I am delighted that there has been an easing of Covid travel restrictions in Scotland, but this means that popular hills and mountains are busy again. I am fortunate that I have the experience and navigational skills to get off the well beaten track – and I used this to good effect at the weekend for a run-hike of the Corbetts Ben Ledi and Benvane in Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park.
The most popular route of Ben Ledi starts from near Callander, a busy tourism town. It is also the shortest route on a well-worn path.
Benvane would normally be accessed from near Balquhidder and the WalkHighlands description is one that many people choose to follow.
But with a bit of creativity and map reading, I followed a route from the south west, rather than the south east. It is a longer way to walk to both Corbett summits but much quieter and a great outing if you are keen to walk or run a longer route that is also much less likely to be crowded.
I will let you read the map, rather than giving away exactly how I did this run. Suffice to say, my friends and I passed over-flowing car parks and people parked illegally on the roadside close to other hills, then arrived at our start point where there was an almost empty car park.
It is important that you can navigate by map and compass for this route to two Corbetts, although there are tracks and faint paths for a lot of the route.
Ben Ledi and Benvane from the south west
It was a day that promised to be sunny and after a while – and a cloudy summit – the forecast came true.
My friends Nic, Dan, David and Robin ran and walked while non-stop chatting. It felt amazing to be able to get together as a small group again – and to explore routes away from our local authority areas.
The first section of the route is uphill on a narrow tarmac road. It skirts the south-east edge of Glen Finglas Reservoir before heading on a rough Landrover track. Be careful of cows in a field and make sure you keep dogs on a lead.
We followed the track up to the bealach between Ledi and Benvane and while it would have been possible to make a more direct route to Ledi summit, it seemed much easier to stay on a defined track.
In addition, when chatting in a group, it is far easier to stay on an obvious trail. I find that chatting is not conducive to route finding, although I do enjoy a natter!
The bealach to Ben Ledi summit
At the bealach, we turned back towards the south to follow an undulating wide ridge to Ledi. The path was fairly well worn although narrow and boggy in places.
At Ledi summit (879m) we met a group of walkers. They told us the more popular path from Callander had been busy, as we had expected. Although we did meet other walkers following a similar path to our route, it was really very few people considering the weather and the post-lockdown desire to be out in the hills.
The top of the Corbett was shrouded in cloud and we could see very little of a view that is usually stunning. We stopped for a quick bite to eat and then set off again when we all started to feel the chill.
The wind and cloud made us push on at a good pace downhill, the same way we had arrived, and back to the bealach. We discussed whether we all wanted to go on to do Benvane, too, or whether to retrace our steps back down the Landrover track.
The bealach to Ben vane
We all chose to run on, although many months of not being in the mountains had affected my fitness and I started to feel my muscles complaining. But I can’t resist a summit when there is another one close by – and so I pushed on.
It was a shorter distance to Benvane summit at 821m but the terrain was rougher. By this point, the sun had come out and the clouds had almost disappeared from the peak of Ben Ledi.
Dan and Robin chose to miss out the summit and simply headed more directly south, where David, Nic and I rejoined them some 20 minutes later. They enjoyed a sit down in the sunshine while they waited for us.
We all followed a much less obvious route south down the wide southerly shoulder of Benvane, before joining another Landrover track that then merged into the tarmac road that we had climbed earlier in the day.
It felt like a long way to run back down the tarmac road and Nic and I kept imagining we would spot the vehicles over the next hill and around the next corner… and over the next hill and around the next corner… Eventually we did – and then waited for the guys to catch up. They had decided a slower pace would be better for their leg muscles (I think in retrospect I agree!).
The total distance for this route of Ben Ledi and Benvane was 24km and some 1350m of total ascent.