The reports of snow falling on the hills had been coming in thick and fast for the last week or so, along with some mouthwatering pictures of snow lying on the tops around the Cairngorm ski centre and the like. As a result, I was pretty keen to get my boots on the white stuff as soon as possible. Cat was still suffering a bit with the after-effects of a bug she’d picked up the previous weekend, so we decided not to attempt anything too strenuous in case she ran out of steam before we got back to the car. The weather forecast for the weekend was a bit sketchy, but the MWIS prediction for the SE Highlands looked most promising, and a quick scan of the map suggested that Ben Chonzie might be a good candidate for a day out – it’s a pretty short, easy angled walk from the Comrie side, and it’s a hill that benefits from a covering of snow to tart up an otherwise fairly bland dome of a summit.
As it turned out, the early morning weather was a lot more encouraging than we’d expected, with blue skies and the first frost of the year covering the cars outside the house. The cupboards at home were a bit bare of hill food, so we made a quick detour into the Co-op in Crieff for some suitable grub, then parked up at Invergeldie and got ourselves sorted out. There was a fairly chilly northerly wind blowing down the glen, which encouraged us to get going and generate a bit of warmth.
The route up to Ben Chonzie from this side follows a fairly substantial landrover track up the hill; not the most adventurous of ascents, but a very pleasant walk in the sunshine, with the snow topped peaks to the north and west gradually coming into view as we gained height. I’ll confess that the sight of snow on the hills triggers the 12 year old within me, and we spent most of the walk up chattering about plans for the coming winter season. Poking our heads out onto the plateau brought us back into the wind, and we made for a sheltered spot where we could grab a bite to eat and stick on some extra layers before we made our way up the final slope and along the broad summit ridge to the top. The wind was fairly fierce on top which Cat was struggling a bit with given she wasn’t feeling that strong anyway. Being a gentlemanly sort, I gave her my arm and we had a romantic stroll along to the top with me acting as a wind break for her; one of the many advantages of having a chunky husband!
The wind was brutally cold at the summit, so we nipped into the stone shelter that’s been built there long enough to take a shockingly bad ‘selfie’, then about turned and made our way back down, dropping off the ridge a little to lessen the impact of the wind on us. It was around 2pm when we made it back to the top of the track, and out of the wind it was considerably warmer now. We made our way back down to the car, passing a number of folk on their way up, including a couple of mountain bikers who might have been in for a shock when they made it to the top in their shorts! Cat was beginning to feel pretty drained when we got back to the car, which confirmed the wisdom of choosing an easy day, but she perked up quite quickly when I suggested a night in front of the fire with a takeaway.
Ben Chonzie certainly isn’t one of Scotland’s more glamorous mountains, but served with a covering of snow, a decent curry and some red wine, it’s still worth a punt as an “easy day for a lady with the lurgie”.