Today’s trip is slightly further afield, to Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin near to Loch Earn in Perth and Kinross.
A longer drive means we are at the foot of the hill around 10, where we meet up with some other car loads who have made their way there seperately, and while getting kitted up I have a quick wander about.
There’s a wee bridge over the Ardvorlich Burn, and a memorial stone detailing a bloody deed in the area’s history, the lettering now faded but used to read “Near this spot were interred the bodies of 7 Mcdonalds of Glencoe killed when attempting to harry Ardvorlich Anno Domini 1620″
We head up by Ardvorlich house where a sign leaves us in no doubt of the way ahead
The burn splashes down a gully to the left, there’s a small hydro facility in a shed after coming out of a deep gully. 3k up ahead we can see a bit of the Ben; quite a short walk today.
As we proceed upwards, the rain comes in, the waterproofs go on and it looks like it’s going to be a long claggy trudge.
There’s a wee dam beside a footbridge, perhaps some other small scale hydro thing
We reach the snow line and the gradient begins to really steepen, there’s over 870m of ascent from the loch in just 4k, but the sky has cleared and looking back towards the loch provides a great view.
A few crows make easy work of the cold and blustery winds
As we gain height up Sgiath nam Tarmachan ridge the snow deepens; I begin to kick the odd step through the snow crust. I’d normally have broken out the poles by now but I’m preferring to keep my hands free; occasionally I break into a scramble on all 4s as blustering gusts catch me on really steep bits
The wind has stiffened and now snow and hail whip past; wish I’d put the balaclava on now. I’m loath to stop and rustle about in my rucksack; anything loose is going to go over the edge of the ridge and will never be seen again. The ridge has quite steep drops on either side.
Around the 800m mark, it looks like the top but nope, cresting an edge there’s still plenty to go
Reaching the top, we’re now in very low visibility, it’s like sensory deprivation – surrounded by grey on all sounds and ears blasted by the gale. Somebody suggest the survival bothy for lunch; I think we’d all get blown away.
The trig is well rimed. there’s an iron pole which is part of a row that lead to Stuc a Chroin
There’s another short ridge, today well corniced, to another cairn to the east, where another ridge provides an ascent from the south
Just as the party regroups, and pondering a sharpish descent, the grey begins to break with visibility stretching out to Stuc a Chroin. The plan earlier had been to head on to this; the hail lashing, gale, and steep ascent have tempered earlier enthusiasm. This would be a risky climb today ( a tricky boulder strewn scramble in the best of conditions) what with snow obscuring any route through, and probable lee side deep deposits and cornices.
Now we are clear of the clouds and get some blue skies and views in all directions. A young group that had passed us earlier, then left the top when we arrived, have unluckily missed the panorama by 10 minutes
The pools of light sweeping across the snow and poking through gaps in the fast moving clouds is real wilderness eye candy
After a bit of umming and ahhing we decide to return via Ben Our, there’s no path marked but seems straight forward enough. I’d pondered Glen Ample to the west, which would provide a look at Edinample falls and castle; but decide to stick with the group
Ice axes and crampons out; the windward slopes are scoured neve. I’ve been lugging my new axe today: a good balance between light weight and value: Climbing Technology Alpin Tour Light (320g). You might want something more robust if you think you’ll be chopping steps all day or ice climbing; for most folk that have one with them for emergency fall arrest, you might as well lighten the pack.
Rime on the hard surfaces up here grow into the prevailing wind direction
Having descended out of the worst of the wind we break out a shelter for lunch. 5 of us manage to squeeze in
It’s got a window pane, but not very clear
The others outside get to enjoy the view in full clarity
This turns out to be a good route back; we first get a really good view in profile of both Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin (when ascending the Ben is more mound shaped)
The col between Vorlich and Our would likely be a boggy heather thrash in summer; today is nicely tundraesque
We follow an unmarked landy track up Ben Our; there’s plenty rocks n tors here.
As we approach Sron Mor, the loch comes back into view, and to the North the munros of Breadalbane poke through the clouds
Looking north west up Glen Ogle
We descend east back to find the original path; quite steep, all told probably best to do Vorlich-Our clockwise rather than Our first
Taking a last look back before we reenter the treeline
It’s a long drive home but first food; our first attempt wandering the streets of Crieff- the freezing back room of a fish n chip shop, has us retreat as nobody can stomach more cold; a quick scout of the main street reveals The Square bar and Kitchen, where the service and food are perfect; the ideal place to thaw out
A decent pint to round off proceedings