Matt Swaine on the day he almost added the Buachaille to his Trail 100 tick-list.
"Safety was frustratingly close. A mere 50m was all that separated us from the top of the steep snow gully and the path that led up to the summit of the Buachaille. But something was wrong underfoot. Climbing the last 200m of well-consolidated snow, we had been able to kick deep, positive steps, stopping only to dig avalanche pits as we moved up the slope. But here, tantalisingly close to the mouth of the gully, our boots started to crack through brittle, icy snow then sink into the powdery mush below.
Buachaille Etive Mòr is a true mountain icon, a lonely, pyramidal sentinel at the entrance to Glen Coe and this was supposed to be a big tick on my mountain CV. But we’d been warned that our route was prone to avalanche, and as we finished digging our final test pit of the day, a thick slab of snow the size and weight of a portable TV slid easily away from the mountainside. It meant one thing: avalanche risk was high. We needed to turn back.
We knew this might happen. But instead of the wave of disappointment I had expected, there was strange feeling of pride. For the first time in my mountain career, I’d made a potentially life-or-death call based on my hill knowledge. Textbook theory had translated to a real hill environment and it might just have saved my life. Which is nice. So while I might not have the Buachaille on my Trail 100 tick-list, it is where my mountain confidence took a major leap."
Best route: the most accessible route leaves from Altnafeadh via Coire na Tulaich, but if conditions and ability allow, Curved Ridge (Moderate rock-climb) is outstanding.