Having done my first Munro in April, I eventually got round to doing my second today. I chose the smallest of all the Munros thinking it would be fairly easy but this Ben Vane is a steep wee hill.
Unfortunately, just like the last two weeks I’ve been out, there was a lot of low cloud so views were completely non existent this time. I don’t actually know what Ben Vane looks like in person as I could never see up past the grassy base.
I started off at the Visitor Centre and was getting mauled by midges the second I stepped out the car so I quickly threw my boots on and set off about 11.30am expecting the round trip to take about 6 hours.
It was a short walk along the road past the power station for about 1km then turned right under a railway bridge. It’s a real easy start to the walk on a tarmac road for about 3km with virtually no ascent. You ascend from roughly 0m to 200m in 3km.
At this point I had no view of anything about me. Ben Vorlich to the right was covered, A’Chrois ahead to the left was also covered in cloud which disappointed me as I hear it’s a beauty and of course Ben Vane was also shrouded in mist so I couldn’t actually tell what lay ahead for me. I’m not sure if I that was a good thing or a bad thing! Although I was in familiar territory as I’ve cycled in this area many times before, I just didn’t appreciate the hills around me back then so wouldn’t have looked twice at all the beautiful surroundings before. Although to be honest, the views all around the bottom are completely spoiled by the second part of the power station you pass on your left and the hundreds of electricity pylons scattered about the hillside.
I eventually reached a bridge on the left hand side which I crossed and continue up the gravel path for about half a kilometre. There is a big section of rocks on the right hand side and a bridge over a small river. This is where I left the path to start the very boggy section!
Straight away I was treated to extremely thick pools of water and mud which had to be avoided if I didn’t want to stick my whole foot underground. It was steep and boggy for a while, the main route was completely soaked so I could see people extending the path to the left and right for less worn and muddy approaches which helped. This whole area was pretty open so you could probably just go up any way you wanted without having to follow the path.
After a plateau about 300m it started to get a bit rockier. The going was actually quite tough, I’d say it’s the steepest hill I’ve done this year now surprisingly. Looking at the graph of the profile on my GPS certainly makes it seem that way too. I was also surprised by how busy it was. Considering it was another terrible day for being outdoors, I didn’t expect to see so many people. I actually counted and seen a total of 26 people on the hill itself and more around the bottom too. I must have passed about 15 of these people going up too. I was shattered with how steep it was but just flew up at a good pace somehow until I hit the large rocky section near the top. A few people were already on it and couldn’t find their way to begin with but pointed me in the right direction. It was a fun section to scramble up too which I wasn’t expecting.
Then finally I made it onto the summit in a time of 2 hours. I wasn’t rushing as I see no point in that but there was nothing really to stop for as there were no views to enjoy. I hung about at the summit for some lunch with a few other groups, we all took shelter on the north face of the hill from the strong wind at the top. There was actually a running competition going on today too which I spoke to someone at the summit about. I think he said they were starting at Succoth, going up Ben Vorlich, then onto Ben Vane, then across to Beinn Ime and Beinn Narnain, then down the steep front face of Beinn Narnain to finish. I could be wrong there but it sounded absolutely hellish and he had already fallen and given himself a bad looking gash on the shin but I didn’t see anyone else behind him for a good half hour, so he was possibly leading the pack by miles since he had only clocked up two hours so far!
It was pretty much the same story going back down, very misty so I couldn’t see anything. At times the cloud was trying to clear and I could see small sections of A’Chrois but never enough to actually get a proper sense of what it was like. Descending some of the steep rocky faces was quite difficult as some of them appear to be almost vertical which was tricky in the wet. Then onto the boggy sections again which were a lot worse going down, I actually had two proper slips but somehow managed to not fall on my bum, just landing on all fours in what can only be described as a contortion of positions you’d see when playing a drunken game of Twister! Thankfully no-one was there to see me though… I hope.
Back onto the tarmac road, I took one last look before going round the corner and eventually saw what looked like parts of the summit through the cloud. It was very annoying to not see anything all day but still an enjoyable walk on a good hill with some exciting scrambling sections at the very top. Just a pity about the long flat walk at the start and end. I would maybe take my bike for that part if I did it again which would leave an awesome, smooth downhill road to speed down to finish the day. I ended up finishing it in 4 hours 31 minutes. Was a good test of my fitness which I somehow stood up to. Even though my old knee was completely done in at the end.
2 Munros down, 281 to go…