Meall Cuanail (top) - 918m
Ben Cruachan - 1126m
Drochaid Ghlas (top) - 1008m
Stob Dàimh - 998m
Stob Garbh (top) - 980m

Saturday 5th March 2011

Weather/Conditions: Warm, cloudy weather meant thawing snowfields. Occasional drizzle and cloud lying at all elevations meant pockets of good visibility all day. Summits cleared to reveal cloud in the valleys and summits sticking out the top. Minimal or no wind.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 14km / 1450m / 8h 05m
Accompanying: James + two Sean's

The Cruachan Horseshoe is a great round but a shame that I keep traversing it in the middle of a cloud. While a cloudy day, I had some the better views I'd seen, including an inversion of sorts. The ridge (and mostly the section between Ben Cruachan and Drochaid Ghlas) is always a lot of fun. It's not exposed but there are a couple of hands-on parts and many big drops should you have a look over the edge.

This was a weekend with the mountaineering club at Crianlarich, but James (met through MunroMagic) was driving up from Dunblane. He hadn't been to Cruachan before, so he picked me up from the Inverardran Cottage at Crianlarich and we headed onward to Loch Awe. Meanwhile Davy, Dougie and Brian with whom I was staying at the cottage, headed for An Caisteal and Beinn a' Chroin.

Meall Cuanail and Ben Cruachan

March should be winter-time on the mountains, but it was pretty warm on the pull up to the Cruachan Reservoir. It was a shorter slog than I had remembered, but drizzle kept on falling out the sky. It was t-shirt/fleece weather but we continually got wet without even noticing the rain. The 'normal' route to the top, and the one we took, was up the ladders to the top of the dam, along the shore line and into Coire Dearg. I first climbed this way in 2005 on my first ascent of Cruachan. Last August I descended via. this corrie and remembered that it was long enough going down, nevermind up. There's truth to this because the coire presents a 400 vertical-metre climb, although today it didn't feel very long, either. James talked about stories travelling across Eastern Europe last summer and the crack carried me the distance to the top.

At Bealach an Lochain up on the ridge, we turned left to climb Meall Cuanail, a Munro Top I hadn't climbed before. I was about to in 2005, but in the mist I'd been weary of doing so. It was misty today - as always seems to the case with me and the Cruachan range. It was only a short climb to Meall Cuanail and I was glad to finally do this one. Most notably, on the way up we met a couple of guys who we got talking to - James especially got talking to one about the Army. They'd said they were going to go onto Cruachan too and we left Meall Cuanail as a group of four.

We got talking on the way up - they were two guys from Oban, both Sean's, about the age of James and myself and very fast on the hills too. The ascent to Cruachan was a slog, but the guys were good conversation and we made the distance in good time. The summit was my third, and also the third that I'd seen nothing but the inside of a cloud. James and I had already decided we'd do the horseshoe so the Seans also joined us. Another guy walking solo had gone along the ridge a bit and returned, but joined us too. In the end five of us set off.

Ridge to Stob Diamh - Munro #2 (plus Drochaid Ghlas and Stob Garbh)

James and I had crampons on, but they turned out to be a complete hindrance. With the mild weather, the rock was dry and snow quite patchy. Immediately east from the summit, we climbed down a chimney. The crampons just scraped along the granite. The ridge was in 'summer' condition much more than expected, so when we reached the scrambling slab I took the crampons off. Even the axe was somewhat an unneeded accessory. The ridge however, was absolutely brilliant. The cloud was clearing incrementally as well - it wasn't a blanket now, and we could catch glimpses of long drops down into the corries. The hands on sections were great fun and I couldn't help looking for rocks to climb on.

It's a bit of a shame that the scrambling runs out on the Cruachan ridge, but that's the way it is. We walked through the cloud to Drochaid Ghlas and then onward again to Stob Diamh, which would have been uninspiring had the cloud not lifted at the latter, revealing views down to Coire Lochain. The weather only improved. There was no wind and as we walked to Stob Garbh, the cloud broke up revealing mist gathered in the valleys, Munro summits sticking out the top. The sun seemed as if it were on the verge of breaking through, too. What a place.


The day was at it's best as we watched the multi-dimensional cloud from Stob Garbh. But you have descend at some point. I was getting tired by this point too, so we headed south and it was a long, boggy haul back to the reservoir. I struck off ahead myself and feeling pretty wasted by the reservoir, lay on the ground waiting for everyone else. A break saw me well and I didn't feel too bad on the final stretch down to the car.

James and I said goodbye to the Seans and headed back to Crianlarich - with the promise of catching up on Facebook, which we did. James and I headed back to Crianlarich, listening to music. I got to talk to someone who actually shares an interest in black metal, which was cool because that genre and the mountains go hand-in-hand to me. When we arrived back I was pretty knackered and James headed home after a couple of hours. I spent one more night in Crianlarich with Dougie and Brian and climbed Ben More and Stob Binnein the next morning.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 9.35am Car
(2.30) 12.05pm Meall Cuanail
(3.35) 1.10pm Ben Cruachan
(5.00) 2.35pm Drochaid Ghlas
(5.40) 3.15pm Stob Diamh
(6.05) 3.40pm Stob Diamh (left)
(6.20) 3.55pm Stob Garbh
(8.05) 5.40pm Car

Written: 2011-03/04- 10-13