Date: Sun 16th Jan 2012
Start: Car Park at the end of Loch Voil
Weather: Low Cloud, Occasional breaks
Distance: 16.6km
Time taken: 8 Hours
Ascent: 1170 metres
Accompanied by: Emma, Milo and Inca


y hill action has been pretty limited recently. In fact it had grinded to a halt! I had not ticked off any Munro’s since September and if I wanted to hit the 150 mark by year end; it was time to get things moving again. Unfortunately, over the last few months my free weekends had coincided with poor weather but this weekend looked favourable. In fact it looked more than favourable. MWIS was banding figures of 90% cloud free Munro’s, no wind and cloud inversions. Time to get involved!

I was torn between Glas Tulaichean and Carn an Righ near Spittal of Glenshee or the two peaks of Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean from Inverlochlarig. With Emma and dogs tagging along I decided on the second option because the mileage was less and with short daylight hours, I did not want to be experiencing another night time experience like last years Meall Buidhe and Cam Chreag from Bridge of Gaur trip

We set off at 6am and with a clear sky and stars visible I was optimistic of a great day. Indeed, as we drove through Callendar and past Ben Ledi the top of the peak was sticking through the cloud. Bring it on! We drove up the road alongside Loch Lubnaig then headed west down the minor road past Loch Voil towards Inverlochlarig. We parked up in the public car park, kitted up and set off towards the farm.

We headed through the farm via the diversion and then followed the land rover track up into the glen. The route on Walkhighlands states that you make a beeline directly uphill or follow the path a little higher up into the glen and then make your way up the hillside. The glen was shrouded in mist so it was difficult to see the best approach to the top and with plenty of sheep in abundance we decided to head further up the track and before heading up.

After a kilometre or so, we left the path and headed uphill. It was not very steep but still a slog over rough ground. I identified a burn on the map and pinpointed our location. We had actually gone a little too far up the track so we took a diagonal line south-west and at an altitude of about 500 metres, picked up the rough track to the summit of Beinn Tulaichean. As we headed higher, there was no sign of the mist disbanding. In fact as we got higher it got worse. So much for cloud free skies!

As we pushed through 800 metres, there were patches of snow evident and the puddles on the path had frozen solid. After a quick deliberation, we made the decision to don crampons even though the other people heading to the top were not bothering. There again, I noticed that not one person was wearing boots that would support crampons. It amazes me how many people head up into the hills in winter without the correct gear.

It was a good decision. The higher we climbed the more icy the path became and whilst other people slipped, the crampons enabled us to progress without any issues. Unfortunately the summit of Beinn Tulaichean was shrouded in mist but you could see the sun shining through the cloud above. Maybe we would come through the cloud as we headed higher? We were well clear of the sheep so we let the dogs off the lead and set off down from the top towards the bealach and then up to the second peak, Cruach Ardrain.

Even with a layer of snow on the ridge, the path was obvious and we made good progress up towards the summit. We met a couple of guys heading down who informed us that it was bitterly cold and windy on the top. “So cold” I was informed, that one of the guy’s tomato soup was ice cold when he poured it from his flask. We pushed higher and passed a small cairn with the remnants of tomato soup on the floor. The actual true summit was another 100 metres further up and is accessed by crossing a small dip then heading up slightly. The ‘tomato soup boys’ had mistaken this small cairn for the summit! An easy mistake in the clag!

The wind had picked up so we took shelter behind the cairn and grabbed a bite to eat. We probably stayed for just a couple of minutes before setting off back down towards the bealach, passing a French couple on our way down. As we dropped lower the sun above the cloud became brighter and all of a sudden the cloud dropped to reveal a wicked inversion. I looked back towards Cruach Ardrain which was now totally free of cloud. The French couple, who must have spent as little time on the summit as us and were on their way back down, turned on their heels and could be seen running back to the top.

We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time because if we had descended any lower, we would have still been in the cloud. All good things come to an end though and within a couple of minutes the cloud came back in and we were engulfed once again. We arrived at the bealach and had a decision to make. Do we drop down the hillside to the land rover track or head back over Beinn Tulaichean and take a more direct line to the start? If the clouds had not have dropped I suspect we would have dropped down to the land rover path but with the chance of a repeat of the inversion we had just experienced, I decided to head back up to Beinn Tulaichean instead.

It was about 100 metres of ascent from the bealach to the summit but luck was not on our side. The top was still covered in cloud and it did not look like there was any chance of it shifting! There was no point in hanging around and with time getting on, we pushed past the summit and dropped down taking a direct line towards the farm. At first there was a distinct ‘trod’ to follow but as we descended lower we either lost the path or it just disappeared.

Eventually, we arrived at a fence. There was one one thing for it. Lift the dogs over the top and head straight for the farm. There was a field of sheep to negotiate though and with Milo and Inca back on their harness’s and lines it was an ‘eventful’ journey down the hill. I think I spent more time on my backside than on my feet but we managed to avoid any mishap. It was practically dark by the time we hit the land rover track and pitch black by the time we got back to car and set off home. But nothing new there then?

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