Yesterday Alex, Davie and I walked up the Ptarmigan Ridge and from there onto Ben Lomond. It was an interesting walk with some excellent views and a fierce wind that almost blew us onto the summit of Ben Lomond.

Planning Ben Lomond

Route up Ben Lomond

The original plan was for an easy walk to blow the winter cobwebs away. With Ben Lomond’s reputation for being so easy small kids do it that seemed an obvious solution.In reading through a few accounts of the route I found that most serious walkers go up the tourist path and back via Ptarmigan Ridge. On looking at the map I thought that maybe doing this the other way round would be good. I also discovered when reading that there’s a third route up Ben Lomond, from the north face. Having seen that myself I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone.

route up Ben Lomond via Ptarmigan Ridge

Overall the route came out at just over 12km with just over 1,000m of climb. I estimated that we’d average about 3km/hr to allow plenty of time for admiring the views, and we’d spend another minute for every 5m of vertical climb. So with rest stops and lunch planned we had an 0930 start for an 1800 finish.

Weather forecast

A rainbow over Loch Lomond (Photo: James Kemp)

Ben Lomond is one of the Munros that the met office actually give a specific forecast for. It’s slightly more accurate than the general Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) forecast.Our forecast was for 0°C to 1°C on the summit, with about 8 degrees of wind chill. In context that’s suggesting a gale force wind on the summit. Other than that there was clear skies with only a 10% chance of a light shower overall. Most of that was focussed on a 1 hour slot at lunchtime with a 50% chance of <1mm rain.

Going up Ben Lomond

False Start

We had a bit of a false start, after a stop at McDonald’s for breakfast I realised as we were heading down the A90 towards Dundee that I’d left my coat behind. All my snacks, both compasses and the spare map were in the pockets, as well as my hats and gloves. So we turned round and went back for it. Unfortunately although I raced in and grabbed my coat off the peg in the hallway I didn’t notice that Alex’s coat was also on the peg in the corner.

This delayed us by about twenty minutes. Another effect though was that we really needed a toilet stop before we made it to Rowardennan. We got to the car park and parked next to my brother, David just before 10am.

Finding the Ptarmigan Path

The Cobbler, Ben Narnain and other mountains to the NW of Ben Lomond (Photo: James Kemp)

It didn’t take us long to be ready to go, and we set off at 1006 along the loch shore towards the youth hostel. On the shore we spotted an odd looking memorial that looked like a rifle sight. I didn’t take a picture, but it seemed an odd shape. The weather was pretty warm at loch level, and about ten minutes into the walk, just after we’d passed the honesty box shop at the foot of the path, we stripped off some layers.

We made pretty good time on the first chunk of the journey. From starting 36 minutes late we were only 25 minutes behind when we hit the sheep fold, and 18 minutes by Spùt Ban. (As an aside I’ve taken to marking the departure times for each navigation point on my annotated map, so I know if we’re going to be back on time. I also mark the escape routes and break points between them in green ink.) On the way up we spotted The Cobbler clearly in the distance, and Ben Narnain next to it with cloud round the summit. The wind was bracing but not gale force. We layered up along the way, it being noticeably colder as we climbed.

About midday we decided to stop for lunch early. At this point we were about 600+m up the Ptarmigan Ridge. The OS Maps app was telling me we were at 625m at this point, but later on it told me we were at 975m when we were below the 974m summit, and on the summit it had us about 50m higher than we were according to the map). Shortly after we set off again from lunch the wind got stronger, and there was some very light drizzle. Visibility fell a little, but we still had pretty good views of the hills in the distance. The cloud lifted a bit too, clearing the summits of the other hills.

Round the Ptarmigan Ridge

The side of a mountain with boulders covering half of it. The left hand end of the ridge is rocky and steep, and to the right of the summit it slopes off more gently.
Looking across at Ben Lomond from the Ptarmigan Ridge (photo: James Kemp)

We stopped for a rest near the top of the Ptarmigan Ridge and had a good look at our approach round the ridge and up the Western side of Ben Lomond. There was a pretty steep looking ascent, mostly on rocks. We could clearly see people on the summit and coming and going along the tourist path to the right (East). We also had a really good view down the Loch, and decided that we could make out Dumbarton Rock sitting on the Clyde. I used the x21 optical zoom on my camera to confirm this. It was slightly hazy, but unmistakable (it was the view from my kitchen window for three years). We probably had a 20-25 mile view from the top.

