I’m quickly adding some notches to the old Munro tally now! I joked about doubling or tripling my tally last week but I really fancied doing these four the more I looked into it. Initially I was going to do just Ben Lui and Beinn a’Chleibh from Glen Lochay side but after seeing some routes including all four, I was easily swayed to something a bit longer which I was wanting anyway. With so many hours of daylight it seems a shame to be up and down in 5 or 6 hours when you can spend so much longer on the hills. And boy was I happy I did this route instead!
So off I set for Dalrigh on my own since I couldn’t get any takers to accompany me, I missed the turn off initially somehow then almost again after I turned back further up the road! I hadn’t really planned my route for the ascent of Lui or for the final descent of Dubhchraig. Everything in between looked pretty straightforward though having looked at maps and other peoples reports on here. So left the car park about 10.15am and headed south east instead of west as you can see on my GPS track. Don’t know how I managed it but after a minute I realised the mistake and turned back! (Creeping past the group at the car park so they didn’t realise I was so daft!) These few navigation errors were a sign of things to come at the end of the day and not just for me!
Eventually on track, I headed on for the roughly 4 mile walk to the base of Ben Lui. Passing a sign for the WHW on route, the walk was pretty flat, only rising about 200m and on a land rover track the whole way which could be cycled easily. I considered taking the bike but it would have hampered my route I wanted to do but would definitely consider it again if I was just doing Ben Lui from Dalrigh as it would make it much more accessible if you didn’t have a lot of time but still wanted to tackle Lui without the 2 hour walk to start it off. And would also give you an enjoyable cycle back down the hill to the car park at the end of the day. If a little bumpy!
After passing through some trees you eventually get a descent view of Ben Lui and what lays ahead for you, realising all those ridges look pretty high and steep. This gives you time for the rest of the walk to look at it and the closer you get, try to decide which way to ascend.
Passing through Cononish farm was straightforward, I thought I’d made a wrong turn or something and kept looking at the map to make sure I was going the right way but this was just my paranoia. It’s easy really, just follow the main path that curves round to the right in the distance.
Shortly before arriving at the base, a land rover filled with people passed me, there was also a helicopter flying about above so wasn’t sure if something had happened but it turns out they were all just climbing the hill as well but cheating by driving and parking at the base! Another small red 4×4 passed me not long after though which somehow seemed to disappear. I expected to see it parked next to the land rover at the base but it wasn’t. This was well after Cononish farm too so I have no idea where it went and couldn’t see any other roads!
Stopped for a wee breather at the base then headed up. Caught up and passed quite a few people from different groups here. Some were going straight up the middle on the right to miss half the ridge out and some had cut right early on to tackle that north east ridge from the very bottom. I couldn’t see any sort of path so not sure if it’s normal or not to do so?
Before making a decision and choosing an ascent route, I caught up with the final person I could see ahead of me. Lovely girl called Lorna who was also planning on doing all 4 if time permitted. We stood and chatted and decided which way each of us were going to tackle this monster. Both of us liked the look of the rocky ridge on the left hand side of the corrie. Definitely looked more fun and scrambly than any other vague scree-y paths I could see so went for it, cutting straight left to what looked like a rocky path but could have just been a dried up burn.
Closer you got to this route the more menacing it looked!
I was going to attempt to mark on the images the route we took but it ended up being impossible for me to remember exactly which way it was just by looking at the picture unfortunately. All I can say was that part was the highlight of the day. Straight away once on the rocks I made the comment about how exposed it was as I wasn’t expecting it to be like that, the wind hit you straight away where as you were quite protected before. There was some excellent scrambling to be had and a couple of hairy steps to be made. Stopped half way up to talk with a guy who kindly took our picture at the summit also so cheers! One part though, to get by a rock, I had to place my left foot on a small grassy ledge barely wider than my foot and only about 1ft long. It was quite exciting, just wish I took more pictures of the details like this. After that, there was a proper wall about 10-15ft maybe that required climbing, I don’t know if there was another way around but it certainly was entertaining. I was almost running up this part with adrenaline. I can hardly remember it now so I hope I’m not exaggerating any of the details! Quickly jumped up some more rocks and made it to the summit in about an hour from the base. Extremely fun ascent.
