Day 4: Ben Vorlich
Following an enjoyable jaunt up Ben Vane yesterday, we decided to return to Inveruglas today to summit the neighbouring Ben Vorlich. Legs feeling a little worse for wear this morning, neither of us were jumping with enthusiasm; however, the prospect of rain all day tomorrow forced us out – there’s only so long one can spend in the Green Welly Stop!
Parking up at Inveruglas, skies were mixed. There were tiny patches of blue, and moments when it appeared that the sun was trying to break through so we set off feeling optimistic. Approaching the access road, the gate was just being closed, the local cows wandering freely downhill and headed for the main road! We met three young bulls part way up, happily grazing and relaxing; I can only assume they’d changed their minds about getting run over today!
The walk up the road seemed far shorter than yesterday and before long we had passed the turn off for Ben Vane. We carried on along the road to reach the path for Ben Vorlich, just ahead of the Sloy Dam. Initially this led up some rocky steps and gained height fairly quickly. The views looking back were stunning.
We could see people up ahead, leading the way on the clear path. The steps continued here and there before dwindling away to leave a stony path, slightly eroded in places. This gave a clear route and the only thing that alarmed me was a rather big hole in the path. It was very deep and looked quite capable of swallowing someone up! Alongside the large rocks, there was another large gaping hole that looked like it had the potential to swallow many! As a result, Ben Vorlich has now been crossed off my winter hill list for fear of disappearing!
Remembering to pause and look back regularly, we admired views of Loch Lomond, occasionally catching glimpses of Ben Lomond through the clouds and mist.
The climb was steep and steady. We continued the slow, steady pull to the coire where we enjoyed a brief moment of respite before another pull up towards the summit. We then crossed a ridge that broadened and led us up to the summit. Here the wind picked up a bit, the cloud closed in a little more, and occasionally a very light drizzle would pass over before the skies cleared again.
The ascent here was easier going and led us up to the first summit. This was marked by a trig point and cairn, and on checking the map we realised that another summit was a little further on and two metres higher than where we stood.
In the mist, we had to move towards it before seeing its shadow only a couple of hundred metres away. This true summit was rather blustery, but despite this we were able to shelter behind the cairn to enjoy our lunch.
Retracing our steps to descend, we passed a couple of walkers that we’d chatted to on the way up. Given that we’d not seen them since and they were now on the return journey it appeared that they’d not reached the true summit. We zipped our lips and said nothing.
Further on, we met a younger lad descending in trainers. He was at pains to point out that he’d left his boots sitting in the garage this morning, suggesting if we heard a loud yelp shortly it would likely be him as he wasn’t convinced trainers were conducive to the terrain. Thankfully that didn’t happen!
We successfully followed the path down, managing not to disappear into any large holes, finally reaching the big boulder steps to take us back down to the hydro road. From here, we trudged back down to the car, legs tired, overall delighted with our day.
Day 5: The Green Welly Stop
What a day, not in a good way! It was raining when we got up, very windy all day and the rain got heavier, coming in bursts and blowing horizontally for the most part! We really felt for folks on the West Highland Way today; it must have been pretty miserable, especially for anyone crossing Rannoch Moor!
The sum total of our journey was a drive up to the Green Welly Stop – that’s how bad the weather was – for lunch, followed by a walk to the Tyndrum Inn for the evening. Very restful!
Day 6: Meall a’Bhùiridh & Creise
Heading home, the forecast was just way too good just to drive. We therefore made the decision to head for Glencoe, taking the easy way up by catching the chairlift! Bruce’s bad hip gave him an excuse; I didn’t feel I needed one, given that I’m an accidental munro bagger. Should I ever get to the point where this may be of concern I will return and walk up!
First time on a chairlift in a very long time, I was delighted to make it off at the top without being ‘taken out’ by the chair, largely thanks to the very competent member of staff shouting instructions on approach. I don’t envy that job in ski season!
Safely off the chair, we picked our way across the vast grassy expanse to find the path we could have walked up, a wee test of navigation to determine the right direction; it was far easier to see on the way down. This path followed some of the mountain biking trails and I was very glad that there wasn’t any bike traffic to dodge!
Once on the main path, we headed up a rocky slope to make our way to Meall a’ Bhùiridh. With temperatures hitting freezing last night there was a slight dusting of white frost with the odd little patch of ice. While loving my new Altberg boots, I didn’t have confidence in their ability to grip; that developed a bit over the course of the walk.
Although we’d climbed the steepest part of the route on the chairlift, there was still a bit of ascent to go. This was rocky with a path coming and going. The sandy, gravelly sections were best as they weren’t icy while bigger boulders were to be avoided where possible. Making it up the wide ridge, we found our way to the summit of Meall a’ Bhùiridh.
The views were amazing all around! With the first truly clear skies of the week we could see for many miles, Bruce identifying all the peaks, me recognising Ben Nevis with its head still in the clouds. We marvelled at the scenery for some time before heading off towards Creise.
This involved descending down a rocky slope, again requiring care in places due to the potential for slippery rocks. I made use of my hands (and bum) if in doubt – always best to err on the side of caution! We made it down to the bealach without any difficulty and then had to continue traversing the short ridge up to Creise. It was here that we met and chatted to another couple of walkers. They advised that the rise to Creise was interesting and needed some care due to the icy patches, making mention of hands on rock. I suspect Bruce half expected me to refuse to go on after hearing this, but having read the route guides and learned the thoughts of people with similar views on exposure to mine, I wasn’t anticipating anything too bad.
Heading up the ridge, initially it wasn’t too challenging at all. As we progressed, there were places where the worn path appeared to go in different directions, and a couple of moments where Bruce retraced steps to take the alternative. We got so far up before I decided to stow my walking poles in my rucksack, freeing up my hands to support with the very short scramble. I also made use of my knees to avoid over stretching onto what could be slippery rock. It didn’t take long at all for us to pop out onto the top of the ridge and from there it was easy walking to the summit.
The broad ridge took us along a flat rocky section to reach the summit cairn. Further along there was a second summit, lower than the first, but definitely worth walking that little bit further to gain the views. By this time the cloud on further tops has lifted higher and it truly was a who’s who of the mountain giants! Here we met and chatted to another couple of walkers, one of whom had just completed her hundredth munro.
Having blethered for quite some time and chilled accordingly, my jacket back on, I was glad to get moving again. Retracing our steps, the scrambly bit up looked like nothing at all in relation to the route back down. We managed to find a bit more of a path and with the use of hands and bum successfully negotiated this section. I’ve concluded over time that getting down is easier, the challenge on the way up always being that I may find myself out of my depth when heading into unknown territory.
The broad ridge was easy going and we met a couple in the bealach with not a care in the world, brewing a cuppa and enjoying the views over Rannoch Moor. The slope back up Meall a’ Bhùiridh was the thing that now looked more intimidating as it was rather long. We picked our way up the path, taking it slowly over the couple of wee bits that had not seen the sun. This path steepened as we progressed, finally diverting off just ahead of the summit. There then followed a steep, rocky descent.
Picking our way through the stones, mostly on a path, we made steady time and before long were back down towards the mountain bike paths with the chairlift clearly in sight. By this point I’d lost any feeling of guilt around having ‘cheated’ and my knees were happy at the prospect of sitting on the chairlift rather than having to descend the final steep slope. It was rather fun relaxing and admiring the glorious views over Rannoch Moor.
Safely off at the bottom, we headed for coffee and cake to round off the day ahead of the long drive home. A stunning day and most definitely one that will be remembered for some time!