Long daylight hours in the summer months lend themselves to more ambitious hillwalking plans.
Twenty-five years ago, we set off on a two-day backpacking trip, from Ben Starav to Meall a’Bhuiridh; an eight-Munro traverse from Glen Etive to Glen Coe involving a total ascent of over 3,000m. However, too heavily laden on a scorching day and having to stop at every opportunity for water, by the time we reached Stob Coir’ an Albannaich the thought of a second day of masochism was too much to contemplate.
Revisiting that idea was planned but this time, older and wiser, I opted for a more modest five-Munro 24 hours 2,500m traverse, going only as far as Meall nan Eun and taking a bivvy bag rather than full camping gear. With low cloud forecast to gradually rise during the day, I delayed my departure until 11:30am and returned at exactly that time next morning, a most enjoyable 24 hours including a memorable bivvy.
Given the initial cooler weather it was sensible to start with Ben Starav, the highest at 1,078m/3,537ft (a brutal ascent from sea-level), then the outlying 957m/3140ft Beinn nan Aighenan and over 997m/3271ft Glas Bheinn Mhor to the overnight stop at the 738m col beneath 1,044m/3425ft Stob Coir’ an Albannaich. That left Albannaich and 928m/3045ft Meall nan Eun for the following morning.
A track, map ref 137468, leads to the River Etive of deep, dark pools, from where a detour avoids the environs of Coileitir. Follow the riverside path, cross the Allt Mheuran at the bridge, map ref 136460, then south to the base of the north ridge. After a long steady climb, I was on top of Starav (possibly hill of rustling, suggesting the sound of deer) at 2:30pm and with superb views down Loch Etive to Cruachan.
Stroll around the edge of the plateau, then it is a 300m rough eastern descent to the 766m col from where Beinn nan Aighenan (hill of the hinds) look fairly insignificant. However, what is literally overlooked is the descent to the 617m low point leading to a 340m climb on the NNW ridge. The return to the 766m col thus gives an overall ascent of nearly 500m. Leaving rucksacks beside some apparently prominent marker carries risks even on a clear day.
Traverse 892m Meall nan Tri Tighearnan, which just misses out on Top status, to reach the rounded dome of Glas Bheinn Mhor (big greenish/grey hill). The descent path eases the way over the rough north-east nose to the 738m col at the head of the Allt Mheuran, map ref 163434; my overnight bivvy spot chosen for its nearby spring and a common spot to see ptarmigan. I was tucked into my sleeping bag by 9pm but later saw the post-sunset reddish glow to the north-west at the same time as the seemingly large red moon slowly rose from the south-east. Sunrise revealed a cloud-free day and after a short, sharp, stony climb, heading north then curving north-east, I was on Stob Coir’ an Albannaich at 6:45am, this peak of the corrie of the Scotsman perched above a dramatic line of cliffs. Descend south-east to just below 900m then by the obvious grassy rake slanting north to the 754m col. Traverse Meall Tarsuinn to the narrow col map, ref 184451.
The summit plateau of the modest Meall nan Eun, hill of the birds, is reached on a curving approach. Return to the narrow col and follow the upper Allt Ceitlein, at first through a narrow gorge into Coirean Riabhach. Later the path crosses to the north side and so into the open, grassy Glen Ceitlein.
MAP Ordnance Survey Map 50, Glen Orchy & Loch Etive
DISTANCE 18 miles
TERRAIN Rugged, but with stalkers’ and Munro-worn paths
START POINT Glen Etive, map ref 137468, and track to River Etive
TIME 24 hours but with a bivvy stop
NEAREST VILLAGES Bridge of Orchy and Glencoe
REFRESHMENT SPOT Kings House Hotel, Rannoch Moors