BUACHAILLE ETIVE BEAG is something of a Cinderella peak in Glen Coe.
There it is, shoehorned in between its bigger brother Buachaille Etive Mor and Bidean nam Bian with the infamous Aonach Eagach ridge just across the road.
But the Wee Buachaille is a magnificent mountain in its own right and would be regularly garnering superlatives if it sat among less exalted company.
I did feel a little guilty when I sat at the top of its highest point, Stob Dubh, the other day drinking in the wonderful expansive view down the length of Glen Etive.
Guilty because I realised it had been 12 years since I last visited this wonderful perch. These days I tend to re-visit all the Munro peaks every few years. It’s like popping in to see old friends. But it seemed incredible that 12 years had flown by.
My first ascent of this mountain was back in 1993 when, in a burst of exuberance which disguised our naivety, we decided to do both Buachailles and all their tops in the same outing - but not by the usual route.
We laughed off the advice of the old heads that suggested our plan - dropping off the end of the Big Buachaille and then re-ascending its wee brother - was madness. They said the better way was to retrace our steps, drop into the Lairig Gartain and then climb on to the opposite ridge by the saddle. But what did all their years of experience count for? They were just older and slower. We were hardcore - we knew best.
I remember the painstakingly slow descent, dodging over and round the crags which dominated this side of the hill and almost coming to grief as a ledge collapsed under my feet.
I remember the walk round the Glen Etive road to come face to face with Buachaille Etive Beag’s unrelenting south-west ridge and the realisation that we had lost all our height and were starting again from near sea level.
I remember every single tired step up that ridge to gain the summit. And I remembered that I had to face the old guys at work on the Monday.
Time restrictions meant we never made it out to Stob Coire Raineach, but it wasn’t a Munro at that time and we had a race against the clock to reach the Kingshouse before they stopped serving meals. It was the finest food I’d ever had, and I was asleep minutes after finishing it.
Four years later and I was sitting at the summit of Stob Dubh having breakfast above the clouds after a summer night ascent from Glen Coe. This time I strolled out to the other summit (which had since been re-classified as a separate Munro) to round off the day.
Then in 2003 I was in a rather hungover party which decided it would provide a short day to alleviate tender heads. And that was it for me and the Wee Buachaille for a long, long time. Never wrote, never called.
Mountains don’t change - or at least if they do it takes millennia, just like our railways - but there has been some work done on this hill since my last sortie. There’s now a fine stepped path leading up to the col which has largely settled the erosion which used to entail a walk which turned into a mudbath. It’s great on the ascent but a knee-breaker on the way down.
Just a small point, but why is it we can’t build paths more suitable to the normal human step in this country? The assumption seems to be that we’ve all come down from the top of a beanstalk.
Anyway, I’m sorry Stob Dubh. It won’t be another 12 years until my next visit. Promise.