A loop from the end of Loch Turret Reservoir taking in the Munro of Ben Chonzie in Highland Perthshire
Date: 23rd March 2019
Time: 5hrs 45mins
Hills: Ben Chonzie (Munro, 931m)
Weather: Bright and sunny with a strong north-westerly wind
Route: View on OS Maps
For the first time since July 2017 I loaded up the car and headed out into the bright morning sunshine, on my way to the hills. Ben Chonzie near Crieff had long been on the list for a winter hill day and the conditions looked pretty promising for a good day out.
After crossing the Ochils and Strath More to Crieff I soon found myself winding my way up the dam access road which is rough and potholed in places, requiring some care. At 8am I was the only one at the car park which shows how much less popular this route up the hill is.
The wind was blowing strongly down the reservoir turning the surface into an angry maelstrom. Ben Chonzie itself was shrouded in a snowy cloud but the closer hills were sunlit.
The path down the east bank of the reservoir makes for an easy but pleasant approach to the hills. It undulates along at first quite close to the water but then gradually climbs up and away from the shoreline. A couple of side streams were easily sloshed through and to my delight I saw that the strong wind was rapidly clearing the lingering cloud from the tops.
Near the head of the reservoir I noticed a small group of swans circling. They flew in a nice v-formation before descending to the water. They joined quite a large group of birds who were enjoying the more sheltered end of the reservoir. In the pools along the track I would occasionally come across pockets of frogspawn.
After stopping for a snack break I continued on, briefly pausing to consider tacking on Auchnafree Hill but thinking better of it. I left the reservoir behind and followed the track as it climbed up besides the moraine strewn glen to reach Lochan Uaine sitting below the encircling crags of Ben Chonzie's sunlit south eastern face.
The good track ended and it was just faint paths through the bog from here as I angled up towards the gap in the ridge between Below Biorach a' Mheannain and the bulk of Ben Chonzie. In this sheltered scoop below the crags it was warm in the sun and I had another refreshment break before tackling the steep final climb onto the hill. This was a pretty straightforward pull up alongside a small burn that topped out at a lingering snow patch.
Across this I got my first view of the hills to the north and the first blast of the sharp wind that was howling in from the northwest. This made progress up the final slopes to the top of the Munro fairly slow and arduous going. The views off to the Lawers hills opened up nicely though and I persevered until after a couple of false summits the top of Ben Chonzie came into view.
I hadn’t seen anyone up to this point but at the top a couple of guys were hunkered down in the wind shelter built a few metres away from the diminutive cairn marking the top. I found a sheltered spot outside the wind break and got down out of the wind.
The views all around were excellent and I enjoyed an early lunch as I gazed off down to Loch Turret and to the nearby Loch Earn Munros. The two guys took summit photos and then headed off, leaving me alone on top. It would have been peaceful if not for the roar and snap of the wind as it gusted ferociously across the exposed ground.
Eventually I too was ready to head off and rather than retracing my steps headed off west along the broad plateau. A line of rusted fence posts and a series of cairns mark the way and I met increasing numbers of people heading for the summit. As I was mostly walking into the wind I had my hood drawn tight and was struggling to move forward!
I followed the higher ground as it turned to the south and soon enough left behind the bagger’s path coming up from Glen Lethnot. Instead a narrow path wound its way across peat hags to the minor lumpy summit of Meall an Seidhe. From here the eye was drawn to the sharp peak of Carn Chois ahead.
This was reached by following the path down through a marshy bealach and then up a steep slope which culminated in a rocky scramble up to the trig point. A family passed me coming the other way. From the top of Carn Chois there were excellent views off to the nearby Loch Earn Munros and further off to Glen Lochay which was shrouded by a wintry shower barrelling down from the northwest.
The sun was thankfully shining where I was and on the far side of the trig point I found a comfortable hollow to shelter in. Out of the wind and in the sunshine it was pleasantly warm and I enjoyed a second lunch looking out across Comrie and to the distant Ochil Hills which were hazy silhouettes against the early afternoon light.
From here I followed a narrow path which led me down to an airy perch looking directly down to the cold blue waters of the Loch Turret Reservoir, the track I had followed earlier a winding thread on the far side. It was a spectacular viewpoint and the sharpness of the drop-off enough to give me a tinge of vertigo.
There were snow patches clinging to the precipitous edges and I gave these a wide berth as I contoured back around to pick up a descent route back down to the loch. A scooped coire on the southeast side of the hill provides a relatively gentle slope down although I took my time on the slick grass. A path emerged here and there and soon enough I was through a fence and heading down toward the shore where I picked up a vehicle access track.
It was relatively sheltered down by the water so I enjoyed a pleasant final stroll in the sunshine along to the dam. There was even more frogspawn in pools and puddles along this section. The spillway is an impressive piece of engineering and then it was a plod across the 160m wide dam to return to the car after a thoroughly enjoyable day on the hill.