So let’s get the number right from the start WS-140 not WS-170.
I had this silly idea of taking Creise WS-019 by surprise from behind! Instead of the bealach with Meall a’Bhuiridh but from Glen Ghiubhasan and the ridge by Coire Odhar. That’s because I don’t like exposure and the bealach looked scary when I was last up there. And if the ridge was scary, the map says not) I could bag a simple Corbett: Beinn Mhic Chasgaig (The Cheesecake!). What could possibly go wrong?
The WX forecast was for low cloud to rise, bursts of sunshine, excellent viewing and no rain. What could possibly go wrong? I thought I’d be prepared and use Google Streetview to check out parking places. Now I’ve driven past the road to Glen Etive and I’ve seen Buachaille Etive Mor (The Buckle or the big shepherd of the Etive). Even on a bad day The Buckle takes your breath away but I wasn’t prepared for the photos from Streetview. Holy Moly, a sunny day in mid-summer and Glen Etive has the beauty turned up well past 11. The hills also have the steepness turned well past 11 too. The pictures were fabulous. That decided it, if the WX did look good then Glen Etive it was to be. I had some reserve hills in store as well but didn’t need them.
There are lots of parking places at the start and along the road. Most of the traffic will be hill walkers and as long as you are not a full-on prat you wont block the farm access down the glen. I was away sharpish and had a wonderful relaxing drive. The cloud was on top of Meall a’Bhuiridh and Creise as I past the ski centre but I was being positive. Even on a dull day The Buckle was top banana and the road down Glen Etive with the River Etive to one side was a delight. By the time I parked I was already elated just with the views. I also looked a Stob Dubh. It looks steep on the map, Iain MM3WJZ’s review says it’s steep and when you look at in person, by heck it’s steep. Though it does look doable from the top of The Cheescake.
For a long time getting across the river here meant breaking into Fort Knox or getting wet. An ugly huge gate and large amounts of barbed wire closed off the bridge. Now the access law has forbidden that. Most of the barbed wire and the gate remains but it isn’t locked. As soon as you’re through you come across the sign saying “Go away”. Actually it says please follow the way marked path and don’t wander through the gardens of Alltchaorunn Lodge. Except it says it as “Please follow the waymarked path. Access law does not give you the right to walk through the private garden”. It’s very much a case of we’re only letting you in here because we can’t afford a legal bill if we stop you. Still confrontational. It makes you want walk as close to the garden as possible. It could say “Please respect our privacy and follow the waymarked path. Have a great time in this amazing countryside.” And if it did you’d want to make sure you left the place in a better state than you found it. Hrrrmph!
The “new” path leads you through the most awful bog. I’m sure it’s deliberate. It had rained a lot before so the ground was like chocolate porridge. Everywhere was really wet. Webbed feet or Goretex boots are the order of the day. However, after the boggy path you cross a stile and drop to the river. You need to stop and count to 10 so you don’t faint at the sheer beauty of Glen Ghuibhasan. For the next kilometre or so you are on beauty overload. There is so much water there is no sediment in the river bed and it’s rock. Rock pools, waterfalls, white water, rapids. If you see no other countryside in Scotland than that 1km or so you will still feel your life is complete. I could have gone home happy with that view.
But the best was still to come. The bridge. There’s a photo on Flickr of the strange arrangement. It looks worse than it is. Yes it bends, certainly under my weight. But once you understand how it’s meant to bend and that the wires take the weight as the planks bend then it’s not worrying at all. Even for 24ct. wusses like me. Of course the bridge is not a worry when you’ve crossed it but you have to descend Beelzebub’s own rock staircase to get to it. Narrow, poorly shaped, mossy, slippy. Even though there is a wire handrail it was not nice. Going down or coming back up. In fact it was so nasty I stopped caring and just crossed.
The path on the other side is bogtastic and awkward to find if you blink. It’s narrow and very overgrown with Rowan, and bushes and bracken and just about every other green thing on the planet. And wet. Squelch, squish, slide! But it’s worth it as you start to enter the very steep gorge into the glen. I was meant to see what the ascent onto the Aonach More (Big Ridge) was like. Once on that you have a gentle 6km broad grassy ridge up to Stob Gabhar and you don’t need to cross the other Aonach Eagach. Which is too scary for me. Well maybe one day! But the other views stole my eyes.
It’s just unreal. It was the visual treat of a lifetime. I’ve seen the awesome Grand Canyon and The Painted Desert. That is amazing for what you see and also the scale. It’s about a 6.5 out of 10 compared to here. Seriously. All the time there was the noise of the river below. The path climbs up and you go through a gate and then continue. You can’t loose the path, a real trench but full of an inch or two of water all the way. You leave the woody parts and the views are better. The path is easy walking, trip hazards and unevenness aside.
At NN205496 you see the huge gully with masses of huge boulders at the bottom and rocks right up to the top almost. This is where my Munro completist said I should have crossed the river. Up the grass at the side of the gully, steep but not silly. Then turn right and up the steeper grass/rocks to the summit. Easy peasy. I didn’t though. I did find my camera wasn’t working. Damn. I had a my phone so I could get a summit shot but damn. Along the path and you get closer to where the 3 rivers meet at NN217492. Now that’s a joke on the map, single pixel rivers are trivial but there did seem to a whole Atlantic Ocean of water in the river and a waterfall and an awful lot of rock slab. When you get up close you do think I’m glad the river’s not in spate 'coz there’d be no crossing. As it was it took about 5mins to find a place where it was trivial. Huge flat slabs of rock about 25ft wide make up the river bed and the water was about 2in deep. It looks mighty impressive. It is might impressive but not a crossing hazard today. Then I had to do it again on the next leg. I made sure I had plenty of good visual clues to find these two places again. There was a wee pile of rocks by one of them. That was what I was going to make if there wasn’t anything else.
