The Mountain's Silhouette

Hiking and backpacking in the mountains of Scotland

Ben Lui Group

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Distance: 28.2km
Ascent: 1772m
Time: 7hrs 40mins
Weather: Sunshine with cloud building later, warm but breezy
Route: Click to view

I had a late start today but the forecast was good and with the summer well on its way daylight was never going to be an issue. I started walking at 11:20 from the excellent walkers car park at Dalrigh. I dropped down to the West Highland Way and followed this as it passes the farm buildings. It was lovely walking, with the sun occasionally coming out, a slight breeze keeping the midges away, and a good clear track to the follow. As the WHW turned away to Tyndrum I continued on the landrover track that left the woods and continued west along the course of the Cononish.

As I advanced the views opened out, initially showing the Corbett Ben Chuirn with the gold mine workings on its eastern side, and then the flanks of Ben Oss. Finally, after half hours walking around a corner in the glen I caught my first sight of the mighty Ben Lui.

After passing Cononish farm the track rises more steeply around the lower slopes of Beinn Chuirn. This gave the legs an opportunity to warm up as well as a good view of the col between Ben Lui and Ben Oss and some of the route I would be following later in the day. I also got a more detailed view of Ben Lui as I got closer, its great northern corrie still holding some snow in its gullies and the twin horns of Stob Garbh and Stob an Tighe Aird guarding the summit like a pair of soldiers.

Soon the track dropped down to cross the Cononish, ending in a turning area and a sheep pen. At this point, and for no other reason than it was a pleasant day and I was feeling up for a challenge, I crossed the river and then turned off the clear track up to Coire Gaothach and instead contoured around the base of Stob Garbh and the usual route up to the mountain’s north-east ridge. This side is comprised of a series of shattered rock terraces which looked too steep for scrambling. Instead I found a grassy rake that ran up below the crags and onto a spur of the north-east ridge. Above the rake I then climbed and scrambled up steep grassy slopes, windy across the face a couple of times to avoid crags before emerging just below the north lochan (which is shown on the map).

I climbed up to Stob Garbh and immediately saw where the Coire Gaothach track climbs up to join the north-east ridge. I would recommend following that approach to save climbing up the featureless and steep slopes further to the north. Despite the slight deviation I was now on easy ground, following the good track up to Ben Lui’s summit. There were now plenty of people around, mainly descending at this time of the day. I went over the north top (marked by a cairn) and then scrambled along the east side of the summit ridge to get to the very busy summit itself.

After admiring the views here I dropped off Ben Lui down the clear track which runs south-west towards Beinn a’ Chleibh.

After 150m the gradient eases and from here the day became a more gentle bimble. I passed a couple of parties as I dropped down to the bealach and then ascended the short distance to the top of Beinn a’ Chleibh.

From the summit cairn I continued some distance to the west to get a better view over Ben Cruachan and Loch Awe which sparkled in the sunshine. It also gives a good perspective on Ben Lui.

Then it was a return to the bealach and up a short distance before turning to the right on a faint track which gently rose to contour around and under Ben Lui’s summit slopes. This saves a lot of reascending. The terrain is fairly easy going, largely grassy slopes with just a few rocky gullies to cross. I did end up slightly higher than I needed to be, mainly because I was tempted to climb up onto the ridge to see what the view was like. In the end though I picked up a clear track which climbed onto the South-east ridge of Ben Lui as it curved to the south.

After crossing the bealach I picked up a track which made the gently rising ascent of Ben Oss. This gave an interesting perspective on Ben Lui as well as views opening up down Loch Lomond and Loch Fyne further west.

The final ascent was steeply up through rocky terrain with some broken crags. Unfortunately here my left trainer came loose and I found that the lace had snapped. I had to effect a temporary repair which luckily lasted until the end of the walk. The long climb up to the summit of Ben Oss was rewarded by stunning views back to Ben Lui and on over Loch Oss to Beinn Dubhchraig.

I then dropped off Ben Oss and under cloudier skies crossed the bealach and began the climb up to Beinn Dubhchraig.

Again there was an excellent track here and the views around, back down Glen Cononish and over to Ben Lomond were superb.

The afternoon had faded into evening as I reached the cairn on top of Beinn Dubhchraig, my fourth Munro of the day. There was now time to relax, sitting on the grassy summit looking down over Loch Lomond and the brooding light further south.

After my break I then dropped off the summit and contoured around and down steep, occasionally rocky slopes to eventually meet up with the baggers path which ascends up besides the Allt Coire Dubhchraig. Once on this the going was excellent with only a few boggy and eroded sections. The evening sunshine was lighting up the hills above the Bridge of Orchy and further east I could see Ben Challum.

Eventually the track descended into the pleasant woodland and although warned of more bog I only really came across a couple of very bad sections. The majority of it was easily avoided. As I came back down to the River Cononish I had to cross the River Fillan by way of a rickety bridge. Then it was a case of picking my way across a marshy field to join the landrover track which would take me back to the car at Dalrigh.

A great day out with plenty of interest both in terms of the route and the scenery on offer. In particular the views over Loch Awe and later Loch Lomond were stunning.

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