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Oh Brother ! Lui, Lui, Lui

Oh Brother ! Lui, Lui, Lui


Postby naepace » Tue May 30, 2017 5:16 pm

Route description: Ben Lui and Beinn a'Chleibh

Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chleibh, Ben Lui

Date walked: 25/05/2017

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 10 km

Ascent: 1078m

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Imagine my joy when my cheeky wee day off in lieu of working the coming bank holiday weekend coincided with what potentially could be Scotland's hottest ever recorded day in May. As always seems to be the case time would again be limited due to picking kids up/not leaving the dog too long etc No problem I thought, I'll just leave Perth at stupid o'clock and be home with plenty of time to spare.
Imagine my dismay when having checked a more detailed forecast there was to be a lot of low cloud hanging around in the morning until the record temps could burn it off. I decided to hedge my bets, I'd pick a shorter walk and leave later than originally planned. Ben Lui, the Queen of the Southern Highlands and her neighbour Beinn a'Chleibh from Glen Lochay fitted the bill perfectly. I knew I was taking a bit of a risk as Lui has been on my bucket list for a while and I had been saving her for 'guaranteed' good weather. On the plus side I absolutely detest having to cross rivers, a terrible accident I have since blanked from my memory, must have befallen me in some random burn as a kid ! With the recent dry weather surely it would never be easier to get over the Lochay at the beginning of the walk without enduring a comedy fall/drowning. I arrived at the very good and spacious parking area a few miles along the A85 from Tyndrum at around 07.15, not early enough that the midges were still in their scratchers as I suffered a few nibbles as I changed ready for the off just before 07.30.
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The spacious car park, with Ben Lui behind the trees

I had given a ridiculous amount of consideration regarding suitable attire for crossing the river, but eventually decided that after initially preparing for the worst case scenario, I should probably just roll up the trouser legs and stick on a pair of old 'Jesus boots' I had lying around from a long since forgotten. Surely the lack of rain over the last month meant the water couldn't be that deep. I knew the crossing was only minutes after leaving the car park so I elected to stick on the sandals and carry my boots and gaitors and adorn them when I was safely across to avoid the faff of the extra change.
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Never say I don't come prepared !!

Under glorious blue skies I set off from the car park like some mad Englishman in the midday sun, all I was missing was the knotted hankie ! The river was reached in literally a minute, my heart sank it was a bloody proper river. Of course I knew this fine well but given my dysfunctional obsession with crossing waterways I had hoped that if I refused to acknowledge their existence then perhaps it would magically dry up and disappear, I suppose you could say I was in deNile ! As I meandered along the riverside path I couldn’t help thinking would a bridge be too much to ask for ? That contraption they are building over the Forth is nearing completion, surely like every good building project there will be a few bridgey bits n bobs left over ! I quickly reached the point where the path disappears down to the water at the recognised crossing point which is directly opposite the ‘tunnel’ under the railway line. I’d read that in dry conditions it was possible to keep dry crossing the river on some of the larger stones, aye right ! there was more chance of ‘The Stones’ appearing and treating me to an impromptu, and extremely pertinent rendition of ‘You can’t always get what you want’ ! Scanning up and down the length of the river it was quickly apparent that there was no quintessential boat man, with a wee flat bottomed ‘ferry’ about to come to my rescue. Nothing else for it, I’d have to don the Big Boy pants and get on with it….or perhaps teeny wee boy pants would have been better, at least they’d be waterproof !
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Honestly, it's deeper and wider than it looks !!

With my boots and a redundant walking pole in one hand and my gaitors and other pole in the other, I took my first tentative steps into the freezing waters of the mighty river Lochay, by Christ was it cold, so cold that within a few seconds I doubt very much that I’d have been able to ‘fill’ a pair of teeny wee boy pants. Avoiding any deeper looking spots, it was only really around mid-calf deep as I splashed my way across. No sooner than I had reached mid-way did my bloody phone not ring, I knew it was the wife as I have bestowed her with her own unique ring tone, she never calls so it must have been something serious. Now any normal person would have just sped to the other side, dropped their gear, retrieved their phone from their pocket and dialed straight back. Not Hectar here, I clamped the the gaitors between my knees and shoved the pole I was using under my armpit, and wrestled the phone from my pocket to be informed that whilst I had jumped out of bed at some ridiculous hour and disappeared without a care in the world, that our 11 month old puppy and suffered a bout of the runs in the night and had managed to cover herself and everything in her crate in…..well….you can imagine ! Exactly what I was supposed to do with this information whilst I was stood in the middle of a river over 70 miles away, looking like some kind of human ‘Buckaroo’, I’m not entirely sure. With a puppy action plan agreed with the Mrs, I was finally able to make my way over to the other bank. Off with the sandals, which I stashed under a nearby bush, I quickly pulled on the boots and gaitors and headed to the next hurdle of the railway line.
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My first and last 'dry' step

