Ben Vane was the missing piece of the Arrochar Alps jigsaw I had still to complete.
I attempted to climb it at the tail end of last year (2012) just before the winter started but when I got halfway up the hill there was about 40 inch thick ice on the rocks and sneaky concrete compacted snow (you couldn't see any sign of it from the bottom) and a pair of slipper like summer walking shoes, scooby doo type movements on said ice forced me to shamefully retreat without claiming this scalp.
This time there was no going back.....
I set of from Glasgow at 8 o'clock fuelled by 2 egg and sausage pieces and a can of relentless ready for this tiny monster of a hill. The weather was like Barcelona so I set out with sun cream applied and shorts and shades for the hour long trip to Inveruglas.
Typically Scottish style, there was grey clouds replacing the vast blue space that Promised a good view and a suntan and by the time I parked at the Car at the cafe near the power station, it was raining.
It's only water so off I headed.
Shades ditched and trousers replacing shorts, away past the power station and up the road towards the dam was gentle, it was drizzly but warm, jacket on-jacket off. Northface, Montane and Rab can advertise there gear any way they want. Shower proof, ventilation, softshell, if it's warm take the jacket off, raining put the jacket on,if it's warm and raining then you just need to suffer.
After you pass the sign for the Glen Loin loop there is a wee bridge to cross, after that up the road and you'll see a path leading off the the right. That's when the fun begins.
The initial start to the hill is a lung burster. The legs were throbbing walking up the steep slope and as its lambing season, there was some angry ewes standing their ground ready to pounce. Even if I fancied some lamb chops, the steep hill drained most of my energy. Once the ground levels out it was time for a 5 minute sit down and I drank most of my water. Science should stop wasting time making iPads and mars rovers and find a way of making water lighter. I usually take two 500ml bottles with me but after the first wee section on the hill I was down to one.
Anyway, you don't get anywhere sitting down so off I went up the next section which was just as steep and muscle burning. The view across to Ben Vorlich was stunning but everything else seemed to have disappeared in mist and cloud. The ground levelled out for a spell and it was then that I drank the rest of my water. Oh well, the sneaky can of lager I had in my bag was going to taste that bit better when I hit the top.
The next section was quite rocky and had a few scrambling sections which was amazing. For all the people who think that walking Scottish Munros is just walk up a grassy hill should try the scrambling. Some interesting rock features and a few "where the hell do I go here" moments but that adds to the walk. Roughly 2 hours after I left the car I got to the top and the view was...........guff. Pure white and eerie.
The top of Ben Vane is strange in that it is totally flat. I was toying with the idea of taking a 'baw so I could have a kick about and I should have. Took some pictures of the cairn and had my can off lager and double decker (probably the best chocolate bar ever made)I headed straight on and followed a path down the other side and went north as I had heard from somewhere there was a way you could go that took you down to the dam.
Well, what I heard turned out to be pure pants. As the famous saying goes
"the hand of human civilisation has never set foot on the land". What started out to be a grassy slope turned out to be a steep grassy slope with some cliffs and huge drops. I don't think another human being had ever seen this part of Ben Vane and there was probably a very good reason for that. I was slipping all over the place and nearly took a 'heeder aff a cliff. I was not lost in the sense I knew roughly which direction to go but I seemed to get nowhere fast. On a dry day this side of Ben Vane would be quite scenic but on this wet and dreech day it was character building...
I managed to find a clear flat section and then the dam came into view, what a welcoming sight. I went straight downwards and the landscape was amazing. Some of the boulders seemed precariously placed and you'd think a slight breeze would bring it crashing down like the boulder from Indiana jones but they have probably been in that position for thousands if not millions of years. Amazing.
I finally made it to the dam and walked the road back to the car park. I was soaked through but had a thoroughly good time. On the level road, the sun came out from behind the clouds and it started to get quite warm. Off with the jacket and let the sun dry me out a bit. I got back to the car and changed into some dry clothes and went into the cafe for a coffee and a bit of cake. Having had damp clothes on that dried up in the sun, I was pure stinking, just as well I wasn't looking for a bird.....
Thoroughly good day had been had and for Ben Vane being the second smallest Munro, it should definitely be on people's list. Steep and challenging and was interesting. Better than Ben Vorlich or Ben Ime and maybe on par with Beinn Narnain.
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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.