I had originally not intended to go with Jimbo and John, however with a good weather forecast and John offering to drive there and back, with me sleeping in the back seat, I quickly changed my mind.
From the Inveruglas (free) car park on the loch side of the A82, opposite Loch Sloy power station, a roadside path/pavement leads to the hydro road at map ref 318093. Do not use the small parking space by the locked gate. In any case, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission is undertaking the refurbishment of the existing Sloy 132kv switching station. Construction works are expected to be completed by July 2014. In the meantime, walkers should be alert to the frequent passing vehicles.
Passing under the railway, head west up the winding Tarmac road and, despite the electricity pylons and substation on the way, the walk is pretty enough. Ignore a side track that leads round the southern slopes of Ben Vorlich and continue to a second branch. Straight on heads for Loch Sloy, but turn left, crossing a bridge to a gravel track. Within a short distance by a stream is a usually wet and muddy path which keeps east of a small crag. I recommend continuing slightly further on the track, then by grassy slopes on the south side of the crag. Both ways lead to a small, wet plateau at the base of the south-east ridge.
The slope soon steepens to the first of many crags and a prominent slit-cave. When snow-free, the badly eroded path is patently obvious. A steeper section, scrambling on turf at times, should be treated with caution before gentler gradients lead to a sharp dip before the final climb to the summit. On a misty day, this dip is deep enough to possibly confuse folk, but the summit is actually several minutes further on.
On our day, ice axes and crampons were needed (good training for John), but by being able to zigzag round the usual direct rock scrambles the firm snow actually eased the final approach.
The summit area is compact, with the cairn near the sharp ascent. A stroll over to a second, slightly lower cairn to the west is recommended. In any case, do pick a good-weather day for there are superb views down Loch Lomond, over to Ben Lomond.
Following a 2009 re-survey instigated by the Munro Society, the precise height of Ben Vane was determined as 915.8m. It thus continues to just squeeze past the necessary 3,000ft mark for Munro status. Vane is an anglicised version (or spelling, really – vane and mheadhoin are both pronounced vane) of mheadhoin, meaning middle or central. When viewed from Ben Lomond, Ben Vane is certainly the middle, almost tucked away, hill between Beinn Narnain and Ben Vorlich.
Despite its modest height and bulk, Ben Vane’s craggy and very steep slopes, so typical of the Arrochar area, need to be treated with respect. In the summer it is often climbed in conjunction with a choice from Beinn Narnain, Ben Vorlich and Beinn Ime, but in winter it is usually climbed as a single hill. I prefer a route from Butterbridge, Glen Kinglass and the north ridge, but the popular and shorter approach is from Inveruglas by Loch Lomond, climbing the south-east ridge; the latter used by Jimbo, John and me at the end of February.
The day before, my sister and I needed to travel south for our aunt’s funeral in London. However, our rail journey was so savagely affected by vandalism on the line that we had insufficient time to get to both funeral and wake. After returning home via the west coast line, we had been on the move (and stop) for more than 12 hours.
Map Ordnance Survey map 56, Loch Lomond
Distance 7 miles
Terrain Tarmac road, track then path to the summit
Start point Inveruglas car park, map ref 322099
Time 4 to 5 hours
Nearest villages Ardlui and Tarbet
Recommended refreshment spot Café Lochan, Inveruglas