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Mention ‘The Buachaille’ to mountain people, and they will nod wisely and assume that you mean Buachaille Etive Mor which translates as the ‘Big Herdsman of Etive’. There is another ‘Buachaille’ however and that’s Buachaille Etive Beag, the ‘Small Herdsman of Etive’. It’s the big version that attracts most attention, and I must confess that I had never bothered with the lesser brother in nearly fifty years of driving past – it was time to put that right.
On previous occasions I’ve gone straight for what is one of the best, short mountain days in the UK – Buachaille Etive Mor via Curved Ridge (shown in red on the map). The last time I was there was in 2010 (see post #36) and it’s a great day out. Three years earlier than that, before Border Collie ‘Mist’ became part of the household, Chris and I had walked the ‘Two Lairigs’ route around Buachaille Etive Beag (shown in green) but hadn’t gone for the mountain itself. This time we intended to put that right (route shown in blue).
I’ve been on the Curved Ridge route about half a dozen times, and never had a bad day there, though on my first trip I managed to start on the wrong route and my partner and I ended up doing quite a bit of ‘D Gully Buttress’ instead. On the 2010 trip, I went back to write up the route for the Walking World website (Route ID 5714) and it still gets a few ‘hits’ every year.
The route that Chris and I walked in 2007 was also done as a Walking World route (Route ID 4360) and manages to walk all the way round Buachaille Etive Beag without actually going to the summit. I titled the route ‘The Two Lairigs’ for the simple reason that you walk one lairig (valley) going out (Lairig Eilde) and walk another one coming back (Lairig Gartain).
We had intended to do the ‘Little Herdsman’ route at the beginning of our Scottish trip in May this year, but it was ‘blowing a hoolie’ and the summits were going to be unpleasant – instead we had carried on north and had a great time on Skye and beyond. Heading south now, the winds had dropped though there was still a cheeky, cool breeze
Buachaille Etive Beag can hardly be regarded as a challenging summit, but there’s a good bit of ‘uphill’ at the start. A party of young blokes went striding past us before running out of steam half an hour later – we passed them as they were heading down in retreat. The usual ‘steady away’ approach worked its usual magic, and we arrived in good order on the col between the two summits of Stob Dubh to the southwest and Stob Coire Raineach to the northeast.
It was cold enough for Chris to get another layer of clothing on, and we came to the decision to go for Stob Coire Raineach and to give Stob Dubh a miss – Chris isn’t a ‘peak-bagger’ as such, and I wasn’t too bothered about reaching every bit of the mountain. We grabbed the northeast summit before heading down, just a little bit smug (well, in my case anyway) that the youngsters had given up before the pensioners!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (MB) © Mark Bradley