Having been relatively unconditioned and unprepared we got into a spot of bother getting back off the top of Ben Lui. But as luck would have it, while wandering off the arse side of Ben Lui in low visibility, going deeper and deeper in the wrong direction, we were met by a couple of hikers who had three things we desperately needed. A map, a compass and some common sense.
We found our way home. But having spoken to the hikers on Ben Lui, we were now aware of other peaks within touching distance of the hill we had just climbed.
Roll forward a few years and we are back in the mighty shadow of Ben Lui. Back in the car park at Dalrigh. But this time, we were back with a map, a compass, a bag of common sense. AND a GPS device.
We took a wrong turn almost immediately out of the car park (we headed East instead of South/South East) and walked 4 miles in entirely the wrong direction before taking our first cursory glance at a map. Ahem!
A re-alignment of our trajectory saw us swing due south across rough ground to try to meet the path we had veered away from. After a rather clumsy river crossing, and a bit of GPS waving, we picked up the path which turned out to be delightfully easy going through some very fine pine woodland.
The woodland eventually gives way to a massively expanse of grass. A table on which you can fork left (south west) and push directly up the convex basin beneath Beinn Dubhchraig. Or which you can push slightly to the right (west south west) and curve your way onto the ridge, riding the edge of the basin onto the shoulder of Beinn Dubhchraig.
We took the right fork, but to be honest, left fork would be faster. It’s a grassy, boggy trudge no matter how you approach Beinn Dubhchraig, and it is only when you head for Ben Oss that things start to look a bit more mountainous.
Having been on an Atkins-style diet, I was fading fast at the shoulder of Beinn Dubhchraig, and had to sit down. My legs felt leaden and I was feeling light-headed and a little dizzy. Lack of carbs!
You might say Atkins is a crazy diet, and yo might be right, but I’m not 100% crazy. I had packed in my rucksack a stack of carb-laden cheese sandwiches.
One sandwich down the gullet did the trick and we took Dubhchraig easily enough.
I was glad of the injection of carbs, and to have a clear head, because the descent to the Bealach before Ben Oss was very, very steep.
On the way to Ben Oss we met a chap who was heading home. The weather was turning worse and he had had enough. Plus he had missed the very small white cairn that marks the direct route up Ben Oss and had accidentally taken the longer meandering stalkers path to the summit, which had taken some of the bounce out of him.
So we walked VERY slowly and looked out for the cairn. It is VERY VERY easy to miss. And when you do find it and look Ben Oss in the face, you think to yourself: this cannot be the right cairn, that is too vertiginous an ascent. But it is an optical illusion, and the further you go, the less intimidating it becomes.
A few false summits later and we had Ben Oss under our feet. It was a shame not to be able to see the brooding crags of Ben Lui through the swirling clouds. I knew it was there, I could feel it. That amount of rock has a presence even when you can’t see it.
And that reminded me. Let’s get the map out and take a bearing!
Having to re-ascend up to the shoulder of Beinn Dubhchraig was done under protest. It’s a long way home as it is, but at least once you have done that last climb of the day, it’s downhill all the way. The going was tiresome at first as we trawled through the boggy basin, but more pleasant once we met the pine forest for a gentle and shaded acclimatisation to the low land.
In the forest, a young couple who had done the same two hills caught up with us, and we chatted a while before finding our respective cars and going through the ritual of preparing to go home.
I rolled down a hiking sock and noticed, as we changed from mountain people back into lowlanders, that we had quite similar rituals to the couple across from us in the car park. Rituals and processes made out of common sense and necessity.
We waved goodbye to the young couple as we pulled out of the car park to head back down the A82. As I bit the head off a red one, I wondered if they kept a secret stash of jelly babies in the glove compartment too.