I had a week off earlier in July and the wife and I decided to try and take one of the days off to do a bit of Munro bagging. We spent a while going over a few different routes and tried to find the most suitable day trip for us. We settled on a pair of hills to the south of Crianlarich, Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean. I’ve climbed hills either side of this pair before, so I was looking forward to seeing those hills from a different perspective. Our initial idea was to attempt these hills from the south from Inverlochlarig, however when we began to pack our kit the previous evening, we found out that the map that we had of that area actually doesn’t cover much of this approach. Back to the drawing board, we decided to keep the same targets, but approach from the north, on the A82 south of Crianlarich. It was a longer walk, but we both felt more comfortable walking a route that we have a map for.
The morning of the ascent was spent wrangling the children to various grandparents and aunties and we were on the road north by about 8am. After a little faffing about, we were parked up in a layby off the A82 and booted up by 9.30. We struck out into the long grass towards a footbridge over the railway and veered right following a rough track through the woodland. After a time, this lead us to an access road that headed uphill towards our target.
We followed the access road, with Max the dog bounding along, taking a left and right turn at the following junctions. We even stopped for a short while for a photo! Eventually, after about 20 minutes or so we came across the walkers cairn, signalling our deviation from the road and the end of the easy terrain. To be honest, the cairn is quite small, we nearly missed it. Following the bent grass path through knee high grass, we toiled our way up the grassy hill and reached the tree line.
The next section will live long in the memory, and unfortunately not for a particularly good reason. I had assumed that with these hills being fairly far south, the amount of foot traffic would have eroded a fairly well worn path through the trees, coming out the other side to start the ascent of Grey Height, which is the first major obstacle on this route at 666m. However, this turned out not to be the case. What followed was about 20 minutes of boggy scrambling through low hanging branches of immature pine trees. The sort of branches that leave scratches on your arms, whilst trying to avoid losing a boot in the bog. It was a nightmare. Even looking back on it now, it wasn’t particularly fun although it was certainly adventurous.
After what felt like an age, we managed to escape the boggy tree line, and were out onto the hill proper. We began the ascent cursing the previous section, but still in decent spirits. These spirits were to be sorely tested from here on. With the temperatures heading north of 20 degrees and the time of year, we were almost immediately assaulted by clouds of midges and flies, which was certainly unpleasant. We had to stop multiple times on this initial climb to apply insect repellent, which we were sweating out due to the heat.
Making decent time on the initial climb (taking into account our midge repellent application breaks) we achieved the first part of the climb, reaching Grey Height and its lochan. Of course, Max thought this was great and jumped straight in for a swim.
We were now able to see ahead to the second challenge of this trip, Meall Dhamh. Sitting at 814m, this is not an insignificant bump in the road to cross. The path became somewhat clearer after this, easing the pressure on our navigation. We duly headed on and upwards starting to scale the hill ahead. As we were nearing the top of Meall Dhamh, we started to get glimpses of the first summit on the trip, Cruach Ardrain.
The path then veered westwards, taking us across the hillside, contouring along at a reasonable height. Note here, that if you are a little bit wobbly with exposure, you could find this a little difficult. Following the path and turning into the slope, it was about a 10 minute slog up to the top of the summit ridge. We met there the path running along the ridge, we turned left here towards the summit.
We quickly reached the false summit and then on to the true summit maybe 100m further along the ridge. This is a great spot, high, airy and with some great views in all directions. I was particularly taken by the view along the ridge to the next summit, Beinn Tulaichean. It really looked like a bump in the main ridge rather than a Munro in its own right, which is nice. I had figured that we would be doing a lot of descending and reclimbing for the second summit, but that didn’t look to be the case.
We didn’t stay long at the summit, the midge cloud descended on us and we made a hasty retreat back to the saddle where we joined the summit path. This is not the lowest point between the two hills, rather a depression in the descent to the true saddle. We pushed on down to the saddle and looked up to the next target – it didn’t seem far or too much higher than where we standing.
Gathering ourselves, we set off once more to climb Beinn Tulaichean, and actually made it to the top in about 20 minutes. We were getting a little tired by this time, so I think we would usually do this climb a bit quicker, but as I say, we were getting a little tired by this point in the walk. Again, the midges descended whilst we were on the summit, meaning this too was a quick pitstop for the obligatory photo and then we retraced our steps, downhill back to the saddle. We had only left the saddle 30 minutes before, and were already back, having bagged another Munro!
We climbed back up to where our path met the ridge path and took the left turn off the ridge. The terrain here is steep and now we were facing the drop straight in front of us. If you’re a bit funny about that sort of thing, beware! Tracking back towards Meall Dhamh, we covered the ground pretty quickly, finishing the contouring part of the route.
Broadly following our route of ascent in reverse, we headed north back towards Crianlarich over Meall Dhamh and then Grey Height all the way to the tree line. We even bog-trotted down the hill back to the access road before using the easier going to relax and reflect on a great day out in the hills, with another two Munros in the bag!