Sunday, 11 April 2010

Ben Starav

After just done Curved Ridge the day before I was feeling rather worn out but I decided to go back out the next day and make the most of the brilliant weather and join some company out on a walk down Glen Etive and up Ben Starav. As a side note to the photos that due to the flight ban which was happening because of the Icelandic Volcano you will notice the perfect blue skies are not tarnished by Airline vapour trails. This is not an experience which will be seen often in the future.

Having found the only place to park the van in the glen far down from the bridge the walk to the bridge was not appealing to us, and especially to myself who after another poor nights sleep was very tired again.

The water level in the river Etive was reasonably low so we made a communal decision to just ford straight across the river and save us having to double back on ourselves. The usual hilarity of a river crossing was ensured. I did not have any walking poles so the only thing I could use for some balance was my ice axe. It may have been a glorious morning but the water was bitterly freezing due to the snow melt from the hills. I took my boots and socks off and gingerly made my way acrosss using my axe as a walking pole for balance in the current and about half way across I felt as if I was going to loose my boots into the water so I took them and threw them to the other bank. Splash. They landed in the river. I made my way across the rest of the way and fetched them. Had to happen didn't it? I sat for a couple of minutes to let my feet dry and also my socks which were stuffed into the boots when they landed. Nothing to do but shove my socks over the top of my rucksack and put my feet into the boots and not tie the laces and hope the sun will dry them off.

Crossing a tributary of the River Etive the Glen loomed ahead. As we walked across the moorland I was consciously aware of the type of grasses we were walking through and being along with Willie the only ones wearing shorts, and my mind sprung to ticks. We were in the heart of deer country and a notorious black spot for ticks. I fell behind the group as I picked a safer way through the grasses in my shorts and looked at my legs and I was crawling with ticks. The water from my river fording had not completely dried off and the ticks were finding it easy to get on to me, although the water was stopping them from sinking their nasty wee fangs into me. The full way across the grasses I constantly flicked them off and when I caught up with Willie I mentioned to him and he was shocked to see a handfull of them on himself.

We eventually got to Loch Etive and the clear blue skies looking back to the Buachailles are amazing. Can this flight ban last forever? Truly feel the wilderness.

Bidean nam Bian is still holding a full cap of snow and ice at the top. I imagine there will be some happy people summiting today.

The sun shines through a perfect blue sky over the Starav massif.

Looking onward to the south the back of Ben Cruachan comes into view, and what a sight. The north facing flanks expose a very alpine character compared to the less dramatic views from the south at Loch Awe.

We walked all the way to the south of Ben Starav along the Loch side taking in the views and tranquillity. For myself I went off onto the shores to take pictures. After having lunch the time was now about half 1 in the afternoon and we had not even started climbing. We left the van about half 10 in the morning.

At this point the heat was unrelenting stuck in the glen like an oven which is not helped by the reflective properties of the loch. We started ascending up the south ridge of Starav knowing we had a lot of ridge to cover to get back up to the main summit and back down to the van. The climb was very difficult for everyone with the heat and it became a personal battle with every one forcing their way up the hillside a couple of steps at a time. Most of us seem to have used up our water on the long walk to the foot of the ridge.

As we got closer to the main ridge and had a good altitude gain it started to cool down. The views down Loch Etive in the afternoon sun were brilliant.

We gained enough height to find a small snow patch which was fighting a good fight against the oncoming summer. Most of the group crunched some broken snow up into their empty water bottles to replenish them.

The route we are taking takes in a long winding ridge from south to north and takes in a few lesser summits before the main summit. Once on top of the ridge we can see the first target ahead. A lot of ridge to cover still just to get to there so we plod onwards. I have my bottle of snow tucked against my skin to firstly try and melt it and get some water as I am so thirsty and secondly to feel the cooling effect from it. The sky is still so clear and beautiful.

Looking back along the ridge and down to Ben Cruachan and the Dalmally hills.

As we get close to the main summit which is hidden from view there is still a lot of snow patches about. The easiest and most fun way up though so everyone enjoys the alpine snow climb up.

Looking back down the ridge the setting sun is now becoming visible and the shadows are growing longer and we are still not at the actual summit. No one is even attemping to rush. With a day and night like this you need to make it last and enjoy being in the mountains.

At last the main summit of Starav looms up ahead. Sitting like a solitary peak in the clear blue skies you would be excused for thinking you were only a couple of hours away from the concrete jungle of the cities.

Finally we all reach the summit and can chill out with a snack. The views of Glencoe and further north are visible in all their beauty.

After an hour or so at the top it is time to start heading down again. The route down is the regular ridge up and is actually pretty steep and a little tricky to come down with a good covering of snow still.

The ridge downwards eases off and becomes a straight forward plod onwards again. The further down we go the more the sun sets only to make the panorama of the mountains more dramatic. The shadows and light really paint a picture of the scene.

By the time we are nearly back down to the bottom of the Glen the sun has pretty much been obscured by the hills around and Starav has sunk into shadow. By the time we get back to the River Etive it is almost completely dark and head torches need to be put on. Too dark to cross the river again so we walk up to the bridge to cross and then back to the van.

A very long day for a single munro but we got to take in a wonderful walk to the foot of the mountain and a very long and enjoyable ridge accompanied by some of the finest scenary Scotland has to offer with a mixture of Sunshine, snow, and blue skies giving the day a truly alpine quality. To compare with the usual up-and-down of many hills just can not be done. We all headed to the Kingshouse hotel in Glencoe for a well deserved pint and a pack of crisps and then home.

No comments:

Post a Comment