To Conic Hill and back

Near the summit of Conic Hill

Near the summit of Conic Hill

Well, we didn’t get up to Rannoch moor as planned last week in search of the little hill and it was such a busy week work wise that it didn’t look as if we’d get walking anywhere.  The forecast for the week though was cold, mainly dry and bright …almost perfect weather for a jaunt somewhere….and so on Monday evening we decided to down tools the next day and get out somewhere ….anywhere.  It was rather too late to call our friend Guy and see if he was up for Rannoch moor and to be honest after all the rain and the mild temperatures of the previous week and the rapid snow melt…we’d have been struggling to cross a large stream that lies across our route to Meall Tionaill.

So then, as we needed something not too taxing on our unfit legs, it seemed the perfect day to walk a bit of the West Highland Way and take in Conic Hill at the same time.  Some of the folk from Air na Creagan (our local club www.craggy.org.uk ) had been here just a few weeks before …they did a circular walk, following the WHW from just outside Drymen, to Conic Hill and then down to the pub in Balmaha, before returning to the start point by way of forestry tracks I think.  The lunchtime pint and bite to eat was very tempting but in the end we decided to simply walk to the top of Conic Hill and then return the same way.

Loch Lomond from the slopes of Conic Hill

Loch Lomond from the slopes of Conic Hill

The one thing the forecast also said was that there would be black ice affecting the roads in Scotland that morning and so as it wasn’t going to be a big day, we decided to leave Irvine quite late …as it turned out, not much before nine o’clock ….and although the roads were fine, when we got out of the car in the small car park at Drymen ….we were skating around!  So much so that we put the small instep crampons on ….and they stayed in place for almost the whole walk.   It was a beautiful morning though and the walk out of Drymen to the point where you meet the WHW was great….wonderful views out over the surrounding countryside …to the south, flattish land, to the north, Conic Hill and the first of the bigger hills of the southern Highlands.  In one of the fields were several huge flocks of geese.  They were close enough for me to see them with the monocular and it was quite a sight …and sound.

The WHW follows forestry tracks for a couple of kilometres and even at 11 am there were many big patches of ice that needed care even with the spiders on.  Once beyond the edge of the forest though, the sun had softened the ground the path picks its way over grassy hillside making its way towards Conic Hill.  The southern end of Loch Lomond looked great in the bright morning light and the winter colours were vivid and bright at times.

Now then, I know it’s stating the obvious, but even on relatively straight forward walks like this ….it does pay to check you map once in a while!  Not that we got lost or anything …that really would have been a great indignity seeing as we were following the WHW virtually the whole day!  But…..as we approach the hill, we thought we might as well just cut up the side and head straight to what we thought was the top.  This is what we did, clambering up steep grassy slopes with increasingly big views until we reached a small cairn.  To the west a short distance was another top..with a short steep little descent between us and it.  We had, I have to admit, been taking our time and now it was already1.45pm and we still needed to take a short lunch break.  The wander over to the other top would have taken too long as I was concerned we’d run out of daylight before getting back out of the forestry and the ice.  So ….after a short while taking in the scene and feeling a bit of a ‘plonker’ for not checking the map to see where the actual top of the hill was …we headed back down.  Lunch was taken in an idyllic spot half way back down the hill and then it was a case of legging it somewhat.  It’s amazing quite how fast the light starts to fade at this time of year and as by this time there were some big dark shower clouds approaching, it got gloomy even earlier than expected.  But the loch did look superb in this late afternoon light  and I needn’t have worried about the ice …most of it had melted during the day.

Fading light over Loch Lomond from the WHW

Fading light over Loch Lomond from the WHW

It certainly wasn’t the biggest walk we’ve ever undertaken or the most adventurous, but on a quiet January day it made for a very quite and peaceful little walk …one that most certainly got the legs working again.  Oh well, perhaps it’ll be Rannoch moor and Meall Tionaill next week.

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