Ben Lui - 1130m
Beinn a' Chleibh - 916m
Ben Oss - 1029m
Beinn Dubhchraig - 978m
Thursday 9th July 2009
Weather/Conditions: In the morning at 4am, I'd camped at nearly 900m on Beinn Chuirn, so it was very cold. Otherwise, a generally sunny day with cumulus clouds and blue sky. Had some thicker cloud was on Ben Lui although I was never in the cloud. Lots of sun on Oss and Dubhchraig.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 26km / 1650m / 10h
I awoke at 3.50am on Thursday morning. In the blue of the twilight, I looked out of the tent to the sight of the Moon low in the sky. Beneath it, Ben Lui was almost silhouetted, so I brought out the camera. None of the images turned out well, but I just about managed to save one.
Having captured my photograph as best as I'd have cared to, I turned over and attempted to catch more sleep. I had a big day ahead of me and a few hours sleep wouldn't suffice. But the night had been clear and extremely cold, so sleep wouldn't come. I'd put with with the few hours that I'd got.
I climbed out of my tent, figuring it would be better to move around than freeze in a sleeping bag. I shot some photographs in the half-light, although would retreat to the tent every so often to get out of the wind. After the sun rose, I packed my campsite away and left, feeling that it would be best to get moving. I'd been up for a while now, so there would be little point in even bothering in trying to get back to sleep.
Descent from Beinn Chuirn
Once I was on my way, I headed southwest to Beinn Chuirn's south top. I'd barely eaten, drank little and I now only felt worse for it. My plan was to dump the camping gear beneath Ben Lui with the intention of picking it up at the end of the day, so it meant that I had to descended 550 vertical metres first. On the way, I spotted some deer below me on Beinn Chuirn. They spotted me first, so they were gone in no time.
I didn't particularly enjoy the descent - I was feeling tired and dehydrated, descending steep, grassy slopes and feeling no better for it all. The views were beautiful however, and I took time to appreciate and photograph them while they were here. I felt that the good part of the day was still to come but in my current mood I doubted that I'd climb all four Munros. I put up with my current situation, because I could always re-evaluate later on.
I reached the valley floor, and came to the end of the track which terminates at the foot of Ben Lui. The river flows parallel to the track and I followed it downstream for ten minutes over trackless ground until I found a suitable place to put the camping gear. I put everything in a plastic bag and weighted it down with rocks, and so my rucksack was feeling substantially lighter. I still didn't feel on top form, so I took the time to rest and drink some water and top up my water bottle. Once up on the ridges, there would be no opportunities to refill.
I started on my way to Ben Lui, once again walking through long and tussocky grass. At the foot of it, I took a fleece off and changed into shorts. I was reasonably cool now and well hydrated, so was feeling much better than before. I began climbing Ben Lui feeling very strong, which was ideal given that I had a long way to go.
In addition, I would be climbing through Coire Ghaothach, Lui's extremely striking north eastern corrie. It's towering walls are imposing, but beautiful and bounded by two spurs - Stob Garbh and Stob an Tighe Aird. I originally intended to ascend via. Stob Garbh, although the path seemed to lead towards Stob an Tighe Aird. I lost it at points, so I climbed the remaining distance to Stob an Tighe Aird over boulder fields. A rough path that I picked up once more brought me to the crest of Stob an Tighe Aird where with the long drops, I could feel a hint of adrenaline through me - much similar to many of my Campsie Fells scrambles.
From this point, the 'walkers' route traversed Coire an t-Sneachda to the south east ridge. It was in this coire that I discovered Lui's aircraft wreckage. I took some time to explore the remains but moved on within ten minutes, ascending the final slopes to the south east ridge. From here it was a long and gradual climb to the summit.
I'd hoped to get clear views from Ben Lui's summit. My first time here less than two weeks before saw four of us walking through cloud to a summit cairn. We never saw anything and I never felt like I'd been on top of Ben Lui. Today I wanted views, and to see Coire Ghaothach from above. There's just something different about standing at the summit cairn with the mountain spread beneath your feet, instead of standing beside a cairn in the middle of the cloud.
Some clouds were threatening to cover it's summit, but I'd got up in good time and took a panorama. I didn't stay long either, so before leaving, I walked across the summit ridge to it's old Munro Top before heading onto Beinn a' Chleibh. (The top in question lies perhaps 50m metres away from the summit, and is almost of identical height. Once a Munro Top, it was omitted from the lists some years ago)
Beinn a' Chleibh
The descent from Ben Lui to the bealach was a little unrelenting, but a damn sight easier mentally with the bottom in sight than to do it in the cloud. Once at the bealach, I stopped for five minutes to change out of wet socks. Why? Because on this trip, I approached footwear with a different attitude to normal, wearing on my feet what were little more than trainers. Instead of trying to keep my feet dry, I brought along several pairs of socks, and while I changed into dry ones, I'd let the wet pair dry on top of my rucksack. It was a success, and a far lighter solution than to haul a pair of boots over the hills. As for ankle protection? The more I wear lighter, less supported footwear, the less I buy the arguments in favour of heavy boots. Less on that though and more on the trip...
