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Fiona bagging: Three summits from Luss

Written by Fiona

March 18 2024

There are three summits that qualify as “Fionas” sitting to the west above Loch Lomond and close to the village of Luss. I had already bagged one of the summits, Beinn Dubh (642 m), many times before but I had not previously continued on to Doune Hill (734 m) and Beinn Eich (703 m). A couple of weeks ago, I met my friends Lynsey and Dan for the full horseshoe circuit, which turned out to 19.5km and almost 1700m of ascent.

Lynsey summarised the outing as “steep and windy as fuck”. She is entirely right but I thought I’d expand with a longer description.

First ascent: Beinn Dubh

I was familiar with the climb from the road through Glen Luss and up the south-eastern slope of Ben Dubh, but even so the long and steep ascent took me by surprise. Over some 2km, we gained around 620m of elevation (because we started close to sea level). The slope felt unrelenting and especially as I did not have a chance to warm up. However, we were grateful for a well-trodden path to show the way. The views over our shoulders across beautiful Loch Lomond and some of its many islands also gave great rewards as we climbed higher.

I’ll get my excuses in now, too: I have had an ankle injury since November (I went over on my ankle while playing badminton). It has taken months of rest, recovery and strength training to get back to running. This meant I was not as “running fit” as I usually would be and I was nervous about damaging my ankle again so I was quite slow on uneven terrain. Suffice to say, Lynsey and Dan were good friends and waited for me when the ground got too rough.

There was a light covering of snow on the ground from about 450m and, as we climbed still higher, the wind strength picked up. We spent most of the route hoping to get away from the wind, which also turned out to be very chilly as well as extremely fierce at times.

Normally, at the summit cairn, we would stop for a rest and a bite too eat but it was simply too cold. Instead, we pushed on north and then west and south on tussocky and boggy ground that undulated downwards and then back up to Mid Hill.

In previous outings, I’ve descended from Mid Hill back to Glen Luss in a south-easterly direction but this time we headed north-west over high and tussocky ground before a long descent.

We munched on snacks as we continued on, adding layers and gloves.

Onwards to Doune Hill

The more we descended, the taller and steeper Doune Hill became in front of us. The hill combined with our third summit, Beinn Eich, to create a huge lump of land ahead.

The lowest point in the glen was around 200m before we had to start another long ascent. We could see the line of what appeared to be a trod running north-east along the base of the glen, before heading west up the side of Doune Hill. I’ve no doubt this would be a preferred option for a slightly longer but also slightly gentler ascent,

However, after a chat, we decided simply to follow a straighter line uphill. This meant we endured a steeper climb but one that gained height quickly.

Dan was in good form and he managed to chat on, keeping Lynsey and I entertained as we focused on the upwards push.

Doune Hill rises to 734m, which meant we added more than an extra 500m to our leg muscles in this one section of the route alone.

Higher up, we were faced with the freezing cold wind again. I was grateful for my Harrier Lomond insulated jacket as a warming outer shell and a pair of thick, insulated mittens.

The final section to reach the trig pillar involved a steeper, scrambly climb but finally we topped out. we stopped briefly to take photos before running downhill with the hope we would find shelter from the wind.

Another long ascent to Beinn Eich

From Doune Hill, we head south-west for a short while before turning more directly south. Again, we descended and then faced another ascent.

There was a faint trod through heather and we ran as much as we could. I felt slow in comparison to Dan and Lynsey but I didn’t want to risk going over on my ankle so I stayed in my comfort zone.

It was good to be moving at a faster pace because we needed to stay warm in the seemingly relentless wind.

We descended to around 550m elevation and then slowed to a brisk walk to start the final ascent. Thankfully, Beinn Eich offered a gentler gradient and, while my legs were tiring, the summit at 703m came fairly quickly.

The wind was still brisk and chilly, so we quickly headed downhill. We followed bits and piece of trod through very rough and uneven ground. Everywhere I looked I could see potentially ankle-breaking grassy tussocks but maybe this was just in my mind as I became increasingly fatigued.

The route took us down via Glen Mollochan and towards Glen Luss again, where we knew we would join a track and then a narrow tarmac road.

This last section was the part we had been muttering about most of the day. A tarmac run at the end of a long hill run is never easy and we knew the road would be very up and down.

We decided we would run the flat sections and downhills but walk the uphills. This we mostly did and while it was tough on the legs, we chatted and laughed and the kilometres rolled by.

Looking back up Glen Mollochan, we could see much of the horseshoe route we had completed in a moving time of 3.5 hours. This is a superb hills circuit that requires navigational ability especially if there are low clouds, as well as a fair amount of hill fitness. It could easily be completed as a walk instead of a walk-run as we did.

3 Fionas from Luss

Distance: 19.6km

Total ascent: 1688m

Route details: Strava and OS Maps

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