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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

The reason to use crampons and an ice axe...

The reason to use crampons and an ice axe...


Postby Mountainlove » Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:57 pm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Vane

Date walked: 10/12/2011

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 13 km

Ascent: 1028m

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With a Christmas party lined up on Saturday night, I knew a Sunday walk would be out of the question, but there was nothing to stop me going on Saturday. My friend Lee had previously told me he was keen to get up Ben Vane as weather failed him on 2 previous attempts. As I never been up the mountain and it was a nice short one for winter the location was set and I told him I would get him up the mountain this time around.

We met at the car park just after 8:30 am and set off in lovely snow. I had printed out some maps and walk description and had my compass at hand …so nothing could go wrong. Well or so I thought ;-)

We walked along the path, crossed over the bridge and even though the description said to leave the path after 400m and follow the faint path up the hill, I ended up looking at the map and thought to myself…mmmm there is a forest we have to walk past first…

Being a bit confused if I should follow the description or the map I decided to follow the map. After all with all that snow we didn’t saw any path. We continued walking and with taking pictures of the winter wonderland and chatting away I didn’t really paid much more attention to the map…after all the forest was still there!

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Ben Vane 10.12.2011 003.jpg
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 004.jpg


We continued along the path and looking ahead I saw that path continued through the forest??? By that time I thought that this cant be right anymore…but where did the forest stopped??? I was confused and we discussed what to do. Realizing the mountain was to our right, we could walk back the path and find the right way up the hill or….well my eyes looked up to my right and a grin spread across my face. The answer was easy…straight up.
When I told Lee he looked at me in slight horror. ‘Which way?’ He asked and studying the mountain I pointed out the ‘path’ I saw. He just looked at me with a blank expression and said I don’t see a path! Grinning I said ‘Trust me …it’s the way I go up mountains, see it as you advanced course in winter climbing. :D :shock: :D
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 010.jpg
From here it was straight up to the first blind summit

Before we set off, I took a compass reading and made my way up the up the hill. We agreed that I would lead the way and he would follow my footsteps. The first part was pretty straight forward…deep snow, but nothing I haven’t done before…I started to enjoy the walk by that time!

After we reached the first blind summit (the easy part of the climb) the mountain really showed its craggy site…frozen ice and icicles covered the rock and cliffs of rock made it hard to find a way up. We continued and when more ice than snow covered the ground it was time to put my crampons on.
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 016.jpg
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 017.jpg
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 026.jpg
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 028.jpg
Making my way up

Lee didn’t have any crampons, but an ice axe, so it was my task to kick in steps which he could follow. It was really hard work, especially as I had to break the frozen layer of ice and snow and together with sinking thigh deep into the snow, I was soon in my thin base layer top…so much for thinking it was a pretty easy mountain to climb :D

I think for the first time in my times of walking up a mountain in the snow I realized that an ice axe would have been a good thing to take….I was glad I had my poles, but looking down left a slight knot in my stomach, as I realized that a wrong step could send me down the mountain in no time.
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 031.jpg
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 035.jpg
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 046.jpg
Ice and rock
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 047.jpg
Its only when you turn back, you realize that the route was slightly on the steep side!

Concentrating hard I moved on further…step –kick-step –kick.
Quite a few times I had to go back, as the ground was too solid for Lee to follow me without crampons and at times I literally had him holding onto my pole and pull him over ice fields.

Luckily he enjoyed the experience and told me on a few different occasions how great it was to walk up a mountain that way. I just kept on praying that we would not hit more ice, as it would have been impossible for him to continue further (one reason why I still think crampons are more important than an ice axe if you have to choose)
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 059.jpg
The top

We made it to the top after an exhausting 3.5h! Crazy how long it takes when you walk on ice and snow. The views were absolutely amazing and the low clouds mixed in with the snow made the whole countryside looking like a dream.
We only stopped for a few minutes before making our way down and by that time we met the first walker for the day. We had a chat and he told us there were some pretty tricky parts up the mountain. Thinking that it can’t be that bad we continued on, but when we got at the drop which we were told about I suddenly realized that it would be tricky. The walker we met caught up with us a short while after and together we looked for some alternative routes down. There were none! So in a combination of sliding and hanging onto the rock for dear life we made it down the rock face.

