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Ben Cruachan Ridge Circuit - first solo wildcamp

Route: Ben Cruachan and Stob Daimh

Munros: Ben Cruachan, Stob Daimh

Date walked: 04/06/2012

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 14km

Ascent: 1376m

A few weeks ago I climbed Beinn A Chochuill and Ben Eunaich at Stronmichan and couldn’t take my eyes off of the sharp and jagged peaks on the Ben Cruachan range. I remember thinking how the hell could anyone get up there without ropes and climbing gear! So I decided that I would get back and give them a go very soon.
I had also been keen to try solo wild camping. I have read so many reports and loved the idea of the isolation and being out on the hills late evening and early morning when the views seemed so much more spectacular. In saying that I was also apprehensive about being on my own and wondered if I would actually enjoy that experience?
So I decided early last week that I would take the plunge and go solo and that if possible it would be on Cruachan. The good weather reports and the Jubilee weekend bank holiday conspired to give me the opportunity I had been waiting for.
Its amazing how much more effort is needed when you are packing for an overnight trip, tent, sleeping bag, sleep matt, stove, gas pot, cutlery, cup, food etc etc and how much more important it is not to forget anything essential. Pleased to say that all went as planned and nothing major left behind.
Having watched my son Jamie make the final save and then score the winning penalty kick in his P7/S1 game (there was as much drama as a champions league final!! Lol) at the opening of the new Kippen Football pitch Ruby and I left the village in excellent spirits.
We reached the parking area at the Cruachan station, as described in the route just after 6pm and were soon on our way climbing steeply up through the woods surrounding the Alt Cruachan.
After around 30 minutes we gained our first views to the circuit as we climbed the very unsteady Deer Fence ( a far more challenging obstacle than the Cruachan Slabs!!!) I honestly thought I was going to plunge down the ravine as I stepped over the top!!
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First views of the Dam and circuit


The weight of the pack really slowed me down compared to my usual pace (now near dead stop instead of just very slow!!!) After around an hour we reached the Dam and the next obstacle! The route report tells you to climb up the ladder to the Dam to reach the Resevoir and I never gave that a second thought... until we reached it and I remembered Ruby!!!
Now she is a very agile and clever dog but even she knows she is not that good!
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ummm! I dont think so!


After a quick look around I realised we could hop over the dam wall and clamber up the rock slabs to rejoin the route, so problem solved!
It was at this point that I got my first real look at the horseshoe of hills which in the late evening gloom looked very imposing and menacing. I really felt that I could have been the only human being for miles around.

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Cruachan resevoir


After around 15mins we were off the path and heading up the rugged terrain of Coire Dearg. And then about halfway up I got a shock when I looked back to see 3 fellow walkers about 100 yards behind me – where had they come from – must have been teleported in or something!!???
They caught up with me just before the final push to the Beallach. I shouted over to them to say hi and ask where they were camping. I explained that this was my first “solo” and that although I’m sure they would have been good company I didn’t want to camp close to them. We had a laugh about that and they said they were heading up beyond the Beallach which was where I had planned to camp (near the Little Lochan) and that in any case this was a mountain range and must surely have space to accommodate 4 little tents!
It was around 930pm when we reached the Beallach and I was apprehensive about being able to set up the tent and stove before it got too dark. Not to worry though everything went as planned (I have a Vango Banshee which really is mega simple to put up) and mother nature was kind enough to keep the rain and wind at bay. (really not sure how I would have kept things inside the tent dry if it had been raining? Need to think about the process required for that so I am prepared in future)
With dinner of Pasta (dried mountain food) and a half bottle of sainsbury’s finest merlot, Ruby and I settled in for what I thought would be a very pleasant evening.
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my first solo wild camp


First note to self – remember to pitch the tent on flatter ground, otherwise you roll into the side of the tent along with all the kit and one pretty heavy spotty dog! The tent is a “two man” but then I am 6ft 4 tall and about 2 foot wide so not much space to swing a cat never mind Ruby!
Second note to self – bring a sleeping bag that is warm enough to cope with temps around freezing. I had gone for an ultra light Berghaus bag that just didn’t cut it last night. Ended up inside the sleeping bag inside a survival bag – still cold!

The views over to the Sea islands were sensational. The pinks, greys and blues of the sky don’t show up that well in the photo’s but they were very special indeed.
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sunset


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Views from Chateau Banshee!!


