Lui - a beautiful but monstrous beast of a munro

Date walked: 11/07/2020

Ben Lui, the monstrous Munro of 1130m tackled on 11th July 2020 was one of the most annoying and interesting experiences I have had on a hike. I was 13 weeks pregnant. It was the first Munro I had done since the first pandemic lockdown. We tried it in February that year going up from the Dalrigh side but ditched the summit around 50 metres from the top because of snow and ice so this time we decided to try from the Glen Lochy side and finish our unfinished business.
Pic taken by Michael Scorgie, Feb 2020.

The first obstacle we endured was the River Lochy. It needs to be crossed just after leaving the car park which is impossible to do without getting wet feet at the very least depending on the rainfall and season. As hard as I tried to jump and hop across rocks I was still soaked up to my shins. The next obstacle is going under a railway bridge no higher than 3.5 feet. This would be impossible if the river was high, and it is hard work even if you are a short ass like me at 5 foot 1. Crawling or some mad half bent over zombie-style walk are the only options to get under it. After that, the path heads up into a forest crossing a beautiful waterfall which my partner, Michael nearly fell into while crossing. He literally slid down a rock in slow motion on his side while myself and our dog, Isla watched in terror (and sly giggles when I realised, he was okay).
The beautiful waterfall and the slidey rock

Next was up into the forest of both of doom because of its hard going bogs trying to suck you in and tree needles trying to stab you and beauty due to the wonder of its trees and tangling winding roots and the fresh smell of bark and life. The bog of eternal stench in the David Bowie movie Labyrinth kept playing through my head while trying to navigate this part. Even the squelchy farty noises the bog made bore similarity.
Eventually after stepping in several bogs, feeling like the forest was trying to eat me and my dog we made it out and through the gate and up into the open clearing and foot of the mountains. We took a left to follow the Ben Lui and Beinn a'Chlèibh circular route and were already at 400m altitude at this point. After a quick pitstop for some fuelling food, we started moving again.

Michael and Isla up ahead of slow coach me

The path started to ascend very steeply, and clouds and rain crept in. At this point, the clouds brought far more than just rain with them for me. They brought eerie darkness to my mental stability. Michael was firing ahead like a mountain machine (this used to be my job) at a rate of knots with Isla but my body and half of my brain started to scream at me “you can’t do this, what are you doing you stupid fat pregnant cow dafty numpty idiot???” I kept going because at this point, we were over 600m up which was well over halfway (yes, I kept checking my phone apps desperately in the hope we were close) but at a much slower pace than my usual speed and I didn’t feel able to lift my legs like I used to be able to. This was really hard work! The path had completely disappeared by now probably due to the lockdown forcing people to stay at home, the heat and rain allowing the grass and vegetation to grow rapidly with no humans to trample a path into recognition. The rain stopped but the higher we got, the thicker the cloud and fog (and I suppose clag though I hate that jargon word for no apparent reason ha-ha) steeped in bringing waves and gusts of wind. The people above and below us turned into creepy silhouettes with their voices appearing and disappearing out of the blue like ghosts lunging and sucking your energy out of you in time with the gusts. Much to my relief and at 900-1000m up (yes, I’m still frantically checking the altitude on apps) a faint rocky path became visible. From previously coming up the other side of this mountain and knowing that there were sheer drops all around it and the rock being wet and slippery, my nerves and anxiety were only slightly eased by the reappearance of the path as our dog, Isla kept getting close to the edges forcing us to put her back on her lead. She is a German short-haired pointer so has quite a fetish for sniffing out and chasing birds so we’re always wary she tries to fly after one.

Poor visibility and faint rocky path

We kept climbing to summit height with some crazy, wet and very high scrambles over big-assed rocks and made it to the first cairn before following the rocky path to the second cairn and true summit of Ben Lui at 1130m. We did it! Yaaaay! Hallelujah and aw that.

Michael at the top!

Me at the top!

Isla posing at the top!

