Ben Cruachan and Oban Weekend. A weekend spent in Oban and a climb of Ben Cruachan a 1126m Munro that is the highest point in Argyll and Bute.
A few weekends ago I headed up West to climb Ben Cruachan and visit Oban (the seafood capital of Scotland) with my old pal and school friend Mike.
We’ve been hill walking all over Scotland since we were in our early 20’s. Just after we left University.
Before we were in steady relationships and had settled down, we’d see ourselves out at least once every month often travelling to the far corners of Scotland and staying away the whole weekend doing as much climbing as possible.
Nowadays, with work and family commitments we’re lucky if we can get away 3 – 4 times a year. But that’s life, and times like this trip to Ben Cruachan and Oban are still amazing and cherished.
We had been talking about doing this weekend climbing Ben Cruachan and staying in Oban for quite a few years now!
It’s been one of those trips that we both finally got round to arranging time off work and able to travel by car on a Friday for. Time off work being the biggest challenge!
So, for setting out the logistics of the weekend, I arranged to leave my car at Mike’s in Falkirk, as it was his turn to do the driving. We arrived in Oban late Friday afternoon, and for the weekend had arranged to stay in a hostel we found which was pretty cheap and pretty good!
We had fresh fish and chips at this restaurant. Followed by a few glasses of the good “red stuff” and a general catch up on what’s been going on in our lives over the last few months as well as a “putting the world right” session. 😉
Right, so let’s start the more interesting part shall we? The actual photographs and a brief recap (I’ll try to keep it brief) of the day’s climb of Ben Cruachan, part of the weekend Ben Cruachan and Oban expedition.
Grab your back pack, climbing boots and be prepared for any kind of weather. Or just get a cuppa………… 🙂
Saturday started after a muesli breakfast with a half hour drive to the roadside parking area next to the Falls of Cruachan railway station.
The railway station is a small one platform halt on the scenic railway route which travels alongside the mountains from Glasgow to Oban.
It’s a “request stop” meaning that the train will only stop there if you’ve pre-advised the ticket collector.
The halt is mainly used by hikers coming to climb Ben Cruachan.
It was nice of some person to kindly situate a hand made sign.
The sign pointing out that the gate leads under the single track railway to the path which begins the climb to the Cruachan reservoir.
Otherwise you’ll find yourself on the station platform.
And if you’re looking for a train, there’s one every four hours!
And so we begin the ascent up the path.
See how green the foliage is at this time of year?
Mike is beginning the ascent of the first part of the climb to get up onto the plateau where that Cruachan reservoir is.
Turning around, looking back down, the railway line is hidden but it runs along the shore of Loch Awe closest to us.
You can see some of what this part of Scotland is extremely famous for here, FISH!
There’s lots of salmon nets where the salmon are farmed But you can also catch a whole load of wild fresh fresh here too like brown trout.
At the top of the first part of the path we reached the plateau.
Behind that Dam, the Cruachan Dam, is the Cruachan reservoir, which is where we headed to next.
The summit of Ben Cruachan itself is just about visible to the centre left of the photograph above.
As you can see there was still a long way to hike!
I’ve mentioned in previous hill walking posts that there are quite a lot of hydro electric schemes in and around the Scottish mountains.
Most were cleverly made and hidden away from view so as not to spoil the general beauty of the area. 🙂
This particular Dam, is part of the Cruachan Power Station set up and was finished in 1965.
Its pretty unique. Water behind the dam runs down through the turbines during the day, when peak electricity consumption is at its most.
At night, when there’s less demand, the water is pumped back up, into the reservoir using cheaper electricity!
And the turbine hall that houses the 4 turbines that generate the electricity? Pretty much under our feet here, built right inside Ben Cruachan itself. Genius eh?
We’d set off at 9.45am so were making good time here arriving at 10.45 at the Cruachan reservoir.
