Stob Dubh and Buachaille Etive Beag
February 7, 1999

The areas around Fort William and Glen Coe are generally considered as the finest winter mountaineering/ice climbing venues in the United Kingdom. Some of the winter routes up Ben Nevis are world-class (Point Five Gully is one of the most famous ice gullies in the world!)

(Above: Looking west across the glen from the northwestern lower slopes of Buachaille Etive Beag)

Given the Highlands' notoriously unpredictable weather, I lucked out as good weather predominated the duration of my visit. Just several weeks ago, on two separate occasions, one group of climbers were fatally swept off and buried by an avalanche and another was stranded due to poor weather and had to be rescued. What a difference a day makes in these fickle mountains. The locals went so far as to say that the week of my visit was the best winter climbing weather they've had in several years...

Buachaille Etive Beag ("small herdsman of Etive") is located southeast of Glen Coe. The mountain has a NE to SW orientation, with its highest point, Stob Dubh ("black peak"), located at the end of its ridge, rising to 3,143 feet.

This climb was not particularly demanding technically, although care must be taken crossing snowbridges with underlying steep, rocky streams. Further up, the 2 1/2-mile long summit ridge was quite windy; care must be taken not to walk too close to the southern edge of the ridge, as the snow may be unstable (it looked steep and it would be a looooong way down if one were to fall!)

(Below: The ridge leading to Stob Dubh)
Ridge to Stob Dubh

A good illustration of fickle weather that typifies the area are the two ridge shots below. These were taken within 20 minutes of each other (on the ascent and on the descent). Clouds enveloped the ridge as we got nearer the summit, making navigation a bit tricky. But the clouds parted to reveal a colorful sunset as we headed back down.

(Above: The final push to the summit at 3,143 feet)

(Above: At Stob Dubh, 3,143 feet, looking southwest)

(Below: Descending the ridge--a Munro summit attained)




Last Updated: February 28, 1999