Ben Lui is one of those mountains that make me think "wow" every time I look at it. It's been on my to-climb list for years and I wanted to make sure that the first time I did it was in winter conditions. I sat looking at my OS maps last week and noted a circuit which included Ben Lui, Beinn a'Chleibh, Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhchraig. My original plan was to camp between the bealach of Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhchraig, but that plan fell through and I decided to attempt them all in one go.
I picked a work colleague from Erskine at 7am and headed for Dalrigh. We arrived at Dalrigh and met with a guy in his camper van who had stayed the night in the car park. He approached us and said that his springer spaniel ran away from him the previous night and he was unable to find it. We said we would have a look for it whilst we were out and took a note of his phone number.
We started the walk in and it wasn't long before there were amazing views towards Ben Lui
We had originally planned to go up the north east ridge, but as we got closer I couldn't help staring at the gully. I've never done a winter graded climb before (only winter walking) and it would be a great way to mark my first time on Ben Lui. As we approached the start of the climb, it became clear there was quite a lot of avalanche debris on the gully and a couple of large cornices to the right which were putting me off. When we got to Coire Gaothach, we saw a woman in front of us who had just started the climb up central gully. By this time the sun was high in the sky and beating down heavily on the snow. The sun had clearly started to soften the snow, as every second step she took seamed to swallow her legs into knee deep snow. We decided against the gully.
Instead we went up the NNE gully and onto the east ridge. The gully itself was really hard work as out feet were sinking into knee deep snow, but we eventually reached the ridge:
The ridge was actually a lot steep than I was anticipating. It was great fun and got quite narrow and exposed towards the top.
We descended from the summit Ben Lui down towards Beinn a'Chleibh. Beinn a'Chleibh looked really underwhelming in compairson the Ben Lui, but it was still an enjoyable walk to the top with great views over towards Oban.
The route that I had read beforehand said to go back onto the summit of Ben Lui and down the ridge towards the bealeach between Ben Lui and Ben Oss. Looking at the map, it looked to be quite an easy traverse from the bottom of Beinn a'Chleibh, so we chose that route instead. It seemed to take forever to reach Corie Laoigh! We made it eventually and began a slow walk to the summit of Ben Oss. By this time my mate was running out of steam and it took us a good while to get to the summit.
By the time we got to the summit, the sun was starting to go down and we decided to give Beinn Dubhchraig a miss. We descended down Corie Laoigh and walk back towards Cononish Farmwhich took forever! By the time we got back to the car it was 11pm When we got to the car, we noticed there was a note on the car which said the guys dog was found at the Falls of Falloch
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.