Hike Distance: 7.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,713 ft
Click the hyperlinked text to learn how to pronounce Buachaille Etive Mòr
Pronounced Boo ach keel yi echiv ore
Munro: Stob Dearg 3352 ft/1022 m
Munro Top: Stob Na Doire 3317 ft/1011 m
Munro - a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 feet (914.4 m)
Munro Top - a mountain summit that exceeds 3,000 ft but is considered to be a subsidiary top of a nearby Munro
The graph displays the elevation changes we experienced during this hike.
The forecast was for rain, but today looked like the best hiking day during our time in Oban.
After researching our hiking options in Glen Coe, we chose the Buachaille Etive Mòr circular route to bag our first Munro. Buachaille Etive Mor is one of the best known of all the Munro peaks. Its pyramidal form, as seen from the A82 road when traveling towards Glen Coe, makes it one of the most recognizable mountains in Scotland.
Buachaille Etive Mòr takes the form of a ridge nearly five miles (8 km) in length, almost entirely encircled by the River Etive and its tributaries. The ridge contains four principal tops: from north-east to south-west these are Stob Dearg (1021.4 m), Stob na Doire (1011 m), Stob Coire Altruim (941 m) and Stob na Bròige (956 m).
The picture was taken 15 minutes after starting the hike. From this location the mountain doesn't have the same pyramidal shape but it was still impressive. Our destination was the left summit of Buachaille Etive Mòr known as Stob Dearg. During the first phase of the hike we followed a path in the fold between the two peaks.
The weather was cooperating at the start of the hike. Etive Mor was 'in our face' the entire time but off to the right was Glen Etive. In the picture below, we were standing at the north end of the perfect U-shaped glacial valley with Buachaille Etive Mòr to our left (out of the picture) and to our right Buachaille Etive Beag ridge (3,143 ft). After summiting Etive Mor, we'd be returning on the Lairig Gartain path that traverses the glen.
We were pleasantly surprised by the lack of midges since weather conditions favored a midge invasion. The initial path following the River Coupall was boggy as we traveled through the flats. In the background is the famed Lagangarbh Hut owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It's been occupied and maintained by the Trust since 1946.
The first phase of our ascent was via the steep Coire na Tuliach path that's visible in the picture below. This fold between the peaks was fairly well defined but we anticipated it would be more obscure when we entered the scree chute and boulder field. The goal of phase 1 was to reach the bealach (narrow mountain pass) located in the top center of the picture below. In phase 2 from the baelach we'd head left to summit Stob Dearg.
We were surprised to see a solo hiker in the distance.
We removed our rain jackets but kept them handy since rain showers were never far away.
Soon enough it was time to don the rain gear for passing rain showers. We were gaining elevation and knew if the clouds lifted we'd have great views.
We were still on the path. It was becoming more steep but we still had a considerable distance to go. Don't be fooled by the sliver of blue sky, it was a rare occurrence.
As we climbed higher the trail narrowed in spots and occasional hand holds helped us maintain safe footing.
We began seeing breaks in the clouds. From this vantage point we could see the A82 and the white hut located at the beginning of the trail.
We were also treated to puffy clouds and bits of blue sky.
Up ahead we spotted the solo hiker entering the final portion of the climb.
Toward the top of the corrie, the path weaved through a boulder field and into a scree chute. These conditions slowed down our ascent but we continued to get closer.
The final section of the corrie involved climbing a rocky rib.
The view just as we reached the the baelach.
What a sense of relief to finally reach the baelach at 2,850 ft. All told, it had taken us about 2 hours to reach this point. We stayed for a 10-15 minutes to take in the amazing views and relish in our accomplishment.
Looking down Coire na Tulaich to our starting point.
Enough relaxing - it was time to collect our equipment and continue hiking.
We needed to hike less than a mile and gain 500 feet in elevation to reach the summit.
The trail to the top was a wide boulder-covered ridge.
With blue skies, we stopped frequently to admire the views. In the Highlands, and especially today, we needed to take advantage of clear skies whenever they appeared.
Shortly afterwards, the weather took a turn for the worse; however, we were hoping to reach the summit before storms collided with us at the top.
Dave just a short walk from the summit, and the point of the pyramid as seen from the road.
This was the last clear and dry picture from the summit before we were hit by bad weather.
Dave grabbed a quick video at the top and then the rain, wind and hail started. At the summit we met another hiker who had ascended from a different direction. He was in shorts and a short sleeve shirt - there was no way he wasn't freezing. Later we saw him taking cover behind a boulder waiting for the rain to stop.
