Don't snub this hill!

By Andrew Jarret

It was one of those picture perfect winter days, the kind that comes along once every 10 years and usually when you are at work to boot (sorry Colin!). For these reasons Chris and I were in jubilant mood as we slipped and slithered along Glen Clova towards the newly refurbished Clova Hotel.

The temperature gauge in the car was reading minus four degrees and the huge banks of snow piled up eight feet high at the sides of the road gave us the impression that we had somehow strayed into Greenland after turning up the glen at Dykehead.

Leaving the car in the car park at the popular hotel, it soon became evident that although it was well below freezing, the hats, gloves and waterproofs were going to be redundant today.

Our destination, the 841 metre Benty Roads behind the Corrie of Clova, was going to be captured by ascending to Loch Brandy and then attacking The Snub which glinted at us invitingly as we strode through the little copse of trees behind the hotel.

The track to Loch Brandy is straightforward and in summer is very popular with walkers seeking to explore the delights of the hidden lochan.

Despite the perfect conditions we were not to meet another soul this day which only added to the breathtaking views we were granted.

The path from the hotel passes through the woods and crosses the Corrie Burn via a small wooden bridge before you style the fence which takes you onto gently rising slopes. The path winds its way up the hill and follows a dilapidated line of fence posts where the going gets noticeably steeper.

We had been walking for barely ten minutes when the fleece tops were also consigned to the rucksacks. Ruing the fact that we hadn't packed a pair of shorts, we continued to sweat our way up in our t-shirts towards the loch over the shimmering snowfields.

Reaching the loch, which was almost invisible under a thick covering of snow and ice, we took our first real breather with The Snub towering to our left.

It's possible to make ascending The Snub easier on the legs if you opt for an angled approach but the crisp snow conditions meant that we could kick step our way up a direct line which provided an exhilarating, if tiring, climb above the loch.

The hard work now over, we trotted gleefully across the flat expanse of snow to the summit of Benty Roads, savouring the panoramic views which extended to an arctic-like Lochnagar to the north west.

Stopping for lunch, we were amazed by the absolute stillness. It's not often that you can sit at 2,500 feet on a winter's day and experience no sound at all.

It's worth taking a short detour east to peer over the cliffs at the top of Loch Brandy. Be careful as you approach the edge, especially in snow, and stay well back if you suffer from vertigo.

What follows now is a traverse along the lip of the Corrie of Clova, passing underneath the summit of Boustie Ley. In summer there will be a well trodden path but we delighted in blazing the first trail through the virgin snow hugging the edge of the corrie as close as we dared. We had spotted small cornices on the corrie as we climbed The Snub so we made sure that we kept a safe distance back.

Continue around the corrie and walk onto the shoulder which forms leading to the summit of Ben Reid. A small cairn marks the top and we stopped again here to pick out Driesh, Mayar and the other Munros stretching off into the distance.

There is a cleft in the face of Ben Reid, stretching from the top right hand part of the hill to the bottom left, and this provided a wonderful snow chute in which to make our descent. In summer it will be just as much fun to pick your way directly down the craggy face. At the foot of Ben Reid, the Clova Hotel is but a short walk away over marshy terrain to your south east.


Distance 5 miles/8km.
Map OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 44.
Start/parking Clova Hotel in Glen Clova (grid ref NO 327731).
Grading Fairly steep ascent to Loch Brandy with a strenuous climb of The Snub followed by a gentle ridge traverse and an equally steep descent of Ben Reid. Suitable for those with a decent level of fitness and pick a good day to make the most of the views.

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