The Small Herdsman

When you’re hill walking in an area for a week it’s all about the weather. You’re thinking of it a lot. Which walk to do on which day? Which walk is the prime one, the one for the best weather all week? What’s happened the last few days, what’s ahead in terms of wind, rain and cloud? And how is the forecast changing? You’re basically checking your various sources three times a day.

I’d had three options for Sunday, depending on when clouds around the tops would clear. Glen Coe in the West, Loch Earn in the East and Glen Lyon more or less in the North. With hardly any wind and no rain, it was definitely going to be a mountain day though.

I had left my decision all the way to Sunday morning and it looked like clouds would clear first in the West. Glen Coe it was then!

Left 9am for Tyndrum which was half an hour’s drive away, to pick up some maps I was missing at the legendary Green Welly Stop. Triumph had a trailer set up there and was just rolling out some demo bikes. Awww, I would’ve loved to ride today in such epic scenery.

10am I parked up at the Buachaille Etive Beag car park. Just like it’s big brother Buachaille Etive Mor (The way more famous “big” Herdsman of Etive) the Little Herdsman had its own car park. The drive through Rannoch Moor and into Glen Coe is something I can do over and over again and never get tired of it. I get butterflies in my belly just thinking of it and my heart aches with joy every time I’m there. That’s why Scotland is my spiritual home. I’m in love with this place like no other in the world.

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Clouds were caressing the highest tops, but opened up more and more to let the warming rays of the sun through. With a warm base layer and a thin soft shell I had started way to warm and soon stripped off neck buff and soft shell and rolled up my sleeves as I climbed into Lairig Eilde… with a purpose as they say. I wasn’t in a particular hurry, but rather wanted to see what pace I could comfortably make.

I had been here once before, a few years back in February when doing my Winter Mountaineering course, but I had only climbed one of the two tops of Buachaille Etive Beag. It was good to be back and finish off what I had started and climb both today.

The steep path turned into an even steeper “staircase” and I had a proper sweat on by the time I reached the saddle between the two munros.

Time for a break with tea, an apple, some nuts and one of the Lancaster market pork pies. Oh and of course the brilliant view over to Aonach Eagach, a grade two scramble I’d love to do one day.

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The views especially with the clouds spreading a mix of shadows over the mountains were stunning. Every now and then The Ben came into view and Buachaille Etive Mor was slowly shrugging off the last clouds, too.

It was now that I realised I had lost my Oakleys sunnies. What? Where were they? What had happened? Nooooooo! I must have dropped them, when taking off my neck buff, totally oblivious to my expensive pair of sunnies on my head. Stupid, stupid, stupid!!! Nothing I could do about that now, so I made my way up over one false summit to Stob Dubh.

A slight but icy breeze was cooling me pleasantly as I worked hard once more, walked past the summit cairn all the way to where the bulk of Buachaille Etive Beag drops sharply into Glen Etive.

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Prime views all along the valley and over Loch Etive. I didn’t linger too long. Cold wind and a still moist base layer were not a good combination. Down to the saddle again and up to the second munro top: Stob Coire Raineach. That’s the one I had done in crampons before. I remembered vividly my first attempts at mixed climbing (that’s snow and rock) and how awkward it had felt.

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Quick look around at the top, then back down all the way to the car, scanning the path for my Oakley’s without any luck. Bummer.

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The walk had only taken me 3:30hrs plus two short-ish breaks. So it was still early at 2:45pm, but I canned plans of adding another 14k walk, as I felt quite tired.

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Instead I stopped over at Tyndrum again for a cold juice. By now it was rammed with bikers and I marvelled for a while at some of their awesome machines.

Back at the guesthouse I had to have a snooze, a shower and then went for a walk around the village. Not much to see but had everything you possibly need: a garage, a tea room, a chippy (!), a shop and a pub.

Had a pint of cider at the pub. There was only one family in there as I sat down with my drink, but within like 10 minutes the place was rammed and every table taken. And all of them tourists. Like they all agreed on a time to go for food, haha.

Robbed of my piece and tranquillity, I retired to my room, sipping some of my fabulous Scapa whilst blogging and watching Netflix.

Tomorrow looks like by far the best day of the week. So Glen Lyon Horseshoe it is! Four new munros for me and a new area to explore.

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