With the new year fast approaching and a small gap in the measly weather we have experienced lately in Scotland, I was excited to squeeze in one final trip of 2016. We decided on Ben Vane, a mountain that only just qualifies for Munro Status at 915m, in the Arrochar Alps. This Munro was my 10th, meaning I have doubled my total this year!
As the days at this time of year are still particularly short, leaving enough time to complete a hill during the daylight hours meant leaving Ayrshire at 0700 to reach our destination. However, the roads were unusually quiet and meant we reached the car park at Inveruglas at just after 0800. It was a drizzly morning, but the clouds were moving at a steady pace so the rain did not stay with us all day. We sorted our kit in the half-light and set off towards Loch Sloy to begin the day’s ascent. It was around 0830 when we left the car park and the sun was just beginning to show through the clouds, so we remained optimistic that the views would be as spectacular as our last Munro trip in the Arrochar Alps (Ben Vorlich, Feb 2015).
We followed the A82 south along Loch Lomond to the track which follows Inveruglas water up the valley towards Ben Vane and Ben Vorlich. Despite spending a fair amount of time and effort putting waterproofs on at the car, these were soon removed as the clouds cleared and the drizzle stopped. The track was fairly steep initially and provided a good warm up for what was to come, as well as helping us get used to walking in winter boots again, which felt extremely heavy and clumpy compared to our summer boots. The track soon levelled as we approached the substation and plantation of power lines and pylons that littered the hillside and from there to the bridge across Inveruglas water the walking was fairly effortless. Ben Vane soon came into view.
The cloud was slowly beginning to lift and only higher hills like Beinn Ime were still capped in cloud, but our objective for the day was clear of cloud and would stay that way all day.
We crossed Inveruglas water and not long after the bridge, turned off the main track to follow a feint path uphill through soggy moorland onto Ben Vane. The going was tough already, but after a short period of exertion, the path soon levelled off again to reveal some spectaular views of Ben Vane itself, back towards Loch Lomond and across to neighbouring A’Chrois.
We stopped regularly to take some photos, but pushed on slowly and surely towards the summit. After the short level section, the gradient began to increase once again and remained constantly tough for the duration of our ascent. However, the extensive views behind us and towards the Arrochar Alps were enough to suppress any feelings of tiredness as we were instead in awe of the breathtaking scenery.
Our ascent was made even tougher by the addition of some snow, but being fairly fresh and seemingly untouched by other walkers so far, the going was manageable without crampons or an ice axe for the time being. There were also a few scrambly sections and the ‘crux’ of the day was reached just under 100m from the top, where a large build up of snow on a steep rocky section meant that finding any stable hand and foot holds was quite difficult. By this point, a couple of much fitter walkers had passed us and were now blazing a trail for us to follow, meaning we could focus more on completing the ascent rather than too much decision making.
We pushed on and reached the summit of Ben Vane just before midday. This was a particularly rewarding ascent as it was my 10th Munro, meaning I had managed to double my total this year. There’s definitely still a long way to go, but it’s a start!
We took some quick photos at the summit and retreated back down the hill due to fairly gusty and cold winds and once by the tricker scrambles we stopped for a bite to eat and admired the views once more.
The descent was steep and tricky as the snow had now been given a chance to melt. This, combined with a lot more sets of footprints compared to the way up, meant the going was slippery and precarious. However, we took our time and reached the bottom of the snowy section at around 1330, slightly over an hour after stopping for food.
We were then faced with more descent through bog and wet moorland rather than snow, which was equally as slippy and precarious in places. We pushed on and reached the track at the foot of the hill, took a well earned few minutes for some food and water and continued down the forestry track towards Inveruglas water. Only an hour or so had passed since we reached the bottom of the snow-line, but we were now well on our way back to the car, passing once again alongside the substation and power lines that spoiled an otherwise perfect view (They have to get the power from the hydroelectric station somehow, but pylons aren’t particularly pretty things…). We once again followed the A82 along the banks of Loch Lomond and reached the car at 1500, 6.5 hours after setting off.
Despite being a ‘small’ hill compared to other Munros, this was a tough day and made our trip even more rewarding than some other hills. Winter is definitely my favourite time of year for Munro-bagging and makes the accomplishments seem greater due to the difficult conditions and colder weather and this trip was no exception. I’m extremely happy with each and every adventure undertaken this year, so here’s to an adventure-packed 2017!