You’re so Vane

Lunch at Tiso:
Sniff, I dunno?
I’m tired man, I dunno either.
Later texts:
What do you think?
9ish and we’ll see once we’re on the road?
0845 next day by text:
I’ve just stuck a foot of of the duvet for the first time today, don’t hurry.
0930, Phil picks me up and we hit the road.

Spirits were higher than we expected, the sun was bright and it bounced off the snow on the tops. We looked at options on the two maps we’d brought, but as we caught sight of a snowy Ben Vane through the trees before the tight right-hander down to Inveruglas, it looked like we’d found a plan.
Joy of joys the wee visitor centre was open and I emerged with hot cuppas and sammidges for my rucksack. It was bloody cold and gear was pulled, wrapped and zipped as quickly as possible.
The Loch Sloy power station was running, machinery whined and roared from the main building and the water boiled and surged on its way into the loch below the road. The loch itself was dark and cold, Ben Lomond a fine tapered peak splashed with white, cloud pouring from it’s top like it was auditioning for a part in a straight-to-DVD mountain movie starring Dylan McDermott.
The track is familiar, most recently I was here when I slept under a rock on Ben Vorlich, basking in the whole three bars worth of warmth from that happy memory we slinked along until we were in the wide bowl formed by the circle of peaks, Vorlich, A’Chrois, Ime, and Vane itself: dead ahead.
Haven’t been on this stretch without sitting in a saddle in a wee while, feet are awfy slow you know. But still, we manoeuvred ourselves off the track and onto the hill. It’s still steep, erosion isn’t making ascents easier anything like fast enough.
A strange mix of very cold and pleasantly warm had hats on and off as we climbed, and the frequent stops to “look at the view” were spent as much looking at the views as they were wheezing outr lungs back to full capacity. It was just stunning, clear, but with thick ribbons of cloud rolling from the east over the tops, bright but with a warmth to the light from a sun growing tired of the year. The  ochre of the grass held fast against the white charge of the snow and as they day passed the flow of the battle changed direction a few times. I think I know who the winner will be though. I’ll keep you posted.

We stopped for a cuppa and some grub in a little hollow, the snow cover growing more constant. There were people away up there, and people down behind us. The hill didn’t feel busy though, and everyone had time to talk. One thing I was amazed at was the lack of winter kit, Phil and I had axes as well as Microspikes/Hillsounds and I needed mine long before I got to the top. There were a lot of tentative and nervous people up there above the snowline, the snow in many places, including steep ones was rock hard. Hmm.
Lots of lovely outcrops all over Ben Vane, and the snow was thick between them. It’s a rocky, steep wee bugger. Stop and climb it instead of driving up the A82.
The sun was slipping down and as we gained the summit it was in deep discussion with a bouffant of cloud on top on Beinn Ime. We pulled up a rock, stepping inside some insulation and waited to see what happened. A bloke came onto the summit, hung about for a bit and went away again, the cloud continued to style itself in ever more dramatic fashion and we sat until darkness was moments away and I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore.
We wandered the crags of the top hands-in-pockets, pockets of our warm jackets too, we didn’t take our insulation off until we were well down the hill, it was that cold, no hurry though, this was glorious. Flat spots for tents tugged at us, speaking of hot foot and sleeping bags coziness, it would have been perfect right there. But, we wandered slowly down the ridge to the lochan, the sky playing every warm note in the spectrum before finishing on one big blue note that faded slowly to black as we descended to the dark waters of Loch Sloy below.

We picked through the caves and crags of this wild hillside, there was no rush to fall through the snow into a deep cleft in the rock (it’s a good place to do that) and the dam got closer as the moon got brighter. Tarmac is no friend of mine, unless I’m driving, then it is a close personal friend of mine, but for the purposes of this demonstration where I’ll be showing the class very warm footwear, tarmac is no friend of mine. Especially a big long bit of it like this.
Still, a walk in the moonlight without torches is rather pleasant and we walked quietly away from the black shapes above us and towards the orange glow in the sky to the south. Usually depressing, this orange just meant one thing: hot food made by people in uniform.

We sat in the Balloch McDonalds, guilt-free and warm. A spin through the camera brought a smile or two and I was home moments after we left.
This was a close call, neither of us could really be arsed going out, but it was brilliant. Thank Jimmy we went. No agenda either, a day on the hill and that’s it. Magic.

20 thoughts on “You’re so Vane”

  1. That is simply amazing. I love those photos.

    What winter kit would you recommend for someone who has never walked in Scottish mountains during the winter? I’m considering trying it out.

  2. I was all inspired when I downloaded the photies lst night, I just had to write it up right away!

    Camera is still the LX3, and ss Phil will confirm, this was nearly its last trip as it fell the height of the trip onto bare rock, onto the lens. It got a wee scrape and the memory card got shook loose. I love my camera.

