In each and every book I have read about the Munros questions have been raised as to whether or not Beinn Tulaichean should or should not be included in the list. For example, the Scottish Mountaineering Club describes it as "little more than the outlying South peak of Cruach Ardrain". Perhaps it is. Even it's very meaning, "Hill of the hillocks", does not exactly fill one with any sense of grandeur. And then you have Walkhighlands describe the ascent generally as a "monotonous uphill slog". And they are right, it is with there being very little of interest to distract one from the grind save as to the much more impressive looking, albeit lower, mountains on the other side of the Glen, e.g. Stob a'Choin.
It gets worse; if you Google Beinn Tulaichean it doesn't appear that anyone has posted any images for one to have a look at. How bad is that?
To be fair, and until very recently, I had no interest in the debate whatsoever; it was on the list and, to the best of my knowledge and belief, has always been so since day one. I am sure there are people out there who would be able to confirm one way or the other but what the heck, it currently is.
For me at least it did have one important positive in that this Munro, together with it's more celebrated immediate neighbour Cruach Ardrain, offered the opportunity of a break in the long drive up from Newcastle. A chance to bag two Munros on the way to (in the case of Beinn Tulaichean at least) the more celebrated mountains beyond. And on this particular day, the drive past Loch Voil and then Loch Doine on one side of the road and the Braes of Balquhidder on the other was an absolute delight. With there being so little wind the mountains opposite were being reflected perfectly in the water. Very picturesque.
However, by the time I reached the spacious car park at the end of the public road at Inverlochlarig the summit of Beinn Tulaichean and those of most of the surrounding mountains were covered in mist. Not what I had really wanted to see, or had anticipated, especially as I knew it was going to be a glorious day back home. But at least it wasn't raining (a real bonus given passed experience) and the forecast promised much better ahead.
There were no other vehicles parked but, and rather strangely, someone had pitched a tent on the car park itself. No doubt they had a good reason to do so but I have always thought grass to be a little more comfortable than the base of a car park. Hey ho; what would I know? (I am sure the sound of me trying to correctly fix the Velcro on my gators must have woken them up as I did hear some grumbles. If that was you I do apologise; it wasn't deliberate, honest).
Once the gators were sorted I was off on my way, through the farm and past some construction work that looked like it had been completed some considerable time ago with the surplus material just being left. On this basis could I respectively suggest the contractor be asked to return in order to tidy up the rather unsightly mess they have left behind? Not good workmanship I would suggest; not good at all.
But once that was passed it was not too long before I was out into open country and the tranquillity that can bring.
The ever improving prospect of cloud free summits made the "monotonous uphill slog" less of an effort than it would otherwise have been. There were more and more signs of the sun breaking through and indeed, when finally in sight of the summit, even Ben More, the highest peak in the immediate vicinity, was cloud free.
Beinn Tulaichean's summit cairn is somewhat less than substantial but that was of little importance given my first Munro of 2014 had been bagged.
The views were really rather good so I stayed for quite some time and whilst doing so I started to contemplate the status that has for so long been afforded to Beinn Tulaichean. But as I had not climbed Cruach Ardrain let alone complete the walk I decided it would be a little premature for me to reach any firm conclusions at that time.
The short descent to the Bealach between the two mountains did not take very long at all and, save as to some very strong gusts of wind, was really quite a pleasant stroll.
The ascent from there to the summit of Cruach Ardrain is on a well defined but, on this occasion, windy path. The views of the many mountains around, An Caisteal, Ben More and Stob Binnein to name just a few, are excellent and certainly help to keep one's mind occupied making it an easy climb.
I was quite surprised to see so much snow lying around fortunately all of which, save as for some just before the summit itself, was well away from the path and therefore of no concern. Another lesson learnt, whilst the Lake District would almost certainly be free of all snow by May this is clearly not the case in Scotland.
On reaching the summit, apart from the odd gust, there was absolutely no wind whatsoever. The sun was beaming down with just, by now, a few high level clouds left. Glorious.
There was a steam train puffing along the West Highland Railway which added to the interest, as did the fighter planes practicing in the valley below.