There is no way to cross the railway (legally) other than by going under it via the low bridge that crosses the smaller Eas Daimh which flows down into the Lochay. I should not have changed back into my boots and just carried on in the water until I was under the bridge and on the other side of the railway. But I didn’t ! So I had to stoop as low as I could and ‘waddle’ my way over the partially submerged metal grate which exists as an access way for walkers under the bridge. I made it as far as the first supporting beam before I managed to wedge myself into the structure. A reverse waddle ensued as I backed out to remove my rucksack. Cursing my 6’ 3” gangliness I tried again and successfully managed to exit on the other side of the railway. Only 15 mins into the walk and what a bloody palaver, luckily at this point I didn’t know that the tribulations were not yet over or I’d have probably opted to turn around and head home to join the skittery puppy, cataclysmic clean-up operation.
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Any hillwalking Limbo dancers among you will be fine

Heading up through the section of felled forest I quickly began to get a sense of how boggy this infamous route could potentially be, little did I know at this point that it only went downhill from here, metaphorically speaking. I continued to follow the wet and boggy path until the point where the Eas Daimh is joined by another stream at a lovely couple of wee waterfalls, lovely until you realise you need to cross here. Some kind soul had tied a length of rope across the stream to aid your crossing on the slippery stepping stones. Unfortunately, I did not recognise that the rope was not particularly taut so that when I grabbed on to it with all of my 14.5 stone bulk it instantly swung away from me, instinctive corrective action saw me quickly shifting my weight in the opposite direction, which of course meant I swung back the same distance in the opposite direction. After a few moments of swaying back and forth, and with repeated number ‘WHOAAAHHS’ thrown in for good measure I was able to regain an upright position and get over to the other side without taking the second paddle of the day.
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The worlds most slippery rocks (rope far left)

After following this stream on the other side for a short distance I came to the first of a couple of ‘kissing gates’ in the deer fences on the way up towards the forestry access road around the 300m mark. These are always a little problematic as I try to squeeze myself and rucksack into the tight space in the corner so you can swing the gate past you and exit on the other side. There was a slight puddle in the said corner space of this fellow but I thought little of it given the sodden nature of the terrain already covered. However, as I plonked my big size 12 boot on it I looked on in dread as my boot quickly began to vanish into the mud below, and was continuing to do so ! Fortunately I was able to grab onto the solid wooden structure of the gate surroundings to prevent me exerting any more weight on my rapidly disappearing leg. This wasn’t just a gate, it was a bloody ‘man trap’ !! Overcoming the forces of the muddy vacuum I managed to retrieve my foot and retreat to terra firma. Using my walking pole I probed the depths to ascertain whether I had indeed been in danger of vanishing without trace in a sludgy tomb. Sinisterly I noted that my footprint had quickly faded and the mud had reformed to a pristine and innocuous looking flat surface belying the horrors that lay below. The deer fence on either side was a bit high and flimsy to climb meaning the gate was the only way through. Luckily my long legs meant I was able to step over the mud onto the planks of the fixed element of the gate and traverse my way around them like some kind of arthritic Spiderman, clad not in Lycra but RAB. The second gate slightly further on, although identical in design, posed no difficulties and I was soon on my way up a decent rocky path towards the road. Heading East along the road I soon came to the bridge and small cairn beyond, marking the point at which I needed to head into the forest.
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The man trap !

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The excellent Forestry access road

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Next year's 'Tough Mudder' start point

