Munro Bagging in Argyll: Ben Lui & Beinn a’Chleibh

After some spectacular views on my recent Goatfell summit camp, I was keen to get out and bag some new hills. With some good weather approaching again, I opted for Ben Lui and its neighbour, Beinn a’Chleibh, a round that looked pretty easy and very picturesque. The picturesque bit was definitely true, but I’m not so sure about the easy bit…

[May 2019]

One of the only downsides to a trip to an area like this is the early start that seems to go hand in hand with living so far away from the highlands, so another early rise was required to give us the best part of the day. We set off from Ayrshire around 0600 and arrived at the Glen Lochy car park shortly after 0830, with the obligatory toilet stop at the Green Welly in Tyndrum en route.

Our walk began, rather unusually, with footwear we didn’t mind getting wet as the first section of our journey involved crossing the River Lochy. The extra footwear wasn’t really necessary as the river was reasonably low and easy to cross, but it was better to keep the boots totally dry than risk something silly and end up with wet feet for the rest of the day. We crossed with no difficulties and stopped at the railway underpass to change into our boots.

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Glen Lochy on a lovely morning

Following the underpass the walk was fairly relaxed as we followed a path up through some felled trees, eventually meeting a forestry road that we followed for a few hundred metres before turning right uphill through what was a notoriously boggy section of path.

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The day’s first objective
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Beginning of the boggy section

Thankfully the boggy section wasn’t overly difficult as we had enjoyed a couple of weeks of mostly dry weather. There were only a couple of very wet sections and I would imagine that during some spells of wet weather this section would be a far greater challenge to negotiate without getting covered in mud!

Around an hour after setting off, we made it to the tree-line where we headed east uphill towards Ben Lui, the first target of the day. Initially a feint path helped us pick our way over the rough terrain, but this soon petered out and left us trudging up the steep slope where we would pick up the northern ridge towards the summit.

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Leaving the trees

The effort was made worthwhile by the good views back down to Fionn Choirein and across to Beinn a’Chleibh, so this gave us an excuse to stop now and again for a wee rest and some water.

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Beinn a’Chleibh

The higher we climbed, the more the cloud dropped. The temperature was dropping fairly quickly, a stark contrast to the pleasant conditions we started our walk in. We were then totally in the cloud once we reached the ridge, so the final push to the summit would happen without the views down towards Tyndrum and Glen Cononish. Still, there were some small scrambly sections to keep the day interesting.

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Into the cloud

We reached the top of the ridge and stopped at the smaller northern summit in the lee of the now very chilly wind for a small bite to eat before heading across to the true summit a short distance away.

We reached the summit shortly after midday, around 3 hours after crossing the River Lochy. This felt like it had taken an age, but the slow progress we had made through the boggy section and then the relentless ascent to reach the summit were enough of an excuse for us!

As we were ready to leave the summit, the cloud decided to lift for a short time to give us a glimpse of the spectacular summit and beyond.

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An awesome mountain
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Looking down towards Cononish

Knowing we still had a fair bit of effort left to finish the day, we began our descent of Ben Lui followed by the reasonably easy ascent of Beinn a’Cleibh, which was much simpler to reach being less steep and having a path to follow.

We reached the summit of our second target just after 1300, an hour after leaving the summit of Ben Lui. The cloud had now completely lifted above the summits and left us great views back towards our earlier target. Why couldn’t that have happened whilst we were over there?!

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Ben Lui from Beinn a’Chleibh

Pleased to have another 2 Munros under our belt, we retraced our steps off Beinn a’Chleibh to the lowest point of the bealach, where we dropped down into Fionn Choirein. Although we hadn’t covered a huge distance, we were now pretty tired after quite a lot of ascent and some rough pathless terrain. We slowly made our way out of the coire and back to the treeline to meet the final obstacle of the day – our second go in the boggy section!

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Crucahan Munros

The descent didn’t seem to take as long as the ascent as we had already worked out the best way to negotiate the worst areas, so we soon found ourselves back at the forestry track having managed to remain pretty clean, something that is quite unusual when I’m anywhere near a boggy area.

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Picturesque end to the day

Another short stage of descent through the felled trees was negotiated and we were back at the River Lochy, where we didn’t bother changing our boots as the river was now slightly lower and we were almost at the car, so a tumble into the water was less of a big deal.

It was now an exceedingly hot afternoon and upon reaching the car (around 6 hours after setting off), we were relieved to notice that it had been in shade almost all day so wouldn’t be too sweltering for the drive home!

This was another great day in the hills and left us keen to plan more Munro bagging trips, so hopefully the weather stays kind and lets us bag some more mountains this summer!

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