Now the ascent started as I’d only climbed 270m in nearly 4km. Damn it was steep and bad ground. I aimed for the bealach and contoured up. The problem was just how steep it was and I suddenly ran our of go. There’s a bit on the map where you can see one 50m contour and instead of 4x 10m contours, there’s one then the next 50m contour. Ow! I kept on grinding on. There were sections were the top soil was about 2in thick and it had been washed off the slabs of rock. So you had a run of rock say 200m long and 1m wide, sloping at 45degs or more, covered in moss and water. There were regular ledges in them or there would be no way to cross. And scree/rock runs. I crossed several of these getting higher and higher. The rivers thundered away further and further below. The view just got better and better looking into the coires.
A wide scree run to cross when things deviated from the plan. The plan was to go up and I started sliding down. Thinking of Tom’s incident and deciding I wasn’t “doing a Tom” I bailed out and got back to grass. Silly steep grass but stationary grass. There was a lovely inviting boulder. Well attached to the ground and just right to sit on. So I did. I looked down. By heck I’d climbed a lot. I looked at the scree. I looked down. The boulder seat became the nicest place on Earth and I wasn’t leaving it. Nope, I was here till the rescue guys came. Cragfast. Very cragfast. And 15 minutes passed as I looked at the view. Awesome place. I spent the time considering how to get down at a nice pace and not at 9.81 m/s^2
Then I saw some old dude running up the slope. The words I said would make a sailor blush. He was running up what I’d ground my way up. And he was at least 15 years older if not more. Running in shorts. I thought “I bet Neil Armstrong wouldn’t have given up. Ever”. And with that thought in mind and the runner stopping and starting to merely walk up the slope I left the nicest boulder in the world and made for the bealach. 15 hard minutes later I was there as a heard of deer ran past. I was so high on adrenalin and endorphins I couldn’t appreciate the views of Creise, the coires, and out to the North. I spend a long time looking at the ridge to Creise. It’s not very steep, easy looking ground and only 400m ascent to the 1100m summit. Except my legs were seriously tired. It was only 185m to The Cheesecake summit. I wimped out and thought “Damn you Creise, that’s twice you’ve beaten me. There wont be a third time!”
Up the damn silly slope and there was the cairn, and a collie and another old man having his piece. We chatted for a few minutes. He was impressed I’d come up the bealach. He thought it looked very steep for a chubby man like me. I took that as a complement. Then the hill runner appeared. “Bit steep that last bit.” I could have punched him. They disappeared and I set up to find conditions rubbish. And the mist rolled in over Creise. That was not in the plan either.
60m was dead. Call, call, call, call. I did work Brian G4ZRP who was strong though. Nobody else heard. Brian told me Robin GM7PKT was on Ben Nevis. Onto 145.500 and Robin was bagged. We had a good natter. Then 40m CW. Call, call, call, call. The QSB was bad as it took about 5 attempts to work G4DDL and give him the wrong ref. I gave every other chaser the wrong ref too so all were treated with equal ineptitude. It was hard work to get 9 QSOs in the bag. All the time the cloud was getting lower. Robin commented that wasn’t in the forecast. It was warm apart from the cool wind. I looked at the cloud, the descent and decided it wasn’t worth having to start the descent in the mist, so no 20/17/15m. I packed up and coaxed the camera into life. Photos, Mars Bar and I dropped a few tabs of Metformin and down we went.
Well going down was the reverse of coming up. It was damn hard work on the ankles and knees. It took 45mins to get back to the where the rivers met. I must have sweated a lot. It was now very humid down there. I finished my water and filled the bottle from the clearest river I’ve seen. Tasted fine but if I develop Liverfluke you’ll know where I got it. I put 2L of water into me with some energy bars and set off down the path.
The walk out was the reverse. And it was just as awesome as the walk in. It really was amazing. I should have been exhausted at the bridge but I was full of zip and raced over the bridge and rock steps. I really enjoyed the km past the rock pools. The views just kept charging me up and I was back at the car in no time where I was devoured by midges. Anquet said 2hr20 I did the ascent in 2hr55 including sitting on a boulder for an age. It took the best part of 2hrs to get back. I remembered to check and it doesn’t look very difficult to get up onto Aonach Mor, well not after what I’d been through.
Was it worth the stress, strain etc? Oh yes, it was fantastic and I’d do it again now. Right now. I may have to in order to dance about on the summit of Creise. The only real downer was that I only have a few photos. So I offer this link to give you a better feel. I note the Corbetteer says his photos don’t come close to what it’s really like. You must, and I mean must visit Glen Etive and these coires. If you scroll to the right of the 360deg view you can see the last but one ridge onto Creise is a doddle, leg tiredness excepted. It’s a long way to the summit of cairn though. You have to scroll left to find it!
Total walked: 11.6km, total ascent: 995m, total driven 215miles.
Awesome. I’m some very pleased I actually did it now. I’d be very upset with myself if I’d turned back now. Please do this walk at least as far as the bridge. It really is that fabulous. Ask anyone who’s been there.