Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Cruach Ardrain & Beinn Tulaichean

Walk Summary
Along Strath Fillan towards Beinn Dorain in distance,
Beinn Challuim on right on way up Cruach Ardrain
A veritable Munro baggers dream. Nice clear path to first Munro (do Cruach Ardrain first to avoid loads of reascent) followed by equally clear path to second Munro, Beinn Tulaichean. For the regular Munro bagger a straight forward up and down returning along same path.
For the peak bagger an absolute bagging festival. Not only do you pick up the Corbet Top of Munro Cruach Ardrain - Meall Dhamh on the way to Cruach Ardrain you have the option of a more satisfying circular walk by turning right at the bealach between Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean
 picking up 4 more peaks on the way back. As a peak bagger I think it is an excellent option which avoids the reascent up Cruach Ardrain. On the other hand my mate John (Munro Bagger) thought it made a straight forward walk more difficult by leaving the well marked return path as well as being harder work getting off the hill due to forest plantation below Creag na h-lolaíre. Well you can avoid that difficulty by careful route selection, but I will leave it for you to decide the best option based on if you see yourself as a peak or a Munro bagger.

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 07 October 2014
Walkers - Steve Smith, John Parkin
Accommodation - Maragowan Caravan Club Site
Start Point - Crianlarich Community Woodland car park (GR - 
NN 38929 25111)
Start Time - 09:24
Finish Point 
Crianlarich Community Woodland car park (GR - NN 38929 25111)
Finish Time - 16:51
Duration - 7hrs 27mins
Average pace - 1.50mph
Distance Walked - 11.16miles
Height Ascended - 1382.16metres

Other walks on this trip

2014
September

30th Conic Hill & Gualann
October
01st Ptarmigan & Ben Lomond
03rd Meall Corranaich & Meall a' Choire Leith
04th Ben More & Stob Binnein
05th Not quite Meall Buide (Glen Lyon)
07th Cruach Ardrain & Beinn Tulaichean
08th Beinn Dorain & Beinn an Dothaidh hammerhead
10th Ben Challum [Beinn Challuim]
12th Beinn a' Chreachain & Beinn Achaladair
13th The Tyndrum Grandslam

Peaks visited
Munro (282)

Cruach Ardrain (25)
Beinn Tulaichean (26)
Murdo (443)

Cruach Ardrain (33)
Beinn Tulaichean (34)
Stob Garbh (35)
Corbett (221)
NONE
Graham (224)
NONE
Marilyn (1218S - 1552E,W&S))

Cruach Ardrain (26S - 97E,W&S)
Hump (2168S - 2976E,W&S)
Cruach Ardrain (34S - 153E,W&S)
Beinn Tulaichean (35S - 154E,W&S)
Stob Garbh (36S - 155E,W&S)
S: Scotland. 
E,W&S:England,Wales & Scotland


Route

GPX can be downloaded from www.shareyouradventure.com

Walk Description
Cruach Ardrain - Meall Dhamh
Crianlarich Community
Woodland car park

I have to be honest and admit to some measure of disappointment to find only about five parking spaces and nothing else at the grandly named Crianlarich Community Woodland car park. Having said that there were only 2 cars there already leaving plenty space for us. In any event we did not expect lavish tea rooms, entertainment or even toilets. All we needed was somewhere safe to park the van, thereby living up to the descriptive nature of it's name - it was in Crianlarich, I am sure members of the community use it and most importantly there was somewhere to park. 
Start the walk by leaving the car park up-hill along the forest track away from the A85. Ralph Storer describes in detail the points to look out for to successfully navigate the tracks to the plantation fence line at Meall an Fhreiceadain near the bottom of Grey Height. He also goes to great lengths about avoiding the boggy path. 
Looking back down boggy forest path
towards Beinn Challuim
On the day we did take the path and it was boggy, but not as bad as ascent route up Beinn a'Chleibh. My mate John reckons it was over egged to get in the joke about people using this route if they had not bought his book. I am not sure, yes it was boggy but that was after a couple of days of heavy rain. I am sure it could be less boggy but equally sure it could be a lot worse. Just bare it in mind and make your own decision. 
After negotiating the boggy path and clearing the plantation fence over the ladder stile the path is well trodden and easy to follow to Meall Dhamh via Grey Height. 
With a drop of 15m and height of 686m Grey Height would qualify as a Nuttall in England. In Scotland? Does not qualify as any type of hill.
Ptarmigan in it's summer plumage
After snacks and chats with fellow hillwalkers we pressed on to the first summit of the day. Looking back it seemed we had done the hard part of the first climb, but there was still over 100m of ascent and 40 minutes walking. An example of the beauty of hill-walking, because rather than the summit being the first highlight my abiding memory was looking for where we could hear a Ptarmigan, then sneaking up on it to get a photo just before Meall Dhamh summit.

