When Sue and I went up Ben Vorlich a couple of weeks ago I recalled clearly, or so I thought, the views we enjoyed on my previous visit. I’ve now found the diary entry and some snaps (no negatives) from that trip. The images in this posting are therefore photographs of some fairly ancient 6” x 4” prints. (On ‘reflection’ they may have been better scanned, as the photos have picked up reflections from the dark surfaces of the matt prints.) Our clothing and equipment has changed quite a bit since then.
In those days our little group of ‘trippers’'’ took turns in writing ‘The Diary’. On this occasion it was Laurence who drew the short straw. Here’s what he wrote, with captioned pictures inserted as appropriate:
“Rendezvous at Rising Sun. Friday 6.30 pm. ‘Outside the door’ should have been specified as it was too crowded to get inside with gear. Prompt departure to Oswald Road to collect shovel. Thereafter smooth journey with meal break at Gretna, arriving at Ardlui 12.15 am.
Laurie is trying out his new tent, and making one or two discoveries about the principles of comfortable camping. The hard way. The ground is frozen solid, though clear of snow. Pegs bend and fingers go numb, and pitching takes ages. Dave and Martin share their warm tent with a light and cooking facilities; Laurie has a rather chilly night.
[Must bring sleeping bag next time!] comments Dave.
Morning brings a perfectly clear and sunny sky with snow everywhere except the first few hundred feet of the valley. We walk over the railway and up the east ridge. Soon come across footprints along our intended way. Snow quite fresh, soft or slightly crusty, so these prints are a lot of help. Mostly in the shade despite the sun and complete absence of cloud.
Waterfall on the slopes of Ben Vorlich
Dave, Laurie and Martin modelling 1980’s knitwear and wooden ice axes
The ridge eventually leads to Ben Vorlich (3082 ft), and the last part is in and out of a bitterly cold wind. Snowy peaks to the distance in every direction.
Views from the ascent of Ben Vorlich from Ardlui
Laurie has to hack ice away from the trig point to find its number – 6510 (ancient tradition of trig point collecting). Also attempts to eat a mango but fails when the juice freezes on his lips. Everyone puts on an extra layer at this point.
Searching for the trig point number on Ben Vorlich*
Descend over Little Hills, diverted by good footprints into lower valley. Snow softer and deeper here; pretty hard work. No long slides – shorter ones taken at various angles and orientations (including head first) by all.
On the slithery descent over the Little Hills
Entire descent in shadow, arriving back at camp at 4.30.”
Always one for the last word, I added a few further comments about our being unsure whether we were camping on grass or concrete; meeting a solo artist from Nottingham, also camping, in the Ardlui Hotel – it seems we followed his footprints from the previous day; menus, and a note that Laurie spilt his dinner and ate it from his groundsheet; whinge about everything that had been in liquid form having frozen; futile attempts to moderate alcohol intake given the memory of some pretty awful hangovers on the same trip in 1984.
Overall memories of a fine day in the hills with lots of fresh snow and glistening ice crystals, Laurie’s unpreparedness and (Dave comments) Martin’s clumsiness.
Not mentioned in the old diary is my abiding memory of this trip - the long view* from Ben Vorlich’s summit towards the city of Glasgow, which in my recollection sat below a thick layer of mist beyond Loch Lomond.
Thanks to Laurie for inadvertently providing the main text, and to both him and Dave for many happy memories. I hope you both enjoy this posting.
How better to spend a rainy Friday morning in Timperley?