Ben Cruachan & Stob Diamh - Hollow Mountain ridge
by denfinella » Wed Aug 05, 2015 7:28 pm
Route description: Ben Cruachan and Stob Daimh
Munros included on this walk: Ben Cruachan, Stob Daimh
Date walked: 25/07/2015
Time taken: 7.5 hours
Distance: 14 km
Ascent: 1380m3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
We're not fans of early starts, so we didn't arrive at the smallish parking area until nearly half past ten. Luckily we slotted neatly into the last parking spot and headed up the steps under the railway line. Past the station and then an electricity substation, and the concrete walkway becomes a regular, narrow hill path. A frog greeted us as we reached the first steeper section.
As forest gives way to fern, the views opened out to Loch Awe, with the weather looking promising.
The path divides for a little while, and you can choose between a wider, higher path and a pleasantly shady lower one. They joined together at an angled ladder stile which felt like it was about to fall into the Allt Cruachan below! Soon after, the reservoir dam was visible ahead, flanked by power lines. I'm certainly no fan of big man-made structures in the hills, but the power station here doesn't seem to detract. Instead, it's still dwarfed by the scale of the surrounding hills, somehow making them seem even grander.
Across underneath the dam and up a steep ladder to gain the top of the dam wall - this required more use of hands than the rest of walk put together. Along the reservoir on its west side, on a flat track which is a nice break from the ascent.
Walkhighlands suggests that the second of two paths up into Coire Dearg is the drier one - even this was wet enough at first, and the first path soon crosses the burn to join up. A little shower passed over, but never amounted to more than a few spots of rain - waterproofs never left the bag. Beyond, the going improves on a rocky, clear path:
After a little rest at the bealach between Meall Cuanail and Ben Cruachan, we headed right, still ascending steeply. This was a more tiring ascent than expected - our other recent hill walks have been quite gentle (Schiehallion the most recent Munro), so it was a bit of a wake-up call to the feet. In addition, a lot of loose dirt and stones on the path means it's a case of three steps forward, one step back. The views more than made up for it, however:
Soon, Cruachan's summit was directly in view - and plenty of blue sky...
...or was there? Just at the wrong moment, a layer of low cloud came in, exactly positioned at summit level. It mostly dissipated as it reached us, but effectively obscured most of the views to the west... grrr!
Just before the cloud came in:
Nevertheless, it was a good viewpoint, and ideal for lunch, which we had gazing out along the ridge towards Stob Diamh:
Lots of other people were also having a break here, but there's plenty of space here and it didn't feel too crowded. Once it emerged from the cloud, Stob Dearg to the west looked magnificent - perhaps even more impressive than Cruachan (it's only a few metres lower):
Whilst the low cloud had moved away here, the weather to the north at the head of Loch Etive had deteriorated sharply, with heavy rain and low cloud. Given the forecast, any walkers over there today must have felt they were getting a bit of a bum deal:
The bad weather to the north didn't clear for the rest of the day, but the skies above Cruachan and its horseshoe stayed lovely and blue for the rest of the day - or at least, the part we were on did. On the way to Drochaid Ghlas we passed a potentially tricky section of ridge, where sloping rock slabs above a steep drop could be problematic in wet weather. In the dry, no issues at all.
The short detour to Drochaid Ghlas is definitely worth it for the best views of Ben Cruachan:
Easy walking along to Stob Diamh - Munro number two, but it doesn't look very impressive from the west side. Still lovely and sunny here, but beyond Sron an Isean to the north it just continued to rain, and rain...
Showers had set in further down Loch Awe too:
While over Dalmally to the east:
From here it's generally downhill, although there a few small re-ascents over minor summits en route. Showers continued to pile into the hills in all directions except for directly overhead:
In the end we continued back towards the dam feeling a bit smug, a faint path slowly re-emerging after a pathless section from Lairig Torran. A short but annoying section of bog on the traverse above the dam didn't dampen spirits, but a developing headache on the way home coupled with slight sunburn did!
Can't complain really
by dav2930 » Wed Aug 05, 2015 8:37 pm
by dogjake » Wed Aug 05, 2015 8:40 pm
by Gordie12 » Wed Aug 05, 2015 9:30 pm
Still to do these two - looks really appealing.
by denfinella » Wed Aug 05, 2015 9:48 pm
dav2930 wrote:I'd almost forgotten what a fine peak Ben Cruachan is - thanks for the reminder! That's a super shot of the classic view of Cruachan; very impressive Last time I was up there was in March 1999, when I was treated to whiteout conditions on the summit. It felt quite precarious since I could barely see where the ground dropped away on either side. Looks like you had a lovely clear day for it (there haven't been so many of those this summer! ).
Thanks dav, yes, it's a great peak - in fact the whole horseshoe was. I can well imagine how different it would be in a whiteout though, especially if the rock was slippery...
dogjake wrote:Good report Denfinella and great Photos, I did these two on the Wednesday after you and although we got occasional views we also got heavy showers, isn't that stile at a strange angle as you said it definitely required some focus, a great couple of hills though and I'm looking forward to doing the other two later this month.
Thanks Jake - glad you got some views on the Wednesday. It was probably quieter too! In a few years I think that stile might have to be replaced
Gordie12 wrote:Sounds like you were lucky with the weather and were able to get some great photos of your day.
Still to do these two - looks really appealing.
Yep, definitely one of the better Munro walks, and we were indeed lucky with the weather - it rained on the journey home too! There's a further Corbett if you continue round the horseshoe too I think, if you felt up to a bigger day...
by Alteknacker » Wed Aug 05, 2015 10:21 pm
by denfinella » Wed Aug 05, 2015 10:30 pm
Alteknacker wrote:What great luck you had with the weather! I'm just at the moment trying to call the weather for Saturday, and it's soooooooo difficult! I could be in a sunny island, like yours was, or one of the those showered upon areas in your pics (which are excellent, by the way ).
Yes, we were very lucky. Hope you get some decent weather on Saturday - perhaps one for the Cairngorms? Maybe the forecast will firm up over the next couple of days...
by Petr Dakota » Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:17 am
Beautiful photos and views
Thanks for posting, it brought back my memories from the Mountain...I did Cruachan last year - beginning of Spring, but misty, freezy, windy and some snow on top , views only in lower level...so nice to see how is it there
One of the hills I will walk again