Thursday, September 11, 2008

Monday 8th Sept: Ben Vane Walk

We fancied doing a walk in Scotland and I decided on Ben Vane in the Arrochar Alps, a Munro but only just. We had already walked Ben Lomond, The Cobbler and Ben Narnain in the same area and enjoyed them.

We set off around 9.30 from my folks house to miss the rush hour through Glasgow but still had to contend with some numpty driving down the side of Loch Lomond. It was very grey when we parked up at Inveruglas. I had decided to wear my big boots as they would keep more bog out. We had a long walk in on some access track for the hydro power station before we got to the hill.

My boots felt like they weighed a ton as did my bag as I had a full set of waterproofs in them as well as the usual stuff. It was easy walking for a while and we gained some height on this road. My hip was niggling a little bit but after a while I forgot about it.

Looking at the map of the area the contrast between it and a map of the Lake District was quite stark. There were lots of close together contours on this map and very little else by way of track markings. A map of the Lakes would be a spider web of footpaths and bridleways (though not enough of the latter) and it would be easy to see where to head. We could see tracks leading off in various directions but they were not necessarily marked on the map. You can pretty much walk or ride where you like in Scotland just don't expect anyone to tell you where the paths are.

There was a path marked up the hill and we eventually found it, though I think it has now been abandoned as a main ascent choice. We headed upwards through some long marsh grass, following some occasionally flattened grass patches and old rotting planks which had served as bridges over the stream in the past. We headed for a plateau and as we crossed it we suddenly found ourselves on a well tramped path, well relatively and bloody hell it was steep!
Everytime I walk in Scotland I seem to forget how hard it is, I always blank out the fact that the ascents I've done so far have been without fail unrelenting and steep and absolutely leg destroying on the descent. We looked up at the track then started heading up, into the rain. The cloud was now firmly ensconsed higher up and we realised our chances of a view were nil. It was too warm to consider putitng waterproofs on so we just got wet and kept climbing..and climbing.

We met some people coming down who told us there was some interesting scrambling moves at the top, they weren't kidding! I had noticed on the map there were at least two false summits and we topped out on one without too much difficulty, you could see then next lump hiding in the mist so we carried on and things got a little more interesting.

A few, very technical moves on wet rock made me wonder about coming back stiff boots were protecting my feet well from the rock but I found the complete lack of feel and stiffness a little annoying. We topped out on the second "lump" and wondered if we were at the top, I didn't think so but the cloud was so thick at this point we couldn't see anything. We carried on and another large lump loomed out of the cloud. Upwards again to even more tricky wet scrambling.

We finally topped out onto the summit plateau and saw...absolutely nothing, I could just about make out Jez and the cairn at the other side:

After all that walking a typical Scottish view, ah well. We decided to head down and descend all the tricky scrambling before having some food. I found the descent surprisingly easy and it didn't take us long to get back on to the "path". We had some food and soup and continued down the descent. We dropped out of the cloud and had a nice view across Loch Lomond and could also see Loch Arkle and Loch Katrine behind. The tops were still covered in cloud and remained that way even when we were down.

We reached the plateau again and decided to look around for a more defined path and we found it, it dropped down to the road we walked up but closer to the car. Its the kind of path you would have to know was there as it wasn't that obvious across the top of the plateau and when we'd reached the road it was quite hard to spot even though we had just descended it.

A nice easy walk back to the car and a stop in the poshed up Inverbeg Inn for a post walk pint and chips to let the traffic die down a bit through Glasgow.

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