Ben Lomond

Six years after my last visit to Arrochar I returned to make a second attempt to climb Ben Lomond, Scotland's most southerly Munro. I'd had to admit defeat on the previous visit after I went down with a bad cold. On that occasion I'd climbed my tenth Munro the day before, Beinn Narnain; today, assuming I reached the top of Lomond without mishap, I'd claim my 25th..

The previoius evening had been cloudless. The morning started off rather grey but there was hope that most of the cloud would lift. I got the 9.35 bus from Arrochar to Inverbeg and then sat down to wait for the first of the day's three ferries, at 10.30..

The scene across Loch Lomond from the ferry landing at Inverbeg. The weather was cloudy but bright..

The ferry dropped me and four others at Rowardennan ten minutes later, and I quickly found the Ben Lomond ascent path, which initially climbed gently through woodland.

The woodland path is very pleasant. Much of it lays along an open ride, which allows in plenty of sunlight. At one point, about ten minutes into the climb, it crosses a forest road which is not shown on the map.

Another scene on the forest path. Somewhere around here was an awkward little rockstep that required some clambering. It would be an unpleasant obstacle in wet weather when the rock is slippery.

After about 25 minutes I neared the edge of the forest section.

About a kilometer out from Rowardennan, the path reached the open hillside at a height of around 660ft.

The weather was still largely cloudy at this point but it was getting steadily brighter and there had been several brief spells of sunshine. Here, just above the forest edge, is the view back across the loch towards Beinn Bhreac.

From a little further up, the view back towards Rowardennan and Inverbeg with Glen Douglas beyond.

The path climbs steadily up a shoulder called Sron Aonaich. Here, roughly an hour into the ascent,  the gradient is starting to level out just short of 2000 ft of altitude.

The clouds lifted steadily and it had the makings of an excellent day. The summit dome of Ben Lomond appeared ahead, with just another thousand feet of ascent to tackle. The condition of the path was really very good, in fact one of the best I've found in a mountain environment.

The view began to open up into the Trossachs. This is the scene to the south east. The body of water is Loch Ard, with Aberfoyle just beyond. Nearer to is the partially forested Gleann Dubh.

This shot was taken from around 2500ft as the path began to ascend the summit dome. I'm looking back along Sron Aonaich and pretty much down the length of Loch Lomond itself.

The path ascended the steeper part of the slope by means of a couple of zigzags. Here I was at about 2800 ft and there wasn't far to go until I reached the short summit ridge.

Looking back down the path from the same spot, towards the highest zigzag.

The path reached the summit ridge, at about 3000ft.

The view across the Trossachs was superb. Down in the valley is the lonely farm of Comer, its access track clearly visible. I think those bodies of water in the distance are Loch Katrine and Loch Venachar

Looking towards the northwest, Tarbet is seen on the far side of Loch Lomond, with the Arrochar Alps rising above.

The summit ridge of Ben Lomond is interestingly craggy, and the path tackles a couple of minor rocksteps. They are not at all awkward, they just add a little scenic interest.

Once again my gaze was drawn to the southeast. Loch Ard was perfectly framed in this shot.

A telephoto view of the same scene.

Suddenly, I reached the summit. It was a little bit of a surprise as I thought I still had about ten minutes' worth of ascent to tackle. The summit, a few square metres of frost-scoured bare rock, is adorned by the usual Ordnance Survey trig pillar. Ben Lomond was my 25th Munro.

The view into the lonely Gleann Dubh.

The lower reaches of Gleann Dubh, with Loch Venachar seen in the dustance once more.

I zoomed in on the lonely farm of Comer, just over 2km away to the east and about 2500ft lower down. What an amazing place to live!

My "arty" shot of the trig pillar, looking down the length of Loch Lomond.

The Arrochar Alps - Ben Arthur, Beinn Narnain, Beinn Ime and A' Chrois, standing above the narrow neck of land between Loch Lomond and Loch Long. I can't identify the peak seen across the col between Ben Arthur and Beinn Narnain - would anyone care to enlighten me?

