After frantically checking MWIS forecasts last night it seemed the only sensible option was to head towards Argyle. Very strong winds were forecast all over the country but the hills around the Clyde sea lochs were forecast to have the lightest of the winds and the greatest chance of a cloud free summit...and even a glimmer of hope for a bit of sun. I'd done Bens Narnain and Ime earlier in the year so it was a toss up between Ben Vane and Ben Vorlich. Given there is a bit of scrambling on Vane, coupled with windy conditions saw me opt for the latter. I was up at the crack of dawn and reached the Inveruglas visitor centre on the West shore of Loch Lomond by 07.30. It's a great car park but gets very busy so best to arrive early. As I set off the sun was shining on the East flank of Ben Lomond presiding over a flat calm loch...not really the conditions I was anticipating !
I set off down the footpath running South alongside the A82 passing the Inveruglas hydro station and the huge pipes running up the hill behind. After around 800m I turned right and passed through an impossibly tight 'kissing gate' before continuing up the tarmac road under the railway line. The route is to follow this excellent road up towards the dam at Loch Sloy. As you head up the road you are treated to great views of A'Chrois, or as I call it Stella ! on your left and Scotland's smallest Munro, Ben Vane ahead of you.
About a kilometre from the dam a marker cairn indicates the beginning of the rough path up the hill. I walk fairly briskly and with my big lanky legs reached the cairn about 50 minutes after leaving the car park. It's actually not as bad as it's reported, whilst it does get a bit 'gittery' at points it leads you to the summit which is all I really want. The path improves greatly as you get higher up but from the minute you leave the road until you reach the trig point at the start of the ridge it is pretty unrelenting. A real thigh burner !!
The view in front of you as you zigzag your way up the steep slopes is quite featureless. However, the views behind you soon open up, giving a fantastic glimpse of Loch Lomond and her islands back to Ben Lomond. To the left the view over the Arrochar Alps improves as you climb where Ben Narnain and Ben Ime soon become visible. The views were welcome as I often found myself stopping for a quick rest due to the unremitting incline. As I was nearing the summit ridge I was suddenly struck by how little wind there was, in fact there had been none at all up to now. The steep slope aside the ascent had actually been reasonably comfortable, with me also being shaded from the early morning sun. However, as I started to climb the final short path up to the cairn and trig point that marks the start of the summit ridge this was all about to change quite dramatically !
As the trig point came into view I suddenly found myself at the mercy of some of the strongest winds I'd ever experienced. Now I grew up on the East coast of Scotland and thought I knew what a gale was like but this was nothing like I'd known before. It was literally a struggle to stay on my feet. At this point I wondered if I'd have to get on my hands and knees to crawl the few hundred metres to the real summit cairn to the North. With some relief I dropped a few metres on the ridge between the 2 cairns as I headed along the ridge and found immediate relief. This was short lived as I soon reached the summit cairn and if anything the wind was stronger here. The forecast said around 30mph, I don't know what speed it was but it was certainly stronger than that ! It was with real difficulty that I managed to get a few shots at the summit. I had to delete most of them from the phone when I got home as they were blurred from my inability to hold myself still, never mind the camera !!
It took just under 2 and a half hours to reach the summit and I think I spent under 1 and a half minutes loitering there. Fortunately the sheer drop from the summit down to Loch Sloy created a sort of alcove just off the summit that I quickly dropped into for some instant shelter. It was very pleasant as I enjoyed a cup cake and a coffee in the warming sun whilst the hoolie continued above me. I was also treated to fantastic views over the Loch and dam to the wonderful Arrochar alps of Ben's Vane, Narnain and Ime. It seems ridiculous now as I post these photos as they all make it look like it was perfect weather !
As always the time comes when you have to make your way back. It was with some trepidation that I climbed out of my bolt hole to face the fearsome gusts once again. As I raised my head above the parapet I was pleasantly surprised to find that the strength of the wind had decreased to a more acceptable level. I quickly dropped my pack and reached for the phone eager to get some panoramic photos of the wonderful views before me. Almost instantly I realised that the wind too was merely having a ‘breather’. Before I had managed to change the camera setting on my phone I was once again hit by ‘breath stealing’ gusts of wind which had returned with a vengeance. I was determined to at least try to capture some of the views, bracing myself against the cairn with the phone pressed against my chest for some semblance of stability I snapped away not really having any idea of what I was capturing. As I did so I became aware of my rucksack being blown across the summit plateau like a scarlet red tumbleweed in slow motion. Enough was enough ! I put the phone away and wrestled to get the rucksack on my back whilst having the pleasure of being whipped in the face by the flailing straps, not a pleasant experience, having never bothered before to secure the ‘excess’ straps I now appreciate the value of those little bits of elastic.
As before, it took next to no amount of descent before I was sheltered again. Rarely have I experienced such extremes. The descent as you’d expect on a steep climb was a real killer on the knees, even my heavily KT’d left knee was beginning to throb as I approached the tarmac road again. It was in my haste to get off the hill that saw me misjudge a step only a few metres from the road, I hadn’t bothered with gaitors as many of the reports I’d read had never mentioned any problem with boggy ground. I placed my boot on what I though was a solid enough clump of grass among the boggy section, only for it to give way sending me calf deep in gitters ! Fortunately I was wearing zip off trousers and when I reached the road I quickly whipped off the bottoms to expose my ridiculously peely-wally legs. A quick rinse of my boot in an adjacent stream and I was good to go for the walk back to the visitor centre. Although there was more cloud around now it was still a relatively good day to be out. Despite the favourable weather the only other people I saw all day were a couple just setting off to tackle Ben Vane. I made it back to the car in just under 5 hours since I’d set off. Despite the throngs of tourists around the visitor centre I was able to find a secluded spot by one of the jetty’s out into the loch where I enjoyed my lunch whilst watching one of the touring loch vessels sail towards me. Ben Vorlich is a great hill and I found myself saddened slightly that I hadn’t been able to enjoy fully the views from the summit, I suppose I’ll just have to tackle her again someday….I’ll bring a kite !!
My Walk Reports
Ben Lomond (no walk report)
Stob na Broige
Bidean Nam Bian
Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain
Cairn of Claise
Carn An Tuirc
Carn Liath (Beinn a'Ghlo)
Carn nan Gabhar
Stob Coire Raineach
Stob Coire Sgreamhach
Meall nan Tarmachan (no walk report)
Meall Chuaich (no walk report)
Geal Charn (no walk report)
(no walk report)
(no walk report)
Beinn Udlamain (no walk report)
Meall Garbh (Carn Marig)
Geal Charn (Monadhliath)
(no walk report)
Meall Corranaich (no walk report)
Meall a'Choire Leith (no walk report)
Beinn an Dothaidh
Ben Vorlich (Loch Lomond)
Carn Mor Dearg
A'Bhuidheanach Bheag (no report)
Stuchd an Lochain
Glas Bheinn Mhor
Stob Coire Sgriodain
Stob Coire Easain
Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin
Stob a'Choire Odhair
Ben Cruachan (updated report)
Carn Liath (Creag Meagaidh)
Stob Poite Coire Ardair (no walk report)
Creag Meagaidh (no walk report)