Covering 720sq miles, 22 lochs and 21 Munros, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is famous worldwide for those seeking wonderful scenery and outdoor adventures. This weekend, with the Scottish summer in full bloom, we headed into the national park to climb Ben Lomond and the Ptarmigan Ridge to take in the spectacular views.
At 974m, Ben Lomond isn’t the highest mountain in the national park (that is the relentlessly steep Ben More at 1,174m) but it is certainly the most popular, with over 30,000 people reaching the summit every year. By 10am the Forestry Commission car park at Rowardennan (£3/day) on the east side of the loch was jam-packed and we joined a stream of people heading up into the hills.
This was our first time up Ben Lomond, and after climbing Ben Vorlich last weekend (which is around the same height) we thought we knew what to expect; that was until the weather decided to add 25 degrees of heat. By the time we’d left the tree line everyone around us was huffing and puffing, and we realised with our fleeces and a rucksack full of hats and scarves, that we were completely over-dressed. I was very thankful I had remembered to pack the factor 30 sunscreen.
Loch Lomond might have to compete with Loch Ness for the most famous of the Scottish lochs, but it is certainly the largest; although driving alongside you don’t get an idea of its real scale. We chose the National Trust for Scotland managed ‘tourist path’ for our ascent and surrounded by the mountains, you get incredible full circle views of the loch and it’s 22 islands. We took a well-deserved rest on the plateau before attempting the final climb to the top; I almost want to stay here all day, with a sunbed and a glass of wine in my hand!
Despite the now oppressive heat and for me, total exhaustion (I was starting to feel like I was climbing in a sauna) we had to push on and we finally reached the top after 2 hours of climbing. Sadly, as evidenced by the number of people hurrying back down the trail towards us, our time on the top of the mountain was to be very short-lived. Arghh the MIDGIES!
Usually found at lower levels, close to water, the incredible heat (and extra dinner they were getting) had pushed a swarm of biting midgies upwards and the top was utterly infested. Lacking a protective covering of midgie spray we had to make a dash for it and following the round trip walk we scrambled down the back of the mountain to the Ptarmigan Ridge. I only stopped for breath to take the photo below. I did make the summit, honestly!
Now, I think the descent down the mountain along the Ptarmigan Ridge tops every walk I’ve ever completed in Scotland. The midgies had finally disappeared and with a fresh breeze and home in sight, I was able to really enjoy the views. Just look at it; I think I’ve fallen in love with beautiful Scotland even more. Even if by this point, I was such a sweaty mess, this selfie was really not a good idea!
After 10 miles, 25 degrees, 4 hours 52 minutes walking, 1081m in height and 28500 steps, we did it again!I told you this Munro bagging was addictive: 280 to go! Next up, if the weather holds is Ben Lawers, or maybe Sciehallion and Ben Chonzie. Any thoughts? We are working up to Ben Nevis!
Are you a Munro bagging beginner? My guide to climbing a Munro might help.
I used the ViewRanger GPS app to track my walk. You can also download maps to the app and follow yourself on the GPS. Whilst the app shouldn’t replace a proper map and navigation skills, I found it really useful. You can follow my tracks here.
(I can’t help pronouncing Ptarmigan as parmesan…)