Helen Rose: Hillwalking Diary March 2003

Ben Lomond

Photo: Ben Lomond. Ben Lomond has fond memories for me as it was my first Munro away back in 1992, when I first started Munro bagging. The bagging has been a great experience and has taken me all over Scotland visiting places I had not heard of in my younger days. I have now been in nearly all the glens in Scotland and also viewed them from above looking down from the Munros. I have completed 175 Munros, so only another 109 to go, but I am in no hurry to finish them. Whatever would I do after that challenge is completed? Many walkers see completing the Munros as a challenge and then lose interest in the mountains when they have completed this feat. The Munros are based on a purely arbitrary figure of mountains three thousand feet above sea level. I don't climb the Munros to complete them but to enjoy being on the mountains and see new parts of Scotland.

Photo: Ben Lomond. Anyway, about Ben Lomond the subject of this article. It is 3,300 feet high (1,010 metres) and stands to the east of Loch Lomond. Driving north on the road on the west side of Loch Lomond, it dominates the scenery on the east of the Loch and is within the new National Park. Ben Lomond means the Beacon Mountain and is derived from the practice of lighting fires on the summit to summon local men to arms. From Glasgow's Westend it takes less than an hour to drive to Rowardennan on the east side of the loch; the start of the main route up Loch Lomond to the summit. It is the most southernly Munro and is busy most of the year round on the paths. It has striking views over Loch Lomond and the small uninhabited islands. Further south is Conic Hill, which I previously wrote about as Small Hills so if you don't want a walk up Loch Lomond, you can walk up Conic Hill and also get excellent views over the Loch.

It takes me around six hours to walk up to the summit of Ben Lomond and then back down to Rowardennan but that includes ample stops for coffee, lunch and time to savour the views. However, if you are fit and a fast walker, you can do it in a much shorter time and even try to beat the race record of one hour up and down! By the way, Ben Lomond is the first mountain listed in the Munro book so is frequently the first Munro walkers will tackle. I know of one woman who has climbed it 284 times, the same number as the Munros but it only counts as one on the Munro list no matter how many times you climb it! I have lost count of the number of times I have climbed it and in all seasons and weather conditions but it is still a favourite.

Photo: Ben Lomond. There are more than five routes up Ben Lomond but I have only used two of them and I really must try the other routes at some point in the future. My preferred route is up by the Ptarmigan Ridge and back by the so called Tourist Route so it is a circular walk. I am always concerned about the term 'Tourist Route' as it can give the wrong impression and indeed I have seen people in sandals walking up the path. In Scotland weather can change quickly and it is a fairly high mountain so walkers should be properly equipped.. There is a Lomond Mountain Rescue Team and I would assume they have carried out rescues on Ben Lomond for one reason or another.

The Ptarmigan Ridge route starts very near the Youth Hostel through some forest and up by a waterfall. It soon opens out on to open moorland with views to the North and over the Loch. When the mountain comes into view from the path, it appears very rocky on the summit cone. Ptarmigan is a subsidiary top as a spur of the mountain and although the route is slightly longer than the Tourist Path , it is usually quieter and a more interesting steeper path amongst rocks to the summit.

Don't expect to be alone on the summit although on one occasion in winter, we were the only two people on top, although only for a short time. The summit has ample room to accomodate large groups having lunch and admiring the views in all directions. As Ben Lomond is on the border of the southern Highlands, there are also views of the Lowlands as a contrast. If the weather is good, stay on the summit a while and enjoy the views before descending by the very well maintained Tourist Path back to the car park at Rowardennan where there is plenty of parking space. There is a little pub nearby where you can have a well earned beer and relax before travelling home feeling happy after a day on the hills.

Coming Attractions; More Arrochar Alps and walking in Japan.

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Thanks to Frances Rickus for the photos.

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