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Storming the Caisteal and the neighbouring properties
by GillC » Mon Jun 03, 2013 1:00 pm
Munros included on this walk: An Caisteal, Beinn a'Chroin, Beinn Chabhair
Date walked: 02/06/2013
Time taken: 9 hours
Distance: 20 km
Ascent: 1728mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
I'd originally intended heading for the hills on Saturday,,but an impromptu "just the one" after work meant that was NOT going to happen.
As an habitual early riser and with the forecast looking GREAT, I decided to head off as soon as I was ready, with a couple of stops at early morning shops in Balloch to pick up an OS Explorer for Loch Lomond North, I was on my way again with an 8am start in mind. Unfortunately, my starting point at Derrydarroch is not marked anywhere on the road and I knew when I reached the '1mile to Crianlarich' sign, I'd gone too far. I ventured down again and remembering from my WHW walk that the wee farm is down under the road, I parked up and took a peek. Found it!! Booted up and heading down to the farm track at about 8:45. Nice day planned and in no rush.
I'd been checking many reports, routes etc and initially my plan was to do An Caisteal, returning over Beinn a'Chroinn but it seemed a shame to go all that way in to the hills and miss Beinn Chabhair. Cameron McNeishs Munro book has a route covering all 3 but only gives a summary of the actual route so I kind of made this up as I went in parts.
I'm pretty sure as you pass Derrydarroch farm, there is a path leading up on the East side of Allt a' Chuilinn burn then crossing much higher up the glen. I followed the farm track, across the burn by way of a bridge then ambled across country to a fenced in plantation of decidious trees. (If you do choose this route,,dont enter the plantation (I did) its hellish difficult underfoot, long grass etc. stay outside and pass up closer to the burn) If you do go in, theres a wee wooden flap of a door to get out at the other end Hands and knees stuff.
You are effectively heading for the obvious bealach around to the left of Meall nan Tarmachan and no paths whatsoever around here, just aim high and keep walking. (this has to be the most 'off piste' walk I've ever done!)
Once you reach the bealach, a path does appear and is easily followed up to the shoulder and across a rising ridge to the cairn.
This took me a 3 hr plod, but I'm pretty sure it could easily have been less if I'd used the path up on the other side of the burn. Munro 27...Check!
From the top of Chabhair, the only way down to the mid point is to drop 320mtrs, very steeply down the North East face. Easy enough underfoot, clumpy grass and scattered with rocks. Toes took a beating so best to keep on a slant. The top of Chabair gives full views over to An Caisteal and Beinn a' Chroinn although in bad weather or poor visibility, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't see a thing. Today however, blue skies, fluffy cloud and not a hint of mist, rain, low cloud etc, was it such a good thing that I could see the hulking rocks I had to take on now? who knows
On reaching the low bealach, I then aimed up to the col under Beinn a' Chroin, bealach Buidhe. It's a very obvious drop in the rock and there are scattered paths on the lower stretches meandering across the bouldery shoulder and up. There is very little respite from sheer hard climbing today, no choice but to dig in, stop often, (to admire the views), top up the fluids, hot out here despite the breeze and gaze in wonder and the AMAZING views in all directions.
I'd decided that my first real food break would be in the col, before attempting a' Chroin, so parked myself under a rock and had some munchies.
Again from here, there was a rocky path worn into the side of the hill, easy enough to follow but rubbly in places. I saw on the WH plan, there were 2 paths, one to possibly avoid the craggier of the crags on the West face.
As ever,, if there's a hard way, I'll find it. The path requires a head for heights and the skills of a mountain goat, the former I'm ok with, the latter, well, I ain't no rock climber! The worst part is quite far round and at the top of a particulary precarious bit of path above the crags.
I reached a cornice, about shoulder high and vertical. There were foot holds in the rocks to the left, but I think they may be of more use to people with very long legs. I took the option of putting my walking poles up on the ledge out of the way, finding a foot hold on the right, about 18 inches up and just hauling myself up and over. Really didn't want to think what this would be like on the return descent.
Not long past here, up through a rocky wee gully with plenty of scrambling, you come out on top. Fab. That was effort indeed. The first summit, the West peak, has now been marked up on OS maps at 942mtrs and is noted as the highest peak. Munro 28, Check!
However, once here, its hard to tell if you really are at the highest point, so, clock showing a little after 1pm, took some pics and wandered off across the ridge. Fantastic views, starting to see a few other people around the hills now too.