Our original plan was to do the Lui and Chlèibh circuit but there was zero visibility at the top of Lui, so we spoke to a few different groups of people at the top that were headed in the same direction. We were not keen to head back down the way we came because of the wet scrambling and height of some of the rocks and the difficulty this can bring with a lively dog, so we decided to give the circuit a go. We followed a very chatty and quite eccentric man and a couple down a little over a very wet and slippy boulder field but on looking at our map and app we realised we were off course. We saw silhouettes of people further back up and after speaking to the couple who were using a map and compass (I was too cold to get mines properly out of my bag) we figured they’d know where they were going and followed them for a while. We were slower than them though and their silhouettes disappeared into the ever-thickening fog. My gut instinct was screaming at me that we were going the wrong way and I didn’t want to get us lost in the fog. I stopped and looked at my map and app properly and sure enough, we had walked a mile in the wrong direction and dropped down a good 100-200m in altitude. I was beginning to get a bit panicked. The fog was thickening and completely disorientating my inbuilt navigational system and I didn’t feel I had the energy to go back up again but at this point, we agreed it was too dodgy to keep going that way. In my panic (which was relatively mild) I was talking about calling mountain rescue, saying I’d never do another hill again and all sorts of rubbish, so we sat down, had some hot soup, fuelled up with chocolate, reset my brain and got moving back up to the summit of Lui. On the way back up we met a group and got speaking to them about where they were going. They were trying to find the same path we were so I said I think this may be the wrong way but please check yourself and prove me wrong. They checked their apps and realised they had also gone the wrong way so turned back around. We let them go ahead as we had sore tired legs, but we could see them up ahead of us. They met another group and who also turned around on their guidance. Shortly after this we met the proper path down and saw the 2 groups bounding down it. I checked my map and apps and they confirmed it was the right place, so we also fired on down.

The path down - yay!!

The path down - yay!

My gut instinct stopped screaming at me and I felt happy again – thank **** for that! Happy we weren’t having to go back down the way we had come up with those dodgy scrambles and happy that as we were descending, we were getting low enough to be out of the clouds and fog and we could see the beauty of the landscape again. It made it all worth it, but it is extremely scary how disorientating fog can be at times. Able to let Isla off the lead again, she bounded up and down the hillside sniffing and playing full of energy and beans.

Clouds clearing further down - happy again!

Clouds clearing further down - happy again!

We spent a lot of time debating whether to go for the 2nd peak of Beinn a’Chleibh but in the end, we decided to just take the 1 and get back to the car at a decent time knowing we still had to contend with and survive the forest of doom to make it. The rest of the path down went without drama although knees were starting to creak and moan and throb. Just before we went back through the forest gate, we plonked our bums down on the grass and demolished some more of our picnic. I stared at the gate with feelings of dread, excitement, wonder and scepticism. I adore forests. The smell of trees and life and the sound of rushing water are some of the best parts of the outdoors you can ever experience but this one and this path is damn boggy and marshy as hell ha-ha. Packing up our picnic and heading into the forest, Michael jumped over a particularly boggy bit of path and missed and fell flat on his ass, broke one of his walking poles and caked his ass in mud! Funny!

The gate to the forest of doom and bog of eternal stench!

Surviving the forest

Back in the forest which I could say safely but which may be debated, the beautiful smell hit me again. If I wasn’t so desperate to get back to the car, go for ice cream then home to stuff my face with a hot curry I could’ve hugged trees and breathed in that fresh smell of bark and life all day. I was amazed at the pattern of the tree roots over the path – they were like bony skeleton fingers reaching out and trying to catch me probably as revenge against humans for continual trampling over them. The path runs alongside a river/burn the whole way down and by this point, we’d had enough with BOGS so keeping the burn in our earshot we went a little deeper into the forest and headed down where it was drier. We met one of the groups we’d met near the top of Lui again near the bottom and they thanked us for redirecting them and said we saved loads of folk from getting lost which was really really nice to hear. Michael had a few more ass falls but other than that we made it down to the car without any major incidents.

The next day, however, was another story. I came out of the shower and putting tons of moisturiser on with the plan being to hopefully keep any potential pregnancy stretch marks at bay, I discovered what felt like a weird, shaped lump on my bum. I asked Michael to come and have a look and the sheer terror on his face as he stood up will stay with me forever. I had a big fat (still moving) tick on my ASS! YUCK!! It had face planted on me and looked like it was wriggling with joy at getting such a good feast! Since I was pregnant (and I hadn’t had a tick on me since I was a kid) I called NHS 24 and spoke to my GP and was advised on how to remove it and the signs to look out for lymes disease, but all was well in the end. It was an interesting, eventful and scary at times walk/hike on Lui but there were lots of laughs too and things could’ve been far worse and no midges – absolute bonus!

I tried to keep as fit and healthy as possible throughout my pregnancy and did another few big hills during including Suilven (epic) and Ben Vorlich (for the 3rd time) and Stuc a'Chroin but after that and a nasty bout of sciatica, I stuck to smaller hills and walking the dog. It's now nearly a year later since Ben Lui and our next generation hiker has already been on a Munro top though this one was cheated on by going up the ski lift at Glen Shee 😊 😊 😊 Heres to more to follow!!
A year later with our next generation walker/hiker!

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