Cruach Ardrain & Beinn Tulaichean from the Wrong Side!

7 03 2011

Sep 2010

Stats: 12 miles, 3419 feet of ascent, 7 hours 20!! :o Me and an unenthusiastic Richard in total clag and cold wind.

Cruach Ardrain from Strathfillan
Cruach Ardrain from Strathfillan

Photos taken on a clearer day
Hoping for a day like the day before when we’d done Ben More & Stobinian in glorious weather, we looked out to low cloud and dullness… I’d read that the best way to tackle the start of our day’s objective was to first walk up the A82 for about a mile and half from Crianlarich and take the path under the railway which is normally used for An Caisteal. After passing the start to that route, the glen track continues until there is a split down to the River Falloch and a bridge across it.

As we approached the split in the track we saw a funny man! He was standing completely motionless in the forest just above the river. Not on a track or anything… not birdwatching… just looking our way. He was stood like that for the whole of our approach and all I can say is that, when we finally got a break in the weather to do An Caisteal 2 days later, he’d gone! He wasn’t even in outdoor clothing from what we could see. :?

After crossing the rather dilapidated bridge, we headed up the boggy path through the resident cattle – one of whom refused point-blank to vacate the path and made us trudge round her into the bog – no doubt with a huge grin when we’d gone, if you can imagine a grinning cow – I can! There were quite a few calves about so we thought it best to humour the cows.

Grey Heights from A82
Grey Heights from A82 road

We were soon at the start of the ridge of Grey Height and by now in the thick of the clag… The ridge was very undulating but had a path all the way – probably as well in such confusing territory. After probably around half an hour, we reached a peak with a cairn. I thought it was way too soon for the summit and anyway, we hadn’t gone up a very steep grassy bit which I knew we had to do. I looked ahead and there was a steep rocky descent which I knew the summit has if you go past it. But it didn’t fit the summit in other ways. I frowned at the map and compass for a while, somehow not noticing Meall Dhamh (which is of course where we were) but decided we must continue.

After the rocky clamber down to a dip the path continued up again. There was a traverse on a little path round the misty drop into Coire Ardrain which didn’t really make me happy but was straightforward enough. Then another dip and rise and the steep nose of Cruach Ardrain proper reared above us. I expected the path to go around the initial rocky end and then up the grass… but it didn’t – it set off contouring around the back. A couple of guys had recently passed us and, just after the start of the contouring path, we came across some sheep sat down and looking very at ease. I wondered aloud which way the guys had gone as they couldn’t have passed the sheep which were hurriedly rising to their feet to leave at the presence of us intruders.

I said we should just head straight up into the clag up the grassiness we could see at the end of the ridge but Richard said we should follow the path. After a bit of hesitation I agreed to follow the contouring path. It contoured for a few more minutes then started to rise diagonally up the back of the peak – obviously the right way then. Not long after, the path set off straight up – more or less vertically. I followed it for a while but then peered up to see how far we had yet to go. All I could see was a vertical wall of grass stretching into infinity above us – I wasn’t happy and nor was Richard – him from an effort point of view and me from fear. I’m fine going up such things but knew we had to come back down it. I peered back down the steepness into the mist – I couldn’t see much but what I could see was steep, rocky and totally unencouraging for a slide.

I’m pretty sure at this point Richard wanted to turn back but, once I’m heading towards a summit, I’m pretty unstoppable – even when I know I’m not going to like coming back down again. Eventually the path traversed again then we reached a col. There was a T junction of paths here but the left hand route was the only one going up so, totally confused about where we were on the mountain by then, left we went. We reached the first summit where we met the 2 guys coming back again. I asked them which way they’d come up and they assured us they’d taken the same route as us – funny the sheep didn’t see them then! We continued across the little dip to the main summit where it was far too cold to stop so I said we’d have a discussion back in the dip.

Back at the dip, I said I really wanted to do Beinn Tulaichean otherwise I’d have all the ascent to re-do from the Balquhiddher side and I didn’t want to have to do that. I also said that I thought the path going the other way from the T junction would be our path to the second Munro. I’d originally wanted to do Cruach Ardrain’s top, Stob Garbh, but decided it would be too hard to locate it in the clag and the ridge back down from it was supposed to be difficult to locate according to the book. Richard said he didn’t want to do any of them and wanted to go back down. But he knew I wanted some company back down the long vertical bit so he reluctantly continued with me. I warned him there would be a longish descent, followed by a nice flat ridge and a very easy ascent of Tulaichean.

I checked the direction of the continuing path from the T junction and it was correct so we continued. When we’d descended for quite a while he complained we were descending an awful long way to have to go back up. I pointed out it had been an easy descent though and that it should be okay going back up and at least we’d then have a path back (we do like our paths I’m afraid).

The path was lovely along the flat ridge and we started the easy and short ascent of Tulaichean. Suddenly Richard said he was stopping right there and would see me on the way back. I thought he was being stroppy due to the weather and lack of views – he’d been holding back for the whole walk so far and we seemed to have been out for ages for such a short walk. But when I looked round, I was confronted by a very haggard looking man and realised he was totally knackered. I think he wasn’t doing well because we’d had a hard day the day before and he is getting less able to do 2 days out in a row – I suppose it will happen to us all. I said I’d be right back and rushed up Tulaichean. True enough, I was back to him in less than 10 minutes.

We then headed back up Cruach Ardrain, me finding it easy and Richard going better on the way back. Of course then it was the dreaded descent. Richard went in front and it was Richard’s turn to wait for me as I was extremely cautious coming back down the vertical bit. At the foot of it we bumped into a guy with his kids and he asked how much further it was to the summit. It’s a shame we didn’t meet him at another point as I was still a bit grumpy about the verticality and unpleasantness of the path at this point so I told him it wasn’t far but I hoped he liked ascending house-sides! He looked a bit put off when I gave him my description of the path – I’m sure they found it okay…

The route back along to Grey Height seemed to take forever and at one point I was following the path when I suddenly felt it was completely wrong. I peered into the mist and decided it was about to descend far too steeply for our outward route so must be wrong. We fished about backtracking for a while until Richard found the correct route. We still weren’t sure we were on course until we finally dropped out of the mist by the stile at the end of the ridge.

We decided to go back down the ‘usual’ route into the forest (although I knew it was reputed to be very boggy) just for variety really. We ended up on our bums once each – me getting very muddy indeed. There was a new forest road which threw us for a while but we found the correct route in time for my main objective – the Crianlarich station tearoom! I had a real yen for a fried egg butty and I was panicking as I could see it would be pushing 5 when we got there. As it turned out, they’re open till 6 so no panic. That sandwich went down really well!

Cruach Ardrain & Grey Heights from Crianlarich
Cruach Ardrain from Crianlarich Forest

Why was this from the wrong side? Well I know I’d have loved it from Balquhiddher – the path between the 2 Munros was superb and I could have avoided the horrible steep path up the back of Cruach Ardrain! I really didn’t like it from the Crianlarich side…

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2 responses

20 02 2014
fedupofuserids

Must have overlooked this one when you first pubished it, its amazing the odd things & people you see out walking!

Cheers for the info on the Balquhiddher approach 🙂

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20 02 2014
mountaincoward

Just as well you missed it when published originally as it had no photos until about last week when I found 3 suitable ones to put in!

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