[Words and photographs by Roy Starkey.]
Ben Cruachan is a particularly fine mountain, brilliantly positioned (you can walk from the railway station platform!), and commanding fine views of the surrounding mountains including long views across to the Cuillins on Skye (70 miles away), up Glen Etive to Ben Nevis and Ben Starav, across to Ben Lui near Tyndrum, out across the Black Mount and Rannoch Moor to Ben Alder and the far distant peaks of the Cairngorms (70 miles away), and closer to home down to Ben Lomond just north of Glasgow.
Parking at the Power Station Visitor centre is discouraged. There are a few places to park along the road near the station so you need to arrive fairly early. We set off in gorgeous early morning sunshine, making our way under the railway track and up the steep, twisting path on the east bank of the stream, through the attractive mixed woodland – birch, oak and hazel. The path climbs 300m in a short distance and leads out onto more open and (in wet conditions) boggy ground. We struck off across the foot of the dam, gaining the shoulder of Meall Cuanail. Here it was very windy and we began to think that our glorious sunny day might yet prove to be more difficult than anticipated. As we gained the crest of the ridge we could hardly stand up and sought refuge between some boulders to take stock. Hoping things would improve we battled down to the col between Meall Cuanail and Ben Cruachan summit, hardly able to stand, let alone walk in a structured manner. Then, miraculously as we started to ascend the final slope we lost the wind, and it was almost still on the summit. We were treated to fantastic views in all directions, hazy in the direction of the sun, it being mid-day, but with features clearly discernible up to 70 miles away or more. We were able to confidently pick out the Cuillins, Ben Lomond, Ben Nevis and many nearer tops.
[Click on any of the photographs below to enlarge and to see a description of the view shown or select “slideshow” link to automate.]
After a brief stop for lunch we continued eastwards along the ridge, climbing each peak in turn, and catching up with other couples and groups as we leap-frogged each other between rest-stops. There was almost no snow remaining and the transformation from the conditions encountered by Cameron and Elaine was quite remarkable. Each summit provided slight variations on the previous views and we took far too many photos along the way. The route provides some interesting easy scrambling, but is free of difficulties, and once you are up, is relatively level with only minor descents and re-ascents necessary to maintain the summit crest.
Finally we gained the top of Stob Garbh, and after a brief stop to take in the view, struck directly SW to intersect the path above the reservoir, following it to the dam and thence retraced our steps back through the woodland to the road. It had been a truly excellent, if tiring circuit, and one which can be confidently recommended as a fine mountain day out.