Ben Cruachan

  • Wednesday 9th March 2022
  • Ben Cruachan, Argyll & Bute

Today with weather conditions still looking good but changing in the next day or two we took the opportunity of climbing Ben Cruachan.  Weather forecast predicted 90% chance of cloud free Munro’s here.

Ben Cruachan is said to be one of the finest Munros in the southern Highlands, with jagged peaks and fine rocky ridges as well as stunning views. The ridge walk to Stob Dàimh makes for a classic circuit around the Cruachan reservoir.

We parked the van in a rough layby by the  Falls of Cruachan railway station to begin our walk up the path, this took us under the railway line via an underpass.  We then climbed some concrete steps up the other side that lead to an electric substation, before taking us into the woods.  There was no time to warm up the legs with this walk as unsurprisingly straight away we were on a very steep incline, manouvering up, over and round some very large boulders aswell as up, over and under fallen trees.  Before we knew it we had climbed over 300 feet and we had only just started!

It was a beautiful climb taking us through a forest of hazel and birch trees as we walked we listened to the Allt Cruachan river flowing down a small gorge to our left.  We also had some views out over Loch Awe. 

The dam coming into view

The trees started to disappear and the path took us over a stile at a deer fence and we were soon onto a surfaced track.  Ahead of us we could see the Ben Cruachan reservoir, with the towering snowy peaks of the Loch Awe Munros looking particularly imposing in the background. 

We continued to follow the track, crossed a bridge to finally reach the Cruachan dam, and it felt like it had already been some walk just to get to here.  Although the dam is pretty impressive, I felt it very imposing on the natural landscape.

Cruachan Dam on the way back down with blue skies, its massive, can you see me near its base 👀

We climbed up some zig zag steps which took us to a metal staircase onto the dam itself. From here we then followed a track heading around the reservoir until we reached the far end.  We came upon a small cairn marking our path taking us up the hill. The ground here was still pretty crisp as temperatures were still cold, just aswell as this would have been one boggy walk. 

The path continued to climb up the glen, becoming steeper and steeper and more eroded to reach the upper level of Coire Dearg. From here it was covered in snow.

The wind started to pick up, the cloud was thick and we couldn’t see what the conditions were like on top at this stage. 

We were on to what others described as ‘stony terrain, steep, with loose and shifting rocks, becoming somewhat treacherous as the path disappears into a boulder field’, today we could not see any inclination of this as the snow was deep all over .

We continued on to another short and steep pull up with even deeper snow until we were onto the bealach.  It was wild here.  We were being blown all over the place and thick cloud was ferociously being blown all around us.  The wind chill was so cold it was stinging against the face.  There was a small lochan somewhere around here but conditions were that bad we couldn’t see it and I for one wasn’t going searching for it, not today.

From the bealach we followed another snowy section climbing towards the summit of Cruachan. This climb was ardurous, it was steep, almost a straight vertical, then we had the snow, high winds pushing us backwards and freezing temperatures to contend with on top.  Life on the Scottish mountains eh!

“Are we there yet”!!!

90% cloud free Munro’s!  Right then.  I was cursing those forecasters at this point and will not put into words here what was being said in my head…I can leave that to your imagination.

Cursing those forecasters but still with a smile 🤬

We reached the summit marked by a cairn and I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to get to a summit.  Nevertheless I was gutted by the conditions as we had made such an effort to get here and could not see a thing and on top of that conditions were crazy.  

One final push

We stood up here for quite some time (conditions were not the only things to be crazy on this mountain today) as at one point for 3 whole seconds we got an opening in the cloud and we were teased by what was out there.  I stood wishing for things to improve…please come on!

Common the sun 🙏

At 1,126 metres this is the highest peak for miles around, and the views would have been fantastic. 

We were frozen so we had to make the call and keep moving so headed off again as it was trecherous. 

No longer than 15 minutes later, although still bitterly cold, the cloud miraculously began to disappear, blue skies suddenly appeared, we then had full sunshine and we had 360° views.  What had just happened!

Views were so fantastic now, particularly down over Loch Etive, and out to the west to the prominent pointed summit of Taynuilt Peak (a ‘Top’ on this mountain range) and out to the sea and islands of the west coast beyond, it was incredible.

With towering peaks all around, beautiful countryside and scenery, plus epic views out to the islands of the west coast, the lofty Loch Awe Munros are an incredible place – I can say that now the sun is out!

Admiring the view

We could also see the grand rocky and snowy ridge betweem Ben Cruachan and Stob Garbh.  Ben Cruachan from this point looked so impressive.

I do love this mountain range, they are untamed have an incredible sense of remoteness and feel wild and when the sun is shining they take your breath away (maybe more so when its not actually!!!).

We continued to admire everything around us, I think due to how the weather had been all the way up to the summit earlier it had made us more appreciative of how things were now so we were in no hurry to get down.

Pointed peak in background was where we had summitted

All the way back down the weather just seemed to improve further and I’d go as far as to say it got warm.  Funnily enough though we did get a bit of sunburn, although I’d probably be inclined to say it was wind burn with the hammering we got.

This had been an awesome day, a day which began in a full battle with the elements and ended in victory with glorious sunshiny views of this beautiful and rugged landscape.  The lofty snowy and tough Loch Awe Munros are such an incredible place to hike in.

Hope you enjoyed the video 👆😍

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