Monday, 13 October 2014

The Tyndrum Grandslam

Walk Summary
Rail workers river crossing over River Lochy towards Inverlochy
With the early departure of John P. it looked like the chance to bag four Munros had slipped off the trip schedule, due to it being a point to point walk and requiring a lift back to the start point to pick up one of the vans.
There is a circular walk from Dalrigh but that would amount to 18 miles. 15 miles proved to be about my daily limit with nearly 2000m of ascent and that would take 12 hours, demonstrated last May on a previous trip last May to Tyndrum walking The Tyndrum Handful. The owner from By The Way Hostel & Campsite had kindly offered to give me a lift to Ben Lui car park on the A85 yesterday but after listening to rain all night and the prospect of more rain during the day along with only 10% chance of cloud free Munros that day I really did not fancy a 12 mile walk in thick cloud and the possibility of getting soaked. Unfortunately this was the only day he could give me a lift as he was going away for half term with the family. The option of using a taxi was discarded as I did not fancy paying for a taxi from Crianlarich but then it occurred to me what I had spent on diesel to get to Scotland from Suffolk, the £15 taxi fare charged by Crianlarich Taxis would be money well spent.

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 13 October 2014
Walkers - Steve Smith

Accommodation - By The Way Campsite and Hostel, Tyndrum
Start Point - Ben Lui car park Oban bound side of A85 (GR - NN 23918 27829)
Start Time - 09:45
Finish Point 
By The Way Campsite and Hostel, Tyndrum (GR - NN 32860 30123)
Finish Time - 18:51
Duration - 9hrs 06mins
Average pace - 1.39mph
Distance Walked - 12.64miles
Height Ascended - 1845.70metres

Other walks on this trip

30th Conic Hill & Gualann
01st Ptarmigan & Ben Lomond
03rd Meall Corranaich & Meall a' Choire Leith
04th Ben More & Stob Binnein
05th Not quite Meall Buide (Glen Lyon)
07th Cruach Ardrain & Beinn Tulaichean
08th Beinn Dorain & Beinn an Dothaidh hammerhead
10th Ben Challum [Beinn Challuim]
12th Beinn a' Chreachain & Beinn Achaladair
13th The Tyndrum Grandslam

Peaks visited
Munro (282)

Beinn a'Chleibh (32)
Ben Lui [Beinn Laoigh] (33)
Ben Oss (34)
Beinn Dubhchraig (35)
Murdo (443)

Beinn a'Chleibh (44)
Ben Lui [Beinn Laoigh] (45)
Ben Oss (46)
Beinn Dubhchraig (47)
Corbett (221)
Graham (224)
Marilyn (1218S - 1552E,W&S))

Ben Lui [Beinn Laoigh] (32S - 103E,W&S)
Ben Oss (33S - 104E,W&S)
Beinn Dubhchraig (34S - 105E,W&S)
Hump (2168S - 2976E,W&S)
Beinn a'Chleibh (42S - 161E,W&S)
Ben Lui [Beinn Laoigh] (43S - 162E,W&S)
Ben Oss (44S - 163E,W&S)
Beinn Dubhchraig (45S - 164E,W&S)
S: Scotland. 
E,W&S:England,Wales & Scotland

GPX can be downloaded from

Walk Description
Beinn a'Chleibh
Ben Lui car park and storage area
for rail workers on on other side of river.
Suggesting an easy crossing?
The plan was to finish at Ben Lui car park on the A85 to Oban where a vehicle had been parked to drive back to walk start point. However because  I was on my own and needed to get to car park by taxi I decided to use the taxi at the beginning of the walk rather than rely on a mobile signal at the end of the walk and waiting for a taxi to arrive. The downside is that the river crossing is at the beginning of the walk risking wet boots rather than at the end of the walk when it is not such an issue. The plus side was I confirmed By The Way, Hostel & Campsite is a reasonable start (and end) point thereby taking out the boggy path through forest plantation near Dalrigh. 
Seeing there was construction work on the West Highland Line evidenced by equipment store at car park I briefly allowed myself to think there would be a decent crossing over the River Cononish, but I soon found out it was only a ford. I did manage to cross with just the hint of water overflowing in to one of my boots but was enough to warrant drying feet and changing socks. Ideally I should have had some thick bags to slip over my boots and had the river been faster flowing may well have been more of an issue to keep feet dry.
Looking back at munros Beinn Eunaich
and Beinn a'Chochuill over
Fionn Choiren
and beyond Beinn na Sròine
Unusually for Scottish OS explorer maps there was a path marked through the forest all the way to the bealach between Ben a'Chleibh and Ben Lui. Unfortunately as is often the case through forest was boggy for much of the way. Expect it to continue all through the forest and do not be tempted over the bridge half way up. At the bridge continue straight up hill to the forest boundary and through more of the same or even worse bog.
When you reach the forest boundary the bog does end so after passing through gate continue up Fionn Choiren towards the bealach
The ascent is fairly gentle until the base of the final ascent to the bealach were the path veers to the right ascending diagonally to the top. Once on the bealach turn right and follow the path all the way to Beinn a Chleibh summit cairn