The remaining way was steep and with a long dislike for walking downhill I did the only thing worth doing… Sitting down, feet slightly lifted (crampons to be considered) I shot down the mountain.
Half we down the first bit we met some other walkers, some actually turned around when they saw the steep side of the snow covered mountain (I don’t blame them)
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 062.jpg
Other walkers in front of the trick part!

Ben Vane 10.12.2011 064.jpg
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 065.jpg
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 078.jpg
Ok ready steady go...who needs a sledge... :-)

Spending more time on my bum sliding than actually walking we reached the bottom of the walk in record time and continued through the bog. Not much fun and thinking about our route up I decided that it was definitely my favourite way up. We reached the cars again after a total of 6h…not bad considering the snow and ice and by that time it was time to have a quick coffee and say good bye as I had 3h left to drive home, get changed and head out for my Christmas night out
Ben Vane 10.12.2011 082.jpg
Guess I need a new pair of walking poles ...
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby dooterbang » Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:10 pm

Nice winter hill this.

Thank goodness no accidents occurred.

Never go up a big hill in winter without your crampons and ice axe as Colliecaith report shows.

Hope yopu enjoyed the party :D
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby fazerneil » Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:19 pm

Great report, not sure I would have followed you on your route :D As well as ice axe and crampons I would add tobogan to the list of must haves :lol:
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby malky_c » Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:24 pm

I like the look of that gully thingy you went up - certainly appears exciting 8)

At least the snow seems to be firming up - less wading, more proper winter walking :D

I disagree about crampons being more important than axe though - but that's an argument for another thread (one which comes around every year!)
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby SMRussell » Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:32 pm

Oh my! We thought about doing Ben Vane when we were staying in Crianlarich with less experienced walkers in the summer but ended up doing An Caisteal & Beinn a'Chroin (which were great fun). Ben Vane looks much more appealing in the snow!! Love the shot of you on the top :D

Here's a question - I do have an ice axe but only Kahtoola Microspikes rather than crampons (because I'm skint :( ). They work really well on less steep ascents. My regular walking partner however does have crampons - was wondering whether you thought we'd be alright on something this steep - provided he was walking ahead and breaking to the ice first?
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby mountain thyme » Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:42 pm

some beautiful pictures there.. think i need a new and better camera :(
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby Mountainlove » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:10 pm

dooterbang wrote:Nice winter hill this.
Thank goodness no accidents occurred.
Never go up a big hill in winter without your crampons and ice axe as Colliecaith report shows.
Hope yopu enjoyed the party :D


Many thanks...the party was great. Hard to believe but I left my ice axe in my car :o as I thought I would not need it...lol know better next time!!

fazerneil wrote:Great report, not sure I would have followed you on your route :D As well as ice axe and crampons I would add tobogan to the list of must haves :lol:

A tobogan would have been great... :lol: :lol: but the speed you can reach with a pair of waterproofs is also quite good :shock: :lol:

malky_c wrote:I like the look of that gully thingy you went up - certainly appears exciting 8)
At least the snow seems to be firming up - less wading, more proper winter walking :D
I disagree about crampons being more important than axe though - but that's an argument for another thread (one which comes around every year!)


