Ben Lui - The Queen of the Southern Highlands
The Southern Highlands suffer a great insult from a sign on the threshold of Rannoch Moor. It is whilst driving on the A82 past Bridge of Orchy that a sign greets motorists proclaiming “Welcome to the Highlands.” Yes, beyond this point the Highlands becomes truly wonderous, especially once that Buachaille comes into view and you dive into the jaws of the Pass of Glencoe. However, there are a number of sensational Scottish mountains before your wheels carry you past that sign. So the Southern Highlands would be right to feel a great injustice here.
For starters, Ben Cruachan and it’s family of peaks makes anything south of Hadrian’s Wall look utterly pedestrian, as it is thrust aloft by its ridges. In the Arrochar Alps there’s the sublime mountain architecture of The Cobbler, a fascinating mountain that played a huge part in early Scottish rock climbing. The Crianlarich Hills have a charm of their own. I personally have a bit of a soft spot for shapely Cruach Ardrain. And then, of course, there’s that most beautiful of the region’s peaks. The Queen of the Southern Highlands - Ben Lui.
Ben Lui is a high and majestic mountain with five defined ridges, a spectacular corrie, stonking summit views and a superb family of subordinate peaks. I had ascended Ben Lui before from Glen Lochy - that most Scottish sounding of glens. However, to truly get to grips with the mountain, the approach down Glen Cononish is a must. Only here does Ben Lui reveal its full majesty, as it grows to dominate the view ahead.
Winter climbs ascend either of the east facing ridges or straight up the corrie when banked with snow. I took the ridge to the north, a great hill-walk, to the summit. Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhchraig are a natural progression of what is a delightful horseshoe. I was particularly impressed with the staggering views from Ben Oss’ lofty summit perch. Lomond and the Arrochar Alps to the south and Ben Lui seen in profile to the west. And all of this with a low winter sun and inversion conditions. Hill-walking paradise.