Buachaille Etive Mor from Altnfeadh

Buachaille Etive Mor

Buachaille Etive Mor is, in my opinion, quite simply the most striking mountain in Britain. When entering the Scottish Highlands by the A82 over Rannoch Moor towards Glencoe you can't help but be dumbstruck by the grandeur of this incredible mountain. This walk starts from Altnafeadh on a bend on the A82 just before it descends through Glencoe. The route crosses the River Coupall by the climbing hut of Lagangarbh, then ascends into the huge and forboding corrie of Coire na Tulaich. To ascend out of the corrie to the ridge and the summit above you must firstly ascend the back wall which is loose scree at the best of times, and a place to take be taken very seriously in winter conditions. Only those with winter equipment and the knowledge and skills to use it should attempt this walk in winter conditions. When you reach the summit of Buachaille Etive Mor the views are awesome. They pan over the vast, bleak lochan-littered wilderness of Rannoch Moor, such a massive contrast to the rest of the view which is filled with hundreds of rugged high mountain peaks.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the roadside parking at Altnafeadh at grid reference NN220563. Altnafeadh is on a bend on the A82 trunk road between Rannoch Moor and Glencoe. There is space for a dozen cars in a layby on the northern side of the road at the bend, plus space for just over a dozen cars on the southern side of the road at the start of the rough track to Lagangarbh.
  2. From Altnafeadh, head down the rough track towards Lagangarbh. The isolated Scottish Mountaineering Club hut is clearly visible in the glen. Cross the bridge over the River Coupall and walk past the hut. After another two hundred metres the footpath forks into two. Take the footpath to the right that heads south to south west towards the bottom of Coire na Tulaich.
  3. The path starts a simple ascent towards the bottom of Coire na Tulaich. After just over half a kilometre the path will cross the Allt Coire na Tulaich. The footpath now ascends a narrow boulder strewn area on the western side of the Allt Coire na Tulaich, now on your left.
  4. After a while the path enters the huge bowl of Coire na Tulaich. Huge towering cliffs now surround and you can see the route ahead as well as the steep, loose scree covered back wall of the corrie.
  5. The path is fairly obvious and well worn. It now heads directly to the back of the corrie, making a steady ascent all the time, and eventually reaching the start of the tricky loose scree ascent of the back wall. At first the scree is larger rocks that can be slippery. The rocks get smaller the higher you get but also much looser. Ascending pathless loose scree can be quite disconcerting. Zigzagging is one technique that can work well.
  6. In the depths of a Scottish winter, the Coire na Tulaich is no place for just any walker. Only those with expertise in winter skills and a proven experience of mountain walking should attempt the trek up Coire na Tulaich. In 1995 a tragic event occurred in the Coire when a number of walkers were buried in an avalanche. Several members of the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team lost their own lives trying to rescue those that were buried.
  7. The Coire is often referred to as a "tourist path" up Buachaille Etive Mor in many guides and on websites, I personally think this is a somewhat inaccurate description of this route as it is significantly more difficult than the term suggests.
  8. After tackling the screes and scramble up the back wall of Coire na Tulaich, you will top out on the col on the ridge. From this col on a clear day, you will now see that Buachaille Etive Mor is not just a pointy mountain standing alone, but actually the end of a long ridge with several tops.
  9. The highest top on the ridge is Stob Dearg which is the pointy summit you see from the road, and the one towards which you are about to head. On the col there is often a marker stone at the top of the ascent and descent route. It is worth noting its location as you will need to look for it on your return.
  10. Turn left and ascend east towards the Stob Dearg summit. After approximately three hundred metres the paths starts to head north east and zigzag its way towards the summit. The summit has no trig pillar, just a pile of stones as a makeshift shelter from the elements.
  11. On reaching the summit, you will notice that unlike most summits that often have a small plateau-like top, Stob Dearg is very airy as it seems to sit on its own in mid air with drops all around, except on the ridge side.
  12. When you reach the summit of Buachaille Etive Mor the views are awesome. They pan over the vast, bleak lochan-littered wilderness of Rannoch Moor, such a massive contrast to the rest of the view which is filled with hundreds of rugged high mountain peaks.
  13. After taking in the spectacular views from the summit cairn, follow the same path back down to the col. The path heads south west from the summit for two hundred metres, the zigzags down in a more easterly direction.
  14. You should find yourself at point on the col where you topped out earlier after ascending the back wall of the corrie. You now need to descend the same route. Descending pathless loose scree can also be quite disconcerting. Heel plunging as you would in snow and zigzagging down are techniques that can work well. If you get it right, and stay confident, it can actually be great fun.
  15. Retrace your ascent path through the Coire na Tulaich, down through the boulder strewn narrow corrie opening, over the Allt Coire na Tulaich, past the Scottish Mountaineering Club hut of Lagangarbh, and over the River Coupall back to the start of the walk.
  16. For refreshments after the walk you have two great choices: if heading south on the A82 there is the Kings House Hotel just a few miles from the start of the walk. If heading north on the A82 there is nowhere better than the Clachaig Inn where you can sample local food and ales in the warmth of the Boots Bar.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer 392 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 41 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Glencoe Map Click to buy Harvey Ben Nevis Mountain Map

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.