The gully was great fun!! was crawling up most of it. I was actually thinking about the question whats better crampons or ice axe...I am guessing it depends on what you used first, or if you prefer to do more leg or arm work :?: Well I am guessing both is best :-)

mountain thyme wrote:some beautiful pictures there.. think i need a new and better camera :(


Thank you :) ...a good camera really makes a different...but it is always a cost factor too :?
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby Mountainlove » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:15 pm

SMRussell wrote:Oh my! We thought about doing Ben Vane when we were staying in Crianlarich with less experienced walkers in the summer but ended up doing An Caisteal & Beinn a'Chroin (which were great fun). Ben Vane looks much more appealing in the snow!! Love the shot of you on the top :D

Here's a question - I do have an ice axe but only Kahtoola Microspikes rather than crampons (because I'm skint :( ). They work really well on less steep ascents. My regular walking partner however does have crampons - was wondering whether you thought we'd be alright on something this steep - provided he was walking ahead and breaking to the ice first?



In my opinion it depends on the snow/ice mix. I climbed mountains walking liturally on a vertical ice rink...if you hit conditions like that you would be unable to follow anyone. But what I did on Saturday worked pretty well and I would do that again. Saying that you need to have a good head for heights and cant be afraid... :D
Last Saturday I was actually thinking that a rope would have been good idea...
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby mrssanta » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:28 pm

you look like you were having an fantastic time anyway!
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby malky_c » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:45 pm

Mountainlove wrote:
malky_c wrote:I like the look of that gully thingy you went up - certainly appears exciting 8)
At least the snow seems to be firming up - less wading, more proper winter walking :D
I disagree about crampons being more important than axe though - but that's an argument for another thread (one which comes around every year!)


The gully was great fun!! was crawling up most of it. I was actually thinking about the question whats better crampons or ice axe...I am guessing it depends on what you used first, or if you prefer to do more leg or arm work :?: Well I am guessing both is best :-)


Sorry, I re-read what you said and now I'm not sure whether I agree or not :roll:

My view is that crampons on their own can seem more useful for getting you places on hard snow and ice, but if you slip, you have no way of stopping yourself.

An axe might be slower on its own if you have to cut lots of steps, or you might not be able to go the way you want to at all, but at least you will have something to arrest you if you slip, and you if things are too difficult, you can turn back. You aren't likely to walk yourself into the middle of something dangerous without noticing.

Obviously as you say, both are best. I've gone crampons only once after lending my axe to someone who'd forgotten theirs, and I didn't feel entirely comfortable.
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby SouthernUplandKing » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:55 pm

After reading this, I think I may have to go back up there in winter 8) I climbed down the back of it and all those little watery gullies and rocky features look like alot of good fun :D

Even from the front side I deviated slighty from the path and had to climb a bit of semi-technical rock and then once I had got to the top I looked to the right and be-jesus there was the path :lol:
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby daveh » Mon Dec 12, 2011 4:16 pm

Great adventure again and looking at the pics it looks like you climbed the left of the ridge where the main path follows.There are a couple of gullies further round which would be more serious.Well done on doing the hill in a different route.In respect to axes and poons in my view in those conditions you should carry both and you will always tend to use the axe more.The first rule of winter is not to slip or trip :shock: Knowing when to deploy crampons is also key and if you see a slope and think that looks steep/hard or airy then best to put them on at the bottom rather that faff about half way up the slope.If you get the odd iced up section on the hill near the bottom you can bank on it being much worse further up.A classic in winter is walkers go up with out poons and then when temp drops and on way day the path ices up and they become at risk of a slide.Foot work is key in winter and a good instructor will concentrate on this with the axe arrest a poor emergency second chance :D
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby MG1976 » Mon Dec 12, 2011 4:37 pm

"Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the hills are so delightful,
And since we've the kit to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"


:D :D :D
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby malky_c » Mon Dec 12, 2011 4:42 pm

malky_c wrote:- but that's an argument for another thread (one which comes around every year!)


malky_c wrote:...


daveh wrote:...


Sorry, I should have started that other thread :oops:
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Re: The reason to use crampons and an ice axe…

Postby Del246 » Mon Dec 12, 2011 4:49 pm

First class. Loved reading your report and your pics are fab. Have not been able to get out for 2 weeks and this report has me itching to get back out. Brill
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