Saturday 31st January 2009
Weather/Conditions: Overcast skies, with some (cold) wind at 400m. While a front was coming in from the west, cold air from the east was pushing it back, leaving the wind coming from an easterly direction. Though it kept the rain away, it didn't bring many clear skies. The weather wasn't too bad, just nothing special
Distance/Ascent/Time:7km / 500m / 6h
I awoke early and had planned to get the 7.30am train to Glasgow Queen Street, before catching the 8.21am train to Arrochar and Tarbet. I'd forgotten to have breakfast but knew that I'd have ten or so minutes in Queen Street to get some food. But I was wrong about this and things didn't go so smoothly. I eventually discovered that there was in fact no train at 7.30am for me to catch. The next train was at 7.45am and it passed through Central Station, not Queen Street. I boarded this train and arrived at Central at 8.05am, frantic about missing the train from Queen Street. My plan B was to take a bus up should I miss the train, but I'd rather not have to do that.
I raced through town without having had any food, and it was harsh. I did however arrive in time, and was sitting on the train after five minutes of walking. I could now relax, I'd buy food on the train (water, chocolate and crisps came to £5.20 ... ouch) and enjoy the journey up. The clouds on the way into town had been toned deep crimsons by the morning sun - it quite beautiful actually, and the sun was out on the way up past Dumbarton and Helensburgh. There were some real characters on the train - there always seems to be on this one - including a group who had taken the time to print out historical facts about each stop on the way. People were pissing themselves laughing as someone read out facts and figures about Dumbarton, Helensburgh, etc... A bit odd but it was a humorous way to begin the day.
My first plan was to climb Ben Reoch, Beinn Bhreac and Tullich Hill from the station, and should time allow, Cruach Tairbeirt afterwards. I left the train station and had climbed 100-150m on Ben Reoch before I realised I realised I need a 'number 2' very badly indeed. Without going into detail, it was back to Tarbet for me. I stopped by the Ben Lomond pub, got a panini and coke and satisfied the call of nature in the process. This unexpected turn-around left me in Tarbet having wasted a lot of time, climbed a lot of vertical metres and gone several kilometres. I felt no urge to re-ascend the tussocky, bog ridden slopes of Ben Reoch (the Luss hills will be for another day) and so changed I plans. It was just past 11 when I finished eating and mum was coming to pick me up at 2. Cruach Tairbeirt was looking to be a go-er and since I was beside the start already (train station) I'd be straight onto the hill.
Onto Cruach Tairbeirt
I crossed underneath the station and headed up the track. I passed an old couple who I asked about routes up (my OS map is very vague, it doesn't show any detail concerning the route up.) and from a quick look at their map, a path led through trees. There would be an initial steep ascent on forestry track then while the forestry track turned to contour around the hillside, a path through the trees would lead out of the trees and up to the summit. I headed up the Forestry Commission track. It was steep and hard work, especially carrying the amount of gear I'd brought along. After 70 metres of steep climbing, this track turned off and a vague path continued upwards.
The forests were very attractive, even if they were for commercial forestry. A lot of hillwalkers seem to have a dislike for such forests, but I'd always liked them, liked the sounds, the smells and the muted light filtering through the trees. Cruach Tairbeirt was no exception and I found these forests to be pleasant to be walking though. The track wound up beside a stream, crossed the stream and then headed up the right bank. I followed that for a while and then it seemed to turn off into the trees. I walked through the trees and then out onto open land. My entrance hole looked awfully unsuspecting and easy to forget, so I made a mental note of it's position. This 'mental note' wasn't needed however, as I picked up a path that wound through the knolls and crags. Ben Lomond was beautiful, it's upper section a perfect snowy cone from here, and views were still opening up to the Arrochar mountains.
After the joys of the forest, walking up to the summit was pure delight. I'd enjoyed the lower parts of the hill (I've always found pine forests beautiful places, planted or not) and now I winding my way up through crags, onto flatter bits and up steeper rises. There were hints at views around every corner. The path would curve up some bank and a new view would open out. What a way to spend the morning and what a contrast to the slogging on Ben Reoch! I was glad I'd come up here. Loch Lomond was in one direction, Long Long was in another before it curved off, and I could see the Cobbler well, although it was partially hidden by Narnain.
At 11.55am I arrived at the top, a mere 40 minutes after I'd started out. The views were stunning, but the light was flat. There were lenticular clouds to the north, stacked one upon the other. The cloud made some other effects, I guess as a result of one front pushing another back. I stayed at the top for an hour and a half, just enjoying myself. There wasn't a soul about and the views to other hills were astounding. They'd be unbeatable would the sun just come out. Maybe another day...
I left the summit and headed down the path, meeting another couple who were heading up. As I traced the path back to the forest, it entered in a different location to where I'd come out, and a well defined path led me back through the trees to the river. When I arrived at the river-side path, I was surprised to see a cairn, marking the turn off point. Even though I'd passed it, I'd missed it on the way up, but nevermind, my alternative ascent route was no more troublesome.
I headed down the path and back to the forestry tracks where I made some calls to family. From there it was an easy ten minutes back along the tracks to Arrochar where I met mum and Christine at the Ben Lomond pub. We went in for food but the didn't seem to have as nice a time as I had earlier. The hot chocolate and chips were fantastic but perhaps other aspects not so. Christine's dog Rosie needed a walk too and we ended up on the Cruach Tairbeirt forestry tracks. It was a nice walk to let the legs cool off a bit, and afterwards we headed back to Glasgow, stopping at Luss on the way.
I look forward to being back on Cruach Tairbeirt, and hope that the next time will see some good weather.