Late Autumn blue skies on Ben Chonzie and Auchnafree Hill

Route: Ben Chonzie via Glen Lednock

Munros: Ben Chonzie
Corbetts: Auchnafree Hill

Date walked: 08/12/2023

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 21.15km

Ascent: 1085m

Some hills seem to strike a note of disdain by their very mention….Mount Keen, the Geal Charns…and the same with Ben Chonzie. By WH user ratings it is a lowly 220 out of 282. I thought I’d climbed this as a teenager though from my dad’s notes of his compleation it isn’t recorded - though I have no recollection of Mount Keen either despite it being recorded - so this may have been a repeat visit. I did know however that Glen Turret is worth a visit for its own sake, particularly on a bright day, and a route from the dam looked the most appealing.

I was walking with Scott again and we met up not long after first light at the turret dam car park, only a couple of cars there already. It was a fairly cold start and we got moving quickly.


Already the clear skies framed the hills in that late autumn light blue, early sun turning the glen deep orange. It’s easy walking along the side of the reservoir - from Wikipedia, holding about 17 million litres of water - and we made quick progress. On a day like today it’s a great place to be.


Looking back, the sun now making its way above higher slopes and reflecting off the surface of the reservoir, it was starting to warm up with little breeze to take the edge off.


We were soon most of the way along and at the end of the reservoir. Whilst air temps were cold, with the sun beating down and little breeze it was a perfect temperature.


The route to Ben Chonzie heads up via Bealach an gaoith. We took the easy line, steep and a bit bouldery but no difficulties. Further to the left there looks to be a steep grassy route up the shoulder of the crags and there appeared to be (very short) scrambling potential nearer to where we headed up - this was however entirely iced up so left to be explored in future, perhaps.


Some cloud had gathered but impeded the sun little, open views right back down Glen Turret now visible as we climbed up.


Though it felt mild, recent overnight temperatures had been pretty low as shown by the various areas where water seapage had frozen into large icicles.

The ground flattened after a steeper section and we took the turn directly up easy slopes towards the top. The ground was frozen solid which made the route across vegetation easy underfoot.


We reached the top and stopped briefly for excessive consumption of gummy sweets and to admire the views, despite it being a fairly flat plateau, they have good depth.


Ben Lawers appears to have a dusting of white, though most hills nearby other than a touch of frost, seem to have so far escaped the slide into more wintry conditions.

Near the top we saw our first people of the day, a few groups of two people who we assumed came up from Glen Lednock. On the way back retracing our steps a runner was making good speed towards the top.

We dropped down our route of descent and then contoured across boggier terrain, nicely frozen making progress easier than it might be if wetter. It’s a fairly easy climb, though one of those shallow gradients that has me looking at my watch frustrated at only having g gained another 15m of height…


We reached the top of Auchnafree Hill and went to both cairns, the early afternoon (late for this time of year really…) light now taking on a duller more colourful hue.


The land around was now darker with the sun hanging low and we thought about getting our skates on.

We headed straight towards where the terrain drops and picked up the estate track. It’s an easy walk back with little ascent/descent once back down to the dam. Descending we spotted a red kite over head, a lovely site ( I used to see them regularly on my mum’s B&B/small holding near Castle Douglas but that was a fair whack ago).

A pleasant stroll back to cars, we passed a number of people out walking the dog (we assumed) - what a scenic local dog walk the reservoir would be - and were back at the cars with plenty of light left.

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