Beinn a' Bhuiridh - 897m
Stob Garbh - 980m
Stob Diamh - 998m
Sron an Isean - 966m
Drochaid Ghlas - 1009m

Ben Cruachan - 1126m

Saturday 14th August 2010

Weather/Conditions: Some cloud on the tops, but only briefly. The forecast was for great weather, although with minimal wind, the sunny skies over the sea never came inland. Still, nice conditions and temperate - not too hot or cold. No rain.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 16.3km / 1700m / 11h 20m
Accompanying: Dougie on all, Diane and Vicky on Beinn a' Bhuiridh

Finally I got to do the horseshoe, a wee long term goal for several years. This comes after an attempt two days shy of five years previously, when Ben Cruachan alone was climbed and then another day just over a year ago when something resembling an extended Dalmally Horseshoe was done around the other three Munros.

But never the Cruachan Horseshoe, until today.

A slightly sweaty pull took us up to the reservoir where the hope of good weather from the west propelled us up the Corbett Beinn a' Bhuiridh - a steep sided mountain with a very flat top. Well we took a slightly-steeper-than-usual route up it, which was essentially straight up the west ridge. There were some big drops but all the rocky parts were easy and I found no problem at all. Then followed lots (and lots) of false summits which culminated in a flat summit plateau bearing a cairn surrounding by about ten loud, bantering hill walkers that seemed not to be the highest point at all. Yet on this flat, bumpy plateau, god only knows where the real summit really is. There's a pretty impressive horn of rock at the eastern end, although we didn't go out there.

Quite a while was spent on top, so we took pictures, ate and drank before moving on. Well the good weather forecast hadn't come through, but maybe later...? Diane and Vicky were heading down now, but Dougie and I headed on to do the full Cruachan ridge. We headed off the northern slopes of Beinn a' Bhuiridh (quite steep and rocky) then came to a broad bealach. Here we separated into two, and Dougie and I headed upwards and onto the Munros.

There was a lot of cloud around on the ridge, but enough visibility to see that this is a very interesting places. Check out the gullies, they bristle with little crumbling pinnacles and the granite thrusts in all sorts of strange directions. It makes for a very interesting walk. We headed across the Munro Top Stob Garbh, onto the Munro Stob Diamh, then out to the Munro Top Sron an Isean. Stob Garbh looks very interesting from here, same since it's out on a limb we had to retrace our steps to Stob Garbh. Then for the real fun.

I'll say it now - the Stob Diamh to Ben Cruachan ridge is simply awesome. Funny that at the time of walking, I'd done most Tops and many ridges in the area, but not this one. Well glad I got to now, because it's just cracking. What was coming up ahead looked enormous, but it was up on Drochaid Ghlas (Munro Top) that things got very interesting. The north ridge of this Top gives a very mountainous atmosphere, narrow with granite blocks and such. Then the ridge to Cruachan only helps this mountainous atmosphere. It's known for having one scrambling step, but the actual hands-on is a one off and there's a nice big hold in the perfect place for lowering yourself off. Beyond this final step we went into the cloud and completed the ridge to Cruachan, but not without a sting in the tail. The bit nobody speaks about is a narrow section with smooth granite blocks and long drops on either side. I found negotiating one particular gap slightly hairy, however we did it without incident.

Now this is a lot of rambling detail, but in short, it is a superb ridge.

Now on the summit of Cruachan, we acknowledged that it was getting dark and that plans had to be altered. We'd cut out Stob Dearg (Munro Top) and head straight down to the Reservoir, missing out Meall Cuanail (another Munro Top, both unclimbed!) as well. We needed a lift back to Crianlarich too from Diane and Vicky who were so patiently waiting for us below.

Well we got down into the coire, noting the fading light but still taking it easy, talking about everything and anything (but mainly the High Tatras...) Then quickly shot down past the reservoir and over the dam. It became very dark at the path down to the train station, where I came to realise I'd left my headtorch in Crianlarich. Dougie had his, (phew) and he led the way while I picked my way down in the shadow of his footsteps. It was a good system really and got me down fine (apart from the occasional slip) since the path is pretty rocky with bits of roots sticking out everywhere.

And then finally down to the power station in the dark, where we rested in the car park until Diane and Vicky came along to get us. We were enormously late! But I should note the weather had cleared by this point and by the time we stepped out of the car at Crianlarich we saw one of the most spectacular starry skies I'd ever seen. Amazing!

Beinn a' Bhuiridh

Stob Daimh

Drochaid Ghlas & Ben Cruachan


Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 11.30am A85
(3.45) 3.15pm Beinn a' Bhuiridh
(5.50) 5.20pm Stob Daimh
(7.20) 6.50pm Drochaid Ghlas
(8.30) 8.00pm Ben Cruachan
(11.20) 10.50pm A85

Written: 2010-09-06