As for the view, I could even see Ben Nevis which certainly, as one would expect, had a lot more snow lying than Cruach Ardrain. And so many other peaks to see most of which, given my limited number of trips to date, I did not recognise but hopefully soon will. Inevitable really as I shall have to pass them so many times as I drive further North to Fort William and beyond.
Oh what a difference from the mist and rain encountered whilst in the Arrochar Alps the previous August.
On such a day it would have been an insult to Cruach Ardrain not to have spent some considerable time on the summit in order to relax and enjoy everything there was to see. Days like this in the Scottish mountains, up to then for me at least, had been few and far between.
But eventually my mind wondered back to that debate...........
Looking back to Beinn Tulaichean it was clear there was a considerable height difference between the two. Furthermore, from this angle at least, Cruach Ardrain had the more dramatic setting and certainly the better views (not that either should form part of the decision making process).
But no matter, in the end I reached the conclusion that, for me at least, it should be and should remain an independent Munro and for the following reasons:
1. Whilst it has always been attached to it's much bigger neighbour it stands out as a substantial mountain particularly so in it's own particular Glen. A mountain that would be more than happy to stick two fingers up at all who would dare to question it's independence;
2. To me at least it looks like a mountain that is proud of it's status and history and will not let that hard faught (sic -Scottish) history be swept away by those who have little or no understanding of it's importance;
3. For so long now it has stood up for itself as an independent mountain so why try to dissuade anyone from that view, it just needs a chance to make that statement. Indeed so independent it would no doubt have it's own football and rugby team et al;
4. It is on a different map from Cruach Ardrain so therefore it has it's own border so to speak (well on the ordinance survey explorer series it is);
5. Sir Hugh himself must have debated the matter long and hard when drawing up the original list and had clearly reached the conclusion it was independent. Many more have done so since (debated the matter) and, as it's status has never changed, they too must have reached the same conclusion and, presumably, for the same very reasons. After all there are several mountains that have been added to the list at some point only to have it's name removed for no apparent reason a few years later. I just don't get that;
But, and above all
6. I had now bagged it so it would be a complete pain in the backside if it were to be taken away from me. I mean how demoralising it would be on reaching my 50th Munro say only then to be told I had bagged just 49.
So after having reached this momentous decision I started the walk back to the car. Before reaching the Bealach I met a couple who had just started the climb. During the course of our brief chat I did consider discussing the matter with them but, even at this point, the lady looked so knackered she probably couldn't of cared less. I do hope she made it to the top and back to their car for a cup of tea and sandwich which, based on the look in her eyes, was probably all she wanted in the first place without the need for a walk.
The walk from the Bealach to the service road is pathless but not difficult. On such a glorious day I really didn't care anyway. There were excellent views back up to the summit of Cruach Ardrain and across to Ben More and Stob Binnein, and, eventually, back up to Beinn Tulaichean. From here I could see just how much snow there still was. As I say a real surprise from my experience of the Lake District.
The service road made for quick progress and the opportunity to actually enjoy the scenery on such a beautiful day. It was now so hot, and in order to avoid looking like a Swan Vesta, I even had to put my hat on. A sight for sore eyes I can assure you.
Once back to the car it was a quick change followed by one last look back and then I was on my way along the Glen to complete the rest of the journey to the very pleasant Suie Lodge Hotel. Not far along I saw a sign for the Monachyle Mhor Hotel; I had earnt a pint so why not. A good choice, even the view from their terrace was a joy.
The beer went down very nicely as well, very nicely indeed.
It had been a good day all round; even better given the fact that, whilst I had debated the point for some considerable time, at the end of the day it was down to others to make the decision.
PS - If I knew how to I would actually attach to this blog some of the many photographs I took during the course of this very pleasant walk. Hopefully I will persuade my children or some other kind sole to show me how to do so in the very near future but, and in the meantime, I merely live in hope. (Believe me when I say the picture I have from the Monachyle Mhor Hotel is superb. As for the lady that just happened to be in the shot; well let's just say she had a lovely pair of shoulders).
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