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Cruachan Horseshoe

Cruachan Horseshoe

Postby snowdonia7 » Sun Feb 05, 2012 7:00 pm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Cruachan, Stob Daimh

Date walked: 03/02/2012

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 12.7 km

Ascent: 1399m

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Yesterday's walk highlighted what was probably a realistic aim given the weather and my injured ankle, so we decided on the Cruachan horseshoe, which we thought would take us about 6 hours. After a lazy start to the day we arrived at the start for the walk at 10.10. The sun was shining and the view out to Loch Awe was fantastic.

Loch Awe.JPG
Loch Awe

From the Falls of Cruachan rail station head under a low bridge which has a rusty metal gate across it.Then up some paving stone steps beside a electricity pylon, almost immediately after passing this a path leads off left into the forestry.The path quickly begins to climb steeply; it is quite narrow, lots of changes of direction and big stones (I was not looking forward to coming back down this).

Eventually the path becomes less steep and leaves the woodland. At this point you cross a high wooden style and then continue along open ground, much of the path was like an ice-rink and I guess this is quite boggy in spring/autumn. Pretty soon the dam comes into view and looks quite impressive, especially with snow clad peaks to the rear.

The dam.JPG
Cruachan dam

The path leads up to a roadway which is followed left all the way to the dam and a footpath at the left hand side. This climbs to a steep metal ladder up to the dam itself. From here head left leaving the dam to pick up a track heading north along the west bank of the reservoir. At the end of the path turn west and start to climb Coire Dearg toward a bealach between Meall Cuanail and Ben Cruachan.

We were soon into the snow line following steps made by previous walkers. Although the top of Ben Cruachan was shrouded in mist the route to the bealach was clear and a little concerning: the last section looked particularly steep although we could see the tracks continued that way, so it must be do-able.

As we drew closer to this final slope it didn't look as daunting; that said a slip would have resulted in a long high-speed glissade, but we felt fairly secure in the steps that had been kicked already.

Neil on the snow slope up to the bealach.JPG
Up towards the bealach

After climbing this section the slope levered off for a short section before a last climb of about 30 metres. Now this was steep and would have resulted in a very fast slide back down in the event of a slip.

No crampons!.JPG
Neil kicking steps

I balanced in the steps that Neil had kicked to take a photo that would convey the steepness of the slope when Neil lost his balance momentarily and almost had an accident - the photo shows that this was in more ways than one :lol:

Easy tiger.JPG
Almost gone

We emerged into the sun and as it was now just after midday we decided to call a lunch stop.

A bite to eat at the bealach.JPG
The bealach before the final climb to Ben Cruachan

We still had almost 300 metres to climb over a distance on the ground of about 700 metres so it was fairly steady. At one point I passed some raised footprints that I guess must be created when the pressure compacts the snow beneath the print and the loose snow around this is blown away.

Icy footprints.JPG
Frozen footprints

The climb to the summit was made in bright sunshine and following the steps left by a previous party we arrived at the summer quicker than I thought we would.

The views at the top were initially fairly good in most directions, but as we got our cameras out the mist rolled in.

Neil on Ben Cruachan.JPG
Neil on Ben Cruachan

Me on Ben Cruachan.JPG
Me on Ben Cruachan

As we had already eaten we didn't wait and pressed on eastwards towards our next objective. First though we had to cross a narrow section that had what looked to be significant drops at each side (I seemed to recall reading a TR that described large sloping slabs at this point). Despite the drops this section was fairly easy with the deep soft snow offering firm footing. The only 'tricky' section wad two 'steps' down shortly after leaving the summit of Ben Cruachan.

A twitchy step down from Ben Cruachan.JPG
Negotiating a step down from Ben Cruachan

Along the ridge.JPG
Ridge from Ben Cruachan eastwards towards Drochaid Ghlas

Once past these steps we made decent progress steadily loosing height before we started to climb again towards Drochaid Ghlas. Not sure what the best line over this section is, but we remained on the ridge until just before the summit then dropped off south to more level ground.

Crossing a wide bealach the views opened up once again and I decided to take some more photos, but the batteries had died in the camera. So we pressed on towards Stob Diamh, which was an easy little climb.

We stopped at the summit for a further bite to eat, but after only a few minutes (during which I removed my gloves to replace the camera batteries) my hands had got quite cold.

So we headed off south, dropping down initially then a short climb to Stob Garbh. Continue on same line for about 200 metres before heading down southern flank to wide bealach before Beinn a' Bhuiridh. At this point head east down towards the reservoir.

We left the snow line and the going underfoot became less stable, but this time my ankle wasn't as bad (I had applied some heavy strapping). We followed a narrow path (with many frozen sections) that followed the east bank of the reservoir.

From the reservoir we followed the tarmac road left; this then bears right to meet the junction with the track we had followed up in the morning.

From here it was simply a case of re-tracing the track through the forestry back to the train station, arriving at 18.15.
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Re: Cruachan Horseshoe

Postby jimandandrea » Sun Feb 05, 2012 8:16 pm

What a brilliant day. You had no power left on the camera - I once was about to take my first pic ... no memory card! Had this mental image of the card stuck in my laptop - Doh! It was a great day and I was not the pic of the day! Cheers. needed cheering up. :D :D
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Re: Cruachan Horseshoe

Postby Redrock » Sun Feb 05, 2012 8:33 pm

It's a great walk round the Cruachan Horseshoe - but very different in your pics from the time I did it last September! I enjoyed reliving it with snow through your pics! Thanks :D . I reckon I would have had my ice axe at the ready on some of those steep slopes you climbed! They look seriously steep! :shock:
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Re: Cruachan Horseshoe

Postby quoman » Sun Feb 05, 2012 10:26 pm

Thats a great report and the pictres are fab
I think the crampons would have been on as well as the ice axe out though on the steep bits :lol: done them last year and when wee hit the climb to Cruachan the clag came in the rest of the day nae views
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