A Cloudy Start to the Year: Ben Chonzie

After a long few months of uni and a washout easter break, it was great to get a day off and head up Ben Chonzie, a munro in Perthshire, even if the weather wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Still, reaching 20 Munros was a good feeling, and has left me itching to get back out again! I can’t wait until my exams are over!

[April 2018]

Thanks to a particularly wet and wintry start to the year, there wasn’t much chance of completing an expedition like last year’s West Highland Way trip over easter without coming back soaked and frozen, so I was very glad when I was able to work a hill day into a busy study schedule. The day’s target was Ben Chonzie from Invergeldie, a relatively short and easy walk compared to others I have completed. Nonetheless, Ben Chonzie is still a Munro so it’s one that needed to be “bagged”!

We set off from Ayrshire at the usual time of around 0700, which allows us to beat almost all of the busy Glasgow traffic before heading north towards the highlands. The forecast suggested that today was going to be a fantastic day, with minimal clouds and warm temperatures, but as we turned off the A9 and headed for Comrie, the sky was telling a very different story. It was dry though, so we couldn’t really complain too much, but the dark sky didn’t fill us with confidence for extensive summit views in a few hours’ time.

We arrived at the small parking area in Invergeldie, just north of Comrie, a little after 0900 and set off not long after that, excited to be back out in the hills.

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A grey start to the day

The going was very easy and a great way to warm up before hitting the steeper paths further up the hill.

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Pleasant surroundings and easy going
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Easy walking

After passing through a few sheep fields, we began to climb higher and the views back down towards Invergeldie and Glen Lednock were lovely, although somewhat dull thanks to the cloud. Still, we had plenty of sheep to look at instead!

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Sheep!
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Looking back to Glen Lednock

After reaching the outskirts of the sheep fields, we soon reached a dam, where we crossed underneath it and continued our ascent up the other side of the river.

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Invergeldie Burn

It was at this point that we should have been able to see the day’s target, but it was not to be. Clouds surrounded anything about 6 or 7 hundred metres, but the going was still easy enough and we made fairly fast progress towards the end of the land rover track, where an indistinct cairn marks the point where the path to the summit forks from the main track.

There was a slightly tricky crossing here thanks to a snow bridge over the burn, but we managed to follow it slightly upstream to a section that wasn’t covered by snow, allowing us to actually see what we were hopping over. From here it was easy enough to find our way the few metres back to the path and follow it towards the summit.

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In cloud

Once across the river the path got slightly steeper, but nothing too strenuous, so we managed to keep a good pace and soon reached the plateau area where the path meets a line of old metal fence posts, which must be a godsend on a cloudy winter’s day when even the path isn’t visible. At least we had that to follow (and a map and compass, of course!).

There was a small amount of up and down on the summit plateau and after a right turn along the line of fence posts and another small amount of snow to negotiate, we reached the summit just after 1120, a little over 2 hours after setting off. This was my 20th Munro and Sarah’s 3rd, so it was smiles all round!

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Sarah at the summit
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Me at the summit

The wind had now picked up slightly and was rather cold, so we hunkered down behind the large shelter cairn and enjoyed a quick spot of lunch before heading back to the car.

The descent was fairly simple as it was just a retrace of our ascent, but again the fence posts came in handy as the cloud was now very thick. We picked up the pace a little and soon found ourselves back at the path towards the track, leaving the fence behind. The path here was more obvious than on the summit though, so was easy enough to follow back to the river. Another crossing slightly uphill from the path to avoid the snow bridge and we were back on the main track for an easy descent all the way to the car park.

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Looking back towards Ben Chonzie
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Looking down towards Glen Lednock

We reached the car around 1315, just shy of 4 hours after setting off. Pleased with the day’s progress, we had a quick snack before the drive back to Ayrshire, plotting and scheming about other possible trips in the near future. Sadly, there are a couple of exams to contend with first, but maybe if the weather allows the studying can take a back seat for a day or two!

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