It was extremely humid and the strengthening sun meant I was already sweating like a ‘weightwatcher’ in Greggs. I reckoned I could get away with not applying the factor 50 until I exited the forest and reached the open grassy slopes beyond. I often refer to the level of sun protection I require as being akin to needing to wear a divers helmet and a wetsuit. As I made my first incursion into the pine trees it very quickly became obvious that that particular attire would have been entirely appropriate for the conditions, to say it was simply wet and boggy would be like referring to the Atlantic ocean as slightly damp…ish. There is a route up, it would be a stretch to refer to it as a path, but there is a route supposedly over the ‘best’ underfoot conditions. Biggest problem with that, apart from the best conditions still being truly awful, was that the trail basically skirts along the edge of the forest and must have been ‘broken’ when the trees were just out of pine cones ! Now that they had grown a fair bit you are faced with the choice of leaving the path and potentially stepping into the bog from hell or continue on and accept ‘40 lashes’ from the overhanging branches or being tripped up by exposed roots. The route follows the stream for the most part and you pass some lovely waterfalls on the way up, it’s just a shame you can’t look at them for taking your eyes off your next step could lead to an extremely messy and muddy demise. On a scale of 'could you lose a child in these bogs ?’ this walk blows the roof off. It would be entirely possible for a family to be teenager ‘light’ by the time they reached the metal gate at the edge of the forest. Honestly, if the organisers of the ‘Tough Mudder’ event are looking for a new location, they could do worse than consider here. Chuck in a few extra fallen trees, maybe electrify a deer fence or two and write ‘FINISH’ on the metal gate and the jobs a good un !! Finally, I exited the trees and left the quagmire behind although I wasn’t ‘out of the woods’ yet, well I was but………..achh you know what I mean !
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That actually turned out to be one of the drier bits !

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Never have I been so pleased to look upon a steel gate

You emerge onto grassy slopes at around the 500m mark, although not quite as muddy, they were every bit as wet. God help anybody who attempts this walk in boots without the protection of the old Goretex lining, a severe case of trenchfoot undoubtedly awaits. I had opted to follow the Walkhighlands route and ascend via the North ridge and descend via the bealach after climbing the second Munro of Beinn a’Chleibh. Heading East towards the ridge I slowly trudged my way through the soaking moss and grass. I say slowly and it was as much due to the heat as the underfoot conditions, it wasn’t even 9am yet and already it was scorchio. Having said that the blue skies and sun were only really above me, what is it they say about the sun shining on the righteous ? Low cloud surrounded Lui, only being kept off the Eastern flanks by an Easterly wind higher up the hill. Intermittently the summit was shrouded in wispy clouds. I was keeping a close eye on it but I didn’t really ever have a worry that the summit would not be clear at some point when I eventually reached it. The much lower Beinn a’Chleibh on the other hand remained hidden all the way up. Eventually I reached the ridge proper and finally had some solid rock under my feet. The last 200m or so to the summit are on a much more defined rocky path and required a couple of very, very mild scrambling moments to clamber up through the rock. I marched on past the cairn that marks the lower South West summit and reached the true summit cairn at 1130m at around ‘cowboy time’ 10 to 10.
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The grassy slopes approaching the ridge

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Finally some rock under my feet

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Back down the way up from the forest

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The SW cairn with the real summit in the centre

Sitting on the summit cairn I have to admit I was a little disappointed at the time that the cloud had hung around and was robbing me of any views of the surrounding mountains. What I did have in my lofty position, just a few metres above the cloud was a view and a position that not that many people are actually fortunate enough to find themselves in. I have been lucky and experienced a few inversions and perhaps regrettably have become a little blasé towards them. It was only when I saw the reaction to the couple of pics I had posted on Facebook on my return that I realised that I was being a little churlish to bemoan my ‘bad luck’ ! Looking out over the cloud to the East the top of Ben Oss was playing peek-a-boo in the ever shifting cloud, whilst further over still the summits of Ben More and Stob Binnein were just about managing to keep their heads above the cloud. I had a view back down to the forest and the ascent route but everywhere I looked all I could see was fluffy, marshmallow like cloud. On reflection it was a stunning vista and not to be taken for granted, it just means I’ll have to climb Lui on another occasion to try and capture what must be an amazing view from the highest peak in the area…..although I guarantee you it would be from the other approach, I never want to see that forest again !
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Ben Lui summit. Ben Oss and Ben More and Stob Binnein beyond

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Summit pano. Who needs an aeroplance for views above the cloud

I decided it was still a bit early for lunch so after taking a few pictures and a wee breather it was on to number 2, hoping the cloud might lift by the time I got over there. It was here that I made a school boy error. The WH walk description makes a big deal of the fact that there is finally a proper path to follow for the walk down to the bealach and up to Chleibh. Not really paying attention, I headed off following a good path and dropped down a good few metres when it dawned on me I was heading in the wrong direction. I was heading East and not SW from the summit as I should have been. I had Viewranger on the phone and my Etrex in the rucksack but decided this was a good time to have a well overdue use of the old map and compass. From the map and description I knew there was a good path running from the summit and if I used the ‘hand railing’ technique and followed a bearing West I would eventually hit the path. I worked out the timings for the distance, set off on my bearing and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was only a smidgen away from the path when I’d walked for the required time. Of course, visibility was good and the fact I could see the path from a fair distance away probably skewed the result a bit. In any case it was quite reassuring that I am not reliant on the convenience of technology should it ever fail me.
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The view back up Lui from the 'wrong' path

