Creag Mac Ranaich Conquered

A team of eight runners, three cyclists and two bicycles assembled outside the Kings House Hotel near Balquhidder on Saturday morning. In view of the extreme altitude (2654½ ft) it was decided that a long acclimatisation run was necessary before we made our final push for the summit. The expedition set off on the Sustrans cycle track which heads north parallel with the main road towards Lochearnhead and Glen Ogle. The runners ran and the cyclists cycled, with a certain amount of shouting and bell-ringing in between. Keith and Nick were taking the multi-disciplinary approach to the extreme. One would cycle for a while then cast the steed to the ground and run on. When the second runner tripped over the bike, that was the signal to climb on and ride it for a while.

We progressed by the new cycle track and bits of the old lower-level railway towards Lochearnhead. It was a very pleasant run on the undulating path through woodland. Just before Lochearnhead the path climbed on a series of steep zig-zags to join the upper-level railway. We were now high enough to get splendid views down the full length of Loch Earn.

The track continued up Glen Ogle. We could see the main road on the other side of the valley. At first it was far below us but as we progressed it gradually climbed towards our level. We could also see the scars on the opposite hillside where two major landslides had trapped a number of motorists a few years ago. Further on we came to the impressive railway viaduct. Shane had often seen it from the road and wanted to have a closer look. Now his ambition was realised. One could almost imagine the hiss and roar of the steam trains crossing the viaduct in times gone by.

At the top of Glen Ogle the cycle way crosses the main road and goes down towards Killin.We continued on the old railway track that swings westwards into Glen Dochart and that used to go to Crianlarich. It was a lot quieter through the dense forest but the track was still in good condition for cycling. The cyclists went off on a side forest track to avoid a later rough patch. The runners continued past the old Killin Junction station.

We could see the remains of the platform at the side of the track and we could just see the chimney of the old station peeping above the trees. We soon left the railway for a track through the forest that would take us into Gleann Dubh. The weather looked like being cold and windy on the tops so we paused at the edge of the forest for a lunch break. We were trying to emulate the British Olympic team - doing best at sports that involved sitting down. Suitably refreshed, we continued up the glen. Although it is not shown on the map, the path soon develops into a good landrover track that goes right over the head of the valley, to the west of Creag Mac Ranaich, and down into Glen Kendrum.

At a rather vague point, signalled only by my GPS receiver, we left the track and started our ascent of the hill. The climb became ever steeper up the grassy slopes. Soon, hands, knees and even teeth, became useful climbing aids. "Would we ever see our loved ones again?" I wondered. Ian did remark that perhaps the ten mile run in had made the slopes seem steeper. Eventually we breasted the last slope to emerge victorious at the summit. Meanwhile, the cyclists had gone right to the head of the valley to climb the hill from the southern end. I would like to think they did it so we had a multi-pronged attack on the summit to ensure success.

"No," they said, "We want to make sure our bikes are in the right place when we come off the hill." Unfortunately Creag Mac Ranaich has two summits of almost equal height. The runners were on one top and the cyclists were on the other. We were too far apart to tell whether the other party were waving a friendly greeting or shaking fists to claim the summit. After a while the two parties came together on one top. Eric produced a Carnethy flag which he waved impressively from the summit to claim victory for our expedition.
We came off the southwest side of the hill and back down to the track. Although it was a steep descent, it avoided the many crags on the hillside. The initial descent on the track into Glen Kendrum was much rougher than the earlier track. Although Eric claims to have buttocks of steel, I noticed that he was standing on the pedals as he went by. Our group spread out as we made our way down Glen Kendrum - some slowing down with weariness and some speeding up with the Kings House in mind. At the bottom of the glen we got onto another part of the railway track and soon made our way back to the journey's end. The day was rounded off with refreshments in front of the log fire in the cosy Rob Roy bar.

Nigel Rose.


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