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Vane & Vorlich Underestimated

Vane & Vorlich Underestimated


Postby GeorgiePorgie » Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:33 pm

Route description: Ben Vane, from Inveruglas

Munros included on this walk: Ben Vane, Ben Vorlich (Loch Lomond)

Date walked: 04/07/2016

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 18 km

Ascent: 1844m

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My next objective before heading back to the Middle East was to bag the 'Arrochar Alps' Munros - Ben Vane, Vorlich, Beinn Narnain and Ime. This was reduced to the two former 'Bens' as firstly, time was short and secondly, I was actually quite tired after having walked three Munros in the Lawers range as well as walking across Rannoch Moor and back within a few short days of each other. In my younger years this would not have been a problem however recovery time and rest between each objective now took much longer.

Given the time of the year with the long days of daylight, I was in no hurry to leave home. Setting off from Strathearn, I had a leisurely and enjoyable car journey through Crieff and Comrie then up the shores of Loch Earn which were deserted and devoid of tourists at this time of the day.

Heading up Glen Ogle, I hit a light shower of rain with the high tops at both sides of the main road covered in mist - not a good sign. However, descending into Glen Dochart, the rain ceased suddenly and I now drove in cloudy but dry conditions to Crianlarich, passing the steep lower slopes of the mighty bulk of Ben More which brought back memories of a great climb last autumn in superb conditions.

Now into Glen Falloch, I now headed for the western side of Loch Lomond. I had to respect the road and railway engineers here for working out a route through this area with suitable ground between the steep sided hills on one side and the shores of Loch Lomond on the other.

Reaching Inveruglas, I pulled into the deserted but lovely visitor site car park with superb views across the loch. A small boat was leaving the jetty to head across to the loch's eastern side to the prominent hotel and the WHW. The visitor centre was still closed at this time of the morning so no bacon roll and a hot cup of coffee for me before departure. What lacked in people was made up by the thousands of midges who soon set about the only source of blood at this time of the morning. I quickly got ready and was glad to be on my way to escape the little blighters.
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Small boat heading across Loch Lomond from Inveruglas

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Sloy Power Station from Inveruglas

Crossing the not-so-busy main road, I picked up a narrow but well-constructed path which transferred me safely to the point of leaving the road about 1km further on. You soon pass the familiar Sloy dam power station with its massive water pipes shooting down from the high slopes behind. This area of Argyll is renown for its hydro electricity power-generating plants and dams.

After almost 1km, a tarmac side road with two locked gates can be seen on your right which you now follow. A heavy duty chain with several padlocks is seen on the gate, but don't fret as there is a side swing gate for walkers on the left. This gate tests your girth size as you physically have to breath in to get the swing gate to the open position. Successfully getting passed this obstacle filled me with pleasure as I suddenly thought that perhaps I'm not as overweight as I first thought!

The tarmac road immediately goes under the railway and then makes a dog-leg turn to the left. To save you walking to this dog-leg, there is a small path which shoots off left following the Inveruglas Water. A short steep climb takes you back to the tarmac road avoiding the dog-leg.

The tarmac road continues to climb but there is much to see to take your mind off your tired legs; ahead lay the Corbett Top A'Chrois, not Ben Vane as some walkers think. It's turn would come soon to reveal itself. Looking back, the view gradually began to improve of Loch Lomond and over towards the Trossachs. All the surrounding hills were covered in a blanket of mist which was beginning to burn off. The day looked promising.
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Tarmac road to Ben Vane (A'Chrois shown)

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Looking back towards Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond

A prominent electricity sub station is passed and from here you carry straight on. Shortly after here you get your first view of your first objective of the day - Ben Vane, with its rocky terrain and lumpy ridges. A wooden signpost is soon reached indicating a pleasant river stroll by Coiregrograin Farm and also a southward route to Arrochar via the Cowal Way. Ignoring the junction, I carried on up the tarmac road heading towards the Sloy dam. I couldn't help noticing how many cow pats there were on this road almost since leaving the main A82. Strangely enough there was a acute absence of cattle. In places, it was a case of dodging several piles of cow and sheep s***.

Eventually I came to a junction where left took me across a solid bridge crossing a tributary of the Allt Coiregrograin. The road straight ahead I would walk up later as I made my way to Ben Vorlich. For now though, I headed left, crossing the bridge and within a few hundred metres reached the little stone bridge which I had read about which indicated the start of the path to the summit of Ben Vane. Across from this point looked like there used to be a forest plantation now laid bare with just the sad sight of many cut tree stumps now lying exposed to the elements.

