Buachaille Etive Mor at the entrance to Glencoe is Scotland's best known and most photographed mountain. Its easy to see why. Its steep rocky pyramid shape seen from the east attracts the eye like no other mountain. It rises abruptly from the Rannoch Moor to its highest point Stob Dearg of 3345 feet. Like everyone else who passes this mountain with a camera, I have taken many photos from all the well known view points.
In all kinds of weather
But unlike most photographers, who admire the mountain from a distance, I like to think I know it a little better than most.
I first climbed to its summit cairn by the tourist route over thirty years ago. I went with my father and three brothers. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, I am the only one left from that outing, who can still get to the top, or at least, I think I can ?
The winter is getting on and I had not worn crampons or carried my ice axe at all this year. I have walked a lot of lower hills but not encountered any snow worth mentioning. However ,the cold high pressure area over Scotland this week made me want to seek out some snow before its gone for another year. On Friday, I dusted off my winter gear and headed for Glencoe. The Buachaille looked as magnificent as ever.
Although there was not much snow left on its south eastern flanks, I knew there would still be a lot in Coire Na Tulaich. I was not to be disappointed..the tourist route to the top was still plastered with plenty snow and ice.
I scanned the head wall at the top of the tourist route with my binoculars to see if there was any other people heading to the top but I saw no one. The head wall is a notorious avalanche spot and many people have been killed over the years, when the steep snow slopes leading to the bealach, collapse under their weight. However I knew the temperatures were still well below freezing point and no new snow had fallen for a few days. I was more than willing to take the challenge and try to reach the summit cairn.
I was looking for snow and knew I would get my fill of it on the Buachaille. I had witnessed death on this mountain before. As I scanned the slopes, I recalled the sight of blood and hair on the steep icy slopes of Crowberry Gully. That memory changed the way I looked at this mountain for many years. This was my first time on snow on the Buachaille since that incident almost 30 years ago ....