Usually we take a nice picture at the high point of a hike, but with rain pouring off our brimmed hats and stinging hail hitting our face, I knew now was not the time to ask Dave to stand around for 5 minutes while I set up the tripod. The look on his face says it all, 'Lets get the hell off this summit!' if you look closely at the photo you can see the hail coming across.
However, this picture highlights the precipitous north face of the mountain and the expansive nature of Rannoch Moor in the background. This 130 sq km moor is completely unsuitable for agriculture and therefore one of the last untouched landscapes in Scotland. Peat swamps, watercourses, ponds and lakes alternate with each other. The moor is fed by water from the surrounding high mountains.
For a stomach churning video, click to watch a trio of climbers rock climb on the North Face Route of Buachaille Etive Mor
We descended for about 15 minutes until the rain and hail stopped so that we could enjoy our first Munro. There was definitely more smiling than at this top.
We took in the amazing 'almost summit' views of Stob Coire Raineach and Stob Dubh both part of the Buachaille Etive Beag ridge across the glen.
After celebrating, we returned along the ridge to the top of the Coire na Tulaich.
In the distance was Stob Na Doire our second summit of the day. Our plan was to follow the ridge until the base of the stob then begin the slow steady ascent up the steep face.
We followed the path for about half a mile through boggy terrain and this lochan. No sooner were we enjoying the trek when it began to rain for probably the 4th or 5th time today.
We were close to the base of the stob looking up at our next stop. Now it was not just raining, it was pouring and windy. Water sheeting on the trail and pouring off our hats, dripping under our water proof outer layers so now all our clothes were wet and we were tired. It was not the best of times. It's easy to understand why there were no pictures during this portion of the climb.
Psychologically, it was probably one of the more difficult 20-30 minutes of hiking we've experienced. It certainly felt more than 400 feet of elevation gain! Magically, just minutes from the summit the rain stopped, clouds parted, and the sun came out. It was a beautiful view looking back at Stob Dearg.
At the summit of Stob Na Doire (3,317 ft).
A quick video at the summit of Stob Na Doire.
I think he was actually smiling.
It had been a tough mile to cover in poor weather and we couldn't even claim a second Munro. Stob Na Doire at 3,317 ft is considered a subsidary top of Stob Dearg and therefore classified as a 'Munro Top'. But it didn't matter; we made it to our second summit today and now after 4 hours of hiking it was almost all down hill back to the car.
We started our descent from Stob Na Doire on a narrow rocky slope.
When the clouds lifted we were treated to a great view of the valley floor and the Etive Munros.
Looking back at Stob Na Doire, it's a pretty daunting peak. You can see faint traces of the trail that snakes down along the ridge
We approached a junction on this baelach. Going straight would bring us to Stob Coire Altruim a Munro top of Stob na Broige and heading to the right would bring us down the mountain into Lairig Gartain and the end of the hike. We considered trying to hike the extra 1.5 miles (round trip) to the stob but we were concerned with the amount of time we'd need and the available sunlight.
We turned to the right at the crossroads - no regrets.
What a beautiful view of the valley and Larig Gartain, the pass through this section of the glacial valley. Another glorious view of Buachaille Etive Beag.
Looking back at how quickly we descended. The path to the valley followed the banks of the Allt Coire Altruim which after today's rain had a decent flow.
At the foot of the glen we crossed the stream and began our walk back along the Lairig Gartain pass. Following today's theme, it began raining for the final time as we were entered the valley.
Even at the conclusion of the hike we were getting amazing views on both sides of the glen.
There was no better way to end this incredible hike than with a final view of Buachaille Etive Mor near the spot where this adventure had started. What a great introduction to hiking in the Highlands and Glen Coe.
FYI - We were attacked by midges at the car as we were taking off our rain gear and hiking boots ... a fitting end to the day.
I've included this topographical map of the area to help put the names and peaks in perspective to each other. We started our day at the red X. We first climbed Stob Dearg and then Stob N Doire (both marked with an orange X). Returned to the valley and ended the hike on the Lairig Gartain pass marked by the purple line. Hope this helped.
I've also included links to guides that explain Scottish hiking terms and lingo. Check out
Hikers Guide to Gaelic Mapping Words and Walk Scotland Dictionary
On the drive back to Oban, we were treated to a great view of Castle Stalker. The castle remains include a four-story tower house picturesquely set on a tidal islet on Loch Laich. It is believed the present castle was built around the 1440s.
There was a nice sunset along the loch as well.