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Conic Hill (361 m) forms part of the popular West Highland Way and as such is a busy little peak! The path is very well maintained so navigation is easy, with a little scrambling over scree necessary close to the top. This is the perfect hill for a beginner or for a day when you only have a few hours to spare. The views are spectacular all the way!
Parking available at Balmaha car park, just off B837. Closest train station is in Balloch, 12 miles / 19km away. From there local bus services stop in Balmaha (20-25 minute journey)
Route: From the information board at the back (north side) of Balmaha Car Park, follow the track into the forest, turning right (East) at the fork. At another fork 300m along, take the path on the left (North) leading uphill. Follow this very well worn path (built into the hillside like steps) for 1km (up to 200m elevation) where you’ll meet with another path coming in from your left. Keep right (North East) here. Another 500m along and 110m of ascent later, the path will split. The left continues round the side of the hill and the right heads steeply uphill. Take the path on the right to reach the summit of Conic Hill. This last part is steep and requires some scrambling. From the summit you will see many tracks leading down the hillside. Take the one which leads south-west over the ridge in the direction of Loch Lomond, running parallel to your ascent path. It will lead you downhill over several rounded hilltops, joining back up with the main path after approx 1km. Once you reach the main path retrace your steps to Balmaha Car Park.
WALK REPORT: 11th May 2016
In April I came across the Trail Magazine 7 Summits Challenge and made a list, with the help of some my Facebook followers, of 7 hills to climb this year. Conic Hill was one of them and it was a relief to finally cross one summit off the list! If I am honest, although hills are more my passion than low level walks, I have been putting them off, mainly due to a fear of being unable to navigate properly. So far I have been relying on my mobile mapping app to get me around safely and that has been working very successfully for the low-level walks. With hills it is different: clearly marked paths are never a sure thing, the weather you start off with isn’t necessarily the weather you’ll find at the top, and visibility is not guaranteed…. I definitely need to learn to navigate using a traditional map and compass to get over this fear which is holding me back!
I decided to take on Conic Hill first for a couple of reasons: I was familiar with it, having climbed it as part of the West Highland Way several years ago; and since it is a bit of a tourist attraction the path is very well trodden meaning I wasn’t likely to lose my way!
One thing I was taken aback with was just how busy the hill was. There were literally people EVERYWHERE along the path, many of them tourists. I guess in one way that’s what I had wanted; they were my security blanket. At the same time I wanted away from the crowd. Unfortunately my mobile mapping app wasn’t working very well today – the map wasn’t showing any detail. This meant that I couldn’t see where the paths were in order to take an alternative route. [I have since learned how to download my route maps for offline use to avoid this problem in future!] I also hadn’t planned much before I came – I had brought an old, extremely well-used guidebook which my mum had lent me, but I didn’t have any maps or other forms of navigation with me. So I stuck to the main path until the top.
It was a glorious sunny day and so I could easily see the various paths webbing away in different directions from the summit. Where they led to I had no idea but I started to follow a narrow grassy track down the ridge and across some lower “bumps” which I could see ran parallel to the route I had taken to come up. It turned out to be a fantastic idea – I had the path to myself and it was also much easier to walk on. I found a spot out of the wind to have my lunch, admiring the stunning views down onto Loch Lomond. From this vantage point I could see the main path clearly, as well as bus loads of people walking on it!
During the walk I met a guy who had his 2 year old son with him, and he really inspired me. He carried him up on his back in a harness and all the way up they were chatting, saying rhymes, talking about the hike… It was steep and warm and I kept wondering how the dad was coping carrying that weight! It also made me wish I had started bringing my kids at that age, when they were small enough to carry. It is such an amazing thing to expose them to. I am not sure I would be fit enough to carry Thomas, age 3…. and I doubt his little legs would carry him all the way to the top and back. What I think I will do is return with both kids and encourage them to walk as far as they want, just to see how far they get. If we don’t reach the top we can always come back another day and keep trying until they succeed. Afterall, I have already ticked it off so there is no need for me to have a personal agenda or be in a rush to do it again. Looking forward to it already!