Reached the small mid hill cairn and could see the Eastern summit from here, at 940mtrs. I'd come all this way, surely it would have been bad manners not to pop over. Pop over? Ha, its a lot further away than you think AND theres a steep wee gully to drop down into and back out again before reaching it. But, I'd come this far, no rush so pottered over. The gully had the last dregs of the winter snow, tucked down out of the sun and melting fast. There was something quite dark and brooding being down there, in the half light with drip drip dripping sounds coming from the big chunks of snow.
Didn't spend long at the top, headed back over, with thoughts of that descent down the crags clouding my mind,,,took my time, anything to delay the inevitable. Passed a couple of pairs of walkers, enjoying the sun, views etc.
Back at the West summit,,I could see over to An Caisteal and a small party of climbers at the top. The looked small but not too far away which was encouraging ( I had harboured plans of just heading down and back to the car from a' Chroin, glad I didn't)
On heading down off a' Chroin, fixed my eyes on the bealach, then joy of joys, I realised my actual target was the col I stopped for lunch in. You lose sight of this for a while from the western crags so it was great to see that I only had to drop back to 805 mtrs before climbing to An Caisteal, the highest point for the day. Getting back down over the crags was a lot easier than I anticipated, even the wee cornice was easily overcome, (What WAS I worrying about?)
From bealach Buidhe, its straight up a rocky face, with enough of a path worn out to make this an easy ascent. In fact, I'd say this was so far, the easiest section today. I could see someone sitting down just off the top of the hill which was great, meant I could more or less see the top and no hidden peaks here. Gave said fellow climber a raise of the walking pole and a hello as I passed off to the left and up to the cairn. Nice wee plateau here, pics again, 995 mtrs, and Munro 29, Check!
Spent a wee bit of time here, soaking up the views, my achievement and generally feeling smug (and knackered) These 3 hills together have a total of over 1700mtrs ascent!!!!
I had checked out my alternatives for the descent, off down the very obvious, and aptly named Twistin Hill, then off down into Coire Andoran then over to Derrydarroch, or, off down the full length of the ridge and down into Dun Falloch, North of the Falls and meaning a walk back down the A82 to Derrydarroch. The ridge is easy enough going as it snakes down to Sron Gharbh with Stob Glas on your left, between me and my first hill of the day.
At a couple of points, I weighed up the idea of dropping down to the left and over the flat (and worryingly boggy looking) land to Derrydarroch, which I could now see. Knowing that on reaching it, I would have the railway line and the River Falloch to contend with, I kept returning to the plan of just taking the route to Falloch and the A82 return, so erring on the side of caution, that's what I did. You get very close to the road etc but still seem very high up, so yes, it came as no surprise when suddenly your only option is to descend steeply, again down the grassy, rock strewn face of Sron Gharbh. At least by now, you can see the track heading up to meet you and the cars parked out on the A82, would I be lucky enough and manage to get a lift the mile or so down the road? tune in next week.......
Not a lot for it here but to scramble over tufty grass, the odd boggy bit or running stream. Aim for the track Gill, aim for the track. I was knackered, the downhills bits can be worse than the up and my walking poles were beyond value today.
Got to the track, spent a moment or two gazing off the rickety bridge into the 'oh so inviting' waters of the Falloch, Then through the railway underpass to the road with only one car left there now, and no driver. Dammit! no lift back to the car for me then.
So, sunnies back on, jacket off, set out on the walk back to the car, knew it couldn't be more than a mile or two. 40 mins later, back at the car, pulling off my boots and drinking the dregs of my hydration pack. Dreams of a wee quick shandy in The Drovers,,but decided I should not subject the general public, to my sun burned, dusty person, so opted to head for home. Dinner, bath, bed.
This has been a long hard day, 9hrs in the hills, sun burn, lots of talking to myself (as ever) but a great achievement on a smashing day.
by Rudolph » Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:09 pm
GillC wrote: Really didn't want to think what this would be like on the return descent..
It was interesting with a karrimat on the bottom of a rucksack if my tortured memory serves.
Words you don't want to hear from MrsSanta who was already down that bit.
"Foot hold just a bit left of where your boot is......Now down a bit...... that's it ......................???
........................That's a loose rock you're on"
by GillC » Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:14 pm
by rockhopper » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:56 pm
by GillC » Wed Jun 05, 2013 6:21 am
by Fudgie » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:13 am
by Lightfoot2017 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:43 pm
I recently did An Caisteal and Beinn Chabhair on separate one-off trips. (Still to bag Beinn a Chroin though. The person I was with on BC was bit slower than I had expected and kind of held me back!).
I’m sure doing all three in a one-er was no mean feat. Looks like you were very lucky with the weather too!