Creach Bheinn (NN 023422, 810m)
980 metres of ascent
The last time I climbed Creach Bheinn, it was in a sleet-storm that I imagined was going to pass over to reveal the fabled westward view from the summit. Instead, it clamped down and increased in intensity. When I finally dropped below the clouds on the way down and got a view of Loch Creran below, I heaved a sigh, turned off my GPS receiver and dropped it into the outside pocket of my cagoule. There was a splashing sound. I reached into the pocket, and found my GPS unit lying in two inches of chilly rainwater. This did it precisely as little good as you might imagine.
Anyway, this time I woke to see blue sky over the hills of Morvern to the west, and decided that the summit mists lingering to the east in Lorn would soon clear, revealing the fabled view westward … You already know where this is going, don’t you?
There’s a little nook of a layby at the head of Loch Creran, just north of the estate buildings of Druimavuic (I presume from druim a’ bhuic, “ridge of the buck”). This gives easy access to a gate at the start of the vehicle track that runs up the north side of the Allt Buidhe between Ben Sgulaird and Creach Bheinn.
Two guys I met on the track peeled off almost immediately to cross the Allt Buidhe low down, aiming to get up Creach Bheinn via its northwest extension, Meall nan Caorach (“hill of the sheep”—no sheep to be seen). There had been heavy rain overnight and the river was a white torrent, so I kept taking anxious backward glances until I saw them think better of it and head back to the track.
It’s a nice track, with fine views over Loch Creran to the Firth of Lorn and the hills of Morvern. Overhead, the cloud was still swirling around the crags of Creach Bheinn, but it seemed to be lifting.
If you follow the track all the way to the col, you can make a ridge walk over Creag na Cathaig (“crag of the snowdrift”), but instead I cut off the path at NN 035441 and contoured around the soggy head of Coire Buidhe until I could climb up into the notch between Creag na Cathaig and the bulk of Creach Bheinn. Deer watched me from the ridge as I ascended, the stag keeping station on the skyline until all his hinds were safely out of sight on the far side.
Mist was blowing through the col when I got there, but the sun was making an occasional watery appearance, too. Above was the craggy stuff that protects Creach Bheinn’s lumpy summit ridge—not hard to deal with in good visibility, but potentially dangerous during a descent in mist on wet grass. Last time, in grim visibility and with water pouring down the hillside beneath my feet, I’d baled off the summit northwestwards to avoid getting involved in a steep, slippery and craggy descent.
I pressed on up a stream-bed—after a steep little section to begin with, it lay back into a nice easy channel up the hillside. It also took me into cloud.
And then a wall of sleet blew through, causing a scramble to get into waterproofs, and a wave of despondency—this was too much like last time. But the sleet stopped just as soon as I had finished donning the waterproofs (don’t you just hate it when that happens?) and then the cloud opened in a long tunnel to afford a glimpse of Beinn Eunaich across Loch Etive. Encouraging.
By the time I got up to the 804m northeast top (NN 030429) of Creach Bheinn, Ben Sgulaird was emerging from the mist into dappled sunlight.
I trotted across to a rocky outcrop slightly to the west, and was rewarded with a fine view along the length of Strath Appin to the unmistakable shape of Castle Stalker, perched on its little island.
But to the southwest there was still a wall of cloud—orographic stuff being pushed in from the Atlantic on the prevailing wind. Creach Bheinn’s trig point and cairn sat steadfastly in this clag and, though I hung about for half an hour, there was no sign of it thinning out—so Creach Bheinn, the “hill of plunder”, had robbed me of its famous view for a second time.
Ah well. I retraced my steps to the Coire Buidhe track, which was still enjoying splendid autumnal vistas.
On the way down, I dropped off the main track, passing a ruined pair of enclosures, to take a look at the little dam on the river. I wondered if it might afford a safe way across the river when it was in spate. It certainly spans the river, but the central concrete is barely a boot wide, and the drop into the outflow pool is more than a little disconcerting. I wouldn’t try it, myself.
And so back to the car, where it started to rain just as I opened the boot. (Don’t you just love it when you beat the rain back to the car?)