Last year I climbed the other Ben Vorlich in Stirlingshire. It was a memorable day out, and offered the chance to bag a second munro due to close proximity. The same can be said of the Ben Vorlich that resides in the Arrochar Alps, and in fine weather you might hope to bag Ben Vane too.
On this particular climb of Ben Vorlich from Loch Sloy, the weather offered no such luck. The forecast was for low cloud and poor visibility. But Ben Vorlich does have a few features which makes it a fair choice if the wind and rain is against you.
For a start you can go up and down the same way, so less chance of getting lost. Secondly, from about 300 metres up, the path is as clear as can be – so unless you are hiking in the snow, you can find your way easily enough.
We set out about 9am from Inveruglas with light gear, but prepared for water and wind chill. The opening section was easy going with a walk along a tarmac road into Glen Loin. In the low cloud, Ben Vane looked like a smouldering volcano awaiting sacrifice. I had sacrificed a pair of sunglasses while climbing it last year, and after brief thoughts of retrieving then, continued in search of the roadside cairn which marks the start of the off-road work.
We were just shy of the Loch Sloy Dam when we found it. The first push past the cairn is steep and hard going. You know you are gaining height! As I climbed, thighs burning and calf muscles at bursting point, I remembered an article for a magazine a couple of years ago that had featured a Scottish mountaineer called Jamie Andrew climbing this very munro.
In the article he was joining a Scotch Whisky specialist from SMWS, along with a writer and a photographer to sample some SWMS whiskies at altitude on Ben Vorlich. What was remarkable (apart from the whisky, of course!) was that Mr Andrew had lost his hands and feet in a terrible storm while climbing Les Droites in the French Alps. He’s still climbing.
That’s the picture I had bouncing around in my head as we climbed the business side of Ben Vorlich.
We had numerous pauses, and I used the breaks to tell my hiking partner all about Jamie Andrew, before pushing up to the cloud line.
Once over the saddle it was a gentle meander towards the trig point, and we made it chatting all the way.
Finding the summit cairn took a couple of attempts as the visibility was very poor. Still, we found it, and found our way back without having to refer to map or compass.
On hitting the saddle on the way down we could get a glimpse of what looked like very airy drops. But you’d have to take a massive dive off the path or be hit by a serious gust before the drops would present any real danger. Nevertheless, I kept my eyes focused on where I wanted to go, rather than where I didn’t want to go. Guess my fear of heights isn’t improving much. But then again, neither is my hiking buddy’s asthma!
Sometimes I wonder why we go up munros. The weather is unpredictable, and sometimes you have to give up, unrewarded. There’s always a chance of getting hurt and I always end up feeling sick near a cliff. And yet we still go up them, grinning like school boys at our prize – a pile of stones on top of a pile of stones.
Here’s a couple of presents for making it to the end of my mountain review…
You can find out more about that magazine here
You can find out about Jamie Andrew here
And, of course, if you like whisky, this is the place