Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

A West Coaster

I had a plan, 4 days walking over the hills from Lochawe to Glen Coe, 11 Munroes & a lot of fine ridge walking, with a reasonable forecast what could go wrong……
The bus ride across from the east to west coast is quite a long one (8hrs), quite scenic in parts & gave time to finish that book I’d never got around to. The plan started to unravel after downloading the evenings’ Mountain Weather Information Service forecast for the next 3 days…….day 3 – thunderstorms, hail, heavy rain & 45-50mph winds….a bit ominous. An accident then closed the road north of Glasgow necessitating a lengthy diversion way off the buses normal route.
I finally arrived at my start point much later than planned (10pm) with the only focus being to find a reasonable spot to pitch up, I didn’t have to walk far finding a good spot close to Castles farm just NE of Lochawe.
Day 1 – 21km, 1900m
I was underway by 8am, not a bad morning, warm, still (with the midge nipping a bit) & the tops cloaked in low cloud.

The summit of Beinn a’ Chochuill was the familiar ‘cairn in the mist’, no views across Mull today.

Beinn Eunaich, another cairn in the mist was reached in just over an hour.

I descended down the NE ridge, the cloud cover was definitely showing signs of breaking up for the passage east & once down towards Meall Copagach the hazy landscape down to Glenkinglass Lodge, ~5km, was unveiled.

The next minor challenge proved to be getting down to the Lairig Dhoireann

Looks a lot rougher ground from the bottom than it did from the top with plenty of zig zagging needed to avoid the craggy bits; always easier to ascend such ground than descent.

The footpath shown on the OS maps descending north through Coire Dhoireann proved to be elusive (i.e. non-existent) with only the faint trace of a couple of zigzags visible on the upper slopes. Deer trails generally facilitated the descent through bog & deep tussocky grass to the lower slopes where a forest of bracken had to be traversed to finally ford the Kinglass at around NN145362 (I wasn’t going slog through bog & bracken for ~3km upstream to get to the footbridge near the lodge).

My original plan was to pitch up somewhere along the Kinglass, & there seemed a few suitable spots (lots of bracken about). It was only around 4pm & with zero breeze the midge were nipping so after a short wander up the track I set off uphill, more bracken bashing, in search of the path following the Allt Hallater. After around 1km of slogging uphill zigzagging on deer trails the path became evident as the bracken cover faded. On a more relaxed out it would have been nice to ascend the narrow cleft that the Allt Hallater flows down having seen glimpses of waterfalls & cascades but today the old legs were feeling a bit weary & all I could think about was finding a dry, level pitch with a bit of a breeze to keep the pesky midge at bay.

Once up the around 500m Coire Hallater opened out into a huge amphitheatre

I soon found a suitable pitch a short way ahead, around NN138403, 6:15pm it felt like it had been a long day. The practised routine fell it action; pitch up, get water & wash socks, brew on the go, sort the bed, tick check……………..relax.

Lochawe Map Day 1 (Large)
Day 2 – 23km, 1950m
Another 8am start & thanks to the gentle breeze no midge, the path up the glen faded away over the first 1km but it proved easy going up to the bealach north of Beinn nan Aighenan where I dumped the pack & made the ascent to the summit, despite the very blowy conditions the air was warm & very humid making for less than ideal mountain vistas.

Crossing to Bealachan Lochain Ghaineamhaich the wind dropped to a gentle breeze & then erupted again; there didn’t seem any rhyme & reason with the wind strength it varied from breeze to 35mph throughout the day with no regard to geography (bealach, ridge or summit). And so on to the ascent of Ben Starav

Alas the view down Loch Etive was still a bit claggy & there was no phone signal to pickup the latest forecast though I did meet a couple of walkers who confirmed that thunderstorms were forecast tomorrow.

The pack was picked up again back at the bealach for the intermittently quite windy stroll along the ridge over to Glas Bheinn Mhor from where Stob Coir’ an Albannaich the next target came into view.

I didn’t dally on Albannaich quickly descending the east ridge for around ½ km to pick up the descent route east

I ended up on the summit of Meall nan Ean, the 5th Munroe of the day, shortly after 4pm still mulling over tomorrow’s forecast & feeling a little weary.