Cruach Ardrain
Before going straight on to
Beinn Tulaichean
turn sharp left and go up Cruach Ardrain
A steep 50m descent to two small lochans in the bealach can easily be managed with aid of the trek poles but needs some concentration, especially in perfect weather similar to what we had. Ahead is the mass of Cruach Ardrain and it's 250m of ascent but to the right is An Caisteal/Beinn a'Chroin and to the left is Ben More/Stob Binnein poking up beyond the Stob Garbh ridge.
It is in these conditions you do not realise you are walking up hill. It is also in these conditions you can happily lose yourself and realise you have walked too far. The path up Cruach Ardrain skirts around the SW slope and continues on to Beinn Tulaichean. As it makes it's appearance in front of you and the path starts to descend look out for the path turning sharply left. This leads to Cruach Ardrain summit area which includes the ex Munro SW Top. 
Cruach Ardrain towards Ben More. A
worthy summit to be anyone's 25th Munro
If you don't do it now you will commit yourself to coming back by the same route and lose the option to return via Stob Garbh. To a Munro bagger this may be the intention but to us peak baggers we must not miss the chance to pick off 4 (3½ if you don't count sub-Graham tops.)
The main summit at 1m higher is about 200m past the SW top and with it's high aspect and views of Ben More to the east and the Breadalbane Hills to the south makes this a worthy 25th Munro, rather than the quick up and downer to Meall Buhde we thought we had bagged but did not reach 2 days earlier. 

Beinn Tulaichean
Again a straight forward path to follow
to Beinn Tulaichean
After "summit procedures" (photos & logging) have been followed turn back on yourself and return to main path via SW Top. If you had left Cruach Ardrain until after Beinn Tulaichean there is an option to continue over the summit to Stob Garbh but looking at the scree and steep slope it is not a route I would  recommend. So after returning to the path continue south to Beinn Tulaichean. We stowed our bags at the bealach, a trick I learned on our Cuillin Ridge trip, before walking the ½ mile to Beinn Tulaichean summit. On return from the summit we found a boulder to shade from the wind and enjoyed our lunch in the warm October sunshine. During lunch I convinced John to go back via Stob Garbh and bag the extra non-Munro peaks on the basis it would be easier than making the reascent near Cruach Ardrain summit.

Stob Garbh SE Top & Stob Garbh 
Vague path into Coire Dubh
but will soon disappear
There is a faint path from the bealach down to Coire Dubh but it is not long (around about the time you are committed to the route) before the path disappears completely. This left John pining for the well established path, but I am convinced as long as you pick your route carefully heading for the bealach between Cruach Ardrain and Stob Garbh without descending below the bealach and at the same time staying away from the crags to the left it is worth the effort to have the chance to bag the extra peaks.
John (Munro bagger)
trying to look disinterested on
Stob Garbh - A Corbett Top!
Once at the bealach don't go straight through but head up towards Stob Garbh. I did have to lay one hand on rock to pull myself up but that was as much scrambling as was required. Once the height has been gained a path is picked up that goes to the west of Stob Garbh SE top. Continue following the path to reach the Munro Top of Munro Creach Ardrain - Stob Garbh. But if like me you want to visit anything that qualifies as a peak, turn back on yourself before ascent to main summit to pick up the ex-munro top Stob Garbh SE Top.

Stob Coire Bhuidhe
The route home along the ridge
from Stob Garbh
Passing the summit cairn of  Stob Garbh the view opens up below along the ridge and route home. Apart from a small amount of ascent to climb Stob Coire Bhuidhe it is more or less down hill from here. In fact because the path passes on the west side below the summit, if you are not paying attention you could well miss the summit cairn all together.
From Stob Coire Bhuidhe there is just one more opportunity to bag a final peak which is the sub-Graham Top Creag a' Phuirt. With a status of sub (just failing to reach the required prominence or height by less than 10m) many people would not bother, but like I said earlier, anything nearby vaguely described as a hill - I will be there.
We looked at each other for ages,
then as soon as I get my camera out...
Not a bad days bagging, 8 peaks including Creag a' Phuirt, well worth the alternative return route along Stob Garbh ridge. That is until the final descent. Ralph Storer warns about being "bushwhacked" on the final descent down Creag na h-lolaire. We strayed too far left and had the rough descent we had been warned to avoid through the part harvested plantation. The bonus was an eye to eye moment with a young stag. So that clinched it, as a peak bagger the decision to come back via Stob Garbh well and truly vindicated. However a Munro bagger may well come to a different conclusion and stick with the straight up and downer. - Not me, with perfect weather conditions, too good an opportunity to miss.

More Photographs
Along Strath Fillan towards Beinn Dorain in distance, Beinn Challuim on right on way up Cruach Ardrain
Click on photograph to view slide-show

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