The “wee’est” one of them all

Ben Vane (915m)

  • Pronunciation:            Ben Vain
  • Translation:                 Middle Mountain
  • Total distance:             11km
  • Total time:                   5.5hrs
  • Total ascent:                920m
  • Weather:                      Beautifully clear and sunny all day. Generally very light winds. Very cold air temperature.
  • Start / end location:   A82, car-park and visitor centre opposite Sloy Power Station [Grid Ref: NN 323 099]
  • Map:                              A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

The last two days have been quite hard so we decided that today we’d tackle something that on paper was shorter. Our choice was Beinn Chabhair (931m), the start of which was literally just down the road (A82) a few miles from where we had camped overnight. So by 07:15 we were packed, ready and driving the ‘van the few miles down the Glen to the starting point.

Early morning on Loch Lomond from Inveruglas

This was where the next challenge with using a large ‘van as a base was realized: parking! We couldn’t readily find a suitable place to park up the ‘van. So a split second decision found us heading further south with another objective in mind: Ben Vane. I chose this one because I knew for definite that there was suitable parking at the bottom and I was also mindful that it is the lowest Munro: number 283 in the latest tables!

By 08:30 we were parked up at the Inveruglas visitor centre opposite the Sloy Hydro Power Station and ready to go. The route utilizes the single-track access road to Sloy Power Station dam 4km up the glen between Ben Vane and Ben Vorlich (also a Munro). After 2.5km a fork in the Sloy dam access road services the forestry areas surrounding the glen. We walked along this track for a few hundred metres before a path to the right provided a direct frontal assault on Ben Vane.

Early morning sun on A' Chrois from Sloy access road

The route up towards the summit looked as though it was barred by a series of terraced cliff outcrops. However, the path up was excellent and zigzagged skillfully up and around each of barriers perceived from below. It was quite steep in places.

The terraced nature of the obstacles continued right up towards the upper section of the hill – giving quite a few false summits en route. On these upper sections the little snow that was around was a bit crispier, with a fair amount of ice lurking underneath.

Elaine high up on Ben Vane

When we pulled over the penultimate false summit we finally saw the true top of Ben Vane (915m or 3002’). The top seemed almost out of character from the rest of the hill in that it was exceptionally flat with two small cairns at both ends of a large tennis court sized summit plateau.

The wind had dropped completely when we were on the summit and the sun actually felt as though it still had tiny remnants of warmth in it so we decided that this would be an ideal place for lunch. It took only about five minutes of inactively for us to be reminded that the air temperature up there was well below freezing: our hands and bodies rapidly became uncomfortably cold. It was time to make our descent.

Elaine on Ben Vane summit plateau

Although we hadn’t used our crampons at all on the ascent we decided that with so much ice around, and the fact that we had carried them with us, we would use them for the first few terraced sections on the descent. Wearing them allowed us to romp down the icy path without even thinking.

On the descent we met loads of people climbing up. This is the most people we’ve seen on the hills since we started the Munros in early November. Ben Vane is so popular at this time of year because it can be climbed relatively quickly against shortening winter days, and it is also quite close to Glasgow so can easily be tackled in a day outing from the city.

Ben More and other peaks from summit of Ben Vane

At around half height we stopped and spoke to Luci and Vince, who were just finishing the contents of their flask en route to the summit. Luci and Vince had, over the last year or so, started Munro-bagging and were loving every minute of it. Today they had managed to get Luci’s mum to look after their kids to allow them out on the mountains. Needless to say, they were very interested in our year-out adventure.

Ben Ime from summit of Ben Vane

Luci and Vince: may be when the kids get a bit older you’ll be able to consider your own family adventure together – best of luck.

After our chat with Luci and Vince we descended quickly back to the forestry track, then onto the Sloy Power Station dam road and back to the main-road: the end of another successful outing.

The perfect lunch stop on Ben Vane summit

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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2 Responses to The “wee’est” one of them all

  1. Vince and Luci says:

    Hi there, great to read about your ascent and descent of Ben Vane, we really enjoyed meeting you both on the hill side.

    We both found Ben Vane to be surprisingly tough for such a ‘small’ Munro. The latter part near the summit was pretty scary in parts but reaching the summit and the resulting views made it so worthwhile.

    We look forward to reading more about your expeditions in the coming weeks and months -you certainly captured the spirit of your walk in your description.

    Good luck with the rest of your walks, hope you’re warm and comfortable, despite these early season arctic weather conditions!

    Best Wishes to yourself and Elaine,
    Vince and Luci

    • Cameron says:

      Hi Vince and Juli, great to hear from you both. I would agree that the top 100m or so of Ben Vane was actually quite tough – probably more so on the descent. The ice hiding under the light dusting of snow made a slip very easy. That was why Elaine and I chose to to wear our crampons for a short time. Take care both. Regards, Cameron

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