Ben Cruachan - 1126m
Tuesday 16th August 2005

Weather/Conditions: Overcast until about 850 metres, where it was misty above and to the summit. Views opened up briefly at the summit, although closed over again soon.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 10km / 1100m / 6h
Accompanying: Uncle Steve

Uncle Stephen and I decided to climb this mountain after our trip up the Campsie Fells a few weeks before. He arrived to pick me up at 12 and the journey to Cruachan took about an hour. Driving at a legal speed would make the journey two hours so I'm not exactly sure how such times worked out... I spent a lot of the time wondering whether it was going to rain or not, the clouds certainly looked threatening, but it should be okay. We arrived at the power station and parked by the roadside. The cloud was low, it rained every so often and I was wearing jeans, so decided it would be for the best to put on waterproof trousers beforehand.


We parked on the road near the station about 1pm. We left the car and after crossing the train line (which felt a bit odd) we followed the small path upwards. It was surprisingly tiring, and the 1000 vertical feet up to the dam was harder than I thought it was going to be. I was surprised that a foreign looking family of three only brought shorts with them, were wearing t shirts with maybe one fleece and no waterproofs. Oh well, each to their own.

After spending some time admiring the scale of the dam we climbed the ladders onto the top of it and walked along the path around the west side of the reservoir. The peaks around us soared up into the cloud which was an amazing sight for me at the time. We had to turn off to the left into the valley, which meant leaving the path. We eventually did, and I followed Uncle Stephens’s steps over the bogs and through the grasses. We slogged slowly through the valley, and the Bealach an Lochain was far away: still a while to go. I remember stopping and observing the silence. At this one point, the silence was just amazing, something that I had not felt much before. It was an excellent feeling, and maybe something which I wasn't so used to hearing. A bit of a moment, I suppose.

We pressed on upwards, and it became rather tiring - at points I'd take ten steps and stop again for a breath - another ten steps. I remember hearing the sound of the wind above us and comparing it to a freight train - it actually was quite daunting to hear! We slogged onwards until we reached the bealach.

At this point, we went into the cloud and almost right at the point of reaching the bealach, visibility dropped. It was a little odd being on this spot, with the wind, (which I remember as nothing more than a breeze) the small lochan sitting perched up on this odd spot, and mostly the cloud enveloping us. It was like nothing you'd ever find normally and was probably the first time I'd ever seen this sort of thing - it's an odd thing for the first time. We stopped for something to eat when the people we saw earlier with no equipment passed us - they'd just been over Meall Cuanail.

I was going to go up Meall Cuanail as Uncle Stephen waited at the bealach, although at the last second I just decided not to - felt a bit dodgy to be doing, especially with my (lack of) experience. Yet after a while spent at the bealach, we continued up to the summit of Ben Cruachan. This took longer than I thought it would, and it was certainly harder than I thought it would be. It was really a lot of slogging with no views. At one point, Uncle Stephen lost balance and nearly went flying backwards, into nothingness. It was a real heart-in-the-mouth moment, because below us was just cloud and nothing else really. Of course, nothing actually happened.

We eventually reached the summit at 4.30pm. It was still fogged over and a cairn marked the summit where a fallen trig point used to. It was very odd at the summit. I could not see past a metre on any side, and the mountain dropped away, and in the silence I felt as if I was on a piece of ground in the middle of nowhere. It felt like there was nowhere to go but fall off the side; an odd feeling.

For one minute the clouds opened out. I was facing the other way until I turned to see distant views open to the south west. It wasn't the view that was impressive - it was just flat and hazy, but the way the clouds flew past which is only apparent from the videos is what made it a breath-taking sight. Of course, the view closed up again. Back into the cloud :-)


A while after that, we packed up and left. Some people passed us telling us they saw the view from further down the mountain. We began to descend. We had initially planned to do the whole Cruachan Range, but because we had started at 1pm and it was far too late - it was back the way we came. I actually felt a little unnerved at the ridge below. It wasn't bad in any way, there were just one or two parts on the way up that felt a little exposed.

Eventually though, I was glad to reach Bealach an Lochain, because when I could see things again, it gave me a sort of reassurance. We left and went into Coire Dearg, before taking the track back round the damn, and the path down to the train line again. We arrived at the car at 7pm and drove home, stopping in Crianlarich for chips.

Oh, and so much for the waterproof trousers; it never rained once.

Written: 2007-10-12 (11pm :-) )