Crianlarich Munros

Munros above Crianlarich, 29-31 March'19

A blog post of our guided hillwalking weekend up Ben More and the neighbouring Munros above Crianlarich. Steven Fallon leading.

Munros above Crianlarich

There are 7 Munros just south of the village of Crianlarich, including mighty Ben More at just a shade under 4,000ft. The most enjoyable way to reach these summits is to link them over a few routes, some starting from near Crianlarich and others from picturesue Balquhidder Glen.

Our original plan was for Ben More and Stob Binnein on the first day, the tough day of Beinn a'Chroin, An Caisteal and An Chabhair to follow on the second day, with the short day of Beinn Tulaichean and Cruach Ardrain as a warm-down on our third day. Weather had other plans, with forecasted winds of up to 50mph on Friday, not ideal conditions for the high summits of Ben More and Stob Binnein and their ridges. So we re-ordered the days !

Day 1 - Beinn Tulaichean and Cruach Ardrain

Our first day began from the end of Balquhidder Glen, with our group (Christine, David, Iain, Jeanette, Julia, Lee and Lynn) and myself meeting bright and early in the car-park at the road end. Kit and gear sorted, we began our day with a walk along the fine farm track heading west towards the foot of Beinn Tulaichean. The point at which to leave the track is sign-posted over a stile, which we duly clambered over. Underfoot conditions seemed remarkably dry as we hiked uphill through the deer-grass, no path to follow. Higher up, looking for a way through the crags, a path, faint at first, gradually developed and we followed this onto the summit. Our efforts were rewarded with some views, the cloud remaining above the summit of Beinn Tulaichean.

Ahead was Cruach Ardrain, its summit sulking in the cloud. Off we walked in its direction, a pleasant hike indead, the anticipated winds didn't materialise, just a strong breeze of perhaps 25mph, though with low temperatures, the wind-chill probably took this below zero. Some short sections of snow needed crossed and although everyone came prepared for the possibility of winter conditions, ice-axes and crampons weren't needed. Up to Cruach Ardrain's summit, still in cloud, we took a few pics, but decided not to linger and instead have our lunch stop back out of the winds at the col between the two Munro summits.

After returning to the col below the mist and a stop for lunch out of the wind, a steep descent took us down into Inverlochlarig Glen. Some careful route picking was needed to avoid crags, but fairly quickly we were down on the track below and wandered back to our cars - a fine short day leaving us refreshed for tomorrow.

Day 2 - An Caisteal, Beinn Chabhair and Beinn a'Chroin

Our second day was going to be the tough one of the weekend, three Munros instead of two yesterday and some fairly sharp ascents.

We gathered in the long car-park a mile or so south of Crianlarich. Much the same group as yesterday, tho Christine was having a relaxed day around Crieff and we were joined by Mike. With the fine weather predicted, quite a few cars were arriving, people getting out, meeting up, chatting and planning their day - it was going to be a busy day on the hills. One group of young folk arrived and asked us for directions to Beinn Chabhair, it looked like they were using Cameron McNeish's Munro book to navigate - just his book, no maps !

On a fine track, we headed under the railway bridge and past a new small hydro building we continued for around 1 km or so. Just before crossing a little burn, a small cairn marked where we needed to leave the track behind - it was time to cross some boggy ground (nowhere near as wet as I remembered) and strike directly uphill. Higher up, we picked up a path, which was followed onto An Caisteal's northern shoulder and we aimed towards the "Twisting Hill". Cloud was on the summits at this point, but it was slowly lifting and we were hoping the forecasts were holding true for clear summit views later in the day. Higher up a few patches of snow needed crossed followed by some easy scrambling which gave some entertainment before the final pull to Cruach Ardrain's summit. There was a group of around 12 young folk up here, lots of chatting to be had. This also enabled a full group photo to be taken - time for a jump !

