Stob Binnein - 1165m
Stob Coire Bhuidhe - 857m
Stob Garbh - 959m
Cruach Ardrain - 1046m
Beinn Tulaichean - 946m
Stob Glas - 833m
Meall Dhamh - 814m
Thursday 4th May 2009
Weather/Conditions: Mainly sunny and very warm all day. Ben More and Stob Binnein were cooler where the sky was primarily overcast, but things brightened up as the day went on. I forgot sun cream, but it turned out not to be too much of a problem. There was a wind from the east throughout the day, strength varying from time to time.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 24.4km / 2300m / 9h
I caught the 8.40am train at Dalmuir Station, arriving at Crianlarich at 10.10am. The weather during the journey suggested to me that I was going to be spending some portion of the day in cloud. I didn't really want to, but with cloud obscuring Ben Lomond and The Cobbler it seemed inevitable. I knew conditions could change, because forecasters suggested that the sun would be out for most of the day. When I got off at Crianlarich, I enquired about sun cream in the local shop. It was priced a little higher than I could afford because the train ticket had used up most of my money (I took a gulp when I discovered the train would cost me £19...) and I left without buying. I took my chances with the sun, because although it was lightly overcast, Ben More was now clear and the cloud could disappear altogether.
I walked east out of Crianlarich, expecting a short walk to reach the foot of Ben More. In the end, it took 40 minutes. I never thought the start by Benmore Farm was so far out, and I walked along the grassy verge as lorries flew by, hoping that around the next corner, I could get off the road and start the climb to Ben More.
My intention for today was to go a little long distance and clock up a few more kilometres than normal. My first shot at this route in September 2008 revealed that should I travel at a full-blown pace, I would tire myself out and wind up running on empty. I didn't want to do this of course and made a conscious effort to walk in a rhythm, at a pace that would never burn me out. I followed the zigzagging track before cutting off in the direction of Ben More's summit.
I was surprised to find that I could walk at a comfortable but brisk pace and never be burned out. I climbed to the higher reaches of the mountain in reasonable time, walking past the corrie with it's dry stone wall and then through the crags above. The views were wonderful, and with light cloud above, I knew I'd be on top in the sun.
I followed the path to the top, where a cairn first greeted me, followed by the trig point itself. It had taken 95 minutes up get up, September had seen me up in 90. Did I go too quickly, and would I burn myself out? I was sweating, my legs had had a good workout but I couldn't locate the tiredness. 95 minutes to the top and I'm not tired? It didn't seem right, but I was proud of it and didn't mind much as long as I wasn't going to burn out later.
After five or ten minutes on Ben More, I continued onto Stob Binnein. Following the crags just off the summit of Ben More, I had a quick descent to Bealach-eadar-da-bheinn, and the subsequent climb to Stob Binnein felt as much of a slog as the climb to Ben More. It was a speedy ascent, and it seemed like no time until I was up. On the summit, I was met with many people coming and going - a big contrast to Ben More. I spoke to one guy in particular about our own hill experiences, about our day so far and when and where we both had our walking-above-the-clouds moments. He'd ascended from Inverlochlarig, commenting that the ridge was a long and slightly torturous route. I'd considered going to Stob Coire nan Lochain which lies on this route, but now a little tired, it looked like more effort than I could care to do. I took a panorama from Stob Binnein and headed onwards to Cruach Ardrain.
I descended half way to Bealach-eadar-da-bheinn before cutting down Stob Binnein's western slopes. The going was a lot easier compared to when I first came this way in September - perhaps because I'd placed such an emphasis on packing light. In September I'd been wearing heavy winter boots, now I was wearing lightweight trail boots. Before I set out in the morning, I'd decided to bring a small rucksack and pack accordingly. To decide that anything that didn't fit wasn't coming certainly helped me in keeping the weight down - I'd had a tendency before to throw anything in the rucksack. Down at the bealach between Stob Binnein and Cruach Ardrain, it was much warmer and the sun was now also out. I realised I had no sun cream, and knew that should I stay out, the consequences wouldn't be pleasant. I became slightly intimidated by the sun's presence. So as I climbed through Coire Bhuidhe beneath a June sun, a fleece was the only reasonable way to cover up. On went my fleece, and out poured the sweat...
In September, I made an casual promise to myself that next time, I'd find another route to ascend Cruach Ardrain asides Coire Bhuidhe. It had been torture that time around. But I was back once more because it seemed like the easiest option. I wanted to climb Stob Coire Bhuidhe, a top which I unknowingly omitted last time. The ascent through the corrie wasn't as bad as I'd remembered. It was hotter than before and the bugs were swarming, but all was okay. I emerged near the summit of Stob Coire Bhuidhe and arrived at it's summit soon after, at 2.45pm.
Then it was a short climb to Stob Garbh, where I arrived at 3.20pm. The descent from the summit was as arduous as I remembered it to be. More than once, cliffs would bar the way, leaving me to find an alternative route down. Scrambling was minimal, but route finding here was probably the most difficult out of anywhere I'd go today. When it came for me to climb Cruach Ardrain, I avoided the steeper east face and cut around the steep eastern slopes to to take an easier approach.
