Ben Cruachan round - 4/5ths of a full monty
by rockhopper » Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:14 pm
Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chochuill, Beinn Eunaich, Ben Cruachan, Stob Daimh
Date walked: 06/11/2010
Time taken: 9.7 hours
Distance: 26.5 km
Ascent: 2096m2 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).
I wanted to do one last long walk before winter set in and had the choice of Saturday or Sunday. With the BBC, the Met office and MWIS all suggesting better conditions on the Saturday, ie sun, light cloud, no mist etc against fog, very cold conditions and strengthening winds in the afternoon on Sunday, I opted to go on the Saturday. How wrong it turned out to be as I sit here on Sunday morning typing this looking out at a lovely blue sky and sun.............ah well, you win some, you lose some.
I estimated I’d need 8.5 – 9hrs which was about the time between sunrise and sunset. So, after getting up very early on Saturday morning I had a nice drive up to Dalmally in the dark but the weather seemed OK at that point – a little misty in places but it looked like it would clear. I parked the car in a small lay-by just before the bridge over the Allt Mhoille on the B8077 – there’s very limited parking just off the road on either side before the bridge. I then set off just as it was getting light and met two other walkers who were parking their car between my car and the bridge. We had a quick chat, said we’d probably meet again up on the hill and I went off on my walk.
Just after the B8077 bridge, I took the road signposted to Castles Farm which took me in a NW direction initially to the west of Stob Maol. I had to walk through a number of highland cattle but they were friendly enough and didn’t seem to mind my interrupting their breakfast.
I think there may have been a cairn marking the point when I should have left the road but I must have missed it as my initial walk up the side of Stob Maol was steep and over clumpy, grassy moorland. I did manage to pick up the track further up the side of the hill. Looking back I could still see a little mist in the glen....the problem was when looking up, there was low cloud and mist so I couldn’t see any of the summits which was a bit worrying given that I had to find a route later on to ascend Stob Daimh from the NE. There was almost no wind at all and I was very warm by this stage but that would all change when I hit the cloud.
I reached the top of the steep track and then headed north up the ridge to Beinn Eunaich. I was soon shrouded in mist and cloud and could not see much at all. It was also getting colder and wetter so I stopped to put on an outer layer. The ground was gradually getting whiter probably more due to a very heavy frost than to snow and the rocks were slippy in places. I passed a small cairn then went on to rockier ground often losing and regaining the path as it was hidden in the frost and rocks.
It wasn’t long before I got to the summit of Beinn Eunaich where I stopped for some photos (no view though) and then headed off for Beinn a Chochuill.
The way ahead was cold, wet and misty but I was aware of the steep drops to the north down to Coire Glas.
The track drops down the ridge before rising back up to Beinn a Chochuill.
Just as I got to the point where the track joins with the path up from the lower track (which allows a loop walk of these two hills) I met the two walkers who had been parking their car back at the start. They were walking the loop to cover first Beinn a Chochuill then Eunaich. We stopped to chat about the accuracy of weather forecasts and plans for the day and then I headed off ahead of them up a Chochuill. It was easy going up to the summit and I was soon back on to frosty white ground which would have been lovely if the sun had appeared.
I got to the top, stopped for a quick bite and took a few photos. The other two walkers then appeared – we wished each other well and headed off in different directions as they were going back to Eunaich and I was off SSE down to the Lairig Noe.
The descent was steep and rocky in places made all the worse by the fact that I couldn’t see anything around me. Given the weather I was having second thoughts about Stob Diamh and Ben Cruachan but as I got down to Lairig Noe the cloud and mist started to clear and I could see SE down Glen Noe.
Decision time 1. It looked like it might be clearing up, my spirits were lifted and I decided to go on as planned. At that point I could see part of the way up to Sron an Isean but not the whole way so I picked my route in stages. I did have a track worked out beforehand which helped a bit.
Unfortunately the cloud and mist started to get worse again and I couldn’t see far enough ahead to help pick a route. I ended up doing more scrambling than I had planned on some steep sections made worse by the loose sandy gravel.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I got to the top of the ridge and I then followed the track up to the top of Sron an Isean where I found a small cairn.
From there it was a straightforward walk along the track to the top of Stob Diamh.
Decision time 2. It was increasingly obvious that the weather was not going to get better but equally it didn’t look like it would get worse. Granted it was damp, cloudy, misty and cold but there was almost no wind which I thought would help with the harder sections up to Ben Cruachan. So, I decided to keep going to Ben Cruachan on the basis that I could always come back on a summer’s day when perfect weather was promised.
I headed west along the track in the mist very conscious of the steep drops on either side. At some points not being able to see down was almost a blessing ! Dropping down below the frost line at one point it got a wee bit brighter and I thought the sun might come out but it soon disappeared again. I met 4 other walkers who were all heading east towards Stob Diamh and we said the usual hellos.
I think the hardest part was around Drochaid Ghlas where I lost my bearings and started climbing it in the mist. The drops to the sides were steep and fortunately I hadn’t gone too far before I realised I was off my track. Going back I found it hard to get back on the track to go west.
