Sunday, 22 April 2012

Ben Lui, Finally!

A last minute decision was made the day before that would put a bit of a twist on the next days walk. Our destination was Ben Lui. This summit had eluded me before.


In the midst of winter, when I tried to approach it from the other side from the A85 taking in Beinn a'Chleibh. On that day the horrendous snow fall was driving so hard that when we dropped down into the saddle between the features a decision had to be made, I think the right one as there was unfamiliar ground, zero visibility and driving wind and snow. That trip was pre-blog days but Lui has been at the back of my mind since, niggling.

So the twist – Bikes!

Starting from the A82 at Tyndrum and using the forestry commission path would allow us to pedal into the foot of the mountain. The path as you can imagine isn’t tarmac track but it’s pretty reasonable to ride on. It’s not something we normally do but it made for an interesting day.


So we said farewell to The Green Welly Stop and wheeled off on to the track, a small excerpt of the West Highland Way, and pedalled up to the fence bordering the train line. We lifted the bikes over and we were off on the undulating, rocky track.

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Finding the grooves on the width of the track so to lessen the judder through the bike was a time filler as the views were restricted by forest either side. As the path went on, mainly up, and the new muscles being used throbbed, really the only thing I was looking at was the black nobbled rubber band turning in front of me and the sweat dripping off my nose. There was a couple of short stretches which allowed a bit of a free wheel, a welcome relief when it came.


Once we came out of the tree line and met the path coming from Dalrigh it opened out a bit and Lui was in sight. Cloud clung to its peak and its menacing look taunted me. In my head lightening was crashing from its heights like it would be from Castle Grayskull. Well in my head anyway.


The track flattened out for a bit, past the farmhouse and then started to climb again ever so slightly.

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We were then at the bottom of the mountain. I shook my legs off, changed my footwear and left my bike secured to the other three. Somebody had left a nice fence post to lock the bikes to. Not that I would expect anybody to have stolen them from here.


Back to what I’m used to, one foot in front of the other! My legs took a while to get into a rhythm. The circular motion had meant they now felt a little different than when I normally start uphill. But I quickly got back into the swing of it.


We made our way up into the bowl, cursing the low lying cloud level. Let us see you, Lui! Once we were in the mountains belly we figured we would take his north ridge on to the summit. I wanted to take the south ridge as it looked ferocious. But the low cloud meant that once we got higher on the route it might have left us exposed.

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As we climbed up on to the north shoulder the temperature dropped and the ground under foot got rockier as we found the ridge. As we found the ridge we found the wind. We had been sheltered by it in the corrie and as the cloud enveloped us zips got pulled up tight and I made sure the bunnet was pulled down far enough to keep my ear lobes warm.



There is a false summit marked with a cairn which is the top picture. A couple of hundred yards further marks the true summit. We could see each other and the cairn, that was the extent of the visibility. Never mind a view! But Lui was ticked, job done! Well, just to get down now.

We headed down the same route, for the same reason why we didn’t go up the south ridge we didn’t go down it. Stepping in to the abyss was entirely possible with the visibility we had. We were soon out of the cloud, which had lifted slightly, nowhere near enough to see him in his full dominance but the south ridge crept out that little bit more.

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Hope this crude panorama does the view some justice.

We dropped pretty quickly back to the wheels. My leg muscles were throbbing, the ride it had put them to the test and they were on the verge of cramp. As soon as I got my trainers back on and swung my leg over the frame my legs clenched like fist. The others rode off as the small initial incline out caused me to much pain to cycle. I walked up the first bit but the rest of it was down hill thankfully and what a rush. I held on for dear life as the path juddered every rock up through my arms but it was so much fun! It was like being a kid again and getting your new BMX and tearing down hills as fast as you can, such a good feeling.


We were back at the car in no time at all, with a lot more downhill than cramp inducing up hill we rattled, literally, back to Tyndrum.

In the surrounding area of Ben Lui there are a number of big hills. I hope the next time Lui and I meet it will include a longer wild camp including his sisters and eyes on the plane wreckage that lies in the area. It’s a stunning and powerful part of the world and, as every out door venue should, it must be treated with the respect it deserves. I summited you this time but if it comes to it and one thing doesn’t feel right on a different day I’ll back off. I know when to pick my battles but this day I stood atop you Ben Lui and I’ll be back to do it again.