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A cold day on Ben Donich

A cold day on Ben Donich

Postby nigheandonn » Thu Jun 20, 2019 6:14 pm

Route description: Ben Donich, via Rest and Be Thankful

Corbetts included on this walk: Ben Donich

Date walked: 05/05/2019

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I originally meant to set off on two different adventures this weekend, and when the lingering cold and snow in the north put that off, I was still talking about having one and a half - the half being Ben Donich, which could be fitted between morning and afternoon buses, or between lunchtime and dinner time. I went for the latter, getting the train to Glasgow at the fairly civilised hour of 11am, and the bus to the top of the Rest and Be Thankful, where they seemed to be digging enormous holes to catch the falling rocks in.

The route starts maybe quarter of a mile down the Lochgoilhead road - a path from the back of the car park cuts off the first bend, and then the road climbs past an odd collection of masts and apparatus.

A collection of masts

The forestry road which turns off past the little carpark is signposted 'Ben Donich Hill Access', so it's impossible to go wrong, and the very first section is fairly broad track, leading to a bend in the trees reminiscent of the Cobbler path.

A bend in the woods

There had been a conversation here quite recently about not judging people in skinny jeans, but the girl with her boyfriend ahead of me (in skinny jeans and one of those jackets with a fur-edged hood) didn't really look prepared for a hill on a cold windy day, and she was soon deeply unhappy on loose ground - he didn't seem very sympathetic, but there's not much point in pushing people on when they're miserable, and I kind of hoped they would turn back - she would soon have been even more unhappy, as the path climbed steeply up earth steps.

Steeply uphill

I was having an odd illusion every time I looked over to the main road, the opposite of looking at a reflection and thinking it's real - I think you get used to thinking of the road as ground level, and with the slightly different colour of the ground below and the way some of the features run across it I kept having to convince myself again that the valley was empty space and not water.

Road illusion

The path eases off for a bit, but soon climbs on over more bumps - it's an efficient way up at least, no hanging about wasting time!

Bumpy hill

Beyond the next bump the hill suddenly gets much rockier, and the rocks are piled up so that there are odd gaps and holes in between them - I don't think I'd ever really known this was the site of the great dog rescue, which I had assumed took place on some far more impressive hill, but I'd read it all again on the train and cried all over again, and there were definitely holes here that anyone could vanish down.

Rocks and gaps

I was high enough now to get a bit more of a view to the north - one quite pointy hill, but for some reason I was more attracted by the long rocky ridge beside it.

Hills to the north

In the other direction I was looking at two craggy slopes, on Ben Donich itself and on The Brack behind.

Craggy faces

From a long flatter stretch there was a good view along to the summit ridge of the hill - plenty more bumps to come, but I did feel like I was really getting somewhere quite quickly.

Looking to the summit ridge

One really interesting view was over to the little group of four hills on the other side of the road - Beinns Luibhean, Ime and Narnain, and the Cobbler. Seen from Loch Long or the Rest they're generally a bit of a muddle, tucked all one behind the other, but from here they suddenly sorted themselves out, two pairs arranged neatly around the valley of the young Croe Water, with the smaller hills in front.

Quadruplet hills

At the end of the flat stretch there was a much steeper climb up to a kind of rocky crest, and then a little scramble down on the other side - nothing too bad, although I jumped the very last bit rather than fish around for an awkward step, and it was slightly higher than I thought.

Below the scramble

From a little valley of rocks the path climbs again, and the view now is right down to the little dark loch beyond the Rest

Looking down to the loch

The path climbs to one rocky top, and then another, which I thought was the summit but wasn't - oddly, now it was more open, the wind stopped being so loud that it was hard to hear yourself think, and I could speak to two people and a dog, who told me it was windy again on the top.

Another top

I had forgotten all about the view of the long ridge, so when the summit did finally come into sight it looked depressingly far away - an easy walk, but a surprisingly long one.

Summit in sight

And it was windy at the summit, and very cold, but there was plenty to distract me from it - until now all the views had been back towards the road and the Rest, but the trig point was suddenly perched on the edge of a new drop.

Ben Donich summit

Loch Long and Loch Lomond had never been particularly in view, cut off by the bulk of the hills between, but now I was looking right down Loch Goil to the lower reaches of Loch Long and the Clyde becoming the sea.

Sea lochs

Lochgoilhead - a place which I've never yet reached, although it keeps turning up in maps and road signs and books - seemed to be right below my feet, and was the thing which struck me most in the view, although it doesn't look nearly so dramatic in the picture.


In the other direction I was now far enough away from the hills around the Cobbler to look down to Arrochar, and over Loch Long to Ben Lomond - altogether it was a good little viewpoint.

Looking over Arrochar

Since I had no intention of detouring to the Brack the way down was just to retrace my steps - never quite as good as trying a new way, but I did get a nice glimpse down to the Lochgoilhead road through a gap which had been behind me on the way up.

A view to the road

From this side the scramble looks a bit ominous, because you can see that it's not one piece of rock worn into steps, but several rocks jammed together and apparently held up only by each other, with one looming right above. But after the first slightly awkward bit, where my knee was involved, it was easy to get up and over.

Ominous rocks

Down the steep part, and then the wander back along the length of the hill - one merit of the descent is that you're always heading directly back towards the starting point.

The way down

Eventually the path leads back to the trees, and a good view of the little loch and the stopping place and the old road and the new road.

Back to the start

The trees are almost the bottom of the path - it's not far from there, on the better track, down to the quiet car park and back along to the Rest. The only problem now was that I'd come down too quickly, with a while to wait for the bus - there are plenty of seats and a lovely view, and I had a good book, but the wind was doing its best to cut straight through me, and the food van had gone home for the night. But I didn't freeze before the bus came along, and I think they're always quite please to pick someone up there, to make the nasty right hand turn off the main road worthwhile.
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