The stone bridge gives you an opportunity to have a short break before the start of the ascent. Sitting here listening to the trickling of the burn with the solitary birch trees as a backdrop gives you a tremendous sense of solitude as well as inspiring you to carry on the upward slopes of Ben Vane.
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The start of the climb of Ben Vane from the little stone bridge

The path starts off well following the little burn then it is lost within a very short time. I went through a patch of boggy, reedy ground which was very tiring to go through and I hadn't started the actual climbing yet! Despite this, the route to the first hill is obvious and reaching here I picked up a good path again. This path seemed to be more obvious and appeared to head for the road further up by some 100metres from where I had left it. I would take note of this and take this route on my return.
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The first of many slopes of Ben Vane

Carrying on now, I could make out the eroded path snaking its way up the steep and rocky terrain. I don't know if I had overcooked myself over the last few weeks with walking trips, but I was finding this upward onslaught extremely tiring, having to stop every 25 metres or so for a few seconds rest. One consolation was the ever-improving views back down to Coiregrograin and Loch Lomond. A good view also of Ben Lomond's conical peak could be seen. Ben Vane maybe have just scraped into the Munro list, but let's not underestimate its stature - this one packs a punch! The climb is relentless with a lot of false summits. I was constantly looking at my GPS to check what height I had gained after every few steps - a sign I was finding this hard.
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Beinn Narnain (on left) and Beinn Ime (on right) from slopes of Ben Vane

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A'Chrois from Ben Vane's slopes

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View back to Inveruglas and the Trossachs

An entrance to a cave was reached which would have been worth exploring on a better day; I was stubbornly just wanting to get this hill conquered. To make matters worse, the rain clouds began to appear and although producing light rain, they did remain with me for the remainder of the day obscuring the tops.
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The cave entrance on ascent of Ben Vane

The path to the summit is really quite obvious having been trodden by thousands of feet over many years. When the cloud did briefly clear, I could look down on Sloy dam and also look across to my second goal for the day - Ben Vorlich. That was still a long way off as I first had to get the Vane summited.
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View to Sloy dam and Ben Vorlich with rain and mist arriving

The path weaves its way through spectacular rocky formations and just when you think you have conquered the relentless slopes, yet another slope looms ahead through the mist. A hill of many false summits indeed as mentioned in other WH reports. A little light scrambling is required as you get near the summit - if I can tackle it so can you.

Just before the last slope to Vane's summit, I met my first person of the day descending from the top. We stopped to exchange a few greetings then it was onwards and upwards. I was now in mist and couldn't make out any features at all apart from the eroded path which guided me towards my goal.

Eventually and thankfully, the path now levelled out. Was this another false summit? A look at my GPS showed that the summit wasn't far. Through the mist I could finally make out the stone cairn. Relieved and knackered, I sat down and enjoyed the swirling mist and large pool of water which had accumulated here. I had heard that the views from here are outstanding - sadly not today. No other person was here so at least I enjoyed the peace and solitude.
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The small pool of water at the summit of Ben Vane

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Ben Vane's summit cairn at 916m

Overstaying my presence here, just on the off-chance that the mist would disappear to produce the view that I sorely sought, I finally had to admit defeat and make my way back down. After all, I still had the small task of climbing the second Munro of the day.

The descent proved to be relatively straight forward but you still had to keep a close eye on the path with its loose scree - one wrong footing and you could find yourself falling on your backside or worse twisting an ankle. I finally reached the alternative path point met this morning. I continued along this path and found it far easier to negotiate although the short drop to the road still requires care. Reaching the small stony bridge from upstream was very welcoming, so much so that I decided to have my lunch here with the midges for company!

Lunch over and with the rain now beginning to worsen, it was time to move on to the second Munro of the day - Ben Vorlich on the other side of Loch Sloy and its dam. An easy walk up the tarmac road towards the dam was short-lived; a small cairn was seen by the side of the road which indicated leaving the road and taking to an eroded path which would see me ascend the slopes to eventually reach the summit.

The initial climb up this path was hard which never seemed to relent; this ascent was proving tough but every step took me closer to that summit. Like the Vane walked previously, Vorlich was proving to be a tough cookie which deserved respect.

