Walk Report: Ben Chonzie

After completing her first Corbett last week, we decided it was time for Janie to bag her first Munro!

A few years ago, we’d made an attempt on Ben Chonzie together, but had to stop due to pain/injury on Janie’s part. So, because she’d seen it before, and knew what was in store for her – and the fact that as munros go, they don’t get too much easier than this (ok, with the exception of the Cairnwell trio), it seemed like the obvious choice of hill.  What Grahame isn’t saying is that because of my previous failed attempt, I had a bit of a mental block about Chonzie, so I was both keen and terrified to give it another go 😉

We arrived at the car park in Glen Lednock, and set off around 10:30am. The walk for the first part, all the way up to the dam is pretty straightforward and gentle, so we took it relatively easily. The highlight for this section of the walk was the family of Ravens, which were croaking around us.  There were also regular shout outs from sheep on all sides 😉

After the dam, the slope does get a little steeper, but it’s still relatively gentle, just a bit of a trudge. It’s not too long before we come to a small junction in the track, where an alternative track leads off to the left. This is the point where Janie had to turn around on the previous trip, so, as she was feeling significantly better this time, as opposed to the first time – it was a real morale booster to pass it! It was also a good point to stop and take a look at what was ahead.  Its probably not often that that part of the track sees someone jumping up and down with glee a few steps beyond it 😉  I was just feeling really good – so different from last time – and unchallenged so far – so I had to let the feeling out 😉

What Janie maybe didn’t realise was that the track becomes a little bit more difficult after this point. The slope is still not particularly steep (but it is steeper!), but the loose rocks in the track were more than a little bit of a pain to walk on!

Once we managed the ascent of the track, the route veers off to the left, at a small cairn, towards the summit. It gets a little boggy in places here, but it’s still much easier to walk on than the rubble filled track! After a little bit of legwork, for a few minutes, you end up on the summit plateau.  Grahame has missed out a whole lot of stopping and trudging here – but the benefit is that every time you stop and turn around to face the way you have come, you are treated to some of the best scenery in Scotland 🙂  We were lucky to have good visibility and high-ish level cloud, so the views stretched out a fair distance 🙂

The plateau for Ben Chonzie is massive, and sadly, the summit itself is at the far end! Another 20-30 minutes walking on what was, for me, at least, pretty mundane, boring ground, we eventually reached the summit. (obligatory photos shown below!) In fairness, though. The views from the plateau were pretty stunning, and since this is the first time I’ve actually seen them (previous 2 times I’ve been up here have had little to no visibility), I can’t complain too much!

Ok, so you may have gathered that Grahame isn’t exactly challenged by the walking of this particular munro – but it does have some redeeming features for those first-time climbers!  As visibility can sometimes be an issue on the Ben, there are numerous cairns leading the way to the top.  They are generally turning point markers or pointers to some change in terrain, but they are beautiful in their own right – especially when you see 8-10 of them stretching away in front of you like beacons 🙂  Also, although the plateau does stretch for some distance, the ground cover of plants and stone is lovely to look at 🙂  White quartz is particularly abundant and very striking against the greenery of the plants and the almost purple of the rock underneath.  For those of us who do not find up-hills or down-hills the most pleasurable part of a walk, it is a relief to be able to walk fully upright and just breathe in the scenery and atmosphere 🙂  Brilliant 🙂

Just before reaching the summit, I saw one of the legendary Ben Chonzie Mountain Hares – but Janie missed it! Gutted!

We stopped at the summit shelter for a quick bite to eat before making our way back. It was at this point that the heavens decided to open! (we’d had light drizzle throughout the day, but this was proper rain!) Time to struggle on with the overtrousers, just as another group of people arrived from the other side!  Soggy cheese sandwich NOT a highlight of the walk, but even if the rain dampened us a fair bit, it certainly didn’t dampen our sense of achievement 🙂

On the plus side, had this not delayed us for a minute or two, we might have missed the fly-by from a pair of Ptarmigan. Janie’s first ever sighting of our mountain grouse! 🙂

The return trip was pretty straightforward, up until the track – at which point the rubble was a bit of a walking hazard, it had to be said! Luckily, neither of us fell, but there were a couple of near misses, particularly as the rocks were now suitably wet! Once down past the dam, however, it was a gentle stroll back to the car.

This really is an easy walk. Ben Chonzie is quite often referred to as the most boring munro. I personally think that’s unjustified. I suspect in most cases, the people who say that about the hill are the munro baggers whose only interest is to get to the top. For me, there was plenty of interest along the way, in terms of wildlife. After all, we have Ravens, Buzzard, Red Kite, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Ptarmigan, etc, etc.. lots to see, if you open your eyes! We also managed to see a decent number of different plant species, which I’m still struggling to identify. Ben Chonzie may not be a particularly challenging hike, but it’s definitely not boring!  I have to admit that once I was down, on reflection, Ben Ledi last weekend was actually the bigger challenge!  That said, I am chuffed to bits that I managed my first munro, and that Grahame and I actually got to share the view together at the top, seeing as he had a clear view for the first time 😉

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