Daft decision pays off...Ben Vorlich summit camp

Route: Ben Vorlich via Loch Sloy

Munros: Ben Vorlich (Loch Lomond)

Date walked: 18/11/2018

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 16km

Ascent: 1180m

Munros: Ben Vorlich (the Loch Lomond one).
Date: 17 and 18/11/2018.
Distance: 16km.
Ascent: 1180m.
Time taken: 6 hours.
Weather: Clag on Saturday afternoon, clearing away to clear skies and sunshine overnight. Bitterly cold and strong wind.

When other weekend plans fell apart, I asked Jackie if she was up to anything. 'Ben Starav summit camp?' was the response. She's even worse at pulling random ideas out of her backside than I am :lol: . With a bit more thought, that didn't seem like such a great idea this time - partly because she was working until midday in the Central Belt, and partly because some fairly blowy conditions were forecast. But it was soon replaced with Ben Vorlich as an (almost) sensible option, or Beinn Reoch just south of Arrochar. We reckoned Vorlich would be outcroppy enough to find somewhere high up but out of the wind to pitch up, and if we decided to pussy out, then the Luss hills were nearby and a fair bit lower.

We were aiming to meet at Inveruglas just before 1pm, so I didn't need an overly early start. From Loch Lochy down to Rannoch Moor, the weather was absolutely stunning, but when I stepped out of the car in Glencoe to take a photo, I could barely open the door for the wind! This could be interesting :shock: . There was more cloud around further south, but Inveruglas was much warmer and calmer. We set off shortly after 1pm.

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Start of the Sloy Dam road

It had been a mere 3 weeks since Jackie was last up here but she was quite happy to do it again. According to my diary, my last visit was in 2003! The walk up the road towards Sloy Dam was pleasant enough, with plenty of people coming the other way. Once on the path up the steep western flank (much improved since I was last here), the going became claggier, and everyone coming down told us how unpleasant it was higher up.

Loch Sloy

They weren't wrong. Just a typical day in the hills really, but the cold wind blasting over us made us block out any thoughts about where to camp until later on. On the main summit, I discovered that it was more than likely that I'd only gone as far as the trig point on my previous visit - possibly this was a belated end to a Munro round :wink: . There was little to see and we were feeling pretty chilly as we pushed on to the north top (my first new Munro top of the year - I'm clearly taking these really seriously :roll: ). We stopped to put some more clothes on, and even doing things like opening rucksacks and pulling on waterproof trousers was unpleasant in the whipping wind.

Heading for the N top of Ben Vorlich

For all the misery, we could see that the cloud was just forming a thin covering over the hill, and there was the occasional break of blue above. I think we both let out a whoop of joy when it cleared...for all of 10 seconds! It looked great out west though in the brief moments we could see it.

Almost clear!

West - a fleeting glimpse

Cloud filling in again

That looked like all we would see of sunset - shame as the forecast had been for a bit of a clearing in the hour or so running up to it. Thoughts now turned to the dreaded camping spot. We knew we could easily drop back down to Loch Sloy if necessary, but that seemed too easy. Almost everywhere up here seemed inhospitable though, with all of the likely spots on the wrong side of the hill for an easterly. The western flanks were steep and craggy....until I decided to scramble down through the boulders immediately beneath the little summit outcrop. Brilliant - just about enough space for a single tent, on a bit of a slope, with some interesting rocks beneath. But most importantly, the wind was almost negligible down here - it would do!

Bit of a tight camp spot...

...but nicely sheltered from the howling wind

Neither of us really had particularly great tents for sharing, but mine was marginally bigger, and there was a handy sheltered alcove in the crag to stick some of our excess stuff, and to cook out of the wind as well. By the time we had eaten dinner, it was barely 5pm, and too cold and damp to sit out comfortably. At least there were more continuous views now.

Jackie was still suffering from a cold ('I'm sure a decent summit camp will sort it out!'), and feeling particularly rubbish just now, so we retreated to the tent. Things warmed up eventually, and after a few hours of dozing, chatting and wondering why we had thought this was a good idea, I had a look out of the door. Despite the cold and the wind, it was an absolutely stunning night with a decent moon. We decided to take an evening wander back up to the summit. The wind hit us like a train as soon as we emerged from behind our crag, but I'm glad we made the effort 8) . Despite being on the edge of the Central Belt, there were surprisingly few lights visible, and it felt quite remote. Perhaps there was a mist sitting over Glasgow to dim some of the light from down there.

Night-time over the Arrochar Alps (Jackie’s photo)

Then it was back to bed, where we stayed until our 7:30am alarm despite both of us continually sliding down the slope to my side of the tent :roll: . The wind was as vicious as ever, but with waterproof leggings, trousers, shorts and thermal leggings on it was bearable :lol: . As predicted, the sunrise was more than worth the minor discomfort of spending the night up there - in fact if you just looked at the pictures you'd believe it was lovely and calm! Jackie's video gives a more realistic impression:

Morning on Vorlich

Narnain, Vane and Ime

Loch Lomond

Waiting for the sun

Loch Arklet and Ben Lomond

Ben Lomond

Getting there...

Arrochar Alps

At last!

Lui over the summit of Ben Vorlich

The trig point

After spending some time between the trig point and the main summit, we decided to take another stroll to the north top, since we could now see something from there. Then it was time to dismantle the tent and head down, which we managed shortly after 9am.

N top from Vorlich

Back to the main summit

Plenty of low cloud NE of here

Stob Coire Creagach and Loch Sloy

Beinn a’ Chabhair

Summit and tent

Our camp spot from the summit

S ridge and Ben Lomond

Little Hills

We spotted a couple by the trig point who had pretty much made it to the top in time for the sunrise - they must've had a pretty early start. We chatted to them a little lower down, then dropped off the ridge and back towards the Sloy Dam road. Suddenly it was way warmer and I had to lose my various layers of legwear before I boiled over :lol: . We briefly toyed with the idea of descending the entire S ridge for a change, but decided that would be more fun with less wind and lighter rucksacks another time. The day was now shaping up to be stunning, and we passed plenty of people on their way up.

Back up the S ridge

Sloy Dam

On the S ridge

We had been thinking about a horseshoe of Ben Vane, Ben Ime, Ben Narnain and A' Chrois, but Jackie finally accepted she needed to take it easy if the cold was ever going to go away, so we took a leisurely stroll back to the tea room at Inveruglas instead for a bacon roll. On the way, we passed forum members Hillbeback and Chris Mac, which was nice.

Loch Sloy

Ben Vane and Loch Sloy

Sloy Dam

Ben Vane

A’ Chrois

It was only lunchtime however, so we had to do something in the afternoon. What would it be?

A’ Chrois from Inveruglas

Ben Lomond from Inveruglas

I really enjoyed my second visit to Ben Vorlich, having had pretty poor and vague memories of it previously. Definitely one to investigate some different routes on in the future.

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Comments: 1

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Location: Inverness
Occupation: Civil Engineer
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Corbetts: 19
Grahams: 7
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Munros: 39
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Grahams: 4
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