Probably one of the last longer walking trips of the year for me and an extremely enjoyable one it was too. We set off from misty, dark St Andrews at 5.30am aiming to reach Crianlarich around sunrise. The aim was to climb An Caisteal, Beinn a'Chroin and Beinn Chabhair on Saturday and then Ben More and Stob Binnein on Sunday leaving Beinn Tulaichean and Cruach Ardrain for another time. The early morning mist had mostly cleared by the time we started the walk although after a week of heavy rain we expected conditions to be rather boggy. We were not disappointed, in less than five minutes I had already misjudged a leap over one pool and submerged a foot. The other one soon became just as saturated . Definitely time to invest in some new walking boots.
The walk starts off fairly gently along a track before veering off to the right up the slopes of Sron Garbh. We kept to a fairly relaxed pace, the terrain was pathless but not too steep. Unfortunately it involved passing through areas of tall wet grass so we were quite damp by the time we reached the minor summit of Sron Garbh Next came the path up Twistin Hill towards the summit of An Caisteal. A bit of a path here although even without it navigation would have been easy as visibility was still very good. Unfortunately the summit was just within the cloud so no views this time. The wind was a bit stronger at the top so we only took a short break, just enough time for a celebratory wee dram then on to the next one.
Beinn a'Chroin was probably the most interesting of the summits to get too. A very short bit of scrambling made a little trickier by the wet conditions. By the time we reached the top my gloves had joined my socks in being completely soaked through, another thing to add to the shopping list. At the top we found our first tiny patch of snow and a confusing array of tops. Just to make sure we wandered around for a bit visiting the different cairns and taking the obligatory summit photo at each (decided against a wee dram at all of them). Then it was back down the scramble (easier then coming up I thought).
A little way into the descent and we had dropped below the cloud. Unfortunately this allowed us to see how far down and back up again we had to go to reach Beinn Chabhair. The descent to the bealach is pathless and at the time it was fairly wet. We eventually reached the lowest point and began the climb up the grassy slopes towards the summit. By this point the cloud had descended further and a light rain had started but we were still feeling fairly upbeat and making good enough time to be confident of getting back to the road before dark.
We reached the final summit of the day and again stopped only very briefly (still no views) before starting the walk back. We took the route down towards Meall nan Tarmachan, then headed towards the Allt a'Chuilinn, crossing a few tributaries on the way. Part way down the weather cleared, the rain gear came off and we had a nice rest on an outcrop to enjoy the views.
The walk alongside the Allt a'Chuilinn was probably the boggiest of the whole day but by that point my feet couldn't get any wetter so I quite enjoyed splashing through the mud. We joined the West Highland way near the road and wandered along in the fading light. The last part of the walk was a very dull trudge along the side of the road back to the car, which was a welcome sight. Then off to the youth hostel for a hearty meal and some more celebratory whisky!
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