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Unfinished Business in Glen Falloch

Unfinished Business in Glen Falloch


Postby garyoppolis » Mon Jun 02, 2014 11:42 pm

Munros included on this walk: An Caisteal, Beinn a'Chroin, Beinn Tulaichean, Cruach Ardrain

Date walked: 26/05/2014

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 19 km

Ascent: 1599m

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Preamble

Towards the end of February we set out to tackle the four Munros which surround Glen Falloch. Although we'd never tackled four in a day before, the route seemed uncomplicated and well within our capabilities.

And it was winter. We'd never done a hill in winter before but it couldn't be that hard. Right?

WRONG!
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A long slog up through thigh deep snow took us onto the ridge leading to An Caisteal. Gradually, the snow grew firmer and we sank to our knees, then to our shins, then to our ankles and after what seemed like an eternity, we were able to walk across the snow leaving shallow footprints. This was fantastic! The softer stuff lower down was just a thigh-burning purgatory before this much more agreeable hard packed stuff.

But then it became less agreeable.

After what can't have been more than a hundred yards the firm snow turned to ice which first needed to be stamped on to gain a foothold and shortly after we began kicking steps. We were exhausted, and one torturously slow method of movement was replaced with another. At around this time, two older gents overtook us with ease, kitted out as they were with poles and crampons and goggles. Before we reached the "castle" itself they were on the way back down and suggested we do the same. A quick appreciation of the ridge rapidly narrowing as it approaches the knuckle of rock along with our distinctly cramponless boots - and the fact that none of us had ever done a "no duff" self-arrest - suggested that they were right.

We turned back...

Round Two - We're having the bugger this time.

A few reasonably rapid ascents over the intervening months left us confident that it was time to give this route another go. So, with the memory of our winter debacle lingering, we started out from Glasgow to try again.


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An Caisteal proved a much less tricky customer this time around. Once we'd gained the ridge we practically sauntered up to the top, crossing the moat (which had been full of snow last time) and following the path round to the left of the castle.

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First sight on cresting the ridge

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Our wintery nemesis - now just a lump of rock

We were fresh and eager and plowed on down to the bealach ready for summit number two. The path then angled right past the lochan and took us to some well bedded in scree (I hesitate to call it a boulderfield) beneath the crags above. Looking up, the line of the crags comes from high on the left - in the direction of the summit - and slants down the slope before disappearing around the shoulder to the right. The temptation, as the path petered out on the rocky ground, was to head left up the slope looking for a break in the crags. However, over to the right as the clag drifted back and forth, a slight scar below a break in the crags was just visible so we headed for that.

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Looking back to the bealach as the clag lifts

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This seems to be the scrambly route that people talk about

We eventually came across the summit of Beinn a'Chroin; it's one of those lumpy summits that you're not quite sure about when the visibility is poor. We kept to the track and eventually dropped down to what could only have been the lowpoint between the central and eastern tops. Than we saw this:

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We slid down it

From there it was a question of contouring round to the ridge down into the glen then picking out a line as best we could down to the bealach below Stob Glas. We stopped for a quick brew and then tackled the biggest reascent of the day. I was worried about heading up a dead end and having to retrace our steps but it was simple enough to climb round to the right of Stob Glas beneath the crags. Provided you don't scramble up anything, stay as high as you can and you'll pop up in the corrie.

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Stob Glas

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Looking back to Beinn a'Chroin

Suddenly, sunshine!

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From the corrie it's an easy grade up to the ridge between Beinn Tulaichean and Cruach Ardrain.

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First sight of the ridge on entering the corrie

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Corrie back wall

Half way up we came across a lamb which had been recently eviscerated by what was probably a very large bird-of-prey. I'll leave that photo off but you really do get an impression of how powerful eagles and the like are when you see what they can do to their prey.

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Almost to the ridge

By this point some of the party were starting to flag a little, the 400-odd meters of reascent proving a bit of a challenge.

After hitting the ridge and turning right we fairly quickly took in Beinn Tulaichean and doubled back to head for Cruach Ardrain. The clag was getting thicker now and I was on the lookout for the sudden right turn in the path which would mark the final climb to the summit. I needn't have worried; the turn, when you hit it, is very obvious. Thoroughly pleased, we got to the top just in time for the wind to pick up and blow some clag off Stob Binnein and Ben More.

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We backtracked to the dogleg in the path and struck off towards the ridge running to the Grey Height - a ridge which requires some legwork to get over its humps and bumps.

It's worth noting that if you're coming up this way you should break track when you see this arrow: -

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And managed a few pictures for the womenfolk back home:

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Grey Height ridge and Crianlarich

The decent along the ridge took a lot longer than expected, with legs and feet and everything else getting tired now. The evening sun at one point seemed to be beckoning us back to the car.

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And as we nearer the treeline, we got a brief glimpse of this during a break in the clouds.

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And, just as we thought we were home and dry, we managed to end up on the wrong side of a deerfence.

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We made it though. After a long day we managed what we'd set out to do three months previously. Although we took it slow, stopping for snacks and a fairly long lunch break, the actual climbing was managed at a reasonable pace and gave us the confidence to try longer circuits with more ascent in the future.

I'm beginning to realise that going into these big days feeling fresh to begin with makes all the difference. I'd had a full night's sleep and kept my energy up by snacking throughout the day. I've done walks in the past where I've had a few hours sleep and a rasping hangover and the difference is enormous. Lesson learned for the future.

Also, I picked up a £5 walking pole from Aldi on a whim the week before, I'd never used one before and always thought that, frankly, they look a bit daft. I am now a complete convert. I breezed up slopes while my companions both did a bit of hands-on-thighs for the steeper parts. It also really took the edge off the battering my knees usually take on the way down. Another lesson learned.

All in all a good day, and I can thoroughly recommend the route.
User avatar
garyoppolis
 
Posts: 230
Munros:132   Corbetts:8
Grahams:4   Donalds:6
Sub 2000:11   Hewitts:4
Wainwrights:1   
Joined: Nov 30, 2012

Re: Unfinished Business in Glen Falloch

Postby garyoppolis » Tue Jul 01, 2014 9:42 pm

This was the video I was too technologically challenged to upload when I wrote this:

User avatar
garyoppolis
 
Posts: 230
Munros:132   Corbetts:8
Grahams:4   Donalds:6
Sub 2000:11   Hewitts:4
Wainwrights:1   
Joined: Nov 30, 2012

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