Sometimes it’s good to stop and smell the coffee, so to speak.
I took my old campervan down Glen Etive last weekend, essentially with the intention of climbing a couple of the Etive hills but by the time I got away from home on Friday it was getting on a bit late to climb a hill, even with the brighter nights.
So instead of rushing up a hill in the gathering gloom I drove down to the old pier at the head of Glen Etive, (above) had a wander up towards Etive’s Slabs (for old times sake), brewed some coffee in the van and lingered by the old pier as the sun went down. It was marvellous. By the time I drove up the glen again and looked for somewhere to stop for the night some stags were settling in close to the road, a skein of greylag geese flew up the glen above me and I knew why this place meant so much to the ancient Celtic princess Deirdre, Deirdre of the Sorrows.
Her lover Naoise and his brothers, the Sons of Uisneach, had built a bower for her high on the side of Ben Starav. According to the old tales she loved this place with a passion and was heartbroken when she eventually had to return to Ulster.
That understanding of Deirdre’s passion for Etive was enforced the next day when I climbed the Corbett of Beinn Mhic Chasgaig on a brilliant day of sunshine and blue skies. What a tremendous hill this is, surrounded as it is by some of the great Munros of the area - Buachaille Etive Mor and Beag, Creise, Meall a’ Bhuiridh, Stob Ghabhar, the Blackmount hills and away in the distance Beinn Starav.
The view from the summit of Mhic Chasgaig across Rannoch Moor (below) was breathtaking. I’ve climbed this hill once before, in the days when the bridge across the River Etive was like a fortification with barbed wire enforcements. Now, thanks to the Land Reform Act, the gate is open, giving way to the superb route that takes you behind the hill into a deep-cut glen that the SMC describes as of “Himalayan character.” I would agree, it’s a tremendous way to climb the hill, much better than the way I’ve climbed it before - directly up the south nose from the glen.
And, despite the glorious weather, I didn’t see another person all day.