From the bealach, it was a short haul up to Beinn a' Chleibh. A very easy, very quick ascent. Funnily enough, Ben Lui was now shrouded in cloud, so I was glad to have been on it when I was. Any cloud would be gone soon though, because the weather improved throughout the day from here onwards. Ben Lui dominated the view from Beinn a' Chleibh, and even if the summit didn't make the best viewpoint, I took a panorama anyway. After that, I had no reason to stay, so I left and headed back to the bealach.
Next was Ben Oss. Once back at the bealach, I'd have to traverse Ben Lui, and only then begin climbing Ben Oss. It would be a long way to go. I bashed on anyway, crossing Leacann Beinn Laoigh (translates to 'slopes of Ben Lui'? Gaelic name for Lui's broad south face).
The traverse across the leacann was long and trackless the entire way, at points warm underneath the sun. I made fair progress and soon arrived at the bealach between Ben Oss and Ben Lui. Now I had a very long, gradual climb to Oss' summit. I became fairly tired too, feeling my energy disappear. I could feel the effect of my lack of sleep the previous night, and occasionally I just wanted to sleep here on the ridge. I'd gained some altitude though and with Ben Lui's Coire Ghaothach catching the eye, I on a couple of occasions lay down and fell asleep. It seems a little over the top, but the sun was shining, there was a breeze and the ground was warm. Falling asleep was all I could do and it was very pleasant.
Having dozed off for five or ten minutes, I got going again and sweated my way up the last slopes to Ben Oss' summit. Here I took a panorama, rested more and admired Ben Lui extensively. There was also the beautiful Loch Oss, which was an unexpected delight. With new found energies, I began to consider climbing Beinn Dubhchraig which by now was close by. I was feeling better now and since I'd come this far, I may as well finish off the lot and finish what I'd come to climb.
I left Ben Oss and headed down to Bealach Buidhe before reascending to get to Beinn Dubhchraig. It all took no time and before long, I was on the summit ridge to Beinn Dubhchraig. Morale was high, and I only felt physical tiredness - no falling asleep like on Ben Oss. I followed a path the whole way and it took me to the summit which was marked by a large cairn. I met an couple here, who I talked to for a long time. They took my photo, and we talked about various mountains and routes.
Beinn Dubhchraig was, of course, the last mountain of my two-day trip. And it's amazing what two days in the mountains can do for you. I should also note that the folk that I met on Beinn Dubhchraig's summit were the first people I'd seen since I'd left Dalrigh the previous day. (Discounting the distant people I'd seen on Ben Lui across the valley from Ben Oss) I was never bored and never felt lonely, as could perhaps be expected. But there was always so much interest in the landscape and surroundings and always so much to think ahead to. There was no time to think about the fact that I was totally alone and self-dependant. I learned much about myself, and I look forward to spending multiple days out on the hills again.
When I did my first major trip to the hills, on Ben Nevis in 2007, I experienced, for the first time, following a plan to the smallest detail: being in one place for a certain time, having enough money to buy what was necessary, etc... I found it uncomfortable and I would be edgy and alert every waking moment. Over the course of a couple of years, that feeling had completely evaporated and I now find myself fairly at home in the mountain environment. I still have the odd hang up but it's interesting to watch how I change with time. This trip to the Tyndrum Hills showed to me a lot about myself.
But I still had to get back to Dalrigh. I left Dubhchraig's summit and had walked for a couple of minutes when phoned home to touch base. I had planned to take the train home, but when Steve (brother) heard that it was me on the phone, he couldn't do anything else than to make an excuse to go for a drive. Excellent! I'd have a lift waiting for me at Dalrigh.
I scheduled to meet him at 3.30pm. It seemed like a good idea initially, but when I began to think about my own schedule, I probably wouldn't have enough time. Then the stress of needing to be back kicked in. I descended Dubhchraig's north ridge for a considerable distance until the terrain had eased off enough for me to make a descent into Coire Buidhe. I shot off down the grassy slopes, bound for the camping gear that I had to pick up. If I didn't have to do that, then this journey would be considerably shorter...
When I reached the bottom of Dubhchraig's slopes, I just about drank the stream dry. It had been a hot day, and my water bottle had been getting low. I then crossed the valley floor to the river and followed the river back to where I'd left my camping gear. Being attacked by insects all the while, I strapped everything to my rucksack and got going. I didn't have terribly long to get back to Dalrigh and there was still a lot of distance to cover.
I walked to the track that leads in from Dalrigh and just followed it back. Inevitably, my feet were sore, as well as my legs but I kept the pace up and the long walk out was just something that I'd have to endure. I arrived back in Dalrigh fifteen minutes late which was reasonable and I met Stephen who was at the car.
Considering I'd been walking for ten hours straight, it felt damn good to sit down.
Afterwards, we went to Tyndrum's Real Food Cafe for a late lunch before heading home.
Beinn Chuirn, shortly before sunrise
Beinn a' Chleibh
180° North - Southern Highlands from Beinn Dubhchraig
(0.00) 5.45am Left Beinn Chuirn summit (camp)
(1.30) 7.15am Dropped camping gear
(1.40) 7.25am Foot of Ben Lui
(3.15) 9.00am Ben Lui
(4.05) 9.50am Beinn a' Chleibh
(6.05) 11.50am Ben Oss
(7.15) 1.00pm Beinn Dubhchraig
(8.25) 2.10pm Picked up camping gear
(10.00) 3.45pm Dalrigh