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The path down into the cloud and towards Beinn a'Chleibh

From the bealach the path meanders up to a summit plateau, unfortunately this meandering was conducted in thick cloud with very little visibility to speak of. However, it was on a good path and compared to the walking earlier in the day it felt like I was merrily skipping my way along the yellow brick road, flanked arm in arm by Dorothy and the cowardly lion. The Tin man could well have been there as well but there was absolutely no bloody chance of spotting him in the conditions. It seemed to take very little time at all until I reached a relatively large summit cairn. There were no views in any direction but above me there was the odd hint that the sun was trying it’s damnedest to breakthrough. It was then, just as I was about to retrieve the mandatory cup cake from my pack that the sun made some progress, with the cloud thinning there was still no view but the visibility did improve just long enough for me to spot another cairn further along the plateau. I quickly checked my phone and according to the my position on the route I was following I was still short of the summit. There was no way I was going to risk having to repeat the climb up here so I rapidly toddled over to the other, smaller cairn. They both seemed about the same height and I still couldn’t tell you which one is the true summit, however both were visited and I thanked my lucky stars for the earlier moment of ‘clarity’ I’d experienced…..believe me when I say those are few and far between. I hung around the summit(s) for a wee while to see if the sun could eventually win its battle with the cloud but ultimately I admitted defeat and headed back down to the bealach.
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Beinn a'Chleibh summit...I think

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Beinn a'Chleibh summit....maybe !

The initial descent from the bealach is steep and on a loose scree path and is certainly not pleasant, however, it is short lived and I was soon back on the sodden grassy slopes where I just headed straight for the metal gate in the distance. As I arrived back at the gate at the entrance to the forest I pondered over how I’d expected the ‘Gate to Hell’ to be adorned in a slightly more dramatic fashion. No fires, no devil, no gothic imagery, just a muddy puddle and a few logs strewn about the place, although the current temperature was certainly inferno like. Make no mistake though, once you head through you are about as far from being in heaven as I ever wish to find myself. After slipping, sliding, sinking, skidding, tripping and potential decapitating I was finally approaching the road. I had passed a few parties on their way up, good luck to all of them, I hope they managed to cope with the searing heat, got great views from the summit and most importantly didn’t lose a member of their group in some stinking bog ! Back at the railway line I looked down at the state of my boots and gaitors, only a good Scottish words could do the description justice, they were mawkit, barkit and furdit. Only one thing for it I thought as I pulled the trousers up and out of the gaitors before rolling them up above the knees. What a contrast, now I was hoping to get the feet wet in the icy water, ducking under the bridge I was soon splashing my way back across the river, watching as a mud slick the size of a small carpark washed away downstream. Exiting the river with sparkly clean, if soaking, boots I was back at the car in exactly 5 hours after setting off. Despite the grumblings above I had had another fabulous morning in the hills. I’m early shift next week and hopefully will manage out again after a shift weather permitting……can anybody recommend a Munro with a fabulous path all the way from the car park to the summit !!
Last edited by naepace on Tue May 30, 2017 5:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Oh Brother ! Lui, Lui, Lui

Postby Coop » Tue May 30, 2017 5:44 pm

Hehe brilliant. :clap:

That river crossing- I had bin bags on and ended up trying to hold them up whilst crossing, the water came over the top and I was soaked before reaching the other side!!

As for your "fabulous path all the way".
Hopefully heading to Gleouriach tomorrow.
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Re: Oh Brother ! Lui, Lui, Lui

Postby naepace » Wed May 31, 2017 4:03 pm

Cheers coop, sounds like you would fit seemlessly into one of my calamitous excursions :D :D
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Re: Oh Brother ! Lui, Lui, Lui

Postby Alteknacker » Wed May 31, 2017 10:34 pm

I'm rather ashamed to admit that I got a degree of schadenfreude from reading your report. :shifty: :shifty:

Normally I avoid reading route reports until after I've done the route myself; but in the case of Lui - probably because I read a post because it was posted (rather than for route research) - I'd somehow clocked that the route from the A85 was epically boggy. So when I eventually did it, in confab with my walking companions, it was decided to start at Tyndrum. And this was absolutely the best decision - no bogs; and what looked like a dull vehicle track route in was in fact unbelievably spectacular, because we had a fabulous view of B Lui in all her spendour the whole way; and the time passed - as it seemed - in minutes.

