Ptarmigan - 778m
Ben Lomond - 974m

Sunday 27th March 2011

Weather/Conditions: Warm, sunny spring weather and not a lot of wind. Amazing visibility and only dappled snow fields left on the mountains. Amazing weather!
Distance/Ascent/Time: 12.6km / 1000m / 6h
Accompanying: Steve, Graham and Richard

The first hill-day of the spring! What a time of year this is: less than a week earlier I'd seen full winter on Beinn a' Ghlo, but the warm winds had come back, melted the snow and this Sunday, Steve, Graham, Richard and I went out to Rowardennan on one of the nicest weather days so far this year. Steve and I know Graham well from the indoor climbing wall at Ibrox and Richard is a good friend of Graham's. It was also Graham's birthday today and we went back to his after Ben Lomond.

Rowardennan was packed with cars. Tents were set up, people were sunbathing, Bob Marley played from one van, parked and doors wide open. I always like Rowardennan for these things but others hate it with a passion for the same reason.

Ptarmigan and Ben Lomond

We decided to go up the Ptarmigan route because it would be more interesting, so we headed up the West Highland Way and cut off onto the hillside. The path is steep, but the gradient eases as the going continues. The peace was instant and the water and land calmed the mind instantly. Springtime is one of the best times to see the mountains, and Loch Lomond is maybe one of the most beautiful Scottish lochs. It stuns me every time I see it, I think few lochs compare. Again, some probably disagree on that front: rich-mans playground, the A82, Rowardennan...

Progress was steady but since we know Graham through the climbing centre, there was a tendency to walk off-course to explore the nearest boulder lying around. We spent a lot of time climbing, falling off and finding the best route or best line.

Views only opened up as we gained altitude and the weather held too. The Arrochar Alps reveal themselves incrementally on this route - it allows only a glimpse here or there. And then as we approached the top of Ptarmigan I announced I would strike up and unashamedly go 'top-bagging'. I came over the top of the hillside and everything was there in front of me, all the Highlands and the loch which narrows at it's north end, contained between Ben Vorlich and the slopes of Craig Royston. Back with the group, we spent a while scrambling up a nice slab then continued onto the last push to the summit. There had been little traffic on Ptarmigan but many were beginning to descend while we climbed up.

This last section of the Ptarmigan route is without a doubt the best. It's steep, the views are huge and it tops out at the summit - I love it. To add to the enjoyment, there are a couple of rock towers 20 or 30 metres short of the summit that Graham, Steve and I climbed up. We went down again to collect our packs and then found ourselves on the summit of Ben Lomond, where we met a lot of people.

Another aspect of Ben Lomond I like is the amount of people you meet on it. It's great that so many people do it and I fail to understand why others want the hills for themselves. That viewpoint is in the least, hypocritical, although I understand the value of solitude too...

Because it's so busy, the southern side of the summit looks more like a beach than the summit of a mountain. And what a place to sunbathe. We spent over half an hour on top. I was trying to take in everything, just enjoying the summit, and I wasn't alone in this - I'm sure Graham and Richard enjoyed it and I know Steve did too.

Descent and Home

We descended by the normal route so I put sandals on at the summit and put the boots on my rucksack. The last remaining snow patches were a great aid to hot feet. Although only March, we would get the sun today for sure. Near Rowardennan, Steve found a geocache then we walked the last kilometres back to the car feeling weary in the feet - in my case at least.

Steve and I had a moment out on the pier to take in the views. It's amazing what the mountains, lochs and space do for the mind. The sun glistens on water and light falls on dappled forest floors. I love all that stuff and take I notice of it all the time. It's best at the beginning of spring when all the light and smells come back for the summer.

Richard drove us home. It was one of those great sunny evenings that don't seem to end and Steve and I drove up to Graham's afterward for his birthday and a meal. It was a long day, for sure, and one of the best in recent weeks.


Ben Lomond 180° South

Ben Lomond 180° North
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 10.35am Rowardennan
(2.45) 1.20pm Ptarmigan
(3.35) 2.10pm Ben Lomond
(4.10) 2.45pm Ben Lomond (left)
(6.00) 4.35pm Rowardennan

Written: 2011-04-14&16