Stob Binnein - 1165m
Stob Garbh - 959m
Cruach Ardrain - 1046m
Beinn Tulaichean- 946m
Meall Dhamh - 814m
Sunday 7th September 2008
Weather/Conditions: Overcast locally but with sun about - particularly sunny to the north west - I was jealous of anyone in the Glen Coe/Mamores area, they would have got the early morning sun. Very windy on Stob Binnein otherwise a breeze elsewhere. Cloud base consistently at 1100m meaning Ben More and Stob Binnein were cloud capped but both emerged at some point during the day.
A New Personal Record
This was one stonker or a route, taking in a distance of 19km and 2200 metres of ascent. It all took eight hours over some great (and new) mountains. I climbed three new Munros - four total - having already climbing Tulaichean many years before. (listed as second hillwalk on the site) Something felt pretty special about this day and although the weather could have been nicer, it was a day that I really came to enjoy. It was also a very hard day, very very taxing on my legs and feet and by the end I couldn't walk uphill at more than a slow pace. Still, I was in good spirits the whole way and managed to keep myself well rested as well as eating and drinking lots.
After a pretty early start, up as early as 6am and getting out the door early, dad dropped me off by Benmore Farm at 8.40. It was an early start and would give me the whole day to climb. I knew of the existence of a sign by the road which gave walkers directions to the mountain but when we drove out of Crianlarich I found it and parked beside it. I followed it over the stile and then onto the zigzagging path. Ben More towered in front to a summit one thousand metres above. However daunting this looked, the track followed an easier gradient than I'd expected. A party of 4 were ahead and there was also one guy beyond them. Once the zigzags had ended, I knew there would be a small cairn by the track indicating the route. I asked about to see if anyone knew if there was an actual path up, but got no replies asides "follow the guy ahead, he'll know". I followed him but overtook him as he stood with a pair of binoculars by that obvious cairn. Maybe not so obvious if you had your head to the ground, but I managed to spot it instantly.
I headed upwards, at the beginning of 1000 vertical metres of unrelenting slog. However, I quickly learnt it really wasn't that bad and the angle of the slope made for quick progress. Additionally, the foreshortening effect of Ben More made the gradient seem a lot easier than it really must have been. I worked my way up and around 600-700 metres picked up a defined path, from there heading beside the small wall which bordered the corrie. With the other five walkers now below, I headed into the cloud and continued on following the path. It was now that I was feeling the ascent. I didn't feel tired as such but at the same time moving quickly felt more difficult than before. Soon enough, I came across a cairn and then a few metres beyond I stopped by the trig point.
I was at the summit of Ben More an hour and a half after leaving. It seemed odd that the ascent didn't seem all it had been cracked up to be. I was feeling well and after a couple of middle-of-cloud pics I headed back down the other side of the hill, stopping briefly for some food and a piss behind a sheltered rock :) From there I followed the path down to the broad Bealach-eadar-da-bheinn ("pass between two hills") where I found there were some views again. I didn't stop because underneath the cloud lay Stob Binnein and that was my next goal. I'd rested a bit already so far and with Ben More behind me now I crossed the pass and headed straight up the path and back into cloud. There were no views and Stob Binnein became an easy angled slog, With altitude, the wind picked up and I was soon getting soaked by water droplets. The weather here was not pleasant... The path soon brought me up to Stob Binneins summit and I was on top 50 minutes after leaving Ben More.
Stob Garbh to Cruach Ardrain
I descended once more, trying to get out of the cloud, the drizzle and the high winds. Soon I was back at the pass and I descended down the west side of the hill, heading for the col between Cruach Ardrain and Stob Binnein. I was surprised that although I'd already ascended 1300 metres I was still feeling good and would head onto the next Munros to see how I got on.
I headed at an angle down the tussock-y and stony slopes to the col. The bottom of my foot was feeling painful but I put that down to walking on an odd angle. I ended up at the bottom, in a pretty enclosed valley. My signal had gone and I was due a phone call home so instead of going to Tulaichean, I headed straight up Ardrain and could hopefully get some signal. It was a slog to get up, and now my strength was beginning to fade. It was a little hotter now the sun was out (Ben More and Stob Binnein were still in cloud, both being over 1100m high) I worked on climbing the slope to Stob Garbh.
