Ben Vorlich (Loch Lomond)
Thursday 20 September 2012
12 km/1046 m/05:30 hrs
At the beginning of September, the Munro Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh was demoted to Corbett status. As I had climbed it already, this affected my Munro and Corbett count: Until then I had climbed 276 Munros and 33 Corbetts, after this change it was now 275 Munros and 34 Corbetts.
Munro: Ben Vorlich/Loch Lomond (No. 276)
Ben Vorlich was one of the Munros I didn’t manage during my holiday in Crianlarich in August and I still had to do two others in the SW, so I wanted to combine all three of them in a trip down south. Rain was forecast for the first day, but then the weather was supposed to improve – perfect for a backpacking trip over Beinn Sgulaird and Beinn Fhionnlaid!
On my return from Ben Vane in August I had encountered cattle on the road to Inveruglas, which put me off from walking that route again. An alternative route for Ben Vorlich starts at a railway underpass a few hundred metres along the road from Ardlui train station.
A boggy path leads through bracken and tall grass.
View down to Loch Lomond.
Higher up in the coire, I headed towards the lowest point on the skyline to gain the ridge.
Looking down into the coire, the start of the Little Hills ridge on the right (a nice variation to the route on a better day).
A path winds its way up the ridge between crags and grassy hillocks.
In the meantime it had started to rain and the views disappeared in the clouds.
Stob nan Coinnich Bhacain.
A few days before this trip I had downloaded the Viewranger app for my smartphone, and this was the first time I used it on a walk. When I arrived at a large cairn, I checked the display and thought I was at the summit – the map height was 931 m and “Ben Vorlich” was written just below (on the 1:50,000 Landranger map).
This was also my first walk in (heavy) rain since my unpleasant experience on the way down from Ben Macdui last month, and it turned out that washing and re-proofing my Paramo jacket and trousers had not made any difference. I was soaked to the skin again!
I only wanted to get back to my car as quickly as possible and started to descend. After a few minutes I stopped to look at the map on the display again, and this time I zoomed out a bit to get a bigger picture… aaargh!!
Just below the words “Ben Vorlich” there was another map height of 943 m (the summit, obviously) and another one, with a trig point, of 941 m 😯
Climbing back up again was pretty much the last thing I felt like doing at that moment, but I didn’t have a choice so I turned round and went back up. All of a sudden it seemed to make sense that there was a path bypassing the cairn I had visited earlier…
To make sure I had really been at the highest point, I walked even further than the summit cairn to visit the trig point as well.
Unnamed lochan below the summit.
Looking back to the summit.
A glimpse of the Little Hills.
A rock slab that I had climbed on the ascent seemed too awkward to downclimb because rain water was making it slippery, but it can be bypassed a bit further left (W).
View to Loch Lomond…
… and a few minutes later:
By now, the rain had stopped but when I turned round the cloud level was even lower than before and the summit ridge was now covered completely.
However, down in the glen, the weather had improved.
I was still shivering with cold in my wet clothes, and in spite of the good weather forecast I was worried about going on a two day backpacking trip with “waterproofs” I couldn’t rely on. I had booked a night at the Oban YH and would be able to dry everything over night, but I wouldn’t have that possibility in my tent.
Having never been to Oban before, I didn’t know if there were any outdoor shops that would still be open by the time I’d arrive, so I stopped at the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum and bought a pair of cheap “Mac in a Sac” waterproof overtrousers. Considering that I’ve got several sets of waterproofs at home, I didn’t want to waste any more money for something I probably wouldn’t need anyway. I didn’t buy a jacket because I thought I could assemble a makeshift poncho from my groundsheet and some duck tape if necessary…
Elleric – Beinn Sgulaird – Glen Ure
Friday 21 September 2012
17.3 km/1241 m/10:30 hrs
Munro: Beinn Sgulaird (No. 277)
It was a cold but sunny morning in Oban, and it looked as if the weather forecast was right this time 🙂
All my clothes were dry again after I had left them in the hostel’s drying room overnight, and after re-packing my rucksack, I drove up to Glen Creran and parked in the car park at the end of the road near Elleric. I crossed the bridge by the farm at Glenure and followed the track along the River Ure.
Looking back to Glenure farm and Beinn Fhionnlaidh.
At Druimavuic another track branches off to the left and leads up into Coire Buidhe.
