It’s been about 6 weeks since my last adventure in the hills. With absolutely no exercise in that time and a lot of drinking alcohol and eating bad food I planned to do a short and simple walk to ease me back into it lightly. Not long after getting the map out though I had decided on a not so short and simple route up Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean. The way I see it, I hate the long drives to the further away Munros, so I’m delaying the inevitable by finishing all the closer ones first then I’ll be forced into some long journeys soon enough!
To back up the laziness in driving, I didn’t tackle this route the same way as it’s usually walked as the drive was longer than just jumping up the A82 to Crianlarich. I stopped at the big layby roughly a minute or two before Crianlarich and set off about 1pm. Getting later and later these days which won’t be able to last long as the winter months are just around the corner.
I started off through the gate and immediately put my foot ankle deep in the mud. This boggy ground was a sign of things to come as the whole ascent towards the first summit would later be like this. I climbed over a wee fence and splashed about in more muddy ditches until I passed under the railway bridge and onto the proper path which would take me a mile up the River Falloch.
Another few minutes up the path I spotted Sron Gharbh to the right and realised how much easier it would be to ascend An Caisteal from this direction instead of the epic route I previously done. But where’s the fun in doing things the easy way eh!?
I kept walking for about half an hour until I reached a split in the path, I could have kept going straight to wander aimlessly up the coire (usually my kinda thing) or turned left to go the normal way up towards Grey Height. I opted for the normal way for a change!
After wandering down this path for a bit I came along quite a rickety old bridge. I stepped around the gate to the left and almost fell right into the river as one of the slats of wood was loose and gave way when I put weight on it. I cursed the poor structured bridge aloud at first then realised maybe I’d just eaten more rubbish than I thought since my last walk.
I didn’t hang around and kept going onwards and upwards. The grassy slopes started to get pretty muddy from here on so I was constantly jumping about trying to avoid the worst of it but also making sure to stay on the path for once and not get lost or take a wrong turn somewhere as usual. I stopped a couple of times to catch my breath as the quick stroll at the start had taken its toll on me but after about an hour and a half in total I had reached the first summit of the day of 686 metres at Grey Height and stopped for a well-deserved rest and some healthy food for a change.
There wasn’t a lot more to report on for the next hour or so. Pretty standard paths and a fairly easy ascent until the cloud came in as I was nearing the top of Cruach Ardrain. I somehow missed a split in the path around this time so I’m blaming the cloud and poor visibility for this. I should have taken a left but went right instead and ended up passing right by the summit and appeared at the other side of it. This path had obviously been made by people coming back from Beinn Tulaichean while not wanting to hit the summit of Cruach Ardrain again on their way down.
Not to worry though, only a hop, skip and a jump away and I was at the top of Cruach Ardrain and my 10th Munro! Or so I thought… As I said, the cloud had come right down on me by this point and I couldn’t see a thing apart from the summit cairn and the ham and cheese pieces in my hand. So as I sat there enjoying the “view” and my lunch, out of nowhere I started to see a huge dark presence towering above me as the cloud shifted ever so slightly. It was the actual summit! I was sitting there happy as Larry celebrating reaching double figures and I hadn’t even hit the summit yet. These silly mistakes are becoming a habit! So I quickly packed my bag again and clambered up to officially bag my 10th Munro and almost managed to see the surroundings for a few seconds as the cloud thought about clearing.
As I then made my way down towards Beinn Tulaichean, the clouds eventually started to clear away properly and give some good views, it’s just a pity I wasn’t at the summit anymore. I looked towards what I then thought was my next destination and wondered just how far away it actually was. It looked like miles and miles. Was I in the wrong place? On the wrong hill? Had I made yet ANOTHER wrong turn? Then the old joker that is the cloud faded away again to reveal the real hill just to the left of where I was looking! Getting fed up of the weather playing tricks on me like that.
On the way down, I passed by the split in the path I joined up with earlier and a nice wee cairn to highlight it. I’d use that later on when heading back home. From here it didn’t take long to hit the summit, a fairly easy walk for about half an hour and I’d reached my second and last Munro summit of the day. A lot simpler than the first one for sure!
The one thing I wasn’t keen about on this route which I’d avoided for my last few was the fact that to get back to where I started I had to pretty much follow my tracks exactly the way I’d came. I briefly considered heading straight down the Coire Earb between Cruach Ardrain and An Caisteal but having not really prepared my route properly before setting off, I didn’t have time to research it and wasn’t too keen on going off the beaten track this time around. So regrettably, I stuck to the path and headed back the way I came. It was still nice to get a view of what I missed that was behind me on the way up and as the weather brightened up more and more a few rainbows showed themselves to add even more colour to a fine evening.
As I got back to the first summit of the day, Grey Height, I noticed a cairn which I walked straight by on the way up. At first though I thought it was some sort of bird sitting atop the rock. On closer inspection it was just two well-shaped and thoughtfully placed rocks, I wonder if it was by accident or on purpose?
By this point, with only about an hour to go until I was back at the car, the sun was setting and the place looked just magic. I didn’t want to leave. So I didn’t rush, took some photographs on the way and stopped at the old rickety bridge across the River Falloch for 15 minutes, lay on the pebble shore and reflected on the days happenings. Another brilliant day in the hills.