Looking along the path round the curve of the Ptarmigan Ridge (Photo: James Kemp)

The ridge itself was pretty flat, and the path was easy to follow. The wind went through us though, and David nearly lost his hat. He decided to go bare headed. I put my hood up because it felt like my ears were freezing. We stopped a couple of times in the lee of some of the ridges, including a few minutes near a lochan. Out of the wind it was a lovely day. David did a drop test with some of the gravel, and a one inch pebble got blown about a foot sideways when dropped from waist height. Fortunately the wind was coming from the West, across the ridge, and in the direction we needed to climb.

We met four or five people coming down the route we were going up. I had a brief chat with a couple that had stopped for a rest, and the chap said that we still had the hardest part still to go, and he wasn’t wrong about that!

Reaching the Summit

After we went down off the Ptarmigan Ridge into the saddle between it and Ben Lomond we caught the full force of the wind. We gave way to some people coming down, who were obviously finding it hard coming down into the wind. While we were waiting for them to pass we saw another couple further up with three dogs. Two of the dogs were husky style, and the third was a greyhound in a jacket and trousers! The huskies looked pretty comfortable picking their way down through the rocks, but the greyhound stuck close to the people and didn’t look happy at all.

As we approached within a couple of hundred meters (horizontally) of the summit we had to use our hands to get over the rocks. The way was less certain too, with a 90% rocky ground there was no obvious path to follow. It got quite scary at this point, I stopped Alex because I could see the wind blowing the coat he had strapped onto the back of his bag off of him. He wasn’t looking very happy at this point, the wind was whipping his hair over his face. While he stopped and gripped on for his life (which he said he was in fear of), I took a slightly wider route round a rock to check if there was an easier route. While I was doing this, because my hood was up and the peak of my hat blocked my periphal vision, I banged my head on a large rock. It wasn’t a hard hit, but enough that Alex noticed. He then gave us the quote of the day. “I don’t want to lose my dad and my uncle on the same day”.

Three people on top of a mountain, blue skies with white clouds. Person on left in a blue hiking jacket with a bald head. Person in middle with the wind blowing their hair obscuring their face, and on right with blue jacket with hood up. All three are standing behind the top of a concrete trig point.
David, Alex and Me on the (very windy) summit of Ben Lomond (photo: James Kemp)

At this stage I could see the trig point about 10 metres away. Alex and David were still below me, their heads about level with my feet. It took a bit of coaxing to get everyone onto the top, and then we immediately made our way past the top for some shelter. We felt the wind-chill, and I think both David and Alex had some extra adrenalin at that point too. The immediate top of Ben Lomond had about a dozen people on it, including a family having a snack and looking out to the North, a chap looking like he was taking soil samples and a few others.

We reached the summit almost bang on the planned departure time, and we were on time when we left it. I think we spent no more than five minutes at the top because we wanted some respite from the wind.

A view along Loch Lomond with the islands visible and beyond them the River Clyde
Loch Lomond looking south from the top of Ben Lomond (Photo: James Kemp)

Finding Snow

A patch of snow on the North Face of Ben Lomond on 6 April 2023
We found some snow on the north face of Ben Lomond (Photo: Alex Kemp)

The way back down had a moment where the path came to a dead end, but I spotted where the rock was worn smooth and we carried on fine. There was also an impressive ridge out to the North, and we could see a couple of white patches in the shadow. A bit further down there was a small saddle, and over the side of it a sizeable patch of snow. I’ve not been on much snow on hills recently, so I took the opportunity to go over the edge of the slope and stand on it for a photo. It felt about a foot or so deep, powdery, and it was a metre or so wide.

Apart from muscle and knee strain the descent was pretty uneventful. The tourist path has been well marked with lots of stone and gravel making it essentially paved, albeit uneven.

We made it to the car park at 1806, finishing 6 minutes later than planned, but half an hour faster than planned given our later start.


Overall the planning was pretty spot on for the speed we went at. I think one of the things that we need to pay more attention to is the wind aspect of the weather forecast. A gale force wind isn’t fun to be in the teeth of. This was the second mountain that we’ve had serious winds on, Ben Lawers was similar. It’s much easier to deal with rain and cold than high winds.

It’s much easier to walk on the grass/earth and the larger natural stones than it is to walk on the manufactured paths. I can see there are good ecological reasons to use the paths to avoid eroding the mountains. So some careful route planning is needed to avoid prolonged periods on manufactured path. I suspect that those are more common on the easier/more popular munros.

Lastly, I need to replace the laces in my boots. One of them snapped as I was putting them on in the car, so they were tied twice!