Saturday, 2 May 2015

Arrochar Alps - Yesterday's peak

Most mountains go uphill but some go more uphill than others. Ben Vane and Ben Vorlich are two very uphill mountains sitting side-by-side in the Arrochar Alps. Most people that climb these mountains do so from Inveruglas on the banks of Loch Lomond because most people arrive by car. But I'd recommend a different way.

Take the evening Mallaig train out of Glasgow and after it's chugged up Loch Long under the dramatic rock peak of the Cobbler, jump off at the stop for Arrochar and Tarbet. Make a long walk in through the quiet valley of Glen Loin where the dusktime woods are alive with evening song and the gorse smells of coconuts. Pitch your tent at the head of the glen on the edge of the wood beside a wooden bridge over a tinkling stream and fall asleep to the hoots of owls.

Next morning follow the narrow trail north as it climbs through a rugged landscape of rocky knolls and thin birch woods. You might see a skein of northbound geese overhead, their underwings reflecting the morning sun so they shimmer in the blue like a shoal of fish. Your trail will eventually join the hydro road up to the dam. Enjoy its flatness for a little while before the steep pull up Ben Vane. You'll need your hands at one point and maybe an axe and spikes. There's a pesky slope of late spring snow on the final steep climb with a 200m vertical drop. At the top the view is open and airy and the pointed peak of Ben Lomond draws the eye south.

Once you're back down there's a great camp spot where the Allt Coiregrogain meanders gently down through the woods in little waterfalls and deep pools. It's a satisfying place where you can make an afternoon cuppa and sip it while looking back up at your mountain.

As you've camped high in the hills you can make an early start tomorrow up the steep path to Ben Vorlich.  It doesn't hang around, it just goes straight up the vertical flank of the mountain. The reward for slogging up is a pleasant high level stroll along the top and a dreamy view down Loch Lomond. Low, humpbacked islands float like a lazy pod of whales in water that's as thick and silvery as mercury.

But the nicest thing about these two mountains is their neighbourliness. When you're on the top of Ben Vane you can look across at tomorrow's climb. And when you've done tomorrow's climb and you're on the top of Ben Vorlich, you can look back at yesterday's peak.

Fact file
Start: Arrochar and Tarbet Railway Station served by Glasgow to Oban and Mallaig trains.
Finish: Inveruglas served by Glasgow to Fort William Citylink buses.
Map: OS Landranger 56
Route: At the bottom of the stairs that exit the platform at Arrochar and Tarbet station turn right and you're immediately on a lovely woodland path that contours round Cruach Tairbeirt. It passes above the village of Arrochar with views down Loch Long and across its waters to the more southerly peaks of the Arrochar Alps. Don't take the path that spurs into the village but keep going north on the main trail into Glen Loin signed for Inveruglas. There's a nice flat grassy camp spot just before the path climbs to go over a small pass. On the other side of the pass the path descends to the farm at Coiregrogain. Cross the bridge over the river, go up to the tarmac hydro road and turn left. Turn left again at the next bridge and cross it. After 500m a small stream comes down from the right and there's a stone parapet on the track. There's a faint path here which is the start of the route up Ben Vane. There's a steep but easy to follow path to the top. At one point there's a tricky step up rocks but a route to the right is easier. I returned via the same route and when I reached the track turned right and camped in the forestry by the river about another l.5km further on. It was a nice spot.
For Ben Vorlich return to the hydro road and turn left. After about lkm there's a small cairn at the side of the road that marks the start of a path up. It's a steep slog that becomes more interesting higher up and finishes with a pleasant stroll to the top. At the south end of the ridge the views down Loch Lomond are superb. Return via the same route and to walk out to Inveruglas just keep on the hydro road down to the A82 and under the railway line. A footpath to the left then takes you safely to the Sloy power station and a wee visitor centre with a cafe were you can pass time as well as water until the bus comes. The bus picks up opposite the power station if you wave your trekking poles at it frantically.

1 comment:

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