As regards the river crossing, is there any reason why you didn't use the footbridge (Grid Ref 229270)? Had I gone this way, this is what I'd planned for crossing the river... It seemed to be shown both on the map, and visible on Google Earth.....

Pity you didn't get the views from BL, which are very good indeed :(

AK

PS I was out on the Mamores on the same day, and experienced the same conditions as you for the first part of the day. Actually I was glad of it in retrospect, because it was so unbelievably hot once the cloud had been burned off!
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Re: Oh Brother ! Lui, Lui, Lui

Postby dogplodder » Thu Jun 01, 2017 10:54 am

I did this pair the same day as you by the same route so can empathise with all you say and still have a souvenir bruise from a slip on what looked like a dry rock at the burn crossing! 8)
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Re: Oh Brother ! Lui, Lui, Lui

Postby naepace » Sat Jun 03, 2017 7:16 pm

Alteknacker wrote:I'm rather ashamed to admit that I got a degree of schadenfreude from reading your report. :shifty: :shifty:

Normally I avoid reading route reports until after I've done the route myself; but in the case of Lui - probably because I read a post because it was posted (rather than for route research) - I'd somehow clocked that the route from the A85 was epically boggy. So when I eventually did it, in confab with my walking companions, it was decided to start at Tyndrum. And this was absolutely the best decision - no bogs; and what looked like a dull vehicle track route in was in fact unbelievably spectacular, because we had a fabulous view of B Lui in all her spendour the whole way; and the time passed - as it seemed - in minutes.

As regards the river crossing, is there any reason why you didn't use the footbridge (Grid Ref 229270)? Had I gone this way, this is what I'd planned for crossing the river... It seemed to be shown both on the map, and visible on Google Earth.....

Pity you didn't get the views from BL, which are very good indeed :(

AK

PS I was out on the Mamores on the same day, and experienced the same conditions as you for the first part of the day. Actually I was glad of it in retrospect, because it was so unbelievably hot once the cloud had been burned off!


Rub it in AK, why don't you :lol: I had no idea there was a footbridge, I just go where Walkhighlands tells me to go :shock:
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Re: Oh Brother ! Lui, Lui, Lui

Postby naepace » Mon Jun 05, 2017 3:43 pm

dogplodder wrote:I did this pair the same day as you by the same route so can empathise with all you say and still have a souvenir bruise from a slip on what looked like a dry rock at the burn crossing! 8)

Did you get any views Dogplodder? Still a fair bit of cloud when I left the car park.
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Re: Oh Brother ! Lui, Lui, Lui

Postby Sgurr » Mon Jun 05, 2017 8:38 pm

RTC wrote:Its over 30 years since I did these two from the Glen Lochay side. Maybe it was during a dry spell but I don't remember it being as boggy as this. Mind you, I sat up for about an hour at 2.00am a couple of nights ago trying to remember John Swinney's second name! Sadly I don't think I'll ever remember Senga's second name [C1968] but...........................! Maybe I should see a psychiatrist. I hear that Schadenfreude was a good one.



John Swinney's second name is Ramsay, though I can't imagine why you need it. I both used the footbridge, and can't remember the bog, can only assume it has appeared as a result of people following W Highlands route. According to the Urban Dictionary it's as well for you that Senga's 2nd name is a mystery.

Really funny TR
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Re: Oh Brother ! Lui, Lui, Lui

Postby dogplodder » Tue Jun 06, 2017 2:57 pm

naepace wrote:
dogplodder wrote:I did this pair the same day as you by the same route so can empathise with all you say and still have a souvenir bruise from a slip on what looked like a dry rock at the burn crossing! 8)

Did you get any views Dogplodder? Still a fair bit of cloud when I left the car park.


We reversed the WH route and by the time we were at top of Lui all the cloud had burned off. Views were good if a bit hazy. When I get round to posting pics I'll put a link on to show you what you missed. :shifty:
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Re: Oh Brother ! Lui, Lui, Lui

Postby naepace » Tue Jun 06, 2017 8:55 pm

I'll look forward to that, cheers :clap:
Although I now realise reading the comments above that the right time to do these hills was not later in the day....it was 30 years ago, perhaps accompanied by wee Senga :lol: :lol:
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