Glen Etive – A February Day of Wild Showers

In the middle of February I found a free day to get out in the hills during a week of dreadful weather in the wake of Storm Dennis. The forecast was for it to be bright between frequent hail and snow showers and strong winds. I decided to head down Glen Etive with thoughts of climbing the Corbett Beinn Maol Chaluim on the west side of the glen near Invercharnan. I reckoned this hill might be a good viewpoint for the Bidean nam Bian hills above Glencoe and for the Glen Etive hills and Loch Etive.

At the top end of Glencoe there was slushy hail on the A82 road and the famous view of Buachaille Etive Mor was largely obscured by cloud. Turning down Glen Etive I realised the east side of the Buachaille was clear and stopped for a couple of quick shots.

I continued down the glen enjoying the views and atmosphere before parking up below the steep hillside of Creag na Caillich a kilometre and a half north of Invercharnan. From a rough pull off a small path winds steeply up the hillside heading for Creag na Caillich and the south ridge of Beinn Maol Chaluim. The view back east to Stob Coir’ an Albannaich across the glen caught my eye and a little higher I could see to Beinn Maol Chaluim ahead; and also down towards Loch Etive over the woods and meandering river of the lower glen.

When I was at about 500m on the southern flank of Beinn Maol Chaluim all views were obliterated by hail and spindrift as a heavy shower moved through from the south west. After it passed I carried on up towards a thin line of crags on the upper horizon. It brightened nicely but there were frequent curtains of spindrift sweeping over the hill in the strongly gusting wind. At the crags I scrambled through with the help of an axe but it was clear another dense shower was approaching fast. Beinn Sgulaird to the south west was swallowed whole. I decided to drop back down and take stock whilst the shower passed. Above nearly 1.5 km of high ridgeline led to the summit of the hill. In the conditions I didn’t fancy it and decided to leave the summit for a better day.

Dropping back down the views opened up again between showers.

Whenever I back off from a hill I agonise over whether the decision was correct but on this occasion I was happy enough that I’d made the right call. Later, down at the head of Loch Etive, I set up the camera to capture a time lapse view across the loch to Ben Starav. This only lasted a short while before a violent squally shower appeared from behind Beinn Trilleachan (of Etive Slabs fame) and I had to rescue the camera. I think the result tells the tale.

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