No Phone signal again & even my FM radio couldn’t pick up a broadcast, I descend back north, found a sheltered spot for a break & continued to think over options: camp high & hope for the best; head off S to Loch Dochard on to Victoria Bridge & a bus home 2 days early; head down north to Glen Etive & walk down Loch Etive.
The Glen Etive option won out so I continued the descent north to Lairig Dhochard & then made my way down Glen Ceitlein following the Munroe-ist’s path.

The footpath turned out a lot boggier than expected but needed little in the way of navigational effort. Once on the main access track I headed south & started looking for a camping spot, I’d been this way many years ago but the memory banks seemed to have been over written everything looked ‘new’. I soon stumbled upon good spot next door to Coileitir, flat grass & a light breeze to keep the monsters away………….camp routine take 3#.

Lochawe Map Day 2 (Large)
Day 3 – 23km, 700m
After a muggy night, the day dawned dry & bright with only a light breeze…..what no thunderstorm!

Even after a lazy breakfast, bidding good morning to passing walkers heading up the hill, I was still underway shortly after 8am following the river downstream

A bit muddy in places, again thanks to the lack of maintenance on the cross drainage, but I soon reached the Glen Etive bothy.

I remember staying here many, many years ago when it was an open bothy but now closed as its leased to Venture Scotland, a youth training charity.
And onward to the head of Loch Etive

With the high tide, it was necessary to stick to the boggy footpath rather than walk along the foreshore which is infinitely more pleasant & quicker. After about 6km of bog trotting I decided to take a break near the ruins at Inverghiusachan & burn some of the excess fuel having a brew……still no sign of an impending thunderstorm!

By the end of lunch the tide had dropped sufficiently to allow an easy ramble along the beach the remaining 2km to the end of the 4WD track when it started to rain……..was this the storm coming? Just 1km ahead at Ardmaddy I ran into Allister, the local stalker & after chatting for a few minutes ended up in the kitchen with another brew (well it would have seemed impolite to say no). By the time I left ½ hr or so later the rain had given up leaving a dull sky but the air felt a little fresher. I had also picked up a bit of local knowledge, the footbridge over the River Awe on a direct line to Taynuilt, shown on the OS maps NN019315, actually existed…..unlike so many.
The 10km of estate track proved to be a 2 ½ hrs trudge, 400m of up & downs, to join the minor road to Inverawe. Finding the path down to the footbridge caused a bit of head scratching, eventually it was located through the carpark of the Inverawe Smokehouse cunningly signposted ‘Riverside Walk’.
The footbridge turned out to be a splendid piece of engineering, not something of fencing wire & rotten plank construction.

Ended up getting pitched around 200m upstream, not the best of spots but livestock preclude the better ones. Dinner was rushed affair spent walking in circles to avoid the midge before diving into the sanctuary of the tent very early. I was frustrated that there was no phone signal to check tomorrow’s bus timetable & the radio couldn’t pick up a clear signal so I ended up plugged into podcasts for a couple of hours before drifting off.
Day 4
Up, packed & away by 7:30am foregoing breakfast as the place was heaving with midge & I wanted to get into Taynuilt to catch an early bus, if there was one on a Sunday.
8am at the bus stop in Taynuilt, no timetable but a phone signal….first bus 11am. What to do, the local café didn’t open until 10am…….I sat by the road & brewed up! Unwilling to sit around for hours, patience is not one of my virtues, I decided to walk the 10km to the Cruachan Visitors Centre & catch the bus there. I think it was the lure of a bacon roll & more tea that kept the pace up, I arrived in less than 2 hrs & enjoyed a double dose before alighting the bus for the long but relaxing ride home just a bit peeved that the trip had been curtailed by an erroneous forecast.

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2 comments on “A West Coaster

  1. Kirsten
    June 2, 2017

    Another interesting route and report, thanks, Paul! I don’t know how you have the energy to climb Munros in that claggy warm weather.

    • Paul Atkinson
      June 2, 2017

      Heat & lots of ascent….good training for the Pyrenees in a few weeks!

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2017 by in Trip Reports and tagged , .
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