Our intention was to climb to the top of Ben Cruachan, and then circumnavigate the entire horseshoe ridge walk of hill tops back to the opposite side of the reservoir you see here in the distance.
Well that WAS the intention………
It was a breathless day, albeit overcast. The sweat was pouring off us. That’s probably more information than you need to know eh?
Looking back towards the east over the reservoir you can see the dam in the distance.
We walked all the way around the reservoir to where the final (and hardest bit) steep path climbs to the summit from here.
All of the scenery surrounding us is stunning.
There was so many stunning individual sights.
For example this waterfall. It was just one of the many tributaries supplying the reservoir below.
When we previously climbed Ben Nevis there were literally hundreds of people climbing with us because of it’s popularity.
However mountains like Ben Cruachan which are a great deal more challenging and physically demanding are also less busy.
You can see some climbers before us tackling the steep incline up the first part of the mountain.
I mention them because they feature in an incident I will tell you about later that happened at the summit.
Mike always carries walking poles on his rucksack.
I think they are more of a hindrance when used for climbing, than good.
However, when you’re coming DOWN the mountain, this is where they can prove their use.
Used properly they can prove an additional means of support, stability and also take quite a bit of weight off your knees.
I can see me probably having to invest in a set in the future!
Here we stopped at Stob Daimh (about 998m) to look back over at the stunning view of Meall Cuanail (about 900m).
It was also time for a bit of a lunch stop.
I say “bit of a lunch stop” because generally we tend to snack on the way.
Fruit, nuts and all our rolls which we made up before leaving had mostly already been devoured!
Luckily there was a bit of a cloud clearance on the summit. Allowing us to actually see a view for a change!
This is Mike on summit of Ben Cruachan (1126m).
Summits like this can be a brief experience.
If you can imagine you’re pretty hot by the time you reach this stage. But stopping even for just a moment means you start to cool down pretty quickly.
So you want to keep moving as quickly as possible. Just to keep warm.
At this point because of the likely hood of lower cloud cover we made the decision to go back down, rather than complete the horse shoe ridge walk right round, that I mentioned earlier.
It was the right decision. The clouds did come down and we just wouldn’t have seen anything, and it would have been dangerous.
Well here’s yours truly on the summit of Ben Cruachan!
At this point, before our descent, we were joined by those climbers I mentioned earlier.
They were carrying their friend and long time hillwalking companion Fraser.
Now, when I say they were carrying their friend Fraser, it wasn’t in the way you would instantly think of how someone might need a help up the mountain, perhaps the last few paces, due to exhaustion or tiredness.
No, in this case it was Fraser’s remains.
Fraser had passed away a few months before, of a short term illness that had taken him, having reached his seventieth years. Frasers’ ashes had lain in a box on the mantlepiece of his widow, whilst she grieved and duly paid her respects.
Then, as per Fraser’s final wishes, his ashes had been handed over to his friends, those 3 climbers, who carried him to where he had requested he wanted to be finally laid, to rest in peace.
Here, on this stunning mountain. In the solace and magnificence of these natural surroundings. Forever.
Perhaps this mountain had a particular meaning to Fraser. Perhaps he had spent many happy climbs here, with his friends and made that decision many years ago, that this is where he would want to have his final resting place.
Whatever the reason for Fraser’s decision it was duly respected by his friends who scattered his ashes over the mountain.
They then subsequently (as is tradition) toasted his life by passing round a hip flask containing a quality malt whisky (maybe his favourite, but I didn’t ask).
There’s a particular camaraderie amongst hillwalkers in Scotland. One of respect and looking out for each other on the hillside.
You always say “hello” when you pass or meet someone. It’s kind of a done thing, it’s not a written rule, it’s just an observed one.
So, having never met Fraser, nor his 3 friends, Mike and I still duly paid our respects to Fraser too. As a member of our hillwalking fraternity, gone. But not forgotten.
Ben Cruachan and Oban Weekend Comes To A Close
We returned to Oban later in the afternoon.
