Beinn Bhreac - 681m
Ben Reoch East Top - 632m
Ben Reoch - 611m
Wednesday 8th April 2009
Weather/Conditions: A mixture of sun and showers. Early afternoon was almost too warm although showers were moving in with greater frequency towards the end of the day. Wind was high at the tops, but the air was clear outside of rain showers and views were great.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 12km / 1050m / 5h 20m
Mum drove me up the A82, and we eventually found the way up into Glen Douglas. Once on the road, it climbed steeply on a single track road before flattening out high above the river below. The road is a narrow strip of single track with a spectacular drop off to the left to the river below. It was an unexpected way to start the day.
I set off up Tullich Hill at 1.40pm and with stopwatch timing, set myself the task of getting to the summit within the hour. The day was warm and I felt good about things. I'd started out fairly late, but the winter in the mountains was beginning to come to a close and the days were getting longer. From Tullich Farm below, it was an easy angled slog up Tullich Hill. Across the valley, there were numerous bunkers dotted around the hillside. The slopes beneath Cruach an t-Sidhean are where nuclear weapons are stored, and strange to think that if one of them went off, Glasgow would be vaporised. At first it seemed as if there was no security surrounding them, though half way up Tullich Hill, incoherent voices began coming from loudspeakers across the valley. Moments later, penetrating the silence of the glen was the invasive sound of an siren.
I found it strange to say the least. I stood not knowing what to think about it, but who knows what it was? The siren ceased to sound after a few moments, but I never felt very welcome in Glen Douglas after that. That asides though, I found Glen Douglas a very scenic place, and if there's anything positive to say about it, it has to be about the surrounding landscape. Shame they had to stick the nukes in perhaps the most beautiful valley in the area - Doune Hill and Cruach an t-Sidhean had massive stature from this side and they looked far higher than they really are. The hills are beautiful, though there isn't much wild about Glen Douglas.
I slogged on up Tullich Hill using the horizon to gauge my altitude. Near the top, I came out upon a lochan sitting high on the hill. The surface was a pure blue beneath the blue skies and beyond it lay the snow covered spires of The Cobbler. For the first and only time that day I brought out the map to locate the true summit; a couple of humps that surrounded me could have been the top. The southerly top was the true summit and I headed up to the top. The Arrochar Alps were almost in full view, and I reached the summit at 2.35pm. I paused the stopwatch: 55 minutes and 35 seconds to the top. Fairly good going.
Having been on top of Tullich Hill for perhaps ten minutes, I continued on my way towards the next goal, Beinn Bhreac, which was in sight across the valley. Ben Reoch would have been the more logical summit to climb next as it would create a natural horseshoe, but I needed to get to Tarbet to catch the train, hence the odd order in which I climbed. Tullich Hill was craggy on its north-eastern slopes and I had to negotiate some steep ground to get to "An t-Sreang" which is the name given to the saddle. With some rain showers passing through now, I then traversed the slopes of Ben Reoch to get across to Beinn Bhreac. Although I was traversing slopes, I was following distinct sheep trails and they gave me something fairly flat and comfortable to walk on.
And then perhaps 100 metres away, I saw the sheep themselves, and with lambs. March/April is lambing season isn't it? Instead of traversing the slopes towards them, I headed away from them and slogged straight up the hillside. I didn't get close, kept my distance, I was sure you don't want to disturb lambs. I remembered back to my cow encounter in the Campsies on 2nd September 2007. Defensive cows with calves ... is it the same with sheep with lambs? I kept my distance in case and continued on my way upwards although I admit I could learn more on this subject.
When I crested the ridge of Beinn Bhreac, I found myself with new surroundings, across to Ben Lomond and down to the loch. I gave mum a call before continuing up to the summit of Beinn Bhreac which I reached at 4.25pm. I had taken 1 hour 50 minutes to get to this point from Tullich Hill. I was quite content with my progress, it seemed like I would comfortably arrive back in Tarbet with plenty of time to spare.
I spent 20 minutes on the summit before leaving for Ben Reoch. I had plenty of time to reach Tarbet - the train was at 8.08pm so I had a few hours to spare. The walk consisted of a lot of bog and peat, although I didn't mind. I'd always hoped to get a clear day on Ben Reoch to get that pan across to the Arrochar Alps that I'd envisaged, but the weather had different plans. It was raining lightly, on and off, and the wind continued to blow from the west. Cloud refused to move from the summits of the Arrochar Alps. The weather hadn't been pleasant across the ridge, but I was in a brilliant mood. After the day's exertions, I was feeling pretty tired and slogged first up to east top before continuing over to the main summit.
The last slope up to the summit cairn brought me up a steep rise, and as I came over the top, the joy of the final summit cairn was accompanied by high winds driving sheet of rain forward - it was rough. Any views across to the Arrochar Alps were gone, hidden behind the grey of rain showers. I spent five minutes at the top, in the shade of the wind and rain, but eventually headed down the northern slopes, bound for Tarbet.
I was pretty intent now on getting down, partly for having been walking over grass and peat all day but also because not an inch of me was dry. To my right rain showers were progressing up Loch Long and soon after, the rain inevitably arrived at me. I found these slopes tedious to descend, and dreaded the thought of ascending Ben Reoch by this route. I'd come up in January, only gaining a couple of hundred metres altitude to discover I'd had calls of nature to attend to. Around the back.
I arrived in Tarbet at 6.50pm, glad to be down, and once I got myself dried off a bit I felt in better spirits. I headed to the train station to double check my train was at 8.08pm, before going for a quick walk around Cruach Tairbeirt. I reckoned I could have borderline made the summit, but by the time I'd got up the first bit, I realised that it was a stupid plan - I was exhausted. If I'd had two hours to spare, I'd have gone up but I wouldn't make the top now. Instead I spent the time in Tarbet and down by Loch Lomond's shore.
At 8.10pm I got the train, and bought myself some chocolate and a cup of tea along the way. It felt really damn good to be done. Starting Saturday I'll be spending the following week in the flatter regions of Portugal, so no hills until the end of April... But I was definitely glad to be out on some new hills on this occasion.