Ben Lomond (Route 1 – from Rowardennan): Vital Statistics
Starting point: Rowardennan, Loch Lomond
Total ascent: 990 metres
Time for ascent and descent: 4-6 hours
Total distance: approx. 4.5 miles
Winter information: If you are attempting Ben Lomond in winter conditions, you must take an ice axe and crampons, and have knowledge and experience of how to use them properly.
Start from the car park at Rowardennan, on the eastern banks of Loch Lomond. The main ascent path up Ben Lomond starts from just behind the Information Centre, and is clearly marked. The initial stages are through woodland – this path can be particularly muddy in wet weather. You will then go through a clearing in the forest, and you will shortly cross a track, and you should continue on uphill
You will then come upon a small bridge, which you should cross and further on you should go through a gate which leads onto the open hillside. You have your first views on Ben Lomond from here – cloud permitting! Follow the path uphill, and you will soon go through another gate. Keep to the main path, as treading on its perimeter will damage efforts to reduce erosion on the hill. You will soon see the main peak of Ben Lomond.
Follow the main path up the broad ridge of Ben Lomond. There is a final steep climb as the path goes up the final ascent to the summit ridge, levels off, and curves around the spectacular eastern corrie of the mountain.
Congratulations on reaching the top of Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most southerly Munro! There are excellent views from the top of the mountain in all directions. To the west you have the hills of Argyll and Kintyre, and the far off islands of Jura and Islay. To the north you have a jumble of peaks, including the hills of Crianlarich, Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy, the Black Mount, the peaks of Glen Coe and stretching up to the Grey Corries and the mountains around Ben Nevis. One of the prominent peaks you will see is Ben Lui, usually climbed from Tyndrum and now famous for being situated close to the proposed Cononish Gold Mining project. To the east you have the beautiful Trossachs region, covered by the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. Immediately to the south and south west is Loch Lomond, the largest inland body of freshwater in the whole of the UK, and to the south you can also see the Campsie Fells (affectionately known by locals as the Campsies), and over that ridge of hills is the cosmopolitan city of Glasgow.
From the top, you can either retrace your steps back down the broad ridge of Ben Lomond to the car park at Rowardennan, or you can opt for a more difficult and adventurous alternative which goes down to the top of Ptarmigan (731 metres).
For the latter route, follow the path North-West from the summit of Ben Lomond and descend very steeply to the col, afterwards turning South-West to Ptarmigan. Follow the narrow and rocky path down the ridge. Don’t go all the way down to the bottom of the ridge, however, for approximately two-thirds of the way down the ridge, the path drops down off the ridge to descend below some crags.
Further on, you will go through a gate, and the path steepens considerably. Just before you reach the top of the woodland, go left through another gate and descend beside the burn, and then down through the woodland until you arrive at the road. Turn left at the road and follow it along behind the Youth Hostel, which you can follow to the car park at Rowardennan, or alternatively go down a path beside Loch Lomond itself to find a war memorial beside the loch.
Ben Lomond (Route 2 – from Loch Chon)
This is a much longer route from the east, and its initial stages are probably best tackled with a mountain bike.
Just to the south of Loch Chon, in the Trossachs to the west of Aberfoyle (past Loch Ard), is Loch Dhu. A track starts from here which heads west, and it can be followed up to its highest point and then down into Gleann Dubh. A mile or so further on you will cross a bridge over Abhainn Gaoithe, and then another over the Caorainn Achaidh Burn. After this second bridge, leave the track behind and go through a gate, heading uphill in a South-Westerly direction. There is no path here and you will be heading up the North-East flank of Loch Lomond. You will eventually join with the main path coming up from Rowardennan, which can be followed up to the summit of Ben Lomond.
To descend, either retrace your steps, or alternatively descend North-West and then, after a few minutes, leave the path behind to head in a North-Easterly direction. You can follow the Northern flank of Ben Lomond and then head down into Gleann Dubh, once again picking up the track which heads back to Loch Dhu. This route is much more difficult and remote than the main path from Rowardennan, so please make sure you are properly prepared if you are choosing to take the route from near Loch Chon.
No matter what route you take up Ben Lomond, be aware that you should not estimate the mountain or the very changeable weather it is subjected to. Do not be particularly surprised if you get sunshine, rain, snow, fog and any combination of these on the same day!
You must be prepared for the terrain and for these weather changes. You should only climb in sturdy hiking or climbing boots, and you must take waterproofs and emergency supplies. Also take plenty of food and water – it is generally safe to drink from mountain streams, which are usually very clean, but you do so at your own risk. A map, compass, and proficiency in their use, is a necessity.
Always check the mountain weather forecast before you head into the hills, and if it is winter or there has been any snow falling or forecast, you should also check the avalanche forecast. It is your responsibility to ensure you minimise the chances of an emergency which endangers the lives of Mountain Rescue teams as well as your own.