Stob Gaibhre - 690m
Sunday 29th November 2009
Weather/Conditions: Summits always clear of cloud, but with passing showers and heavier clouds around about. A bit of a rough day (the wind at the top was strong and cold) but nice light across to Loch Etive.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 13.1km / 1050m / 6h
Accompanying: Bealach Mountaineering Club (Dave, Colin, Dougie)
The plan for today was to climb something on the way back to Glasgow, and Beinn Sgulaird would be the ideal candidate, not only because of it's geographic location, but because the other guys in the club had been turned back by it before when they'd approached from Glen Etive. It was my first time in the area so any mountain would do.
Beinn Sgulaird has good and bad points. It's well renowned for it's spectacular sea views, (although we got little in the way of that) the views are great and the terrain rough too. But if you approach from Elleric, like most walkers do, it's a slog straight up the 3000 feet from valley floor to summit.
From where we parked at Elleric, we followed land rover tracks across the valley floor, searching for evidence of a path. We'd began walking around the side of the hill instead of up it when it became apparent that there was no path, not one that we could see anyway. All there was for it was to head directly up the hillside. Although it was a fair slog, we gained height rapidly.
As we got higher, we beared to the right to avoid craggy ground and then ascended up alongside it. Above, snow was lying in patches and we ascended into an enclosed corrie just below the summit. The weather wasn't particularly nice here (how different the weather was compared to the day before on Beinn a' Bheithir) but we climbed onto the ridge, where views opened to the south and east across Loch Etive. The light and weather was spectacular and much more active than on the hillsides we'd climbed.
It was a short walk to the summit, with a cold wind blowing and spindrift picking up every now and then. It was a rewarding viewpoint and we spent five or ten minutes here before descending a short distance to get out of the wind for something to eat.
Descent across Stob Gaibhre
To my mind, the next part of the walk was the most interesting one and probably showed Beinn Sgulaird in a more positive light than many perhaps see it. Our descent route went around the back of the hill (over the 'Graham Top' Stob Gaibhre), down to the land rover track that runs between Beinn Sgulaird and the steep-sided knoll An Grianan and back to Elleric.
I would have also visited Beinn Sgulaird's north top (classed as a Munro top) had I known it was an actual top, but we simply bypassed it as we made a line for the northeast ridge. Then came a long descent down past the snowline and towards Stob Gaibhre - a rugged peak, especially when seen from Glen Creran. The other guys bypassed it, although I nipped up to the summit because I go for tops when possible.
I met with the guys again and we continued to descend, with the sun setting in the southern skies, towards the landrover tracks below. If we could get there then it should be an easy walk back around the side of the hill, to the cars.
The evening turned out to be very nice with lots of scenic views to the Glen Etive hills. It's definitely a different viewpoint from the ones that I'm used to. With the golden hillsides and snow capped summits, I also had plenty of photography opportunities. Below, there was a pleasant surprise waiting. Glen Ure.
More specifically, the River Ure runs between An Grianan and Beinn Sgulaird and it is up here that the river becomes almost gorge-like, with An Grianan's southern aspects boasting cliffs ridden in vegetation and birches. Although An Grianan is of modest height, get below it and it becomes a monster with steep slopes dropping into the River Ure below. I'd love to climb An Grianan some day.
The track we followed traversed the steep sided glen. (It's not built very sympathetically to the environment however - the side of the track is covered in the excavated rubble, simply dumped to the side.) We followed it in the growing darkness and as clouds rolled in across the hills. It was a very atmospheric way to end the walk, especially with the almost-full moon rising above An Grianan.
The skies above the glen turned wonderful shades of pink and illuminated the hillsides. I almost wanted to be up there among the hills and sunrays, but knew that I was just as well watching from the glen than being up there. I always find it interested that you feel a calling to be somewhere else than where you currently are, but can rarely fulfil that longing.
Anyways ... arrived back at the cars in near darkness and then headed back to Glasgow with the moon rising above Ben Cruachan and Stob Dearg. Simply owing to the weather, Beinn Sgulaird hardly stopped the Beinn a' Bheithir trip from the day before, but it was still a very worthwhile trip. It makes me want to explore the Glen Creran/Glen Etive area further too. There are plenty of hidden delights that I haven't yet scratched the surface of.
West from Beinn Sgulaird - Glen Etive
West from Beinn Sgulaird - Beinn Trilleachan
360° - Beinn Sgulaird
(0.00) 10.30am Elleric
(3.55) 1.25pm Beinn Sgulaird
(4.05) 2.35pm Stob Gaibhre
(6.00) 4.30pm Elleric