Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ben Lui and Beinn a'Chleibh, Jan'14

Early January and one of the finest hills to do at this time of year is Ben Lui. Its beautifully scuplted shape rises to a dramatic cornice overlooking its central coire - Coire Gaothach. But which way should we head up ? From the north-west directly up or by the east on fine tracks ? Decisions, decisions ! Well we had a few vehicles between us, so we opted to walk in from the east and descend to the north-west.

Andrew and Catherine lead the way up
There were 6 or us, Duncan and Victoria, Catherine and her two sons Callum and Andrew and myself. Catherine and her sons are from Australia - which was being baked by 40°C temperatures - not like here !

Low cloud and temperatures just above freezing were the order of today. We set off from Tyndrum Lower station and hikng along the fne tracks past Cononish Farm to the foot of Ben Lui. No event, just some fine scenery to take in on the way. Over the burn and time for a bit of food before the main ascent of the day. We sheltered out of the wet breeze behind the wall of a sheiling.

Victoria and Duncan
Time for the uphill bit. We followed the path into Coire Gaothach and up to the snowline. A loose scramble onto Ben Lui's eastern shoulder and up to Stob an Tighe Aird, the path now well submerged under the snow. We were caught up and overtaken by a youngish guy, he'd used our well cut footsteps to progress at a good rate ! Now infront of us, and without the knowledge of being here before, he hesitated below a direct ascent of the crags ahead. We however left the eastern shoulder at around 850m and headed south-west (just above where the plane-wreckage is, though we couldn't see any evidence with the deep snow present). I huddled the group together a couple of times in the now white-out conditions to do quick inspection pits in the snow to check the safety before progressing onwards. Up onto the southern shoulder of Ben Lui and into the wind a quick jaunt took us onto the summit. No views, just an icy wind blasting around - we got out of the worst of it and into the bothy bag for some food.

Huddling in the bothy bag on Ben Lui's summit
Beinn a'Chleibh next ! Down the western arm of Ben Lui and Catherine's youngest started to cramp up. Best thing for this is to get some hot liquid and salt in. So out of the wind, this is what we did and he perked up quickly. As time was getting on and with the weather pretty foul, we opted to descend directly and miss out Beinn a'Chleibh, leaving it for another day. Two river crossings later and back to the cars, it was quickly to the Real Food Café for a comforting hot drink and some food !

More photos are on our Flickr site.

Unfinished business !
Victoria, Catherine and Jake on Beinn a'Chleibh's summit
Catherine, Victoria and myself returned a week later to tidy up the 'unfinished business' of Beinn a'Chleibh. We started from the carpark 6km west of Tyndrum, over the river, under the railway bridge and up the mucky path. Keeping as close to the edge of the Eas Daimh on the way up seems the driest route. Up into Fionn Choiein, ice-axes were needed for the ascent to the col between Ben Lui and Beinn a'Chleibh, from where it was a straightforward walk to Beinn a'Chleibh's summit. Whiteout conditions and some gently dropping snow meant careful navigation was needed on the way to avoid the cornices above the mountain's northern crags. Summit bagged, we enjoyed some food in the still conditions by the cairn.

Descending from the col
We returned the same way, one of us (ie me) falling in to the burn on the way. Dried and changed, we re-visited the Real Food Café and blethered about the fine day we had just enjoyed.

More photos are on our Flickr site.