Ben Chonzie - 931m
Wednesday 8th February 2012

Weather/Conditions: Cold and wintry, especially on the top. Deep snow and mist on the summit made navigation fun.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 12.8km / 750m / 3h 25m
Accompanying: Alone

With my Southern Highland Munros nearly finished, I decided it was finally time to get around to doing Ben Chonzie, an outlier to the rest of the Munros and amazingly, often maligned. I checked the internet for conditions beforehand and picked up a couple of points: the Glen Lednock road should be clear of snow and ice, but it is full of potholes. The car I drive is quite low and therefore makes Glen Lednock the only road I've ever scraped the bottom of the car on.

I left the house very early in the morning and drove to the motorway on too-little sleep - a slightly disturbing case of selective vision. I told myself to pay more attention having missed a couple of quite crucial signs... I'd woken up a bit by the time I was on the motorway and I cut off the A9 for the road to Crieff.

The Glen Lednock road twisted it's way out of Comrie and I found the road dry, though lined with snow on both sides. The glen was a weird place: craggy slopes climbed to mist and the place bathed in dull purple glow. I felt quite alone here, and pushed on up the winding road to the end where a car park was clearly signposted. I parked, packed my stuff and set off into the hills.

A land rover track climbs all the way to the summit plateau, so Ben Chonzie is an easy one. It doesn't have your average mountainous features, it is more an example of high Perthshire moorland. This track brought me up into the snows. Footprints showed me the way, but at some point I'd have to leave the track and strike off onto the moors to find the summit. I reached a small cairn which seemed to mark some turn off. The multitude of footprints hadn't gone that way so I considered it a dead end. I studied the map carefully, walked higher and found that the footprints turned off. This track 'felt right', and I headed into the whiteout, carefully following compass bearings.

For the record, the track ends where it does on the map. You can reasonably follow the track to the end and take a bearing from there. In summer, a faint path cuts through heather and you can also cut off at either of the two cairns below and follow the rising hillside. For the present, I put trust in the many footprints carving the way.

The summit region was almost devoid of landmarks, white all around but for footprints which came and went and the occasional little landmark. It felt extreme - me in the middle of all of this. But rationality overrode the amazing desolation of the place. I sheltered behind a grouse butt (a little pile of rocks) while I worked out how progress was going, then walked further to pick up a fence line which ran almost directly north. This led to the right-hand bend, which brought me to the summit. Without a long line of fence posts, reaching the summit would be a lot more difficult than it actually is.

Ben Chonzie holds a small secondary thing for me: Mick's ashes are scattered near the summit. It didn't hit me like I thought it might and I didn't really think about it at all asides passing recollection. I guess that was fine by me! With conditions too cold to stop, I made quick time descending, back out of the cloud and down the long track. A couple people were heading up - they were the first I'd seen but it was no surprise given my early start.

Ben Chonzie had been a good hill - short and easy with some navigational interest on the plateau, and most interestingly of the lot, my last summit in the SMC Section 1 of Munros. I was pleased with myself.

I drove home via. Loch Earn and Callander. This turned out to be a good move: I'd never seen east Loch Earn before, and the flats at the head of the loch are beautiful. In the centre, St. Fillan's Hill sticks out like an erratic: little rock buttresses and trees twist around the slopes. In the background it is framed by Beinn Fuath, a hill which hangs very well for it's modest height. The 'dull' weather made hills of mystery and I enjoyed the drive home a lot. I was home in time for lunch and went to see Dream Theater live in the evening.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 7.35am Glen Lednock parking
(2.10) 9.45am Ben Chonzie
(3.25) 11.00am Glen Lednock parking

Written: 2012-06-20/22