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Ben Vane

Ben Vane

Postby Relayer2112 » Sat Jan 08, 2011 6:21 am

Route description: Ben Vane, from Inveruglas

Munros included on this walk: Ben Vane

Date walked: 08/01/2011

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 11 km

Ascent: 930m

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NOTE - This TR was copied directly from my blog, thus the assumption was that readers would have little if any experience of mountaineering - I'm not trying to teach you how to suck eggs or anything!

January 6th, 2011 was a very long day indeed! After getting out of bed at 0330, getting ready and doing final checks on my gear, I got a 0500 train to Glasgow. My bus north didn't leave until 0700 - but no other services ran to Glasgow in time, leaving me with time to kill in Glasgow. Eventually, my two climbing partners Dylan and Barry arrived, and we got on our bus heading to Inveruglas.

The bus ride - roughly an hour - was spent mostly in the dark, and as we got off the bus at our stop, there was just a hint of light in the air. I took this photograph using a little rock wall next to the loch - there wasn't enough light to shoot handheld yet, and naturally I had no tripod with me - too bulky and heavy to lug up any mountain, never mind a serious winter climb. This photograph looks south down Loch Lomond, with the prominent peak of Ben Lomond in the distance.


After a few minutes we set off down Coiregrogan towards Ben Vane - our target for the day. Ben Vane is a relatively small mountain, barely a munro at 915m (3,051ft). It is, however a steep unrelenting and rocky climb to the top even in good conditions. On that day, conditions were unfortunately not on our side. Snow was aplenty, which was expected, but unfortunately the snowpack was almost completely unconsolidated - there was a very thin layer of frozen snow on top, but not nearly enough to stand on. Instead, with each step, our feet plunged knee-deep in snow which made progress slow and difficult

The first part of our climb was fairly easy, a short hop up on to a little plateau on the bottom of the mountain. There we saw another climber coming up from the other side of the plateau. We took a quick photo break, where I took the opportunity to get a photograph of Dylan looking out and admiring the view across Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine. I often find landscape photographs to be more effective with a person in the photo to give it some sense of scale or involvement.


We set off once again, and from here on it was increasingly steep going with deeper and deeper snow. Not ideal conditions! It was, however, still very manageable if tiring. A little further up, we once again encountered the climber we saw before, when we stopped in the same spot for a break. We all got talking, and after a sandwich and a drink, we set off as one party - and remained as such until the end of the trip. It wasn't until a couple of hours later I even learned his name - Kenny. Conditions became increasingly steep and the snow wasn't getting a whole lot firmer which led to some very interesting moments where there was some mild scrambling. Ordinarily it would pose no problem at all, but the ever collapsing snow made it very difficult to get a secure footing or axe-hold on anything, as the snow would simply collapse under the weight. There were one or two points where I was really pushing the limits of what I was comfortable doing - but the excellent advice from the rest of the party meant I could keep going without too much trouble, only one or two moments of panic where holds collapsed above fairly large dropoffs! I took the camera out one more time to capture this shot looking down Loch Lomond, once again Ben Lomond is visible on the left side of the loch, and in the right foreground, the elegant but rocky corbett A' Chrois. After this, the camera had to go back in the pack again - otherwise it would end up buried in snow every ten seconds, as well as being bashed off every rock on the mountain!


The going became even more tough, and it was now getting into the territory where crampons were going to be needed. So, we took a short break to attach our crampons to our boots, and here I encountered my first really major problem. In order to attach my crampons, I removed my outer gloves to give me the dexterity needed. After securely attaching them, I picked up my gloves, and found them to be completely frozen rigid. With only a thin pair of woolen gloves on and an absolutely brutal wind chill, this clearly wasn't going to do. I tried putting the gloves back on, but I couldn't grip my axe at all - it really was solid. At this time I also noticed my trouser legs were frozen past the knee, and my hood was also solid. Luckily, Kenny came to the rescue with - at first, another pair of medium gloves, which did a grand job of keeping my hands able to function.

Eventually, we came to a little false summit. By this point, I was exhausted, my hands were pretty chilly, my feet were two numb plates of meat, and I was faced with a brutally steep section. Given the snow conditions and my own condition, I was no longer comfortable with the idea of continuing. Had the snow been harder I would have happily continued on, knowing that axe and crampon placements would be pretty secure and take my weight without argument. So, I made the decision - it was time for me to call it a day. Continuing would mean compromising my own security as well as that of the others. It's always gutting to not reach the summit - but I firmly believe it was the right decision for me. Rest assured, I will be back. I do not like being beaten. Dylan and Kenny made a push for the summit which was only a short distance away. I stayed behind, with Barry keeping me company. He took the photograph of me, before I put the camera back in my pack again.


