I recently climbed Ben Ledi by accident. I had set off on a wild and windy Sunday morning for an outing with Glasgow HF Outdoor Club to Bean Heasgarnich and Creag Mhor. The club usually departs at 0845hrs from Waterloo Street, and I had arrived at about twenty-to. I knew that Craig was leading and got in the car with him. We were on the M8, and Craig had mentioned some difficulties he had in printing off the map from Quo Mapping. “I doesn’t matter anyway” he said, at which point I became aware that we were in fact heading for Ben Ledi! His walk had been scheduled for 0830hrs, and as no one had turned up for it (not surprising given the weather) he had decided to attend the B walk. He had been at the cash machine when I arrived and thought I already knew. Next time I’ll make a point of asking where I’m going before departing!
A wet day on a hill is better than nothing, and Ben Ledi would be good for a stretch of the legs. Ben Ledi rises above Loch Lubnaig, overshadowed by Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’ Chroin across the water. All of these hills are visible from Airdrie, and I have spent many hours on winter mornings watching their slopes to judge whether the snow has arrived (or indeed departed). I last climbed Ben Ledi about twenty years ago, with some mates from the TA. Training dictated that a group on the hills would carry a first aid kit the size and weight of a couple of bricks, a sleeping bag and survival bag, extra rations and various other emergency items. We ascended the hill laden like sherpas, struggling under unfeasibly large rucksacks, tutting at lightly laden walkers and equipment free fell runners. In the years since I’ve learned to ditch much of the excess, and pick up smaller, lighter equipment. I still tut at fell runners though.
The weather had for a few days been absolutely terrible, high winds and driving rain, and it was surprise to see the road in to the car park littered with Olympic swimming pools for potholes, and the Garbh Uisge below the bridge foaming and boiling. That was no deterrent to the kayakers who were readying their boats and equipment, before facing the tight gorge of the Garbh Uisge and the Falls of Leny.
We too were going to get wet, but would do so by climbing up from the water, rather than lowering ourselves into it. The path climbs up sharply through the trees, almost immediately I was dripping in sweat and gasping for breath, and I was glad to arrive at the track, at Grid NN 580 092, where the trees have been felled, and the path now ascends on an open hillside strewn with the detritus of logging, bits of branches and trunks making anywhere off the path a minefield of places to trip or catch yourself. Soon we were beyond the old treeline, onto the open hillside proper. On this day the weather was pretty awful, intermittent rain and low cloud, and wind to slap loose straps against your face. A group up ahead were toiling upwards, and we took a break to allow them to get clear. The path crosses the burn, and turns south, before arriving at the point where you join the ridge up to the top, a nice straight-ish ascent. We caught a quick glimpse of Loch Venachar before once again the cloud raced in. By this time we were receiving the full force of the wind and rain. We met up with the group we had seen earlier, which turned out to be the Bearsden Ramblers, some of whom were familiar to our group of mainly B walkers, including Francis, an HF regular. One of the problems that this creates in such poor visibility is to disentangle yourselves without either leaving someone behind or taking someone extra. Our groups leader, John, was on the ball, and we headed off, complete. This section, while navigationally straightforward, is quite poor underfoot. Unlike many Corbetts, Ben Ledi does receive a lot of visitors, and has a more Munro like path than many, and erosion, peat hags and porridge-like sections where your boots sink in can make it a tad more interesting.
The summit, well, what I saw of it was quite bumpy, with two tops, the first one with a cross on top, the actual summit just beyond, decorated with a trig point which has seen better days
I don’t recall the cross from my first visit. It is erected in memory of H Lawrie, BEM, and a plaque explains that he lost his life on Ben More in 1987, while on duty with Killin Mountain Rescue Team.
The top has trig point which has a large crack running along it. On a good day it must be nice to sit awhile and look at the loch below, and over to Ben More and beyond. Today was not a good day, and John very quickly led us off to the north, following the remains of an old fenceline, possibly a county boundary.. The wind reached it’s strongest here, around 50mph, and as we descended it tore a hole in the cloud, revealing previously hidden hills and lochs. Glen Finglas Reservoir below, and over the northern slopes of Ben A’an we could see Loch Katrine. Directly north-west was Benvane, which could be added on to an ascent of Ben Ledi to make a much longer day out.
Today was not that day, and we dropped down off the ridge, near NN 558 104, heading for the Stank Glen. Despite it’s awful sounding name, it’s actually quite a pleasant place to be. The path was wet and care had to be taken on the descent, and eventually we reached a fenceline, where we took a break.
The view was worth the hike, Dumyat in the Ochills and The Wallace Monument two particular stand outs. Our tea was interrupted by a group of mountain bikers descending from Ben Ledi. I got camera out, too late though for the ‘Harry Hill’ moment as one came off and slid down on his backside!
There has been a lot of tree clearance at the bottom of the glen, which opens the views up. It has also revealed some of the hill which was perhaps hidden before. I notice a couple climbing up towards some huge boulders, possibly for a spot of bouldering. There was enough rock up there to keep them busy for quite some time.
Within a short time we were on a forestry track. Just on the other side of the track the path descends to the loch, and from there you can make your way along the lochside back to the car park. We instead headed south along the forest track, initially climbing up to a point where the trees have been felled, allowing a view of the loch, before descending to follow for about ¾ of a kilometre to meet the point where we had came out of the trees this morning. We followed this down, and now that I wasn’t breathing as heavily, noticed a load of litter dumped, which we gathered and took down. Weightwatchers cakes and half a tent- you know who you are!
All in we were on the hill for about four and half hours. For short winter days or long summer evenings that’s an ideal length of time to fit in a walk. With campsites, trails and canoeing to be had nearby, it’s always going to be busy, which makes this a good hill for beginners as well. But the icing on the cake is surely that it’s only a short drive to the Lade Inn at Kilmahog and it’s Real Ale shop. Hot meals, real ale, live music…do they allow tents I wonder?