14 November 2011
14 km/1108 m/06:00 hrs
Munro: Sgùrr na h-Ulaidh (No. 207)
The great weather we had at the start of November seemed to continue, and I made a plan to climb four Munros from Glen Etive, Sgùrr na h-Ulaidh and Beinn Fhionnlaidh on day one, and Ben Starav and Glas Bheinn Mhòr on day two.
Unfortunately, driving down to Glen Etive took a lot longer than expected, due to thick fog from Inverness until about Invergarry. From the start of the single track road in Glen Etive, Buachaille Etive Mòr looked great in the morning sun.
Looking down Glen Coe.
It was 10:15 when I finally arrived at the small parking area near Invercharnan, more than an hour later than I had planned.
After passing the farm buildings at Invercharnan, I followed a forest road up to a bend where the track doubles back on itself. From here a boggy path leads out of the forest to the open hillside. Another, even boggier path continues up the glen, but peters out before the Bealach Clach nam Meirleach.
Beinn Fhionnlaidh on the other side of the stream.
Beinn Fhionnlaidh looks quite impenetrable from this side, but I had studied some online trip reports of this hill, and had a possible route in mind.
On the Bealach Clach nam Meirleach, looking to Beinn Fhionnlaidh.
From the bealach, I couldn’t see an obvious way up the ridge.
But then I noticed a line of fence posts and a path running parallel to it.
The Corbett Beinn Maol Chaluim, seen across Coire Cearcaill.
Meall a’ Bhuiridh.
On the way up, I lost the path a few times, but I could easily find a way up the grassy slopes and around the many small crags.
Ben Nevis, just visible above the bealach between Sgùrr na h-Ulaidh and Stob an Fhuarain.
Higher up, the path becomes clear again, following the line of fence posts all the way to the summit.
Suddenly, I saw the summit cairn perched on the edge of a deep gully, but it took only a couple of rocky steps to reach it.
It was extremely windy on the top, and I virtually had to hold on to some large rocks to take photos, but the views in all directions were stunning.
Stob an Fhuarain and Bidean nam Bian.
Beinn a’ Bheithir.
The Aonach Eagach ridge, partly covered in cloud.
Sgùrr na h-Ulaidh summit cairn with Ben Nevis behind.
The gully right beside the summit, with Stob an Fhuarain and Bidean nam Bian in the background.
On the way down to the bealach, I decided against Beinn Fhionnlaidh, because it was almost 14:30 and I didn’t think I would manage the second Munro before it got dark. Besides, I didn’t feel like climbing the east flank of the hill which was lying in the shadow by now, but I wanted to walk in the sun as long as possible.
By walking over Meall a’ Bhuiridh, I could do that, and also avoid the boggy path in the glen…
View along Glen Creran and to Mull.
Meall a’ Bhuiridh.
Beinn Maol Chaluim from the bealach.
The way up, walking on large rock slabs, was easy – and dry!
The summit “cairn”.
Looking down into Glen Etive.
From the summit, I descended the grassy slopes in a SW direction, reaching the path a short distance before it enters the forest.
Looking back to Sgùrr na h-Ulaidh.
From Glen Etive, I drove to the YH in Glencoe, where I had booked a bed for the night. Later in the evening, while I was on my way to the Kingshouse Hotel for a bar meal, I noticed that the heating in my car wasn’t working, the temperature gauge on the dashboard was at the upper end of the scale, and somehow the car seemed to slow down instead of accelerating…
I was hoping to make it to the Kingshouse, but in the dark I missed the turnoff to the hotel. About one km further, I found a place to turn around, the road leading to the Glencoe Ski Centre. But on the turning lane, the engine stalled – I managed to start it again, but could only let the car roll onto the side road, then it stopped.
Thankfully, I had a mobile signal and could phone the RAC. During the long wait I checked what could be wrong and found the coolant container empty. I had bottled water in the car, but wasn’t sure if I could use that because I didn’t have any antifreeze. The RAC mechanic turned up eventually, confirmed that the engine had overheated and assured me that water was ok as a quick fix, but also scared me a bit by telling me what damage could have been done to the engine because I had been driving with no coolant.
After the RAC had left, I still managed to get a bar meal at the Kingshouse although it was quite late by now, but when I checked the coolant later in the evening, it was empty again! I topped it up, drove back to Glencoe, and decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea to go to Glen Etive again the next day.
There is not a lot of traffic along the glen, hardly any people living there and no mobile signal, and it would be difficult to get help if my car should break down again. So the next morning, instead of climbing another two Munros, I drove back to Inverness, checking and topping up the coolant several times on the way. In Fort William I bought some antifreeze to add to it, and back home I managed to get an appointment at the garage the next day.
It turned out that there was a substantial leak near the water pump, but thankfully there was no permanent damage done to the engine. (It was a bit embarrassing when I was asked when I had last checked the coolant level 😳 … but I will, from now on!)