I headed up the side of Loch Lomond towards Crianlarich today, stopping a couple of kilometres short of the village and parking in a layby in Glen Falloch. After putting on my boots and warming up, I crossed the stile into a boggy field, and made my way under the railway and over the River Falloch. An Caisteal, the mountain I was here to climb, rose hazily in front of me, the sun shining out from behind it.
I continued up the track as it twists its way gently upwards beside the river.
After a couple of kilometres the track ends, and here I turned up onto the lower slopes of Srón Gharbh. There’s no path to follow here, and after recent rain the ground was water-logged, so I picked my way carefully up the steep slope trying not to get too wet. It was hard work but looking back the views made it worthwhile.
Upon reaching the summit of Srón Gharbh I joined a track that leads up Twistin Hill to the summit of An Caisteal. It was getting significantly colder the higher I got, and whereas the summit had been visible from the layby, it was now enshrouded in thick cloud.
The further I went the thicker the cloud got. Where the track clings to the eastern edge of the mountain I should have had a good view across Coire Earb, but as it was I could only see about 10 metres.
As I continued to make my way up, six figures eerily appeared from the mist in front of me, emphasising how bad the visibility had become. Just before the summit the path drops sharply down into a small gully full of large pieces of rock with small “caves” underneath them. Combined with the mist, it made for a strange and almost mystical view, like something from a film about King Arthur!
After climbing out of the gully it wasn’t far to go until I reached the summit. The visibility was so bad by now that I continued on quite a bit further past the cairn to make sure that the path was heading down again rather than rising up again. After establishing that this was indeed the summit, I stopped for a few minutes in the sub-zero temperatures for a windswept sandwich, the water on my jacket turning to ice.
I was only wearing shorts so I started to head back down soon after, retracing my steps towards Srón Gharbh, the cloud thinning as I dropped further down.
I tried to find a better way down the boggy slopes of Srón Gharbh than the route I had taken on the way up, and I think I just about managed but the difference was negligible! Eventually I was back on the track, which I followed back down to the bridge over the River Falloch and back to the car.