Looking down at Beinn a’Chleibh, it looks like nothing at all. Hardly even a hill. I was up at the summit of that in 15 minutes from the bealach which was fairly leisurely too. Definitely should not be classed as a Munro, it’s just too easy. Jumped back down to the bealach and it was time to head to Ben Oss.
Basically just wanting to follow the base of Ben Lui around past its other summit Sgiath Dhubh to meet up with the bealach that splits it and Ben Oss. Picked out a line and set our compasses to 125 and just followed that for long enough. Ended up coming up a wee bit higher so much to my dismay, had to descent some more. My knee was in tatters by this point, was really struggling but the fastest, easiest way back to the car was probably by bagging these final two Munros anyway so pressed on.
The path up Ben Oss from this side was quite bitty. It came and went in places, possibly because it’s not tackled a lot from this direction but we found our way up quite easily and had soon topped our third Munro of the day. Had a lengthy stop here to discuss how to ascend Ben Lui from this side with someone so hope you managed it alright, quite interested to hear if it was good as it looked an interesting thin ridge at the top after passing the Sgiath Dhubh summit at 987m.
I had to let Lorna go ahead at this point as I was completely done in and couldn’t keep up. So I sat about and had some more refreshments then made the final hobble to the last Munro of the day. Decided to hit the smaller summit at 941 rather than go around it as I knew there was a path which would possibly be easier than straddling the side of the hill again.
Passed a couple on the way up Beinn Dubhchraig who congratulated me on almost completing my fourth of the day. Might sound like nothing but they actually really helped me mentally as they were quite enthusiastic about it so that spurred me on to finish it so thanks if you’re reading! Loch Lomond was also looking great from this point.
Finally made it to the last summit of the day, having to avoid some sheep/rams on the way who were looking like they were about to charge me, stamping ever closer and closer! Bumped into Lorna again who was just leaving to go back to Tyndrum. I was planning a different route back to Dalrigh so said our goodbyes and off we went. I had heard about the Caledonian Pine forest and that it was pretty special so thought I’d head for that. Think I set my compass for 40 degrees or thereabouts but that was almost forgotten about by the time I got into the forest.
I was expecting it to be nice simple paths but where I had entered it was not. I think I avoided the easiest of routes for the rest of this walk somehow. I was trying to follow what I thought were paths but turned out to be some kind of trenches to do with the trees being planted and sheep tracks as well but kept taking me off course. Some points I ended up completely surrounded by these huge trees and had to crawl on hands and knees underneath them to keep going in the direction intended. I knew if I kept going far enough I would hit the winding river and not long to the east of that was a path/road. But it took some doing to find it. I followed some small burns for some of the way knowing they would lead me to the river and the further I followed them the more and more I was forced to cross them several times back and forth, jumping over fences, then crawling around some more under these huge trees.
Admittedly, I did panic for a few minutes as I thought I had been walking way too long and must have made a monumental error but all of a sudden, the tree line opened up and I came out at a beautiful wee rocky bay on the river. I was raging I didn’t take a photograph though, probably just caught up in the moment. Crossed the river and started looking east for the path, went far enough and decided it must be too far to head directly for so just went back in the general direction of the car park hoping to hit it at some point. And I did! What a weight off my shoulders.
Now to work out if I was on the right path! Luckily, there was a ruined building across the river which appears to be on the map as a Sheepfold. It might have ended up being something completely different but it told me I was in the right place so followed the easy path back down, crossing the bridge over the railway and as I got near the car park, I could see Lorna just passing through the gate! “A slight navigation error” got her there instead of directly to Tyndrum! So we both had our share of troubles getting down but made it safely in the end.
Overall, it was a fantastic day where the map and compass really earned their stripes with their first proper workout. I would advise anyone ever considering doing Ben Lui to do it from Dalrigh and not Glen Lochay as the view is just outstanding. And also consider doing the route I done above Stob an Tighe Aird which just looking now, is described in Ralph Storer’s 100 best routes book. I’m paying for this walk now with plenty of blisters, bruises, cuts and a seriously sore knee but it was well worth it.
An epic adventure.