Having settled down around 11pm I had set my alarm for 430am to catch the sunrise however I was cold and restless most of the night so kept floating in and out of sleep. At 4am I decided to have a quick look outside and got the fright of my life when a chap walked straight past the front of the tent, heading up towards the Beallach. He must have set out at 2am or earlier...unless of course I saw the ghost of “the Cruachan Walker”!!!
After a few minutes I decided I might as well get going. The weather was fabulous and I knew the views were going to be something special.
We were packed by 5am and moved off to the left of the Lochan up the steep slopes of Cruachan
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The early morning wind was very cold and buffeting quite badly - I am glad it was blowing in a westerly direction away from the steep drop into the Corrie! The going was a little slow as I was still tired and carrying the heavy pack, and I was almost trance like as I picked my way through the rocks and boulders. In a way this was almost like a form of meditation.
As we gained height the views in all directions opened up. The visibility was phenomenal and there were some really strange cloud formations too.
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Big boulder section on ascent of Ben Cruachan


Finally we reached the summit at around 7am. Probably the most exposed summit I have been on to date.

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Ben Cruachan Summit

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Strangely there was no wind at all on the Summit and I contemplated stopping for a brew but the Cruachan Slabs were playing on my mind and I admit to having some butterflies as I looked over towards them and the ridge walk round to Stob Diamh

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looking over to the ridge walk to Stob Diamh

I decided that once I got to the other side of the slabs - either the long way down and around or straight across them- we would stop for breakfast, much to Ruby’s disappointment!. So off we went down the steep descent. I lost the main path at one point and ended up bum sliding down some rocks. Ruby didn’t like the look of this route at all so went back and found the main path. Next thing I knew she was waiting for me below to finish my scramble!! The slabs looked more menacing the closer I got but I was determined to at least try the crossing – conditions were dry and walking over the rocks had felt very secure all day. In any case I was already very tired and loathed the idea of losing height unnecessarily!!

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When I got to the slabs there seemed to be 2 routes – the high way and the low way – I had seen pics of people on the high route before but it looked a bit too steep for Ruby. So we set off on the lower route with some apprehension. I had visions of getting stuck halfway and having to wait hours on my own for help! My fears proved unfounded and we made it across with no problems after only a few minutes.
Once through the slabs we found a nice little spot for some warm breakfast (Custard and Apple crumble ala Mountain Food – actually very tasty) and enjoyed the views back to Cruachan

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Probably the best breakfast in the world!

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Unusual cloud formation over Ben Cruachan - looks like a giant spaceship vapour trail

So fed and watered we set off along the ridge walk to Stob Diamh via Drochaid Ghlas. It was a glorious morning and there wasn’t a soul in sight anywhere. What a privilege it was to have walked the entire ridge all on my own. The terrain was always interesting with plenty of steep scrambly bits and other flatter sections which let me take in the views all around.
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I was extremely tired walking along the ridge, very low on fluids and seriously contemplating dropping down the Corrie and heading home. However i was so close to finishing the route and I just could not have got better weather, and decided I had to carry on. So I started rationing my drinks to one sip at a time and kept my eye out for a little lochan or somewhere I could find some water to boil up.
And so 5 hours after setting out from the camp we made it to the summit of Stob Diamh. Very very tired but delighted at the same time.
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Stob Diamh

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One for the Ruby scrapbook

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Beinn a Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich


And so off we went to tackle the last climb of the day up the slight climb to Stob Garbh. Looking over to the Cruachan it was amazing to see the little spot where I had spent my first night wild camping on my own

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First wild camp spot - just at the Beallach

I loved the experience even though it had been a very cold night and I’m now looking forward to many more wild camping trips and If I learn from my mistakes I know I will have some great adventures – in comfort!!.

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Comments: 18



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2dalmatians


User avatar
Location: Stirling
Occupation: Operations Director
Interests: Walking, tartan army, dugs, good banter
Activity: Walker
Pub: inn at kippen
Mountain: not found it yet
Place: Trossachs
Gear: Boots
Camera: Olympus tough
Ideal day out: no rain, no wind, no work, blue skies :-)
Ambition: Eat a ghost chillie :-)

Munros: 38
Corbetts: 3
Grahams: 2
Donalds: 2
Sub 2000: 7



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Statistics

2012

Trips: 16
Distance: 178.9 km
Ascent: 13503m
Munros: 20
Donalds: 1
Sub2000s: 3

2011

Trips: 12
Distance: 112 km
Ascent: 10118m
Munros: 14
Corbetts: 1

2010

Trips: 14
Distance: 158.5 km
Ascent: 12375m
Munros: 11
Corbetts: 2
Grahams: 2
Donalds: 1
Sub2000s: 2


Joined: Aug 17, 2010
Last visited: Apr 20, 2014
Total posts: 341 | Search posts




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