The Arrochar Alps, a great hillwalking area, are so-called because they are said to resemble the Alps in miniature, not just because of their rocky and rugged character, but because of the weather conditions which can be surprisingly volatile. Their vicinity to Glasgow and their excellent views make them one of the most popular walking and climbing areas in Scotland.
And if you’re bagging Munros, that is to say climbing the 284 or so highest mountains in Scotland, Arrochar is the perfect base for climbing a good number of peaks on your list. Beinn Narnain, Beinn Ime, Ben Vane, Ben Vorlich, Ben Lomond and Beinn Bhuidhe. It’s also not far to Beinn Chabhair, An Caisteal, Beinn a’Chroin, Cruach Ardrain, Beinn Tulaichean, Ben More and Stob Binnein.
The main hills making up the mountains known as the Arrochar Alps are:
The Cobbler (less commonly known as Ben Arthur) is the most popular mountain in the area. Standing at 884 metres (2,900 feet), it doesn’t quite make it to Munro status, but it is more spectacular than its Munro neighbours. The mountain is named after its distinctive shape, said to be a cobbler bending over his last. The most common route of ascent starts from Succoth, a small village beside Arrochar, although another route exists from the Rest and Be Thankful on the A83 road. The views from any of the three summits of The Cobbler are breathtaking.
Beinn Ime is the highest mountain in the Arrochar Alps, and standing at 1,011 metres (3,317 feet) it has Munro status. There are three normal routes of ascent: one is from Succoth, beside Arrochar, following the same valley that one would follow in climbing The Cobbler, but continuing up that valley to the bealach, from where a straight ascent to the summit is quite straightforward. Another route up the mountain is from the Rest and Be Thankful on the A83 road. A third route is via the Loch Sloy access road from Loch Lomond.
Beinn Narnain is the second most southerly Munro, just making it into Munro’s Tables with a height of 926 metres (3,040 feet). It is a distinctly quieter hill than its busy neighbour The Cobbler, and is usually climbed from Succoth, beside Arrochar. It is a worthy hill with good views over the surrounding Arrochar Alps and down over Loch Long.
Ben Vane is a bit of a baby hill when it comes to being a Munro, having a height of just 915 metres (3,002 feet). Nonetheless, it is a fairly quiet hill making for a pleasant day out.
Ben Vorlich, not to be confused with the Ben Vorlich near Loch Earn, is the final Munro making up the Arrochar Alps and stands at a height of 943 metres (3,093 feet). There are a variety of routes to the summit of this mountain, but the most common ones start from Ardlui or Inveruglas.
These mountains may not have the height of Alpine peaks, but you should not underestimate them or the very changeable weather they are subjected to. It is not unheard of to have warm sunshine, rain, snow and fog all on the same day – even in the Summer!
You must be prepared for the terrain and for these weather changes. You should only climb in sturdy hiking or climbing boots, and you must take waterproofs and emergency supplies. Also take plenty of food and water – it is generally safe to drink from mountain streams, which are usually very clean, but you do so at your own risk. A map, compass, and proficiency in their use, is a necessity.
Always check the mountain weather forecast before you head into the hills, and if it is winter or there has been any snow falling or forecast, you should also check the avalanche forecast. The area is served by an excellent mountain rescue team, but it is your responsibility to ensure you minimise the chances of an emergency which endangers their lives too.