Glen Etive – A quite walk near Beinn Moal Chaluim a hidden gem. A walk for Stuart.

Yesterday I was in  Glen Etive is a wonderful Glen and usually just visited by wild campers and Munro baggers on the big Etive Munros. I also used to climb here many years ago as the Etive Slabs are a wonderful place to be. I have great memories of fantastic days with pals in the past. This area also has a few Corbetts and these are usually quite away from the Munro bagging crowds. It also gives great views of the famous Glencoe peaks and is a wild place of steep cliffs, gullys and waterfalls. The reason I was here was to take a relative to where their loved one was located after going missing in a big winter search many years ago. Stuart had gone missing whilst climbing in Glencoe in the winter.

The far side of Bidian.

The far side of Bidiean. Steep cliffs that we searched many years ago.

I had been asked to take a young relative  by her mother Ann who was Stuarts sister. Her daughter Celine  is a student in Belgium she asked me to take her  to where their loved one her Uncle Stuart was located after a Mountain accident many years ago. All these years ago it was a hard time and I remember each and every tragedy we went to. The year Staurt went missing it was  in a wild winter where many lost their lives in the mountains. I spent that period with the RAF Mountain Rescue and was at that time as the RAF Kinloss Team Leader and was involved with the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team, Lochaber, SARDA and the RAF teams in a huge search for 3 days for Stuart. He had set out to Climb Bidean nam Bian from the Lost Valley in Glencoe.  It was a sad call -out during a busy and sad spell in the winter of 1993 and after weeks of searching the Stuart was located and I was involved in the  recovery. When someone goes missing in the mountains and is not located for a while it is even worse for the family and relatives until the missing person is located the grieving cannot start. As the Team leader, along with Hamish MacInnes and the local Policeman Kenny Lindsay we got very involved with the relatives during this period.   I did many searches after the main search was called off with SARDA , Glencoe and my own RAF Mountain Rescue Team when I was the Team Leader and got to know the family well. We searched all the possible places where we had found people in the past, massive areas of steep cliffs that Glencoe is renown for.

2016 Etive Heavy

We d found Stuart after a hill walker had located him whilst descending the Corbett Beinn Maol Chaluim. Stuart had left the Lost Valley on a winters day heading for Bidean nam Bian and though we will never know what happend to him he got caught in the bad weather that came in suddenly. He had come off this wild side of Bidean a place that few climb or walk by choice. We searched the many Corries  and also the other side of this huge mountain, these were testing days on very difficult ground. Where Stuart was located is a remote area.

The Walk highlands guide says:

This Corbett is hidden from Glencoe by  its great neighbour Bidean nam Bian but the steep slopes of the latter deter any walk linking the two. Instead the peak is best tackled from Glen Etive, giving a shorter day with excellent views and a welcome escape from the crowds on the more celebrated Munro peaks nearby.

It had been a while since I was over this way and the weather was looking varied. I collected Celine from her Aunty  Jeanette at the cafe “Crafts and things” in Glencoe. Celine lives in Belgium and her mother Ann was Stuarts Sister. Though she never met her Uncle she went a walk a few years ago with me to the Lost Valley and has always wanted to visit where her uncle was found as she knows how much it means to her mother and Aunty. I said I would take her over two years ago if she still felt and her mother was okay with it. They had agreed and we sorted out a time and date. This was the day and we drove straight down to Glen Etive in a heavy shower and parked up at the forestry car park. There is huge tree – felling in place and the area looks like a war zone, now. Much had changed though I searched down this wild glen before it was mainly on the steep sides of Bidean and down the pathless glen.



Glen Etive

It was wet when we parked and we managed to locate the track that takes you through the forestry and once out of the cleared trees it was a magic place. Celine was enjoying the walk asking lots of questions and filming with her “Go pro” camera for her mother and Aunty. The rain got heavier as we broke out of the forestry and it was full waterproofs on. This glen is huge with steep sides and cliffs and yet a big wide glen dominated by the river. After the forest it is  a pathless Corrie but deer tracks help you pick your way up past numerous burns that break down from the  Corrie sides. It is a steady pull up to just below the saddle or beleach between the hills where Stuart was found, below a small series of short cliffs. It was hard work but Celine coped well with the rough ground and we moved well, she was a natural. We never saw a soul this is the wild side of the Coe away from the crowds.

