Malcolm’s Mountain

Ben Challum (1025m);

  • Pronunciation:             Ben Hallum
  • Translation:                  Malcolm’s Mountain
  • Total distance:              13.2km
  • Total time:                    6hrs 15mins
  • Total ascent:                 1005m
  • Weather:                       Beautifully bright and sunny. Temperature of -4.5°C at start. No wind.
  • Start / end location:    Lay by mid-way between Tyndrum and Crianlarich (A82) – opposite Kirkton Farm entrance [Grid Ref: NN 356 282] Map:        A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

Looking south from Ben Challum towards a winter sun

Tackling this single Munro was very welcome after reasonably tough outings over the last two days. And without incident we managed to get easily parked very close to the starting point of this walk: just opposite the entrance track leading to Kirkton Farm.

Sunrise between Stob Binnein and Cruach Ardrain

Our walk took us along the farm access road and followed the West Highland Way (long distance footpath) for a few hundred metres. Just before reaching the farm the path veered left and headed past the remnants of St Fillan’s Priory: an Augustinian priory dating from the 13th century. Robert the Bruce endowed the priory in 1317. It must have been of a building of some magnificence as it extended over 50m in length. From the priory we then passed two graveyards: the earlier dating back to times of the early Celtic church (8th century), with a more modern one opened in the 1870s!

Ruins of St. Fillan's Priory

Passing the higher graveyard (later one) it was just a short walk to a crossing point of the Fort William to Glasgow railway line. Once across the line we followed a rough land-rover track for a few hundred metres until it petered out. We then simply picked our own route NE up the very broad grassy flank of the lower section of Ben Challum. It was easy going – not too steep. Eventually we crossed a faint path, which we followed to a knoll at around 650m. From here the route dropped down about 40m before climbing steadily, and slightly more steeply, to the south top, with a cairn, at approximately 997m. From the south top the summit of Ben Challum at 1025m or 3,363’ was clearly visible just 600m away to the north. However, we headed west for a few 10s of meters to exploit a fin-like ridge running north that dropped to the bealach leading to the summit peak. A very short climb took us to the top where we stopped for quite a long lunch and ended up taking many photographs.

Early morning alpenglow on Ben Lui

The views in every direction were brilliant. Ben Nevis could be clearly seen over 40 miles away to the NNW. More locally we were surrounded by many of the Munros that we’ve already completed including Ben More and Stob Binnein to the south, Ben Lui, showing its most spectacular NE face to the west, and Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh to the NW.

The route back was simply to retrace our ascent route. The only difference was that we slid on our backsides (intentionally!) down many of the hard snowfields – good fun.

Summit cairn of Ben Challum with views to the north-west

Cloud patterns over Ben Challum

Admiring the view back to the south top of Ben Challum

Cameron ascending steep snow ridge

Ben Nevis clearly visible over 40 miles from summit of Ben Challum

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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4 Responses to Malcolm’s Mountain

  1. Alasdair Wood says:

    Following your route descriptors on my O.S. Landranger map #50.
    My map spells your Ben Challum as Beinn Challuim – what is the significance in the difference?

    • Cameron says:

      Hi Alasdair. In principle there is little difference. The OS #50 map I’m using is copyright 1986 and shows the spelling as I’ve used on our website. I think that maps sometimes fluctuate between “older” Gaelic spellings of names/places etc. and those spellings that have fallen into more modern usage. Can you tell me the date on your map – probably found as a copyright statement at the top of the map key section? It may be newer than mine – I’m finding a revival in the usage of the more traditional Gaelic spellings in lieu of the more “anglicised” variants. You are seeing this more and more in the duel roadsigns throughout the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands. I hope that this clarifies the difference. Best wishes, Cameron

      • Dave Palmer says:

        I use Google Earth to keep up with where you are, it uses Beinn Challuim, but there’s also a tagged photo using the Ben Challum spelling.

        • Cameron says:

          I’ve recently bought an excellent book called “Scottish Hill Names – Their Origin and Meaning” by Peter Drummond [Published 2007 by Scottish Mountaineering Trust].
          This book uses the spelling Beinn Chaluim – with “Chaluim” denoting the Scots first name Calum (or Malcolm). It appears all a bit confusing until you read the book’s introduction where Drummond notes that in Scotland most of the hill names are in one of four languages other than English: Gaelic, Norse, Scots and Cumbric. The latter is sometimes called Brittonic or Old Welsh.
          Drummond goes on to say: “Gaelic is by far the most important language in hill-words … Some of these Gaelic names were, however, changed or corrupted by the passage of time”.
          My conclusion is that both spellings are “correct” and possibly the only difference being the “direction” with which you survey the hill: for most Lowland Scots a Highland mountain is a ‘ben’, whereas, for a Gaelic speaker – predominantly descending from the North and West Highlands and Islands – the word would be ‘Beinn’.
          Not too sure if this clarifies the situation any!

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