Plodding on, I soon reached the low cloud and persistent rain. This was proving to not be an enjoyable walk. One break in the conditions allowed me to take a quick photo of Sloy dam away below but that was it for the remainder of the way up. The path soon began to ease just ever so slightly but the view sadly was obliterated by the thick mist. I'm sure on a good day the view would be outstanding to take your mind off the constant uphill plod. The view across to Vorlich from the Vane this morning had been a good one - clear of mist and a small patch of sunshine! Maybe I should have tackled this one first.
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Brief view to Sloy dam between rain showers and mist on ascent of Ben Vorlich

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Mist scene on ascent of Ben Vorlich

After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to see Vorlich's trig point which wasn't the summit (this lay a short walk to the north to a stone cairn which was a few metres higher at 943m. I was glad to reach this point but contemplated the long return walk to Inveruglas visitor centre left such a long time ago.
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The true summit of Ben Vorlich

A short rest and hot refreshment in the rain soon perked me up and I now quickly descended the way I'd come up to get out the horrible conditions. LIke Vane, this path required care, particularly at its steepest point towards the bottom. One slip, especially in today's conditions would have resulted in a nasty fall. The rain was so heavy now that the path I was descending on looked and felt like a lively burn, deteriorating the path even further. I was so glad to reach the tarmac road for the final walk out back to Inveruglas. The rain had now typically ceased only to be taken over by the midges. As long as I kept moving, the damn blood suckers were kept to a few thousand. A couple of walkers who I had met on my descent from Vorlich and had still some way to go to its summit had surprisingly and disappointingly caught up with me on the road. Chatting with them briefly, they said they had descended directly down pathless terrain until they reached the road saving some considerable time. I think it was more the case that I had slowed considerably on the descent.
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Dreich view of Sloy dam again on descent

Nevertheless, all that remained now was for the downhill stroll to the awaiting car at Inveruglas visitors centre escorted back by the midges. This seemed longer than the outward trip this morning - it's amazing how quicker the walk is when you are fresh. I had initially planned an overnight stop locally to tick off Beinn Narnain & Ime and The Cobbler on the following day but due to being knackered after a heavy walking schedule in the last two weeks, I decided to attempt them at sometime in the future.

One lesson learnt today - never underestimate the hills that just scrape into the Munro league. They can and did prove today that they pack a mighty punch to other giants around them. Ben Vane & Vorlich, you have my total respect for being bitches!
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GeorgiePorgie
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Re: Vane & Vorlich Underestimated

Postby Marty_JG » Thu Sep 22, 2016 11:59 pm

Really interesting and current report. The Arrochar Alps are 2nd on my wild camping walking list (the 1st being a trial overnighter at Ben Lomond). But my first challenge is Vorlich, Cobbler, etc., on a two nighter 3-day wild camp. Wonder how much more challenging they'll be loaded like a pack mule. :crazy:

Anyway, great report. Thanks.
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Re: Vane & Vorlich Underestimated

Postby teaandpies » Fri Sep 23, 2016 12:23 pm

This was my first Munro. I really enjoyed it, it was wet and we had a bite to eat in that 'cave'. We didn't get any views that day either :lol:
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Re: Vane & Vorlich Underestimated

Postby Coop » Fri Sep 23, 2016 8:01 pm

These are 2 very good munros. Did them separately. Eaten by the midges on vane.
Vane let's you know who the boss is with its false summits.
Nice trig point and cairn on Vorlich
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Re: Vane & Vorlich Underestimated

Postby IanEzzi » Sat Sep 24, 2016 10:11 am

Oof! That's a walk that probably feels a lot bigger than the statistics would suggest, I've done some big days recently but doing Vane and Vorlich in one go would not appeal, chapeaux!

I think it was someone on here that described Ben Vane as 'the wee nutter' which I quite liked, I did it in winter when I *thought* I knew it all, turned into a little bit of an adventure when I couldn't find a way through the wee step near the top then lost my own footsteps on the descent, lessons learnt! :crazy:
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Re: Vane & Vorlich Underestimated

Postby Dave Hewitt » Sat Sep 24, 2016 10:31 am

Good effort, if a slightly odd out-and-back way of doing them. Arguably better is to make a loop of it and carry on down to the col on the N ridge of Vane, then head down to the dam - pathless once off the ridge but pleasant and easy. Then grit your teeth and slog straight up the flank of Vorlich (you can pop out very near the summit if you slant left as you go up, but an easier line joins the main ridge about a km back). Then down the nice open SE corrie of Vorlich to pick up a track with a mast on it, which links back to the main track near the electrical works.

People on here almost always seem to go up Ben Vane the standard guidebook way, which never seems much fun and has become quite badly eroded. As ever, there are various other good ways - eg wiggling up from just below the dam to reach the summit area direct, or straight up the southern flank from just before where the Coiregrogain track swings back into the trees (there's a little intake sluice here). This is a very steep way - steeper overall than the standard way (and feeling very steep when a friend and I once did it with ice in the upper section - I ended up putting on crampons while balancing on one leg on a ledge), but it's a nice quiet way and again very direct. A really good day out is to start from Inveruglas and go up Ben Vane by either one of these latter two routes, then head across to Beinn Ime followed by an exit by the main Coiregrogain track from the big col, or after having also taken in Beinn Narnain and then dropped N to the track from the dip before Creag Tharsuinn.
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