    Now, winter kit?
    Footwear is a big thing, and it’s as much a personal thing as a conditions thing. I wore my insulated Keen Deltas which needed my Hillsound microspikes as I was slipping, but I was warm. More aggressive or stiffer soles coild have stayed just as bare rubber for longer.
    Clothes, you can often just add longjohns under your trousers for a boost.
    On the top half it’s back to long-sleeved baselayers, and on the coldest days I’ll wear a merino vest too. I still wear a light midlayer, but I’ll carry a warm insulation lasyer, and something useful at that. We both wore out insulated jackets on part of the rouite as it was so cold, both jackets were totally usable and wearable on the move.
    A bigger headtorch, an e+lite is grear for summer camp, but the Tikka XP2 lights a frozen hioside much better. I always seem to spend a lot of time navigating up there in the dark :o)

  3. awesome, awesome, awesome. And did i say that was bloody awesome? and sum great photees btw ;p

    so you’re favouring hillsounds now? I mus’ve missed that post….we’re off to a 2 day winter course in the NY and I was looking at C.A.M.P. – MagiX 10 from needlesports for the rest of the week. Worth a shot or shld i go with hillsounds?

  4. Grand photos :)
    Glad to see winter’s getting a grip up there – here’s to another one like last year!!
    Still very much autumn in Snowdonia yesterday – bitter when the wind blew but bare arms and open zips when it didn’t. The Microspikes stayed in the car.

    Hmm, Hillsounds better than Microspikes, eh? Better enough to spend money on an upgrade, though?

  5. I read somewhere about the season working its way south by four hours a day or something, and summer the same way going up? Whatever, it’s on its way :o)

    Dunno about an upgrade from the Kahtoolas Matt, they do bite better and it’s a better bit of kit all-round.
    But in super-patchy conditions (the snow/ice/frozen turf yesterday was pretty consistent) the Microspikes might fare better? In saying that I only took my Hillsounds off when we reached the road, they were gteat on the frosty/wet steep grass.
    Microspikes will always be better on super-flexible trail shoes.

  6. Great photos PTC, Rd/Orange jackets just look right, got to be worth an extra few degrees ;-)It looks cold in the later shots though.

    You’re getting good results from the LX3, it’s a good camera by all accounts but the guy operating it needs some of the credit and you operate it very well indeed.

    Nice One.

  7. The jackets really glowed in the low sun! Very cheery dispite the icy fingers, the bright orange liners just didn’t help there at all :o)

    The LX3 is great, I use about half a dozen of the presets and sometimes adjust the exposure, and it really does come up with some lovely shots. I think I’ve gotten used to using it like that, I kinda know what results I’ll get now with the settings, and it does niggle that I’m not exploring the possibilities better. So I tried that waterfall thing on a couple of different settings, and it looks quite nice. I’ll maybe get the manual back out and see how to do that stuff better :o)

  8. Stunning pics and a great mountain. Did it with some friends back in Jan, the first winter Munro I’d been up with a view. But those false summits nearly did me in!

    Hubs says that with kit like cameras you should flick through he manual to pick up the basics, use it a while get used to it, then read the manual again to pick up the stuff that you either miss or go WTF? on the first reading.

  9. Aye, it’s all too much first time around.
    If I ever upgrade to another camera it’ll be like trying to learn Latin or something, I’ll just cry.

    You’re right about the false summits, it’s steep, steep, steep, then step, step, step. Magic wee hill.

  10. I thought I saw two wee orange figures cutting about them hills from my local viewpoint! I said to myself “I bet you that’s those two”…

    Grrrrrrrrrrrrrreat photies :o)

  11. Fantastic write-up/pics.

    Those “deep clefts” man traps – that general area is loaded with them. Biggest surprise I got was nr Lochgoilhead (The Steeple) when a cleft ‘bleated’ as I walked past. Cue subterranean wrestling bout with a belligerent well grown-on lamb, stuffed the bugger in my pack as best I could and climbed out.

    Lambs: not ultralight, don’t pack well and tend to crap in your pack!

  12. Excellent post, its got me all inspired for winter.

    I must just make sure that all of this talk about Hillsounds doesn’t lighten my wallet – this blog has been quite an expensive read over the last couple of years! (but its all good – innovative options that I’d probably not found otherwise, LIM, OMM et al).

  13. Ange, that sunset was just the light reflecting off of us.

    Gable, finding a sheep skelelton in one is what’s made me more cautious around there!

    rp610, winter came around awfy quick didn’t it? Having the lighter kit does make life easier on shorter colder days too.

    Bless you people.

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