This is the top of the alternative ascent path, which comes up the less frequented Ptarmigan ridge. As I stood there snapping away a young German student, who'd come across on the ferry with me, complete his ascent by this route.

The northern reaches of Loch Lomond, with Ben Vane and Ben Vorlich on the far side. The Inveruglas hydroelectric power station on the lower slopes of ben Vorlich is clearly seen.

A telephoto shot of the same scene. Now it's possible to see Loch Sloy (the reservoir that feeds the power station) and its dam.

The top end of Loch Lomond, with Glen Falloch beyond. In the distance are Ben More and Stobinian.

I' dropped down about 30 ft off the summit to the northwest and found a spot to have lunch. The view was irresistable and I couldn't resist picking up the camera again every couple of minutes. The Trossachs and Loch Ard again.

Way out across to the east-northeast and the central Trossachs once more.

I was not exactly alone on the summit, particularly on such a fine day. While I ate my lunch sround 25 to 30 walkers came and went.

The view of Loch Lomond from the summit.

The view to the southeast along Gleann Dubh.

Some panorama shots across the southern arc, showing the line of crags just south of the summit. Here I've panned slightly to the right of the shot above.

...and further right...

...and further right again.

Time to start the descent, and first it was that short walk along the ridgeline to the crags.

The little rockstep around the crags, seen close up.

A short distance beyond....

....was a second outcrop...

...beyond which the path begins its descent back to Sron Aonaich once again.

I had plenty of time in hand and more or less ambled back down the path. The light was superb and I took far more shots on the way down than I did coming up.

I continued to be impressed by the state of the path, which was both well engineered and well maintained.

As you can probably guess by the largely cloudless sky to the south, it was getting pretty warm by now. I stopped frequently for drinks, for rests, and simply to admire the view.

Here I was making my way gradually down Sron Aonaich, taking my time....

...enjoying the scenery and the warmth and the sunshine...

...and snapping away with the camera every two or three minutes.

Loch Lomond looked beautiful from up here... did the Gleann Dubh on the other side of the ridge.

I reached the end of  the shoulder and started down the steeper section.

I continued to be impressed by the quality of the path.

I continued to descend...

...taking my time...

...and thinking even then that I was taking so many pictures I was going to run out of things to say once I compiled the web page.

So I'll shut up for a few frames and let the pictures do the talking.



...still on the descent...


A last view of the Arrochar Alps as I drew closer to the edge of the plantation.

Glen Douglas again.

...approaching the forest, about an hour after leaving the summit.


Back in the forest for the final leg of the walk.

I took another half-hour over this section...

...because in full sunlight it took on a very different character.

It was an absolute delight, a new vista every twenty yards or so, each crying out to be photographed.

So I gave in to the temptation. How often will I find Ben Lomond in such benign conditions?

The rocky section proved awkward once again..

...if anything, even more so than on the ascent.

The bold colours were fascinating.

I can never get blase about this. Yet again I found myself thinking...

...that, provided the weather conditions are right...

...there is nowhere on Earth more sublimely beautiful than the Scottish Highlands.

I approached the forest track...

...which allowed me to get this shot of Ben Lomond from below.

The final ten minutes of the forest walk...

...were equally as delightful as the rest.

Finally, I glimpsed the visitor centre and the end of the path.

Back at Rowardennan. With an hour and a half to go until the ferry returned to Inverbeg, I called in at the hotel for a pot of tea. Then I ordered a second pot of tea. After that I had a half pint of lemonade.

After that there was nothing to do except enjoy the afternoon at the lochside...

...taking the occasional extra photo...

...and muse on the achievements of the day.

Finally, as an aftermath, I took a short stroll around the head of Loch Long after I got back to Arrochar and had my evening meal...

...and wondered if I would ever make the craggy summit of Ben Arthur, seen here.

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This page last updated 31st July 2006