Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The return of the P.M.C.

Back in 1988 when I was actively ticking off summits in my Munro book I climbed one of my local hills, Ben Vane.  In those days it hadn't occurred to me that hillwalking was about more than just an artificial checklist of mountains to be climbed so a terrible weather forecast was no deterrent to a day in the hills! Off I set one day, all on my own to conquer the poor unwitting hill. Almost as soon as I left the car park I was immersed in thick cloud and pouring rain (the buffeting wind would join the party once I'd gained some altitude). The whole ascent was made on a compass bearing (there was no well trodden path up most of the hills back then) and I was very pleased with myself when I emerged at the summit cairn. As I've grown older and (possibly a little) wiser I've always intended climbing Ben Vane again in decent conditions to savour the views and enjoy the experience a little more, I've also always harboured a nagging doubt as to whether the cairn that I reached that day was indeed the true summit (how could I tell when I could only see about five feet in front of myself?)
Twenty four years later and I set out to do the hill again accompanied by my old friend and hillwalking partner Phil.
I picked Phil up at his house in Tarbert and we set off on the short drive up to Inveruglas (where we would be leaving the van). I've hardly seen Phil in the last year and it was good to catch up on all our gossip. Once we were booted and spurred we set off up the Hydro road that leads to Loch Sloy then turned south briefly up a side track before heading off road and up the hill proper. The weather this time around couldn't have been much better and as we gained height the views started to open up.
It was hard work, Ben Vane is quite small (only just breaking the 3000ft mark to qualify for Munro status) but what it lacks in height it makes up for in steepness. This was the first hillwalking I'd done since my hernia op' last year and Phil is superfit from the hundreds of miles of cycling he does so I was a bit concerned as to how I'd get on. In fact I did okay and when I needed to stop for a rest to catch my breath Phil was happy to stop and chat.
The view north towards Ben Lui
and south to Ben Lomond, Loch Lomond and the islands. 
Loch Sloy is reputed to be one of the ugliest hydro electric schemes in the country but it doesn't look too shabby from up here! 
The upper reaches of the mountain were even steeper necessitating a little easy scrambling in places until eventually we emerged onto the small summit plateau with it's two cairns. It was exactly as I remembered from all those years ago and left me in no doubt that I had reached the very top in 1988.
Phil posed for the obligatory summit photo then we took in the views and had a bite to eat and a rest. 
To the southwest were Beinn Ime and the Cobbler.
The Cobbler and Beinn Narnain. 
Despite the sunshine we soon became chilly sitting on the top and we could see the cloud building to the west as forecast so it was time to make a move back downhill. 
The rescue helicopter from HMS Gannet flew past us and disappeared southwards down Loch Lomond. 
Soon we were back down on the track again and all that remained was to stroll back down to Inveruglas but not before I noticed this little chap standing on the track. 
One last look back at Ben Vane.
It was good to get back out hillwalking again and is something I hope to do more often in future. It was also great to catch up with Phil, hopefully it won't be another year before we do something else together! 

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