence.
We are back on the boggy path that we started on and after about 100 yards we reach where the path splits next to the house. Another ten minutes on hard steady ground and we are back at the car. Tired, soggy and slightly disappointed that only four of five were done. but that mountain isn't moving, so we will get it eventually.
Total time taken – 10hrs 14 mins
Total distance – 13.09 miles
Heights - Ben Starav 1079m
Beinn nan Aighenan 957m
(Meall nan Tri Tighernan 892m – sub)
Glas Bheinn Mhor 997m
Stob Coir’ an Albannaich 1044m