Beinn Trilleachan from the head of Loch Etive


Sometimes the planning pays off and it all comes together.  I’d been looking forward to a winter’s wild camp – camped on snow with a star-filled sky – for perhaps a year or two.  Beinn Trilleachan, at the head of Loch Etive, was to tick all of these boxes.

This was a quick 24-hour trip, leaving home Saturday lunchtime and back in time for lunch the following day.  I parked at the bottom of the long, winding single-track road down Glen Etive and climbed up the shoulder of Beinn Trilleachan, a Corbett that stands at 839 metres.  Once above the snow line my pace slowed, weighed down with a heavy pack.  (In spite of me normally being an enthusiastic proponent of lightweight walking, my rucsac carried an SLR and tripod, full winter gear including ice axe and crampons – on top of a tent, sleeping bag, water and so on).  Luckily I was following the trail of others who were just coming down as I was climbing up.  I stopped frequently to admire the views, with a panorama of Glen Etive and the Glencoe hills opening up below me.



The sun setting over the Buachailles


I arrived at the subsidiary top (767 metres) just a short while before sunset.  I could have gone on – Beinn Trilleachan was only 15 minutes or so in front of me – but I would risk missing the sunset and then might be forced to put my tent up in fading light.  I decided that the subsidiary top was good enough: the views were stunning and gave me everything I needed.





I took some photos as the light changed from pink to a deepening red over towards the west.  I could feel the temperature plummeting.  Just enough time to get my tent up.  I’d never actually camped on snow before and I realised that it calls for a slightly different technique.  For a start, the snow was about a foot deep so I needed to kick it away to find some ground below.  But this was easier said than done since it was largely frozen of course.  Most of the pegs went in okay and the remainder that seemed a bit iffy I weighed down with stones from the summit cairn.  Never mind, I’m sure someone will be along again in the Spring to put them back on the cairn.



Reddening sky towards the north west


After my evening meal (a butter bean and aubergine stew – leftovers from home – in case you wondered) I stepped out to look at the stars.

Wow !

It’s only when you head out to a place far from light pollution that you begin to realise how much you’re missing.  Not only were they much brighter than at home but there was such an incredible number.  I won’t tell you how many photos I took but let’s just say that this post includes the edited highlights !



Amazing how many stars you see with no light pollution …


Even a few meteors showed up to make my night.  (No aurora though, or temperature inversion the next morning.  Now that really would have ticked all the boxes !).



Night sky with a couple of stray meteors


I was keen to do a composite star trail shot.  It was going well – the photo below is a stack comprising just over 100 20-second exposures.  However, my camera battery decided that it was far too cold to be standing around on a mountain top and decided to call it a day after 4o minutes.  (I found that I had to keep swapping over my battery and spare battery, warming them up to revive them.  As for my iPhone, well it really couldn’t cope with the cold … well it did get down to something like -8 to -10 degrees over night.  I don’t think I’ve ever worn so many layers in bed !).



Star trails




In spite of my iPhone not working I did manage to wake up in time for the sunrise.  And just as well I did since it was jaw-dropping.



Wakey wakey !


The hills soon lit up pink then turned a golden orange.  There wasn’t a breath of wind or a sound to be heard.  The sun reflected off the frozen ice crystals, both on the ground and on my tent.



The soft dawn light, looking north to the hills of Glencoe



Admiring the sun peaking over the shoulder of Ben Starav



Looking south west towards the Cruachan hills



Ben Cruachan, Stob Diamh and Beinn Chochuill reflected in Loch Etive



Not a bad view to enjoy my morning coffee …


After breakfast – with one of the finest views anywhere – I packed up and savoured the views one last time as I trudged down the snowy slopes in my crampons.

I really enjoyed this overnight adventure.  It just goes to show that even a quick trip away can provide such a fabulous experience: Scotland’s mountains at their very best.  It’s just great when some forward planning, plus a bit of luck, really pays off.



Looking north to the Glencoe hills




14 Comments on “Beinn Trilleachan wild camp

  1. Ewan, what a fabulous adventure and wonderful photos. It’s something I’ve thought about doing for years- unfortunately too much thought and not enough action. Though your tale may be the kick up the backside I need to actually make it happen.
    Phill Clegg

    • Hi Phillip, Great to hear from you. It was great that a ‘free’ weekend coincided with some clear, dry weather- made such a change after such a wet/stormy December and January. All it needs is a plan to go out …

  2. wow absolutely amazing pictures, thanks so much for sharing… cant wait till were back in our T4 van in a few weeks time, hope the snow lasts…

  3. Amazing pictures, so looking forward for winter to end as though that gives us permission to get out there! Even in winter there are those special days!

    • Thanks! I’m normally outdoors between Easter and October but as you say, winter does have its special days. It’s the light that’s so different.

  4. Pingback: Most memorable photos of 2016 | Wild about Scotland

  5. Beautiful! I haven’t braved a proper winter wild camp yet (only accidental snow during the night) but I might have to during our TGO Challenge training between now and May (you’re welcome to follow our progress at http://www.cjoutdoors.wordpress.com). This makes me think that perhaps it will be worth the cold fingers!

    • Hi there ! I’m a relative novice when it comes to winter wild camping too but it was a great experience. I was lucky with the weather though – it would have been very different in cloudy/snowy/wet conditions. Thanks for the link to your blog – I’ll follow your TGOC adventures with interest !

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