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Chill Sheep on a Hot Day on... uh, Which Hill Am I Climbing?
by aaquater » Mon Jun 22, 2020 2:40 pm
Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chochuill, Beinn Eunaich, Ben Cruachan, Stob Daimh
Date walked: 26/06/2019
Time taken: 7.5 hours
Distance: 21 km
Ascent: 2320m1 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Was this the nicest weekend of the year? If not, then it was definitely up there.
...sure, it wasn't actually a weekend, but Wednesday and Thursday were supposed to be absolutely picturesque, and there was a chance of that extending to Friday as well. 2-3 days in succession. With both eyes closed, that's a weekend.
Anyway, keeping the eyes closed and not using this time to get some views would've been such a shame; fortunately, since I hadn't yet progressed to the working-full-time stage, my biggest concern was where to go, not if I could afford to. I'd had my eye on the Cruachan area for a while - and if there's nice weather everywhere, doesn't it make more sense to go further west? - so I hopped on the morning train, hoping I chose my location well. Judging by the views greeting me at Lochawe station, I would not be disappointed.
The start of the walk led along the A 85. Fortunately, while there was reasonable traffic, I had a path at my disposal all the way to the junction with B 8077, where I was heading. Then, shortly after the bridge over Allt Mhoille, I turned left, leaving asphalt behind in favour of a track. Following a short stretch around barns, I started picking up altitude on the track leading above Allt Mhoille, which would eventually feed into the tunnel system running under these massifs. I wouldn't follow it for that long, though, planning to leave the track and head straight up the slope shortly before it crossed Allt Lairig Ianachain.
The track wasn't passing through full-on farmland anymore, but I was still encountering quite the number of sheep. Speaking of; whenever I approach sheep, they tend to flee pretty quickly. These ones didn't. Initially, I just found it surprising that they would allow me to get so close. Then, seeing a sheep standing right by the track, I decided to watch it, wondering when I would cross the threshold distance that would trigger the sheep to walk away. Our interaction went roughly like this:
I walked up the track.
The sheep noticed me approaching and looked at me.
I came closer.
The sheep remained in place, gazing at me while chewing down on the grass. An unspoken question was hanging in the air: 'Are you seriously going to come right here, where I'm grazing?'
I took a few more steps.
Still keeping me in sight, the sheep came to the conclusion that I was, indeed, going to follow the track. With a bleat, it moved a few metres further, almost pointedly slowly.
Now, I'm not an expert on sheep behaviour. But this was such a perfect picture of unadulterated exasperation, I would've expected it from a cartoon, not reality
After successfully annoying the local sheep, I started ascending the SW slopes of Beinn Eunaich. Not much can be said about that; it was simply a steep, grassy slope, where I had to take a breather every few metres, while the views around me were opening up. I was relieved to finally reach the shoulder, where a path led towards the summit. Unfortunately, I also managed to hop into the mindset of 'I'm almost there'. In short: nope. When I ascended on the shoulder, I probably wasn't even at 650 metres. The summit of Beinn Eunaich was about 350 altitude metres away. In terms of pure ascent, starting from the point where I left the track, the shoulder wasn't even halfway...
The shoulder, however, had a path, so the remaining distance went by quickly, at least objectively speaking. And man, were the views worth it!
The ridge between the two Beinns was quite gentle and, again, had a path I could follow; aided by the wonderful views either side, this was an extremely pleasant section to walk, and I was standing on a'Chochuill before I knew it. A pause to have a bite and something to drink was still appreciated, though, as the perfect weather meant the air got pretty hot even at almost 1000 metres.
Speaking of Ben Starav, I must admit... it's only now as I'm writing this report that I looked at the map properly and could say which one it is with any confidence. But while I was walking, I often found myself thinking, 'So it's down to the bealach, then up Sron nan Isean, and then I'll just follow the ridge to Ben Starav' - or something of the sort. And then I'd realise I messed up. For some reason, I just got Starav and Cruachan totally confused in my head. It doesn't even make much sense, as my train ticket said Falls of Cruachan, and not having access to a car, Ben Starav didn't even figure on my plans for future walks. Who knows why that was.