Looking towards the Corbett

Looking towards the Corbett.

I had a rough grid reference and a bit of memory fade but located where we found Stuart. We had some time here and a chat, it was difficult at times but the wildness and the beauty of this place left a huge effect on both of us and Celine loved this wildness . It seamed to me that despite the sad reason to visit she could see why her Uncle loved the mountains and wild places and she has an inner fire inside her for these places. I left her for some time for herself and my map blew away landing on a steep small cliff I had a bit of fun getting it back. I had time to look around and remember that sad day and  yet what a place to be so wild and moody with the weather ever changing and in winter in a storm it is so serious.  I thought of the Rescue teams and SARDA on the search of these wild cliffs, this is dangerous ground in the wet ,winter or poor visability.  We had no phone coverage and knew her Aunty would be worried we had been away for 5 hours and after a while headed down. We went back via the river the huge rocks in the river bed and the erosion show the power of nature and how wild this Glen can be in heavy rain and snow.

Wild view

We were soon back at the forestry and Celine had been  getting some navigation training during the day and she seemed a natural. We were soon back at the car, wet feet and soaked and then a drive past the waterfalls and cliffs past the wild campers and onto the main road. A quick message to Aunty Jeanette that we were heading home and heavy rain saw us past Glencoe. I had a quick change a bowl of soup in “Crafts and Things”, a well earned brew and a chat about Stuart and the searching that went on for weeks. It was not a sad time I learned more about Stuart who we all worked so hard to find and how the sad event affected the whole family. How much kindness they received from Glencoe MRT Kenny Lindsay  the local Policeman . It was then time for a slow 3 hour drive home in busy roads with lots of varied weather and sort the gear out a shower and a meal.

A long day but hopefully it helped the family even after all these years from Stuarts passing. Celine was great company and a joy to be with  and I am sure Stuart would be appreciative of her efforts yesterday as het Mum , Dad and Aunty are.

Be careful when out especially alone in these mountains, always take care and tell someone your intentions for the day, “Look well to each step”

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Corbetts, Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Flora, Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Glen Etive – A quite walk near Beinn Moal Chaluim a hidden gem. A walk for Stuart.

  1. Jeanette Bryan says:

    Dave thank you so much for your lovely words. You will always have a special place in our hearts. Celine was so grateful to you for spending this time with her and we were happy that she was with you and in your capable hands. Thanks again for everything. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • heavywhalley says:

      It was a long day but well worth it she is a lovely lassie Celine! Hope her Mum and Dad got to read about her day!

      They must be like you proud!

      Thanks for the whisky and card very kind of you xxxx

      Sent from my iPhone



  2. Ann Bryan says:

    What a wonderful experience under the professional guidance of a man whose passion for the hills is contagious, it would appear. Celine returned home with intriguing stories, beautiful photographs and an even stronger desire to return to the beautiful Glencoe – thanks to Mr. David Whalley who was able to ‘piece together the missing parts of the puzzle’ with regard to the accident of Celine’s uncle. Superfluous to say that we are not only grateful for Mr. Whalley’s time with Celine last month but also for the endless hours, total dedication and tireless efforts of himself and the rest of the Mountain Rescue team all those many years ago in search of Stuart Bryan. Under such weather conditions, those men’s lives were also at risk. We will be eternally grateful and remain fervent admirers of your work. With grateful thanks…… Ann Bryan.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Ann it was a great day and I will pass on your thanks to Glencoe , Lochaber SARDA and the RAF Teams – thank you for your comments even after all these years,
      God bless you all and hope it helps to explain a bit why Stuart and those who love these places go there!

      Kind regards Heavy ex RAF Kinloss/ Leuchars MRT.


  3. Dina says:

    Lovely post, thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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