There were a few places where I lost the track in the rocks and then found it again.
There were a couple of sections where I had to walk across sloped slabbed sections of rock. In wet conditions these were at time slippy especially the second area shortly before reaching the summit. I was down on my backside and hands so as not to slip off down the slope.
Due to the mist I often couldn’t see the way ahead until it suddenly loomed ahead in places almost like a picture from Lord of the Rings.
Nearing the top the path appears and disappears in the rocks which were slippy in places because of the frost. On reaching the summit I took a few photos and then stopped to have my lunch and some very welcome hot coffee.
Decision time 3. The weather was starting to get worse and I had to decide whether to follow my modified monty route back towards Stob Diamh then down via Stob Garbh and then SW down the ridge between Alt Coire Chreachainn and Allt Coire Ghlais (exclude the corbett) or to descend south from the summit down to the bottom of Meall Cuanail then head west to the reservoir – this latter route would add a few kilometres on to the walk but would mean that I’d be off the hills before the weather got worse and the light started to go.
Just at this point another walker arrived on the top. We had a chat about walking and it turned out he was from Oban and went walking most weekends – today he had only had time for a short walk up Ben Cruachan. He was about to head off down south track which I had also decided to take and he helpfully showed me the way to find it from the top.
The track down is steep and slippy in places with loose rocky sections. At the foot of Meall Cuanail it heads east down to Coire Cruachan and the path round the west side of the reservoir. Looking back there was still a lot of mist and cloud hiding the hill tops and I decided I’d made the right decision.
However, it was a very long walk back down from the reservoir then up through Loch Awe and back to the car with daylight fading.
by 2dalmatians » Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:36 pm
by GraemeMac » Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:42 pm
Great effort. Thats a big walk in the conditions. Not sure about the title though . Yep the mist and the cold put a different aspect on the hills. That climb up sron na isean is quite steep but when I done it I could see where I was going
I walked today and had a similar problem making out the path or any path with the heavy frost but the first half of my walk was in glorious weather.
I was due to walk yesterday but work sent me down south which turned out to be fortunate. Whats the point of Mwis and bbc weather??
by davetherave » Sun Nov 07, 2010 10:26 pm
Fantastic stuff, that was a big route you crammed in to a short day. Well done indeed.
Some good pics you got there also, loved the ones of the ridge. When we did ben Cruachan we camped at the Reservoir, we decided to leave the Axes and crampons in the tent (wrong descision) We got as far as Ben Cruachan summit and turned back due to the conditions. Had to miss out the best bit, the ridhe. . Another time soon.
We had a similar route mapped out for that weekend as yours, Being better prepaired the following day was a big help though.
This was our route.http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=4147
by Alan S » Sun Nov 07, 2010 11:29 pm
davetherave wrote:Fantastic stuff, that was a big route you crammed in to a short day. Well done indeed
Agree, well done
Great report, i really enjoyed these hills Ben cruachan is one of my favourites
by rockhopper » Sun Nov 07, 2010 11:33 pm
2dalmations - my gps has a moving time of 7 3/4hrs - slow compared to monty's total time of 8 1/2hrs and he also had the corbett ! I saw your report and your weather problems - still it's good to get out
GraemeMac - I was in two minds about going on up Sron an Isean but the weather got a bit better at that point which lulled me into thinknig it might keep improving. I'd like to go back and go up Ben Cruachan again but it'd have to be on a day when I could see the views properly. On the subject of strictly, I'm not a fan....it's Merlin for me but I'd recorded it so as not to miss it.
monty - hope you're OK with the title as it was your route which I was using as a base. Not for the first time though - I think it was also your joining up the Ben Lui 4 which got me thinking and I then did the same 4 but from Dalrigh instead. Oddly enough the guy I met on the top of Ben Cruachan said that he tended to look at weather trends, not individual forecasts - may have been more correct given the recent bad weather
davetherave - I had a look at your report as well, some very nice photos which show what I could've seen yesterday - I think if the ground conditions had been the same as yours I'm sure I wouldn't have tried it on my own and I would've needed my crampons
alan s - from what I've seen in other reports, Ben Cruachan looks a great walk and I'm hoping to go back but in good weather
by Graeme D » Mon Nov 08, 2010 11:10 am
monty wrote:Great effort. Thats a big walk in the conditions. Not sure about the title though .
I dunno Monty - I think it's a cracking title!
rockhopper wrote:I wanted to do one last long walk before winter set in and had the choice of Saturday or Sunday.
Hey rockhopper, you could've bought that tent and made it Saturday AND Sunday with a wee high wildcamp thrown in as well! Really sterling effort in those conditions with limited daylight hours! Well done! I missed out on the Corbett too back in March, and that was after just Cruachan and Stob Diamh (although the deep snow really slowed our progress that day). Let me know when you're going back for the Corbett and I may be tempted to join you!
by rockhopper » Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:33 pm
I haven't slept in a tent since my Boys Brigade days in the late 70's but am hoping to give it try maybe next year - thinking of puitting it on my Christmas list