Few mountains in Scotland arrest the attention quite like Ben Cruachan and her ridges. Tucked away off the main south-north artery of this region, the postion between highland and sea is both dramatic and beautiful. A thin but noble ridge connects the satellite peak (Stob Diamh)and the main peak, swooping to a low coll before rising and curving to a fine point.
The gaelic Ben Cruachan translating to Stacky hill appears quite appropriate when stood on the upper reaches. The views can be stunning. Looking north and down (almost) on all of Glen Coe, Bidean nam Bian's multiple peaks dominating the scene. The Buachilles out to the North East with Glen Etive dominating the foreground. To the east are the Crianlarich peaks, the Arrochar Alps to the south east and the 23 mile journey of Loch Awe to the South West. Westward, the sun sets behind a silhouetted Mull and the solitary Munro Ben More.
The Ben Cruachan horseshoe is deservedly the most popular route on this mountain. Possible in either direction, east to west being more popular, following the movement of the sun. In winter, on firm neve, there is possibly not a finer winter walk. Winter experience is preferred but this is nothing more than a walk providing you are used to crampons and an axe.
Coming from Glasgow, take the A82 road for approximately 60 miles until you reach Tyndrum, 5 miles past Crianlarich. From Edinburgh take the M8 to junction 2, M9 to junction 8, and then follow the A84/A85 to Crianlarich (approx. 82 miles).
From Tyndrum, head west on the A85 road (towards Oban) for 12 miles near to Dalmally, and then head a further 5 miles to the falls of Cruachan, near to the Power Station. Park somewhere near to the path by the rail station. (gr: 079268)
No red tape is required to climb here for most of the year, although it may be recommended to to call the Castles Estate, Dalmally if climbing between 20 August to 20 October (the Stalking season).
Do not park at the power station however or you may find yourself clamped. Try and park by the road near to the station.
When To Climb
Summer climbing is a pleasant round on fine peaks, but the winter climb can be superb. On a cold but sunny winters day there is little finer. Like any winter route, it is recommended to be well equipped but I wouldn't recommend anything more than crampons and one axe, unless planning to climb in the gullies. The summit cone is an airy scramble, and on the ridge there are some steeper routes which can be avoided. Just don't do this one on a misty day or you'll miss a big part of what this mountain has to offer.
For a list of sites in the Scottish highlands try http://www.uk-sites.com/caravan_and_campsites_directory/Scotland-North.htm.
There are hotels around Glencoe (Kingshouse), Fort William, Tyndryum and Crianlarich.
An excellent option is the numerous independant hostels around - try the Strathfillan Wigwams near to Crianlarich, or the excellent West Highland Way Sleeper at Bridge of Orchy - converted rooms in the rail station (very cosy). There are bunkhouses in Glencoe and several options around Oban. Try http://www.hostel-scotland.co.uk/ for more info.
Try http://www.onlineweather.com/v4/uk/city/Fort_William.html for a 5 day forecast around Fort William ( slightly north). The BBC also has a good weather page.
Avalanche conditions are available from http://www.sais.gov.uk/ where there is a good summary of around Glen Coe.
Main Route Information
The main route is the, deservedly popular, horseshoe. Starting on the A85 road near the rail station, climb steeply up above the rail track up towards the Ben Cruachan Reservoir. Climb over several hills before approaching the impressive Cruchan reservoir dam. Follow the east edge of the reservoir along a broad track that soon narrows to a path.
Climb up easterly towards a bealach between Beinn a Bhuridh at about 720m. Follow the ridge notherly over a subsidary summit (980m) before reaching Stob Diamh at 980m. Descend steeply west (a delight in deep snow) towards to col (800m) before ascending steep slopes to a subsidary summit on the Cruachan ridge (1009m). Descend and follow this past on a steep ridge round to the airy summit ridge of Ben Cruachan (1126m).
Descend south to the col between Ben Cruachan and Meall Cuanail and head down towards the reservoir westward. Then follow the track south along the reservoir and back to the A85 road. If there is deep snow it may be easier to ascend Meall Cuanail (918m) and follow the ridge back to the dam.
Descent can be obtained