Well I’ve bagged my 1st Munro and I am hooked, what I was lead to believe was to be a weekend of “hill walking” turned out to be a full scale struggle of man against the elements during a trek up a mountain.
Buachaille Etive Mor translates as Great Heardsman if Etive and is commonly known as The Buachaille or The Beuckle. The Buachaille stands around 3,353ft and is locate in the Glen Etive. Coined as one of the most recognisable mountains in Scotland, The Buachaille is often pictured in postcards and calendars. The Buachaille is fairly easy to get to, simply follow the A82 towards Loch Lomond and the road goes right by it. The sight is recognisable by a small bothy alone at the foot of the mountain. There is adequate parking for quite a few cars but the entrance to this area is in extremely bad condition. Very low slung cars and people driving too fast will damage their cars on the potholes. A path leads from the parking area to a bridge crossing stream, the path then passes the bothy and leads to the foot of the mountain. The trip from Glasgow takes around an hour and a half to 2 hours depending on traffic and conditions, but don’t worry the scenery is epic once you pass the Dumbarton area and the roads are usually fairly quiet.
I pitched up at the Benglass Farm campsite which took me around an hour and 15 minutes to get to from Glasgow. Pitches at this site are around £7.50 per person and £1 for parking and it’s worth every penny the onsite facilities offer constant hot water in the showers and good toilet facilities. There’s a kitchen area and canteen so you can eat away from the midges and access to tumble thdryers and laundry facilities a godsend for the Scottish weather. There is also a well stocked shop and a pub which serves food with its own beer garden area complete with fire pit. For those who prefer more home from home accommodation Benglass Farm also offer 4 star B&B and self catering wigwams.
The Buachaille itself has many climbing routes of differing calibre and access to these usually involves a steep hike up scree and does involve a bit of scrambling but it’s worth it. Only half way up the mountain and the view of the valley was astounding. Further up just before the scree gully we noticed that we were under the watchful eyes of a stag and his herd standing on the north buttress ridge. For all the beauty of the area the weather was relentless constant rain made some of the rock treacherous and slippy, some parts covered by a slick black algae. The rain was broken only by the wind and although the gully was sheltered from the driving rain, wind blew the cloud into the gully making the whole adventure very wet. We had all prepared with water proof jackets base, layers and good foot ware but this wasn’t to prepare us for the final leg of our trek to the top.
The plateau at the top of the scree gully involves some light climbing and scrambling. The stone has good handholds and grip but can often be slick due to rain and algae growth. Getting over the plateau was like entering another world. Most of the assent had been heavy rain and wind but nothing to uncomfortable. The plateau was like crossing into a tornado. I could barely see 10m in front of me due heavy cloud cover and the wind was strong enough to make you lose your footing. The rain battered our hoods so much we couldn’t hear each other talk. It was awesome, however careful preparation of waterproof clothing was defeated by this type of weather. The rain was blown with such force it went through your clothing, down your back and into your socks. No matter how water proof your shoes are, once your socks are wet they wick water into your shoes. Everyone was soaked through. Fellow walkers and climbers passed us with equally soggy dispositions, cagoules, ponchos, everyone looked wet but still glad they made the effort to get this far.
Some time spent at the top balancing suitable rocks on the cairns at the top of the The Buachaille and we had had enough, hot showers and a BBQ awaited our return. The assent took around 4 hours with occasional breaks where as the decent took just over an hour. This was due to the stepped pathway following the North West Buttress. This path skirts past the scree and has occasional small streams running through it on rainy days. Despite this, the decent is fairly relaxed and allowed us a better look at some bouldering opportunities. There are several large boulders in the gully following the stream. On dry days the stream would either go right around these boulders or it wouldn’t be there at these points offering a suitable landing area for a nice day’s bouldering. On really hot days the streams and waterfalls look like they would be quite inviting if not freezing.
The return to base camp was a soggy drive for around half an hour but the hot showers and BBQ followed by a beer at the 300 year old Drovers Inn lifted our spirits.
I’ll definitely return to the Buachaille, winter at this location offers a great chance for Ice climbing and some people still trek it in the winter. The UKC has some info on the climbs find a little about the area on Wikipedia.