Black Mount from Glen Etive Walking

Seen across the lochans of Rannoch Moor the bulky ramparts of the Black Mount are a classic Scottish view, a favourite of landscape photographers and calendar makers. It's a cliche, but no less impressive for that. The range is even better walked than admired from afar, with the full traverse of the main peaks comfortably rating among the best big days in the southern Highlands. This is rough and occasionally wild walking, with unrivalled perspectives over the empty acres of the moor, and a distant frieze of familiar favourites from Schiehallion to the Cuillin (in clear conditions). The common access points are Victoria Bridge in the south and the Glen Coe ski centre in the north; but for something a little different try Glen Etive. This gives you a nice neat circular route; a memorable approach up a scenic gorge; an oft-overlooked bonus hill; and some excellent bits that feel less trodden than the standard Munro routes.

Descending Sron a'Ghearrain at sunset with Bidean, the Ben and the Buachaille ahead  © Dan Bailey -
Descending Sron a'Ghearrain at sunset with Bidean, the Ben and the Buachaille ahead
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Detailed description

NN1979751307 Cross the bridge over the River Etive, passing through a preposterous prison camp-type gate. If the gate's locked you'll have to take your chances with the river (or the armed guards). Follow the track briefly towards the houses at Alltchaorunn until a sign asks you to turn left onto a path over boggy ground. Soon cross a large stile, then join the path beside the Allt a' Chaorainn. This leads upstream past a series of water-worn granite rockpools to a burn junction. It's possible to ford the Allt Coire Ghiubhasan here, but more fun to stay on its north bank a short while longer. Here you'll find a carved rock staircase with a rickety wire handrail leading down to a little Indiana Jones style footbridge over the burn. Climb the muddy path on the opposite bank, then go left at a junction. The trail now heads through a spectacular wooded ravine for several hundred metres.

NN2056449616 As the gorge opens out and the woods are left behind you'll see an unmistakeable bouldery gully running down the flank of Beinn Mhic Chasgaig. Cross the Allt Coire Ghiubhasan here, and pick up a part-time path for the steep grassy climb up the east bank of the gully. As the angle relents bear roughly east onto the hill's broad plateau summit. The cairn sits near the craggy east face.

NN2213350205 Head south-southeast to avoid broken rocky ground on the rough descent into the low col at the head of Fionn Ghleann. A long but gentler ascent leads on up the broad west spur of Creise. Once up on the stony summit plateau turn left for the easy climb to the cairn marking the high point - great view of Buachaille Etive Mor here.

NN2385150635 Go back south along the corrie edge to reach a small cairn marking the drop-off point (not literally, one hopes) for the ridge connecting to Meall a' Bhuiridh. First there's a short, sharp, scrambly descent to a col, then a pleasant stony climb up the west ridge of Meall a' Bhuiridh. This is the high point of the day, with an impressively vast outlook over the brown expanse of Rannoch Moor far below the ramparts of the Black Mount.

NN2505750353 Return to the Creise plateau and head on south to Clach Leathad, the broad summit that bookends the southern end of the range.

NN2403249290 You're aiming now for the Bealach Fuar-chataidh. Much of the intervening ground is treacherous, so a bit of attention is needed in poor visibility. First go southwest, then bear briefly right onto the top of the mountain's western spur. From here head straight for the bealach on a steep but largely grassy descent line between broken rock outcrops.

NN2297648518 As a bit of a hillwalker's no man's land between the Creise range and the Stob Ghabhar massif the Bealach Fuar-chataidh has a remote feel; yet should you need it there's a relatively quick escape route from here down Coire Ghiubhasan. If you're made of sterner stuff however continue over the little rocky top of Creag a' Bhealaich (or bypass it just to the right). A fairly clear path begins to emerge as you climb rough ground up onto Aonach Mor. The English translation, Big Ridge, makes up in aptness what it lacks in poetry; this is a major feature, the longest of several ridges sprawling out from Stob Ghabhar. Follow the knobbly crest up onto the wide grassy top of Sron nan Giubhas. Here a huge space suddenly opens out at your feet, the craggy bowl of Coirein Lochain. Could this be the most dramatic corrie in the southern Highlands? Bear right for the climb around the corrie rim to Stob Ghabhar's summit.

NN2300345505 Follow an old fence line west-northwest(ish) for the easy grassy ridge that leads out to the satellite top of Sron a' Ghearrain. Now descend the mountain's northwest ridge, also called Sron a' Ghearrain. This narrows as it loses height, giving a gentle descent for a little over 1km. As you near the glen however the ground steepens, and outcrops crop out (as they will); go straight ahead to pick an easy line down. Hop bogs to the Allt Coire Laoghan.

NN2054447750 Across the burn is an obvious stalker's path. This heads downstream to a burn junction, then continues along the left bank of the Allt Coire a' Chaolain. After a few hundred metres cross a footbridge and continue along the right bank - wet underfoot in places. The path eventually curves right below the end of the Aonach Mor ridge to reach the Indiana Jones bridge of stage 1. Return the way you came.

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