An CaistealYou are Here: Scotland; Rannoch Moor; An Caisteal
After days, nay weeks of rain, I finally found myself with a day off when the forecast was almost good! As a result, after doing eeny-meeny-miny-mo (you know what I mean) I ended up heading south to Crianlarich and into Glen Falloch. Starting at Derrydarroch where I had picked up the West Highland Way a couple of weeks earlier, I set off up at least two Munros, with the option of a third if the weather and my legs held!
Twistin HillThe route I had chosen was not the one in my pocket-size guide book, so I had to hope for the best as I crossed the river and took the little path past Derrydarroch and into the rough boggy fields beyond. I knew that I needed to cross the mouth of the corrie ahead and climb the ridge beyond, but without any clear evidence for a path in the landscape, it was far easier said than done. Fortunately I managed to spot the gate in the fence well in advance and adjust my course accordingly. Once through, the ground became drier, the grass shorter and the climb steeper. Soon I was negotiating the rocky outcrops that mark the northern end of Twistin Hill.
As I climbed, the going got a little easier again and then over a low rise I found the path that led up this long ridge to the Munro summit at the far end. While the ridge is called Twistin Hill, once I had reached the little knoll at its northern end, there didn't seem to be much twisting to do. The path was reasonably straight, and climbed a gentle gradient until just below the rocky outcrops of the summit. Here, to get around a rather sheer stone cliff, the path does twist a little as it finds a cleft in the rock to gain the final ascent to the summit. From below, this rocky cliff looks like it should be the summit, indeed it looks very much more like a Castle than the actual summit does!
The final ascent to the summit was fairly easy going, and while this was the highest of the three Munros at 995m, it was also to prove the easiest to ascend. I didn't linger long at the summit, as it was still too early for lunch and I wanted to press on. Off to the south I could see Loch Katrine, partially hidden behind the lower hills, while to the north the Munros of Rannoch Moor, Glen Etive and all of their neighbours were ranked up stretching to the horizon, with Beinn Lui near Tyndrum the most prominent of all. Whether Ben Nevis was hidden by distance, other summits of cloud I couldn't be certain.
Beinn a'ChroinThe book suggested that it would take an hour and ten minutes to cross the bealach and climb the steep craggy slopes to the next summit of Beinn a'Chroin. The descent was easy enough to start with, but soon the path started to twist and turn ten times more than Twistin Hill itself had done. Sharp steps down over rocky slabs alternated with grassy tracts but soon the path levelled out once more and I found myself descending gently to the lowest point of the bealach. All the time I was looking across to the west at the third Munro, pondering the best route, hoping I had sufficient time and energy.
Beyond the bealach, the path seemed to curve around the side of the mountain, barely climbing at all as it crossed a narrow grassy strip between crags. Then, suddenly and without any real warning it turned sharply left and started to zigzag slightly up to what looked like a solid cliff above. I followed it, thinking that I must have come the wrong way, until I realised that there was a narrow gap which offered access to the higher slopes. It was a difficult bit though, bag off and haul myself up on my belly as my legs weren't long enough, but Once up the path climbed more easily, albeit surprisingly briefly before it emerged onto the long lumpy summit ridge.
A few years ago I would have had to walk east for about half a mile, but more recently the maps have been redrawn to mark a much closer point as the true summit. Standing on it, I was sure that it was lower than the further point, indeed I was pretty certain that it was lower than a rocky knoll about a dozen paces further west, but this was the cairn described in the book and on the map as the highest point, so I went with it and found a sheltered spot for my lunch!
Beinn ChabhairWith two Munros done, I could have turned back to the car. However, there was another summit within easy reach (or so it seemed), and it was not yet 1 o'clock. I retraced my steps down that awkward rocky step and back to the bealach, where I turned off and dropped down a very steep narrow grassy gulley. The book, I remembered, had recommended climbing back towards the summit of An Caisteal before descending, but I fancied this route as it involved less climbing! At the bottom, I picked my way round the base of some crags before the ground levelled out to a more gentle descent to the bealach beyond. I had been a little aprehensive about the descent, but it had been easy enough. Now, as I looked up the ascent looked the more daunting.
As I reached the watershed, I found myself on a rough path that meandered between the grassy knolls and headed for the far side of the bealach. It then started to climb alongside the stream before vanishing completely, leaving me 'stranded' on a rough and rocky hillside. I decided that the best approach was a vertical ascent, and indeed it was a lot less trouble than it may have been. Beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about, I turned to look back at the two Munros I had alread climbed, and saw dots of people on the ridge, and then three Stags far below in the bealach. I had something to eat, a drink and feeling refreshed turned to tackle the last of the climb. To my surprise, I had stopped barely 30m below the summit, not that I could tell from below, and so there I was at the cairn with the long silvery finger of Loch Lomond stretching away to the south far below.
After a brief pause and a few photos, I turned along the good path that dropped down along the ridge. However, this path led back along the 'normal' ascent route for this mountain, and I had no intention of giving myself a four mile walk back along the West Highland Way, so before long I dropped off down a steep grassy corrie, following a stream as it slowly gathered pace and force down into the glen below. From here, it was an easy stroll through long wet grass back to the WHW just 10 minutes from Derrydarroch and the car!