Many years ago when Frank and I had climbed Ben Lui the weather and the views had not been really great (in fact it had been a rather dreich day). So we had skipped the extension to Beinn a’Chleibh, then. This meant that we still had this half-day walk to do that we could slip in when it suited us. The right time came on 18 November 2014 when we needed to catch an afternoon flight out of Edinburgh and had the morning at our disposal.
From Loch Fyne where we had stayed for a long weekend we drove to Loch Awe and then onwards to Glen Lochy where we left our car in the big hikers’ parking where the tramp up Beinn a’Chleibh starts. At 0810h a.m. Frank and I crossed the River Lochy (dry-shod) using stepping stones – the weather had been rather dry the past few days! Then we walked along the left bank of the river, crept under the railway bridge over the Eas Daimh and picked up the obvious path on the right bank of the burn. For the next few hundred metres the path was fine and easy to follow. Then a tributary stream coming from the left needed to be crossed. This was a little tricky but some friendly hiker had installed a rope spanning that stream which gave us something to hold on to during the slippery crossing.
Then the real fun started. The path deteriorated into one of the worst quagmires I have ever experienced in all my years of hiking in Scotland. Bog, water holes and slushy moss. Legs sinking in almost to the knees when you hit a bad spot. All of this while ascending steeply through the forest beside the Eas Daimh. Then finally after many curses and a very tiring 45 minutes we reached the forest edge and the open grassy Fionn Choirein. Heaven! Hoorah!
The crags of Beinn a’Chleibh were obvious from there as was the way ahead towards the steep headwall of the corrie. The wooden monolith welcoming you to the nature reserve was lying flat on its back: vandalism? If so I presume the poor sign had to bear the brunt of many a frustrated hill walker who needed to vent his anger at the bog slog just experienced. The next 300 metres of climbing over dry grass and a bit of scree higher up were a piece of cake in comparison to what we had to cope with in the forest.
We reached the bealach between Beinn a’Chleibh and Ben Lui. There we turned right and climbed the last 150 metres to the flat summit of Beinn a’Chleibh which was completely engulfed in clouds. Once the summit plateau was reached it took us maybe three minutes to reach the summit cairn. No views! Time pressure meant we had to return to Glen Lochy at the double. So after one bite of chocolate we immediately turned round and dropped into Fionn Choirean again. All too soon the forest edge was reached again. I do admit that walking the bog path downhill was a little less strenuous than uphill. But let me assure you: Nonetheless a very good sense of humour was needed to keep me from cursing all the way down to the River Lochy. After 3 hours and 25 minutes the path beside the river leading back to the parking was finally, finally reached. Man, what a slog!
Then the only tasks left were to cross the River Lochy, easily accomplished, and to get out of the hiking clothes into something more civilian and less damp.
This was a short half-day walk successfully completed against the clock. A Munro well-earned and a path I intend to never ever return to. On a positive note: This was Frank’s last remaining Munro south of the Great Glen. From now on we’ll follow Mark Edward Smith’s advice when he sang in 1987: Hit the North! Yes we’ll do that, in 2015.