Start/Finish: Victoria Bridge (Loch Tulla)
Terrain: 55% hill trails, 15% pathless, 20% gravel track, 10% easy trail
Transport: citylink bus stops at nearby Bridge of Orchy
(Ft. William/Skye - Edinburgh/Glasgow services)
Route: Route Map
|Looking North over Glen Etive towards the summits of Glen Coe|
Today's run was less "Exploring Scottish Trails" and more "Obsessive-compulsive Munro Bagging" in the sun. Starting from Victoria Bridge (by Loch Tulla on the West Highland Way), it takes in the group of summits stretching between Rannoch Moor and Glen Etive, starting with Stob a Choire Odhar, eventually reaching Ben Starav beside the stunning Loch Etive, before returning via Beinn an Aigenan along Glen Kinglass to the start. This last bit is just part of a nice trail that runs West from Victoria Bridge (on the West Highland Way) to Loch Etive, where it meets another trail that runs North/South from Tayinult to Glen Etive. Forgetting summits, both these options offer nice scenery away from roads and towns - and would also make good mountain-bike trips (as evidenced by tyre tracks in the bog!).
We parked at the gravel car park by Victoria Bridge – this is a popular camping area for those doing the West Highland Way or bagging Munros. When Lesley and I stepped out of the car the wave of heat that greeted us was very un-Scottish. The boggy ground by the road was dry and dusty. Lizards crossed the gravel path in front of me as I made my way Westwards along the stoney track into Glen Kinglass. Staying hydrated was going to be the main challenge for everyone today.
|Good track up onto the ridge of Stob a Coire Odhair|
After another brief chat I was heading down the not-too-steep W ridge of "Odhair", picking up a bit of a path down to the 668m pass, then continuing along the ridge ahead that curves more S and becomes rocky. Even though the path zig-zags a bit, I was still reduced to a walk on this stretch (something I need to practise anyway so I can survive the longer mountain events!).
From here onwards I was covering unfamiliar ground. That's the bit of a run I always enjoy most! Descending slightly N of W along a broad, grassy ridge, I felt (and knew) I was leaving the crowds behind and entering lesser travelled territory for a few miles. The views from this elevated platform were particularly good, especially North over the Buachaille Etive Mor and Ben Nevis above and beyond.
|Ben Nevis standing high above the Buachaille|
|Stob Coir a' Albannaich above the bealach before Meall nan Eun|
From the bealach, Stob Coir an Albannaich’s rounded summit is attained via its ESE ridge (very much following the boundary on the map). The route onto this ridge is basically a gently-angled series of slabs with traces of path to the E of an obvious gully. Once onto the ridge it was again very runnable to the summit, where I became aware how close I now was to Glen Etive, its partly-forested base nestled amongst the array of fairly sharp peaks south of Glen Coe.
|Glas Beinn Mor|
|Stob Coire Dearg, with the SE top of Ben Starav behind|
|Loch Etive from Ben Starav (Ben Cruachan visible top left)|
It turns out there’s a path nearly all the way from the bealach to the top, although it does peter out in a couple of places. It’s a fairly isolated Munro, but there are still fine views over Loch Etive with the Cruachan range not too distant ahead.
|Looking N to Meall nan Eun over Loch Dochard|
|A last glance behind up the Glen, near Victoria Bridge|
With hindsight I think I’d have been better just heading SE off the summit into Coire a’ Bhinnein where there’s water, and also a path marked on the 1:25000 map.
When I eventually did get the opportunity to rehydrate, life slowly came back to the legs and I could enjoy running down the glen with the evening sun, still very warm, hitting the hills I’d visited the tops of earlier. I particularly liked the view of Meall nan Eun across the loch, now looking up at it rather than down from it.
The path joins a dirt track then leaves it again (crossing a dodgy suspension bridge to the N bank of the river), making its peaty way back towards my outward route this morning, then eventually the car at Victoria Bridge.