With the sun in the western sky, the steep east face allowed me some refuge from the sun. It being one of the few shaded areas, I stopped for a rest. I was aware that boulders fields lay around about, and that the stacked, crumbling cliffs above me were the source of these. I found it funny that as I sat, I wondered to myself, could the crags above come flying down as I sat, by chance? I was surely being irrational. I felt a little anxiety, but such thoughts were instinctive and a natural reaction. I put the thought to the back of my head and relaxed in the shade. After adequate rest, it was a brief climb up to the summit of Cruach Ardrain, via. a gully on the south face.
Beinn Tulaichean was, like in the past, an easy walk from Cruach Ardrain. This was similar to September 2008, when I made this one final push to Tulaichean, having already climbed over Ben More, Stob Binnein and Cruach Ardrain. But I noticed that I felt a lot different to last time. I felt stronger, and I still had energy. I almost contemplated making the long journey to Beinn a' Chroin, I felt so good. I gave myself a rest at Beinn Tulaichean's summit, lying in the sun, in the peace.
I never went on to Beinn a' Chroin in the end (next time...) because as I lay on Beinn Tulaichean, I realised that should I descend now, I could catch a train and be home in reasonable time. Before I did so though, I'd get one last top, Stob Glas, which was my last summit on the Ardrain-Tulaichean group. But I lay in the silence, enjoying the sun and absence of noise. Beinn Tulaichean has always been special in this way to me, and has always been a welcoming and secluded final summit to sit on and reflect on the days efforts. I always look forward to returning to this hill.
Stob Glas, Meall Dhamh and Descent
I left Beinn Tulaichean, heading for Stob Glas, a top just west of Cruach Ardrain. I contoured the western slopes of Ardrain before making the brief climb to the top. Several crags had to be negotiated, but asides this, progress was relatively easy. I walked upon the bloodstained skeleton of a ram at one point, which was none too welcome. I felt a little shock at the sight actually - an instantaneous jolt, a response to the unexpected sight of bones and blood. Any flesh had been ripped clean. It seemed to me that such a reaction is automatic and could be built in to humans... In the end I couldn't resist taking the camera out and soon moved on, reaching the summit of Stob Glas a few minutes later.
From Stob Glas, I traversed Cruach Ardrain above Coire Cruaiche bound for Meall Dhamh, a top I'd been to in September. But I was getting tired, and picked up the path to the top of Meall Dhamh, where I stayed briefly. I didn't stick around for long for the train was at 7.26pm and it was now 6pm. At this point the plan was to descend to the A82 car park in Glen Falloch and follow the A82 to Crianlarich. This would be a 6.4km walk from Meall Dhamh, and I was concerned I wouldn't make in time it with my current levels of strength.
When I arrived at Grey Height, I looked down to Crianlarich, observing the lack of trees left in the forests. Could a route directly through the forestry be possible? I considered my route carefully as this place was avoided by nearly all hillwalkers for being damn near impossible to negotiate. I was sure I could do it, and I should save time too. Intending to follow the breaks in the forest, I left Grey Height, heading not towards Glen Falloch, but to Crianlarich.
I crossed the stile below, and began following my own route. I was surprised to find that there was a path and when I reached the forestry tracks, a cairn to mark the turn off had been built. My guess is that provided you can arrive at this cairn without getting lost, a route from Crianlarich to Cruach Ardrain is very possible. But as I stood at this forestry track, I could only guess the way to go next. My map was outdated, so with nothing else to go on, I left paths behind and descended through open ground in a direct line to Crianlarich. I reached trees, and had no option but to go through them. When they're planted so densely, this creates problems and I fought through the branches, arriving at Allt Coire Ardrain - the river that flows off Cruach Ardrain. Knowing that it led to Crianlarich, I followed its bank until I emerged out by another forestry track. A study of the map gave me a guess as to where I was, and so I followed this track west, until I came to a T-junction, turning right.
And I sincerely hope that the knocked over sign at this junction saying "Warning: Chemical Spraying in Progress" (or something to that effect) wasn't relevant. It didn't matter to me anyway - I followed this track for several hundred metres, arriving at a signpost pointing the way to Crianlarich. I was back at the train station at 7.10pm, exhausted and beaten after the fight through the forest. I'd looked better, but I didn't care too much, because four Munros and establishing a direct line Grey Height-Crianlarich was more than enough to make me a happy man.
In the end, the train arrived early but sat at the station for about twenty minutes - I heard rumours that an assault had taken place and sure enough, the police did arrive. It was good to get going when we did - I arrived home not far off 10pm.
Stob Garbh (330˚ North)
Meall Dhamh (160° North)
(0.00) 10.10am Crianlarich
(0.40) 10.50am Foot of Ben More
(2.15) 12.25pm Ben More
(3.10) 1.20pm Stob Binnein
(5.45) 3.55pm Cruach Ardrain
(6.20) 4.30pm Beinn Tulaichean
(9.00) 7.10pm Crianlarich