Anyway, no matter the name of the hill, I first had to make it to Lairig Noe, down a slope that ended up being a lot steeper in parts than I thought it would be. About two thirds down, I had to start making quite a lot of zig-zags in order not to lose contact with the surface; the reunion would've been far from pleasant. I made it down successfully, though.
Lairig Noe had two sides to it. I mean... also literally, it's a bealach after all, but figuratively too. I expected the Beinn a'Chochuill hillside to be easy, but it was tricky. I expected the Sron nan Isean hillside to be scarier, but it really wasn't. Sure, there were boulders all over the place, as the map suggested, but in terms of ascent, that wasn't a downside at all, as they provided convenient handholds and resting places. I can easily say that I enjoyed going up Sron nan Isean a lot more than going down Beinn a'Chochuill.
From Sron nan Isean, it was only a short hop along the ridge to Stob Daimh, my third Munro of the day. As I was rejoining an official route and a path, I thought I was leaving any hardships behind.
Well... Yes and no would've been the initial answer. Sure, there was a path on the ridge, and I was grateful for it. The ridge was nice and offered beautiful views left, right, and centre. Still, given that it was a ridge, the ascent and descent actually required can sort of disappear from the map, so seeing the path go way down both before and after Drochaid Ghlas was a bit surface-level annoying. But going up and down is sort of to be expected in the mountains... so up and down I went, eventually making it to Ben Cruachan and sitting down on the relatively small summit, revelling in the fact that I made it.
What I ought to say here is that I did this walk before signing up here, and the way I made schedules was literally with a ruler on the map. Such schedules were still usually pretty okay, but this one turned out really lousy. I was way behind already on Beinn Eunaich, regained that time effortlessly on Beinn a'Chochuill and Stob Daimh, and was too slow once again on the way to Ben Cruachan. According to the initial plan, I was to descend to the Cruachan Reservoir and hop onto Beinn a'Bhuiridh before taking the train back, but with the time I had left, that didn't look likely. Still, I thought, 'If I run down Ben Cruachan, I should make up enough time to make it.'
About running down Ben Cruachan, there are generally two ways to descend its southern shoulder: 1) slow and steady, or 2) much too fast. As I wasn't a fan of the second scenario, trying to find a trustworthy enough route down the sandy, dusty, scree-filled slope took so long, Beinn a'Bhuiridh already fell into the realm of impossible by the time I reached Bealach an Lochain. Some other time, then - and since that meant I had freed a chunk of time for this journey, I decided to make the short ascent and finish the day by ascending Meall Cuanail.
Back in Bealach an Lochain, I rejoined the path down Coire Dearg, losing altitude swiftly, but still having to take extra care where I place my feet at times. All was well, however, up to a point almost by the reservoir where the ground turned boggy and I lost the path. Cursing my ability to always do that, I squelched to the track - but given I had it in plain sight, it would've taken some extra effort to miss it From there, a good track took me around the reservoir, leading to the dam.
Then it was just a matter of climbing down the dam and following the track to the point where the path leading to the station would branch off. I found it quite surprising that this path isn't shown on the map, but I found it regardless, and after a short boggy stretch around Allt Cruachan, I entered the forest, welcoming the shade it provided. Yeah, it was about 6 PM by that time, but as I was below 300 metres now, the air was still pretty hot.
The path led pretty much level for quite a long time, and then made several leaps in order to reach the station. I found myself thinking that it didn't really have to mimic the waterfalls too just because it followed Allt Cruachan...
But I got to see a part of the country I hadn't been to before, pretty much at its best. The route I took often made me wish I would've experienced it alongside my uncle, who got me into hillwalking. If the opportunity ever comes, I'll now know where to go.
by Jaxter » Mon Jun 22, 2020 3:24 pm
by Jaxter » Mon Jun 22, 2020 3:37 pm
Sheep are like sand people - they walk single file to hide their numbers
by aaquater » Mon Jun 22, 2020 5:06 pm