When I crested the ridge beneath Stob Garbh, signal came back and I phoned home briefly. From there I headed up the ridge to Stob Garbh which was steep at times but all manageable. Once again it was a good slog and I soon discovered the reasoning behind the name Stob Garbh. ("rough hill") Standing on top, the slope down to the bealach before it rose to Ardrain was lined in tiers of rock steps, and as I headed down the other side, each one had to be descended which involved a bit of scrambling. No problems however, it was quite entertaining.
The next challenge was the ascent to Ardrain which was one I hadn't realised could be problematic. From Stob Garbh, I'd noticed it was alarmingly steep and looking on at it offered no clear way up. I contemplated traversing the mountain to the south side and take an easy angled slope to the top but when I started climbing, a path wound its way through the crags. This was so steep and it was pretty dangerous - a fall would have you lying in little bits 100 metres below. At the same time, I was surprised at how little the exposure didn't bother me. Several inches away from where I stepped was an ugly fall, but where the path was obvious, I scrambled up quickly without any problems.
It was all easy until I came to one section where I needed a little inspiration. I was relying on a downwards-angled, gritty and wet foot hold to get up a section and while I searched around a bit for other routes, nothing came. The overhanging rocks above looked as if they were to fall any time soon and I wanted up as soon as possible. At the same time I was amazed how calm I was but how quietly intense things were. In the end I used a clump of grass to pull myself up and it gave me the "handhold" I needed to pull my weight upwards with safety. I was sure I'd learnt lessons from Beinn Narnain on the 25th November 2007 but this felt like the same situation. Now I was at the point of no return. I knew such behaviour got me into shit before and I hoped no tougher sections would arise. They didn't and after an easy pull up to the top I walked straight onto the summit. There I met two guys who I chatted to for a while.
Ardrain was my 14th Munro, and would turn into the last new one of the day. Now I knew it was all easier ground from here. The two other guys were heading to Tulaichean and I was keen to do so myself and revisit an old hill. Maybe I could get some pictures I was too young to take before.
Beinn Tulaichean - my first time here in six years
I left Cruach Ardrain and headed off to Tulaichean. I could feel my strength going now and food was also getting low but the ridge was easy and refreshing. It was nice to be back on a peak I had some old, old memories of. I arrived at the top of Tulaichean as everyone around left. I took some photos but sat and eventually lay down, nearly asleep. No people, cars, planes or anything. The world was nearly silent and I was enjoying the quiet. Eventually the Ardrain guys arrived. I stayed around a bit more and got some pictures, discussed routes of getting back to Crianlarich by but soon I left. It was nice to be on Tulaichean and is definitely a hill I have a bit of fondness of.
The Long Descent Back to Crianlarich via. Meall Dhamh
Food was low. I finished the bread I had brought and now had a packet of Chilli Heatwave Doritos left. I was saving them for the bottom. To get back to Crianlarich, I reascended Ardrain most of the way and turned off by a cairn near the top. A path took me down and onto the NW spur where I, exhausted having climbed over 2000 metres worked my way back. Now it was a case of just getting on with it. Mum and dad were coming back to meet me and my dreadfully slow progress meant I'd be a bit late, but I let them know. As the last top of the day, I took some pictures from the top of Meall Dhamh before heading back down over Grey Height and down by the plantations. It had clouded over a bit by now but I wasn't bothered and headed down the indistinct path through the long grasses to the old bridge which is in a bit of a state now. It was a 10-15 minute walk over the track, under the railway and over the field back to the car where I arrived exhausted, and having met the two guys from Tulaichean. They headed around Stob Glas and into Glen Falloch which may have been an easier way but it was no wonder they were back first - I wasn't exactly moving fast.
We left the car park and stopped at Inveruglas for water and Mars Bars just as they were closing for the day. We got there in time, just. From there we headed down the A82 to home. What a day :-)
The next day I went rock climbing for the first time in several years, and is not something to do following a day like this. Perhaps I'll one day be able to do the seven Crianlarich Munros in one go but at least until the following summer, that's a bit of a dream.
(0.00) 8.40am Benmore Farm
(1.30) 10.10am Ben More
(2.20) 11.00am Stob Binnein
(4.10) 12.50pm Stob Garbh
(4.50) 1.30pm Cruach Ardrain
(5.30) 2.10pm Beinn Tulaichean
(6.50) 3.30pm Meall Dhamh
(8.00) 4.40pm River Falloch car park