Ben Lui [Beinn Laoigh]
Ascent route up Ben Lui clearly visible
on way down Beinn a'Chleibh
As can be seen from the photos I was blessed with clear skies and excellent views north to future Munros including the Beinn Cruachan and Ben Starav groups. Turning round to return to bealach also revealed a clear path up the other side to Ben Lui. It took me 1¼ hours to ascend the 300m to the bealach between the two Ben Lui tops preceded by a 141m descent from Beinn a'Chleibh which robbed it of it's Marilyn status by just 9m. Before heading for the main summit I had to detour to the left and bag the lower NW Top, only an ex-Munro Top but as it is listed on worthy of a visit.
From here it was a case of following back the path already taken and continue up to the main Ben Lui summit by way of a very minor scramble.

Ben Oss
Significant detour south around
Creag Dubh a' Bhealaich
before tuning left to ascend Beinn Oss
Still bright sunshine on Ben Lui summit, but with some evidence of cloud build up to the south and west over the Arrochar Alps. In the opposite direction fairly close to the east excellent views of Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhcraigh. Slightly further however by foot (due to Coire Laoige inconveniently placed between Ben Lui and Ben Oss) via bealach above Creagh Dubh a' Bhealaich.
I had planned to head due south to avoid a too craggy a descent, however I was able to stay close to the rim of Coire Laoige thereby reducing distance to walk and still avoid a difficult descent down what looked like difficult crags on the map.
Looking over Creag Dhubh a'Bhealaich
to Ben Lui
The obvious path from the summit of Ben Lui does soon disappear but with clear conditions was not a problem to find a safe descent route. Unfortunately there is not a clear obvious path at the bottom across to the start of Ben Oss ascent so it is worth spending a little effort to concentrate on staying on what path there is that heads east rather than being seduced too far south which may have been the case for me.
Having crossed the bealach I again managed to find a vague path that headed towards Ben Oss summit. Although it was a bit of a slog it weaved its way around rocky out crops avoiding any need to scramble anywhere during the ascent.

Beinn Dubhchraig
Rain to the north but fine on Ben Oss
Ben Oss marked the half way point in terms of distance but with over 5½ hours of walking I was pleased it was not the half way point in time. Ben Oss represents the 3rd Munro and 2nd Marilyn of the day and although Beinn Dubhcraigh is the 4th and final Munro and is still a Marilyn, I felt most of the ascent and hard work had already been completed.
On the other hand the weather seemed to be deteriorating with rain clearly visibly falling out of the black clouds to the north beyond Glen Lochy and Glen Orchy, so with 6 miles ahead was not a time to be hanging around.

Take small detour to bag Ben Oss North Top
as path passes to the south
Continuing straight over Ben Oss summit the path is easy to follow for the ½ mile to Ben Oss North Top. Special effort has to be made to visit the cairn and 941m spot height (I did) as the path passes lower down to the south as part of it's descent to Bealach Buidhe.
The path continues to the ascent turning north where if you where not bothered about bagging Beinn Dubhcraig could continue north descending in to Coire Dubhcraig and on to walks end. If you had started from the opposite direction it is also the point where you would do the there and back walk to Beinn Dubhcraig before returning to carry on to Ben Lui. Neither of these scenarios apply today so turning east continued up hill to the first ridge. It cannot be confused as a false summit but does reveal as you pass the high point the more significant Loch Oss as well as the final major ascent to bag Beinn Dubhcraig just under 1 mile ahead.
Loch Oss to right of Beinn Dubhchraig
From this point if I was simply walking the planned route in reverse to Dalrigh it would be 3¾ miles to walks end. The route back to Tyndrum turned out to be just under 4 miles so all in all Tyndrum is good choice as both a start and a finish point. However although the descent down the NE flank of Beinn Dubhcraig is straight forward the path along Allt Coire Dubhcraig is boggy and the route north around Creag Bhocan along the fence down the east side to the River Cononish is not obvious and well overgrown. On reflection it would be better on the west side of the fence so if you want to give it a try cross the fence higher up as lower down it is 6ft high and as such suggests it is not to be crossed. I carried on and at the bottom there was a crossing point in the form of a purpose built hole which I presume was for sheep. Big enough for me anyway.
Right Hand forest track I headed for.
(off picture) to avoid fence
There is a crossing of the Cononish which was not a problem with trek poles and long steps between semi and fully submerged stones, but I guess it is an entirely different proposition in periods of spate.
The final difficulty was accessing the right had track up and through the forest to the track higher up that contours around Sron nan Colan. Unfortunately I was confronted by a high fence in excess of 6' high. I was too tired and too far away from the track to the mines to go back so found a way of getting over it in the corner. However don't take this route stay on the track to the mines for about 400m and turn right up hill along the same track which contours around Sron nan Colan. By now it was getting dark so it was just as well navigation was easy following the same track that takes you all the way back to Tyndrum Lower rail station, By The Way Tyndrum and home on the other side of the track.

More Photographs
Lunchtime view near summit of Ben Lui down Glen Lochy towards Beinn Cruachan and Loch Etive
Click on photograph to view slide-show

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