Having spent much of the previous two weekends on the rolling Drumochter and Monadh Liath hills, we decided to head west to find some rockier, pointier summits.
Last year,at similar time, Chris and I climbed the munros Beinn a’Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich. From those mountains we had a fantastic view of the Cruachan massif, which was covered in snow and looked very imposing. Since then returning to climb Ben Cruachan has been very high on our list. So with the unusual situation of a better forecast in the west than the east, that is where we headed.
It was chilly but sunny when we set of from Loch Awe with our friend Izzy, but the lack of wind and the steep climb through the woods soon had us shedding layers. A short boggy stretch lead to a very rickety stile over a deer fence, and a stream crossing over the rocks.
A tarmacked road then took us to the foot of the large Cruachan dam; at the left-hand end a steep ladder takes up onto the top where a great view of the entire route is revealed: from the summit of Ben Cruachan appears on the left, the stretching along to the second munro, Stob Diamh, and the path back down to Coire Cruachan. We followed a well-worn path to the bottom of a small valley, where we started to ascend more steeply. Shortly, we reached the first snow patches and skirted around them, keeping to the grass and rocks until we reached some nice big boulders for our first bacon sandwich.
We then got our ice axes out and moved up a steep snow slope, with Chris kicking steps into the still deep snow. From the bottom it looked quite easy, but looking down made us realise how steep it actually was. One at the bealach, we started climbing up the ridge towards the summit, stopping along the way to put our crampons on.
The summit was spectacular. The cloud kept blowing over us, first hiding, and then slowly revealing the snow covered ridges and summits to either side of us as well as the snow-capped mountains that stretch endlessly in every direction.
Making our way off the summit was trickier, requiring a few steps of careful down climbing in places. Chris was therefore able to practice safety on steep ground techniques in earnest, which he did very effectively and confidently. As we made our way along this ridge the views were wonderful, both of the path ahead and the route we had already taken. The drop on the left was quite breath-taking at times and you stay on the ridge for a really satisfying length of time. When we eventually reached the second summit, the views were equally impressive and the snowy ridge leading off was beautiful.
Once we had descended out of the snow, the terrain became very boggy, with no clear path until we had crossed a stream at the bottom of the small gully. Amongst the small streams, we took the opportunity to refill our water bottles: the water tasted delicious. The sun was reflecting off the loch and we could see all the way we had come. From there we simply followed the path back down to the dam, where we ate the last of our snacks. By this point the evening was very warm and it felt almost like summer.
We got back to the car at about 7pm and all three of us were happy to take our boots off after 10.5 hours. It was great and thoroughly exhilarating day, which I would include among my favourites and one we would definitely like to repeat. Thanks for coming out with us Izzy, we hope to have another day like that with you again soon!