Ben Ledi looms over the Trossachs, providing stunning panoramic views of the Highlands to North and West, and views over the Fourth Valley to Stirling and Edinburgh beyond. At 2,884ft it's just shy of Munroe, providing a good challenge for walkers and runners, this post will describe the Ben Ledi Ascent walk and hill race route, an event being held this year on the 1st of June, for entry details head over to the skidaddle website.
The Ben Ledi Ascent is 6 miles long with 2,500ft of ascent/descent, following a clockwise route. The route is comprises forest tracks, paths, open hillside and narrow forest paths. The character of the terrain naturally breaks the route into 7 sections, 3 sections for the ascent, and 4 sections on the descent.
PARKING AND REGISTRATIONJust after passing the Falls of Leny, turn left off the A84 and follow signs towards the Strathyre Forest Cabins. You'll drive about 3/4 mile along tarmaced but rather pot holed road and then turn left through a gate and park up as directed by marshals on the day. Registration will be in the field below.
SECTION 1: FOREST TRAILStart: Follow the track on the left uphill and through the forest.
Follow the track that zig zaps uphill through the forest, after just under a mile you come to a the junction below and follow the track on the left.
SECTION 2: DIAGONAL ASCENT TO SHOULDERA 1/4 mile along the left hand track you come to the path on the right that heads straight uphill.
Follow the path uphill, after half a mile you'll come to small dip down to a stream crossing and then over a style and continue along the path heading left and upward along the path.
A 1/4 mile along the path you will come to an area where the path has been overrun by a recent landslide. Make you way over the rocks and rejoin the path a little further uphill. Avoid going straight uphill along the scree, instead head diagonally uphill towards the shoulder, keeping the steepest part of the hill on your right.
Don't forget to turn around and look where you've come from, you get a nice view back towards Loch Lubnaig and Stuc a' Chroin.
After the land slide the path becomes easier to follow, just keep following it up to the shoulder.
SECTION 3: ASCENT ALONG THE SHOULDER TO THE SUMMITA mile after the start of the path you arrive at the shoulder, here you follow the path around to the right and head straight uphill.
Follow the path up the shoulder heading for the Cross mounted on a rocky out crop just before the summit. The path goes through a few boggy sections so be prepared to find your own best route through or to get your feet wet. As long as you keep heading uphill you should never be too far off the path. There a couple of false summits with small flat sections and dips in between.
The third steep section will be the final section up towards the Cross, before you reach it the path goes around to the right of the rocky outcrop that it's mounted on, then you follow the path left to arrive at the modest Summit cairn and trig point.
Weather permitting the fruits of your labour will be stunning 360 view, to the east you'll look out over the flatlands towards the Fourth Valley, Stirling and Edinburgh beyond.
To the west and north you'll see the Highlands stretching out before you. Ben Lomond to the west, Ben More to the north west and Ben Lawers, Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorlich to the north and north east.
SECTION 4: RIDGE TRAVERSE AND DESCENT TO STANK GLENFrom the summit head north along the ridge (pictured above) keeping the fence posts to your right. The ridge drops steeply away to the east/right hand side of the fence posts (only fence posts as there is no longer any fence wire), and gently away on healthy slope on the right so if in poor visibility keep left and on the Westerly side to keep out of trouble.
SECTION 5: DESCENT INTO STANK GLENAround 1/3 mile from the summit the ridge section ends and the path veers off the left and you head downhill. The descent down this shoulder is steep and broken by many small rocks so take care to pick you path through them. The path generally keeps left of the fence posts.
After two steep drops the shoulder levels off, and just before it rounds out a path veers off to the right, follow this and head down into Stank Glen.
SECTION 6: STANK GLENFollow the path around to the right and head east along the path
The path then heads steeply downhill, you can choose to follow the rocky and broken path or keep further to the right and head down the grass and health.
As you near the bottom of the descent into Stank Glen the path becomes more coherent and takes you down to a Style that is 10m to the left of the gate below.
After another couple hundred metres the path levels off and then you reach a junction, take the right path that takes you along the right hand side/southerly side of Stank Glen.
You are now heading towards the mature forestry at the bottom of Stank Glen and only a mile and half from the finish. The path through Stank Glen is gently descending and while covered with plenty of stones and a few stream crossing is great for running at a good pace.
Towards the end of the Stank Glen stay right and it eventually drops steeply down to a Forest track.
Once down on the forest track head right and 20 metres later head left down the narrow forest path.
SECTION 7: DESCENT DOWN FOREST PATHFollow the forest path downhill, there are lots of rocks and roots which makes the last section very technical so watch your footing.
The storms over the last year have brought down several large trees that now block the path, the easist route around them is go past the first on the uphill side, then the next on the downhill side, then the third on the uphill side.
Once past the fallen trees the path takes you to past a view point of the water fall that spills out from Stank Glen. If you are running too fast you'll likely miss it, but for everyone else the viewpoint is just a few meters off the left of the path so keep an eye out for this magical little view.
The path then takes you back to the Forest track that you ran up in the first mile of the run, rather than follow the track you head back left and downhill following the path the runs adjacent to the stream.
Follow the path, which is a bit broken in places, through the trees until it goes right and brings you back on the Forest Track, turn left and head downhill for the final 200m sprint to the finish back where you started.
ESTIMATING TIME TO DO THE ROUTEWhen we ran the route to take these photo's we took it easy, taking lots of photos and it took us just under an hour to get to the summit, and 40 minutes for the descent. On race day I expect to get the time down to around 1 hour and 15 minutes, which is around 80% longer than my 10k times. I'll expect the elite runners to do it in around 50 minutes.
Walkers should allow for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours walking time for the route.
CLOTHING AND FOOTWEAR RECOMMENDATIONSThe weather on Scottish mountains can be harsh and unpredictable, even in June we could see gales force winds and low temperatures at the summit. Have a read through my Stuc a' Chroin hill race report if you want to see just how extreme it can be up top, even when conditions at the base of mountain are otherwise benign. The key to being safe on the mountains is wearing the correct clothing for the conditions that you may meet on route, so you should at least bring water proof jackets and extra layers to keep dry and warm in case you end up stopping on route. Equally it could be warm day so being able to strip down to light base layer may be appropriate As we can't predict the weather bringing a range of clothing to the start would be sensible. Mountain rescue will be helping on the day and will provide guidance on safety, if conditions look unsafe they the route will be adapted.
For walkers sturdy walking shoes or boots would appropriate. For runners fell shoes are advisable as the descents can be wet and slippery in places. Standard trail shoes like the Trailroc 255's that I wore for the route recce above were fine for all but the steeper wet descents down into Stank Glen where the lugs just didn't provide enough grip so slipped a number of times. Road shoes will lack the grip and be too high off the ground to handle the technical descents so I'd recommend against them.