20 minutes later, Dylan and Kenny returned. I'd put on an extra midlayer as I was starting to get a bit chilly. Time to head back down! Kenny and I swapped gloves, giving me these massive wooly mittens which were incredible. Absolute lifesavers - lesson number one, get a pair of these. My hands were toasty in no time.

Going down is always easier than going up - but also generally more dangerous. More accidents occur on the descent than the ascent. My reckoning is this is due to tiredness, and the tendancy to think less about where you are going and the conditions you are in. Still, we had quite a good time coming down. While not necessarily recommended, I had a fantastic time doing a sort of sitting glissade down the slope. Certainly cut down on the descent time and was a lot of fun! Slowly, the feeling returned to my feet - my right at first, which wasn't too bad (incase anyone doesn't know, when your body parts thaw out after being frozen, it hurts like a bugger!) however my left foot, when it eventually defrosted, was much more painful. Another lesson learned - I had put my gaiters on too late, by which time there had already been snow inside my boots. If I'd done that earlier, it's doubtful that I would have had the same problem. Eventually, we got to the bottom, with very little time left before our bus back home. Kenny graciously offered us a lift to Balloch, where we arrived just in time to get a train back to Glasgow. Waste of our £20 return bus tickets, but such is life - we got back and that's the important bit.

In all, a very long, very tiring day out - but a few very valuable lessons learned from various bits of kit failing and using others which did work. Bummed about not getting to the summit, but conditions were just against me - I'm certain had the snow been more compacted, it would have been no issue at all.

So, that's it for my first trip of 2011 - stay tuned for more as the year goes on!


Last edited by Relayer2112 on Mon Jan 10, 2011 2:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
Posts: 24
Joined: Jan 8, 2011

Re: Ben Vane

Postby monty » Sat Jan 08, 2011 11:30 am

Hey Relayer2112,
Nice report. Love the pictures. Its a shame not to reach the summit but you made the correct decision for you and thats all that matters. The hills are not going anywhere fast :lol: I done this little gem in the summer and its a great hill. You will be back. Great to hear of the camaraderie shown by Kenny. You will find most walkers will help out when needed. :D

Sounded extremely cold up there though :shock:

P.s. A'Chrois is not a corbett but just part of Beinn Narnain hill realy.

Re: Ben Vane

Postby rockhopper » Sat Jan 08, 2011 1:48 pm

Great report and pictures relayer - as monty says, you made the right decision and it'll be there the next time. At 915m, Ben Vane is the smallest munro but starting at sea level it's a full munro ascent and it's certainly trickier in places than many others. Certainly a long day with an 0330 start !
Relayer2112 wrote: In order to attach my crampons, I removed my outer gloves to give me the dexterity needed
with a bit of practise, you'll find that you can put on crampons while keeping on your inner gloves
Relayer2112 wrote:I picked up my gloves, and found them to be completely frozen rigid
know the problem well as I have raynauds syndrome. I tend to take two spare pairs of gloves each with separate liners with me. I also tend to wear a pair of fleece gloves inside large goretex outer mitts (about £10 from army surplus internet site); they may not look trendy or modern but they do the job. :D
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Re: Ben Vane

Postby Relayer2112 » Sun Jan 09, 2011 3:49 am

I believe Barry also has Raynauds, I remember him mentioning it and how he had to be really careful with the cold.
So my lessons learned from this one are:
1. Gloves gloves gloves. And more gloves. Big pair of Dachstein mitts too.
2. Deep snow - wear gaiters from the start. Saves a lot of pain and wet feet.
3. 'Snowball' fights with blocks of windslab are pretty fun but not recommended.
4. Further reinforced that the majority of other mountain users are top notch people. Infact, if I recall correctly Kenny is a member of Walkhighlands. Kenny, if you're here, pop your head in and take a bow mate! :P
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Re: Ben Vane

Postby yorkie bagger » Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:44 am

I have Raynauds too :( I wear thin wool inners (very thin so I can still do stuff without removing them) and lined Goretex-type outer mitts. The only problem I have with the Goretext mitts is that I can never get the elasticated cuff over my coat sleeve with my mitts on (well obviously I can do one but then not the other) so I end up with cold wrists which is just as bad. Anyone else have that problem and how do you get round it?
yorkie bagger

Re: Ben Vane

Postby Paul Webster » Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:59 pm

Excellent first walk report Relayer2112 - sounds like a bit of an adventure - welcome to the site.
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