We left the summit and group behind, the group was just intending to bag An Caisteal, whereas we were aiming for two more Munros, Beinn Chabhair was next ! A short descent took us to the top of a wide grassy drop that led down to the col below Beinn Chabhair. It's steep, there's no path (most people tend to bag Beinn Chabhair on a separate outing), so for the first time today, we began to feel as if we were getting away from the defined routes and were heading into a more remote area. At the col below, it was time for lunch in the sunshine !

The hike up Beinn Chabhair needs a bit of planning, and on the descent to the col, I'd been trying to pick a route that avoided the crags and snow patched. This seemed to work, there was some loose and steep stuff, but quickly everyone was up on the summit taking in the vast views all around.

We all agreed that the route we took uphill would not be ideal for a descent, so after a short detour southwards, we descended some lovely snow patches. Smiles all around, we returned to our lunchstop for some more refreshment before our next uphill.

Our final uphill of the day began on grassy ground broken with the occasional pool thickened with frog-spawn. Up to the col between An Caisteal and Beinn a'Chroin, a path was picked up and followed up the western shoulder of our third Munro. There's a bit of a surprise lurking on this, a short, sharp 'bad step', enough to make the unwary baulk a little. Everyone clambered up this without fuss and we were all on Beinn a'Chroin's undulating summit plateau. There's been debate in the past about which bump is the true summit, it's now clearly marked on the map as "942m", but there's still a couple of little minor summits competing for the summit title and a bit of fun was had debating which needed touching so as secure the "tick" !

And the views were stunning !

To return, we followed a path over Beinn a'Chroin's north-eastern shoulder as it twisted its way down towards the River Falloch. Lower down after a km of crossing wet ground, a track by a new hydro scheme was picked up and followed back to the lay-by. After a quick change, everyone headed off for food to store up some calories for tomorrow's day on the two big mountains in the Crianlarich range.

Day 3 - Stob Binnein and Ben More

As I drove to the start point, the sun was just getting over the hills to the south of Balquhidder Glen. It was a beautiful morning and the forecast was for a lovely day.

The group arrived, we were down to 6 today, Mike and Julia were doing other things. Over the stile by the car-park, we were immediately into our first climb of the day - the steep grassy southern shoulder of Stob Binnein. This is fairly relentlous for around 500m and once we reached around 600m, we paused for a bite, a drink and to take in the ever-expanding views, particularly down Balquhidder Glen towards Ben Vorlich and beyond.

Continuing uphill, the ground became less steep and a joy to hike over. We met the local farmer and had a little chat - he had good taste in footwear (the same Mammut boots as me) ! Higher up, the summit of Stob Binnein came into view, still with a fair amount of snow on its eastern flanks. Lynn noticed a pair of golden eagles circling well above the summits. The views from the summit were astounding, Lynn, who'd been here at least 3 times, commented on never having seen it so good from here before. Some photos taken and since it was only just after 11am, we agreed to have our lunch stop at the col below.

Ben More dominates the view ahead as we descended, meeting a few others (and some dogs) coming the other way. After lunch at the col, it was time for a short 1,000ft ascent thigh-buster ! The group was up in under half an hour, easily negotiating the short scramble near the top on the way. Time for a proper stop, some of us getting involved in "guess the peak" game (PeakFinder always helps resolve this !). Huge distances stretched out before us, we could see the Paps of Jura in one direction, Ben Nevis in another and the Cairngorms in yet another - wow !

Back to the col the way we'd come up, again stopping for some more refreshment. The last ascent of the day (indeed the weekend) was next - we opted to go back up and over Stob Binnein, rather than around it, that way we'd get some more stunning views to enjoy on the return. On the summit of Stob Binnein some of the group needed to head down quicker than others (holidays planned and planes to catch), so with such clear conditions, we spread out on the path. Jeanette and I found a blue buff on the way - belong to anyone ? One by one we returned, cooked meals, baths and just getting boots off were our thoughts next !

A great weekend with a great group. Hope to see you all again soon !

More photos by Steven Fallon are here on Flickr.

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