Ben Starav – 1078m
Beinn nan Aighenan – 957m
Ghlas Bheinn Mhor – 997m
Distance: 12 ¾ miles
Weather: From perfect to dire
Date: 26th June 2012
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Molly and Milly
It was definitely a day of two seasons.
We started our walk in beautiful summer weather, blue skies, warm sunshine, fluffy clouds and a cooling breeze, the grass was green and the birds were singing. When we arrived back at the car the dogs looked like they had been through a car wash, my boots contained an inch of lukewarm rainwater and I was soaked down to my underwear.
The early morning drive up Glen Etive was stunning and I was looking forward to a big day bagging Ben Starav, an out and back trip to Beinn nan Aighenan and then over Ghlas Bheinn Mhor on our way back to the glen.
On previous visits to these hills the approach routes have always been a boggy slog through an endless squelchy mess before reaching some more solid terrain on the ridges. Today I was pleasantly surprised to find the paths soft and dry after the relatively dry spring. The going was easy under paw and we made quick progress onto the steep north ridge where the views got better and better, even Molly and Milly seemed to be stopping to take it all in rather than dashing around the hillside as per usual.
Ben Starav has a kick in its tail, it is a relatively straightforward ascent and then, just when you think you must be at the summit, a huge boulderfield awaits you.
We rewarded ourselves with a leisurely break at the summit, then carried on down the rocky ridge to the bealach below Beinn nan Aighenan, still enjoying the views with Ben Cruachan looking particularly prominent.
I met several other walkers at this point, all of them tackling the three Munros in a variety of combinations. I stopped for lunch at the low point of the col, at a particularly comfortable rock where sandwiches had been eaten on all our previous visits and had therefore become a traditional lunch spot.
During lunch and the climb up Beinn nan Aighenan the weather had begun to change almost imperceptibly. The sun had gone in, the blue sky was slowly disappearing, the wind had become much colder and by the time I reached the summit, Ben Cruachan had totally disappeared from view. Ever the optimist I was sure that I would make it back to the car before the rain started!
We turned round and started to retrace our steps back to the col and within a couple of minutes the first spots of rain hit us, it got heavier and heavier, so I succumbed and stopped to put on my waterproofs. By the time I had redressed the cloud was beginning to cover the summit of Ben Starav and slowly but surely Ghlas Bheinn Mhor was disappearing under a blanket of cloud and the rain begun to turn into that ‘set in for the rest of the day’ type rain. As l reached the Starav/Ghlas Bheinn Mhor col the wind and the rain seemed to veer and hit us head on so it was just a case of head down up to the summit. Even Molly and Milly seemed a bit despondent; ears back and tails down, they seemed as keen as I was to get this over with as quickly as possible.
The summit cairn appeared mercifully quickly, a summit photo was taken and a restorative chocolate bar rapidly consumed.
It seemed a long and endless descent to the head of the Allt Mheuran but the lower altitude and change in direction brought some respite from the rapidly deteriorating conditions. The rain was getting heavier and the burn was a thundering roar of peaty white water, in places it was hard to locate the path as it resembled a burn for much of its length. Thankfully there was virtually no wind in the glen so we all warmed up nicely during the descent, but the rain managed to seep in and gravity ensured that I ended up soaked to the skin. I gave up trying to keep my feet dry and just plodded on through the running water and puddles.
The path was hard work with the running water and I had to keep my eyes on my feet, every now and then I looked up to see how far I still had to go, slowly the forest edged nearer, then the house at Coileitir appeared and finally the car came into view through the rain. There was of course one final treat in store for us at the car. The sheltered position and dampness had brought the midges out in force. The dogs jumped into the car and soaking gear was hurled into the boot and we were off, next stop Morrison car park for a change into dry clothes. It took another two days for my boots and rucksack to dry out.
Definitely a day of two halves and I’ll take the first half every time.