Tuesday, 24th. August:
As we have done a few times now, Chalky and I met and stayed at the excellent Ben More Lodge in Crianlarich and, after a solid breakfast, we were off to climb what are sometimes referred to as "The Crianlarich Five"... but from the south. Low mist (and, to be honest, the weather forecast) suggested high pressure and temperature inversions so we were away fairly quickly and a forty minute drive took us through Lochearnhead, through Balquhidder and along Loch Voil to Inverlochlarig as the mist started to lift. Given that the day was clearly going to be hot, we didn't hang around but headed up the south east ridge of Beinn Tulaichean pretty smartish in an effort to gain some sun protection from the rising mists. This didn't last that long, however, and it was clear that we were in for something of a roasting by the time we hit the final ridge - where, disconcertingly, I was suddenly engulfed by a cloud of flying ants.
From Beinn Tulachean, it was an easy forty minutes or so to Cruach Adrain - the day's high point - where the northern horizon opened up. Ben More is a big lump and looked especially imposing and we enjoyed failing to name familiar peaks because of our incompetence with Gaelic... Next came the most enjoyable part of the day as we threaded an intricate descent to the south west over Stob Glas which finished on a bealach at around 520 metres, some 400 metres or so below the summit of Beinn a' Chròin. I had intended for us to work our way up the broad and indistinct ridge running north from the eastern end of Beinn a' Chròin's summit ridge but a glance at the map and a bit of thought suggested that the more pronounced parallel ridge just to the west might provide a more steady ascent and, possibly, a path. So it proved and a bit of grafting saw us to the summit ridge without pause. Once there, however, we (well, I) made something of a mess of things as I initially headed west but then had to reverse half of the ridge to make sure that I took in the top at its eastern end. Oh well... After this, things got a bit more exciting again as the terrain steepened up on the descent to the Bealach Buidhe; these are good hills! A steep climb then took us to the excellent summit of An Casteal where we met "Bivi Man" - well, we failed to ask his name and needed to call him something. He'd come up the ridge from the north and, equipped with a rucksack of gear and, brilliantly, an easy chair, he was, as The Kinks have it, lazing on a sunny afternoon before settling in for what promised to be a spectacular sunset and a starry night high above the A82. Good effort! A swift descent from just south of the summit of An Casteal then led us to the bealach below and to the east of Beinn Chabhair but, at this point, Chalky's heels reined him in; the disintegration of his normal summer walking boots had forced him into an old pair of stiff winter boots and they had abraded his heels and, despite liberal use of plasters and tape, they had drawn blood. Understandably, then, he passed on the final 300 metres of ascent up the steep eastern slopes of Beinn Chabhair - but he was good enough to hang around and wait while I did it. I went up (and down) as fast as I could without my bag - but managed to spend long enough by the summit cairn to take in what was yet another stunning view, especially to the south. My return to the bealach found Chalky re-plastered and still able to move reasonably well downhill and on the flat so we headed off alongside the rocky, steep bed and waterfalls of the Allt a'Chuiinn into the lonely wastes of upper Glen Larig and around seven kilometres of easy track back to the car at Inverlochlarig. We'd booked in for supper at Ben More Lodge in Crianlarich at 8.30.pm. and made it back with well over five minutes to spare. It had been an excellent day out.
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