I was disappointed by last week’s failed attempts at Ben Choznie and was itching to get back out in the snow. I looked at the forecast and saw that Sunday looked to be absolutely perfect, with almost 100% chance of cloud free summits. I quickly put in for a last minute day off for Sunday and decided on Ben Starav and Glas Bheinn Mhor.
I set off from work in Glasgow at midnight on Saturday and drove straight to Glencoe. I arrived in Glencoe a few hours later and managed to avoid hitting the deer on the verge of the road. The iconic “Buachaille” looked spectacular in the moonlight.
I drove down Glen Etive and arrived at my parking spot at 0250 hours. This was only the second time I had camped in the car and once again it was absolutely baltic! It was -5*C outside and felt much colder inside my metal box. I tossed and turned in a semi-damp sleeping bag for a few hours before finally getting up at 0645 hours.
I set off before sunrise and within a few minutes the tips of my fingers were numb with the cold. I dug out my trusty German army mitts from my rucksack and within a few minutes I could feel the blood flowing back into them. Ben Starav starts off with a steep ascent up to the main ridge and offered amazing views over Glen Etive and the surrounding mountains.
After an hour or so of walking I reached the snow level and really began to enjoy myself. Winter is my favourite time of the year to be on the mountains and I promised myself I would dedicate more time to the outdoors this winter. By now the sun was high above the horizon and the sky was a beautiful azure blue. I’ve only ever dreamed of walking in the Alps, but this is what I imagine it would look like on a perfect day.
As I reached the main ridge I got out my ice axe and donned my crampons.
After 3 hours or so of walking I reached the summit and the view was absolutely incredible; 360 degrees of cloud free sky’s and mountains covered in snow. I could’ve stayed there for hours taking in the view, but I was only half way through my walk and the winter light doesn’t hang around for very long. I sat down for a quick bite to eat and soaked up the views for 10 minutes before heading off towards the next top, Meall nan Tighearnan.
I got a bit of a surprise when I saw the narrow ridge which connects the plateau of Ben Starav to Meall nan Tighearnan, it was narrower than I expected and looked intimidating in the snow. On reflection, I should really have taken my crampons off at this point, but it wasn’t until I was on the ridge that I realised how deep the snow was. I had to continually cross my feet over each other and I annoyingly put a nice clean tear in my trousers!
After the ridge I removed my crampons and brought back out my walking poles to quicken up my pace. It seemed to take forever to get to the summit of Glas Bheinn Mhor, but I got there eventually.
As I soaked in the views I spotted two people about 1 hour behind me on top of Meall nan Tighearnan. Normally I walk on my own, but recently I’ve wanted to include people in my photographs to show a sense of scale. So when I saw the two climbers on top of Meall nan Tighearnan I quickly snapped a photo before they moved on. Can you spot them?
It was 3 O’clock by the time I reached the summit and the low sun cast a warm glow over the landscape.
I made my way down the ridge and began the long walk down the glen, while watching the deer grazing on the hillside. I arrived back at my car at 1630 hours just as the last of the light disappeared. It was an incredible day out and a much welcomed change from the wind battering weather I normally experience. I can’t wait to get back out again!