Had hot showers to aleviate what would be aching limbs the next day and prepared ourselves for a sumptious feast of seafood.
We were rewarded by this spectacular sunset over Oban Harbour.
We witnessed this on our way to our seafood supper at Ee-Usk seafood restaurant. If you’re in Oban, you MUST go there!
Plus, this was the stunning view that we watched from the restaurant as night descended peacefully, whilst devouring freshly made fish cakes for starters and then a lightly pan fried turbot with caper and leek mash for mains. DELICIOUS!
The main photograph at the top of this recap of our Ben Cruachan and Oban visit shows the red roofed building of the Ee-Usk restaurant.
The site of the restaurant is where the old ferry terminal to the islands that Mull serves was situated.
The new Calmac ferry terminal is now situated across the harbour in a more modern arrangement, to be able to accommodate and transport cars to those islands.
Naturally on the Sunday morning prior to our departure whilst I was capturing these final few images the weather was still stunning!
Still I wasn’t complaining because whilst it was pretty grey out on Ben Cruachan, it didn’t rain and we were warm and dry, as opposed to cold and wet! Which is always a bonus!
That new ferry terminal I mentioned is to the right in the photograph above.
Part of Obans’ fishing fleet seen here is laid up. It being a Sunday and the respected day here of The Sabbath.
Above is the view of the Ee-Usk restaurant and Oban harbour front from just beside the new ferry terminal.
I could have quite happily pottered about here, taking loads of photographs and wandering about Oban for the whole day.
There’s so much more to see than what I was able to picture here in the time I had.
I’ve yet to actually travel on the railway line from Glasgow to Oban. It’s on the list, so hopefully I’ll be back here one day, with my camera, to show you more.
See you for now! 😀
Cheers! Ps, Oban makes me want to have a Scotch, stat. As always, I am struck by the scenery and terrain, so incredibly different from anything we have here. I am reading the sequel to that memoir of Scottish Isle-living that I mentioned to you, and as soon as you mentioned the necessity of acknowledging your other hikers, I thought of the connection that people seem to have out there. People here nod, but there, there is the actually speaking aloud. It goes to the next level.
It is nice that in this busy day and age we still have the ability to be considerate to our fellow human beings when on the hillside. It’s also a good way of getting a weather forecast / terrain summary and general review of what’s to come, if you’re meeting people coming down the hill. 🙂
Thrilled that you are continuing your reading of Scottish Isle-living. Nothing compares to their actual beauty though, and I hope one day that you can see it for real.
Have a great weekend my friend! 😀
I can never get over how gorgeous Scotland is whenever I read your travel posts. What an amazing climb, and that story about Fraser is heartwarming. I love that you and Mike paid your respects — it’s such a great feeling how sports can bring people together and create a community.
Ditto Amanda. I never can get enough of your mountain pictures and Canadian scenery.
My old school friend Dave has just visited Lynne and I here in Scotland, when he was over seeing his Dad. We caught up in Glasgow and had dinner with his family and kids too.
Lynne and I have an invite to stay with him in Ontario. We hope to take that up one day and to see much more of your beautiful scenery ourselves too. And of course drop in on Spoons for a cup of tea and some of your delicious cooking! 🙂
Wow Neil, Ben Cruachan and Oban are gorgeous! I am blown away by all the beautiful views you post on your hill walking forays! What a story about Fraser but I can understand why he wanted to be scattered among those magnificent mountains! But, I am curious as to what y’all discuss during a “putting the world right” session? 🙂
Thank you Shashi. I was especially moved by the whole Fraser incident. I just thought it was a fitting and perfect way for someone so passionate about their hill walking to leave this world. And especially more so with the help of his best friends.
Ha ha, you would love to be a “fly on the wall” for our “putting the world right” conversation wouldn’t you? 😉 I’ll just say that MUCH was fixed. Well, in our heads anyway, after several glasses of wine………… 🙂