Ben Vorlich, Arrochar Alps

What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.

Ben Vorlich is a bulky and very rugged mountain, the most northerly of the Arrochar Alps. 

We left early morning as we planned to hike this munro and return home the same day. 

Today’s weather said 80% chance of cloud free munros and on driving up my thoughts were this weather better get a move on if cloud free Munro’s are to happen as the sky was dull and covered in deep cloud.

After parking the car we were off making our way up the Loch Sloy dam road.  We have been on this road a few times after undertaking a long distance hike The Cowal Way and then when we undertook Ben Vane.

We briskly walked along a tarmac type path on a fairly easy uphill gradient until we almost reached the Loch Sloy dam which services the nearby Inveruglas hydro-electric power station.  From here we took a right to begin our ascent on a stone pitched footpath.  This is a pretty continuous steep climb, but the man-made ‘staircase’ helps the climb and is very well done.

Today’s views were not 80% cloud free and instead we had what I could only describe as a haphazard attempt of another cloud inversion but it didn’t quite happen however it did make for some moody photography.

Loch Lomand sitting directly behind me hidden by cloud

Views across to Ben Vane came and went.

Ben Vane teasing us from the clouds

As we climbed further up temperatures dropped, the wind picked up and the ground became frozen and covered in rime ice. 

Rime ice happens when supercooled droplets from fog freeze and attach onto an exposed surface.   All objects impacted need to be at 0°C or below to cause the liquid to freeze instantly.  Its a dazzling display once again put on by mother nature, treating us to this picturesque winter wonderland. 

Rime Ice 💙

The ground levelled out for a bit and we continued forwards.

Every step became slower as black ice was everywhere.  As we climbed higher up we met two guys approaching us who stopped to chat.  They told us they hadn’t made it to the top as they had hit an icy steep rocky section, the wind had picked up and it had begun to snow so they had turned back and were going to attempt it another day.  We said our goodbyes and headed on.  We decided we would keep moving forward and make a desicion for ourselves once we got there, for now everything was fine.

We walked on for quite some time until we began once more climbing steeply which then took us to a minor rocky ridge on the western flank of Ben Vorlich.  This must have been the section the two guys had warned us about.  The rock was very slippery indeed and so was the path but we managed to navigate ourselves up and over until we were eventually off the rocky ground. 

From here we should have been able to see fine views back towards Loch Lomand but today we only saw cloud, nevertheless it still looked very beautiful.

We were onto our final push to the top.  The summit was freezing.  At points I couldn’t even take a step forward without being blown backwards or sideways.  On top of this the ground was covered in ice. 

We hit the trig point but didn’t hang about here as even stopping to take a few photos was so cold so we continued to head a little further along to the true summit of Ben Vorlich atop a small crag before quickly turning around and retracing our footsteps.

If you were here on a fine day, the views over the area are superb as we had previously seen when we sumitted Ben Vane, today was not a fine day.

On the way down we tried to find a bit of shelter behind some rocks to try and get some respite from the vicious winds and grab some lunch.

We did find some shelter but didn’t hang around too long, as soon as you stopped things began to get even colder.

Before we knew it we were back of the frozen ground onto the man-made steps which really helped us get down off this mountain so much quicker.  We were soon on to the path and once again briskly walking back down the dam road.

I had been so glad that we had undertook this hike today and not let the weather put us off, we tend never too unless of course it is unsafe.  Sometimes we prefer these more difficult weather conditions as it makes things more challenging as more effort and skill need to be applied. 

We were soon back at the car and heading back home looking forward to a nice long hot shower.

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