A straightforward ascent of Ben Vorlich in the Arrochar Alps from Inveruglas on Loch Lomond
Date: 13th April 2019
Time: 5hrs 20mins
Hills: Ben Vorlich (Munro, 943m)
Weather: Very strong easterly wind, cloud on top with sunshine developing Route: View on OS Maps
It was a cool start to the day driving through Stirling and west to my Aunt and Uncle's house. The MWIS forecast was for a bright day with a very strong easterly wind. With plenty of hills to choose from in the Arrochar area we settled on Ben Vorlich as a good option with the majority of the climbing being done on the west side of the hill which would be sheltered from the worst of the wind.
We had a sunny drive to the large visitor centre at Inveruglas on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond and were soon booted up and following the hydro road up towards the Sloy dam.
There was hardly a cloud in the sky at this point of the day but what clouds there were, were moving fast on the promised easterly wind. Ben Vane stands guardian over the Sloy road and we made good progress around its foot to the cairned junction where a well-built footpath leaves to climb the slopes of Ben Vorlich. The upper slopes appeared to have had a dusting of snow or ice over night and they contrasted nicely with the blue skies and late spring tones of the hills
At the junction we paused for a refreshment stop and a bite of home baking before tackling the steep lower section of the path. Here a lot of path building work has been done and stepped stones help you quickly gain height above the glen. We were soon pausing to catch our breaths and looking over the Sloy dam and the hills of Arrochar. A’Chrois to the southwest particularly catches the eye with its sharp-profiled summit.
Above the first steep section the angle eases off and the way becomes a bit boggier. We wound around outcrops as the path finds its way up towards the higher slopes of the hill. As we climbed the skies gradually filled in with cloud.
The path eventually takes a left turn and then climbs more steeply up towards a notch on the summit ridge. There are a few turns over steep escarpments and it makes for a more lively climb compared to the middle section.
Here we could tell the wind whistling over the crags above us was fierce, and speaking to a couple of people who were already heading down confirmed that it was pretty wild on top, albeit manageable if you took care.
The views were opening up to the south and we could see Ben Narnain and the Lochgoil hills under steely skies. Loch Lomond was just peeking in around a corner of the hill, soon followed by Ben Lomond across the water.
After climbing to the ridge we now followed the path as it wound its way around crags and gullies. On the west side there were views down to Loch Sloy and out across Arrochar. The grass here was white with rime ice.
As we came out onto the east side of the hill we found out how hard the wind was blowing. Below us the Little Hills stretched away towards Loch Lomond - in more favourable conditions these would likely have been a more interesting route of ascent.
It was difficult to make progress here with the ground icy underfoot and the wind gusting enough to constantly be blowing you off course. Poles helped a bit though and we toiled out way towards the trig point.
From here there is a short distance and a mild depression to get to the true summit. This was the hardest part and we were almost on hands and knees as we arrived at the summit. We sought shelter behind some rocks and made a short dash to touch the cairn marking the top of the Munro. There were good views but it was almost impossible to stand still. I huddled up against the cairn and took a few photos before retreating off.
We didn’t hang around for long as the wind chill was incredible. For the return I dug my ski goggles out of my sack and this the made the going somewhat more pleasurable, especially with my hood cinched up tightly around them so as to minimise exposed skin.
We made our way back across to the trig point. Surprisingly the mountain was getting busier and we paused to talk/sympathise with a couple of people who were heading for the top.
We headed down, now enjoying the views down towards Loch Lomond which was lit up by patches of sunshine. There was a steady stream of people coming up but we were glad to be dropping down and out of the very worst of the wind.
We swung back over to the east side of the ridge with the dramatic views down to Loch Sloy and the dam and over to Ben Vane and the other Arrochar peaks. This brought us back to the first section of the ridge just before the descent where it was somewhat more sheltered.
Here we paused to have a proper lunch, glad to be out of the worst of the wind. We tucked into a hearty hill lunch and by the time we were pulling our packs back on the day was improving and the sunny spells ever increasing.
The way down felt much steeper in parts than it had coming up but we simply retraced our steps and were soon back down to the boggy area with views to the Sloy dam.
We dropped down the steps and rejoined the tarmac’d hydro road, following it back out to Loch Lomond. The early afternoon sunshine was bright and warm and we already felt a million miles way from the harsh winds up on the tops.
We drove back to the house where we tucked into plenty of tea and cake before I travelled the rest of the way home.