Back to Ben Chonzie

Ben Chonzie, near the start of the walk

Ben Chonzie, near the start of the walk

If you walk the hills regularly, you reach a point at some time where you find you’ve walked many of the main tops that lie within a day trip distance of your home.  This really isn’t a problem though as you can always walk them again, and again and again! If there’s one thing you can absolutely guarantee on, it’s that they’ll always look different.  As anyone who reads this blog will know, we regularly go back to hills we like, especially those that are close …the Luss Hills, the Arrochar Alps, the Arran Hills etc.  On Sunday last, we revisited another of our favourite haunts ….Ben Chonzie, the large lump of a hill that rises above Loch Turret.  It is not a dramatic hill but is well set back from the main roads and so tends to be quiet.  It is the highest point in what is a very large expanse of wild, rough upland country.  In the past we’ve normally approached the hill from the Loch Turret….parking the car at the end of the road near the dam.  To reach the summit of Ben Chonzie from here makes quite a long day but there is plenty of fine walking to be had on the lower hills around.

Ben Chonzie, the fine start already fading

Ben Chonzie, the fine start already fading

The other usual (and shorter) approach is from the south west of the summit.  A four wheel drive track leads from a small car park on a single track road, high onto the hill.  This can be followed to its end and then up onto the main back of the hill a short distance from the summit.  We’d gone this way just once before, on a dark, damp and very windy day a few winters ago.  It really was quite a grim day and we saw nothing of the views as the cloud was very low the whole time.  When we got out onto the upper slopes the wind was really starting to pick up and as we followed the line of the old fence up towards the summit it appeared to be getting stronger by the minute.  There seemed little point in continuing to the top (we’d all been there on a fine day a year or so earlier) and so we headed through the mists towards the steep slopes below the summit and the shelter they offered from the increasingly strong winds.  I remember we stamped seats into the large patch of melting snow we found there, and sat down to ‘enjoy’ our lunch.  By the time we’d finished and were making our way down, the wind had become exceedingly strong and it was hard to walk and for a while it was decidedly unpleasant.

Ben Chonzie, looking towards the summit

Ben Chonzie, looking towards the summit

So then, on Sunday we decided it was time to revisit this side of the hill and try and see it under better conditions.  The forecast was certainly hopeful and indeed we arrived at the wee car park at the start of the path in bright sunshine and there was frost on everything around.  We’d seen nothing of our surroundings last time we were here and so it was great to see the hills all around us this time …it really is a beautiful and quiet location.  Several other people had had the same idea as us and there were a couple of cars already parked and a couple more arrived as we were getting the boots on.  We enjoyed the fine weather for about an hour and a half I guess but as we gained height the blue skies turned gradually to grey and then the grey descended onto the tops and the summit of Ben Chonzie disappeared.  As we emerged once again onto the back of the hill, we felt the wind, not strong this time but very cold.  The ground was covered in frost and there were frozen pools and patches of icy snow all around.  The final rise to the summit came and went in the grey mist and we once again decided that we wouldn’t bother with the top but would instead walk over towards the lunch spot on our previous visit.

Ben Chonzie

Ben Chonzie

We got some interesting views of the big snow patches lying on the steep slopes and Nita spotted several mountain hares …resplendent in their white winter coats.  After this, we made a hasty retreat, back down the way we’d come.  In the end then, we still didn’t get the fine views from the top that we’d hoped for but we did see enough in the morning to want to come back once again.  There was a fantastic line of smaller hills just to the west that will have to be visited at some point in the future and this could well be a good place to do some sketching on a slightly warmer, clearer day.

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