At a small cairn I left the track and followed a path that ascends Beinn Sgulaird’s W ridge. The views across Loch Creran got better with every step!
After climbing over the 488 m top and a steep descent I continued along the ridge.
Loch Baile Mhic Chailein in Glen Creran.
View up Glen Creran, Ben Nevis in the centre covered in cloud.
Meall Garbh, an intermediate top.
The ridge seems to go on forever…
… but the views make up for it:
Creag na Cathaig at the head of Coire Buidhe with Loch Etive in the background.
Loch Creran, Lismore and Mull.
Beinn Trilleachan with Ben Starav in the background.
I contoured around the 863 m top on the S side to avoid the worst of the boulders.
When I arrived on the bealach between the top and Meall Garbh, I came across a path – maybe walking over the top wouldn’t have been so bad after all?
Cairn on Meall Garbh.
From the top of Meall Garbh, I could just make out a group of walkers on Beinn Sgulaird’s summit.
The last ascent after a lot of up and down along the ridge…
Glen and Loch Creran in the late afternoon sun.
Looking back along the ridge.
Finally at the summit (at 17:30), the other walkers were nowhere to be seen, presumably they descended into Glen Ure.
Tomorrow’s target, Beinn Fhionnlaidh.
The start of Glen Etive, with the Buachailles in the centre.
From the summit, I descended NE to a small bealach, and climbed up to another one between two tops. For the descent, I chose the left (northern) one of the two E ridges.
The descent route turned out to be more difficult than expected, it involved a lot of scrambling on loose terrain – I kept wondering if the other ridge might have been easier?
Lochan below Stob Gaibhre.
Looking back up Coire nan Tulach.
Rainbow over Beinn Trilleachan.
An Grianan and Beinn Fhionnlaidh.
The last sunlight, looking E.
I had planned to camp at the head of Glen Ure, possibly somewhere around Airigh nan Lochan, but daylight was fading fast and I wanted to be off the hill before it got completely dark. Instead of continuing along the ridge in an easterly direction, I decided shortly after Stob Gaibhre to descend directly to Glen Ure.
The terrain was very steep and slippery, and while I was racing against time, I kept looking out for a possible camp site on the hill. To be more flexible I filled my water bottles from a stream, but I just couldn’t find a piece of ground that was dry or level enough to pitch my tent.
It was almost dark when I finally reached the track in Glen Ure, but even beside the track I couldn’t find a suitable pitch. So I continued up the glen until the last bend in the river before the two lochans. In the light of my headtorch I walked around searching beside the river and eventually decided on a place that was far from perfect (the ground was soggy and covered in tall grass), but it would do for the night.
Glen Ure – Beinn Fhionnlaidh – Elleric
Saturday 22 September 2012
12.8 km/772 m/08:15 hrs
Munro: Beinn Fhionnlaidh (No. 278)
In the morning my camp site didn’t seem quite as bad as it did the night before, I even had a nice view from my tent!
After breakfast, I packed up and followed the track to Airigh nan Lochan, where it peters out.
Looking back to Beinn Sgulaird.
Lochan na Fola.
The rocky S flank of Beinn Fhionnlaidh, and Coire Rèidh, the grassy section in the middle that I was going to ascend.
View along the Allt Bealach na h-Innsig.
A gorge running down Coire Rèidh was blocking my way – I could have stayed on the left side of it, but the slope on the far side looked slightly less steep.
When I came closer, I found a faint path leading to an easy crossing point just above a waterfall.
Looking down from the ascent, I noticed that the ground at the foot of Coire Rèidh would have made a perfect camp site.
Beinn Sgulaird and An Grianan.
When I reached Beinn Fhionnlaidh’s E ridge, the views in all directions were fantastic.
Sgùrr na h-Ulaidh.
Glen Etive and Creise.
Loch Etive and Ben Starav.
The last section of the ascent to Beinn Fhionnlaidh’s summit.
Beinn a’ Bheithir.
View back along the E ridge.
Beinn Fhionnlaidh trig point, with Loch Creran in the background.
The descent along the W ridge seemed to go on forever, but the views made it a bit more enjoyable.
Beinn a’ Bheithir.
Lochan Càirn Deirg.
Glen Ure and Glen Creran.
The main conclusion of this trip was: I need more practice with the Viewranger app 😳
Apart from that and the soaking I got on day one, this was one of the best trips of the year, the views were simply breathtaking 🙂