I picked a friday to do this set of two munros. Friday is a great day to climb hills. For a start, if like me, you have a partner who doesn’t share your affection for the great outdoors, it means you still have Saturday & Sunday to do other things.
The other fantastic thing about a Friday climb is there are fewer numpties on the hills. By numpty, I mean the type of hillwalker who hits the hill on a fair day, quite often topless, perhaps wearing a pair of jeans, and equipped with a bottle of beer and a copy of The Sun, tucked under his arm. Emergency provisions may extend to a packet of Regal Kingsize. I am not describing a fictitious character. This numpty was spotted attempting the tourist route on Ben Lomond.
Numpties are best given a wide berth. On this hike we only met one numpty with girlfriend in tow. More on that later.
This day started out a little ominously. For a start I was a little hungover (but not driving), and to make matters worse,the public toilets in the nearest village to Ardvorlich were, unfortunately, boarded up. At 8.30am on a Friday morning there isn’t much available in the way of public conveniences near Loch Vorlich. I suppose a caravan park or similar might have facilities, but by the time we got to Ardvorlich, twas too late.
Nature called. Some privacy can be found lochside. But if caught short, you’d be better finding a quiet spot well past the estate and beyond the treeline.
Once we found the back entrance (to Ardvorlich House Estate) we respectfully picked our way uphill, and up a wide gravel track which thinned down to a footpath, and eventually gave way to something that looked more like hill country. Reminded me of Ben Lui, in that there’s a fair trudge before things start to get interesting.
Quickly the sun came out and slapped us on the back, but as the ground got steeper, the sun’s influence was tapered by a gentle mountain breeze, and all started to feel right with the world. A few munros under our belts and we were well prepared – everything from shorts, to waterproofs, sun lotion to flasks of piping hot tea. I’ve even started packing a torch. A quick dab of sun lotion and we got stuck in.
It’s was about an hour in that we turned round and could see a few northerly peaks winking back at us – Ben Lawers and a few others were duly noted!
Ben Vorlich itself gave its summit and its views reasonably well!
However, once on it, we could see the aggressive prickly side of Stuc a’Chroin to the South West. It didn’t look too far off, and we were armed with great weather, and a bit of knowledge about an easy bypass path. Bring it!
When we got to the Bealach, I was feeling a bit stubborn and didn’t fancy descending what seemed another couple of hundred metres to take the bypass route. I also didn’t fancy picking my way up the side of the hedgehog – it didn’t look like a scramble, more like mountain climbing territory. I have no head for heights & get a wee bit dizzy and can tighten up at the prospect of losing my balance.
So, we took a ‘compromise route’, which involved no descent from the bealach, but a sideways swipe across the boulder field, and then straight up what looked like an eroded river bed. The boulder field, in dry weather was quite good fun, but after we turned up the hill, the smiles disappeared. You can see our route in the picture.
As it got steeper and steeper, it was onto hands and feet, and then it was hands knees and toes dug in! When I looked back down, I realised that there was no way that I’d ever attempt to go down a gradient that steep, even employing the old bum shuffle technique. And then the gnawing realisation dawned – that meant I had no choice but to keep going up!
The rubble gave way to a bit of green and I told Malcolm I’d had enough of heading straight up and wanted to cut the gradient by striking further west towards the ridge.
Clutching clumps of grass for security, heart pounding, I made my way in total silence, hoping with every glance up that the slope was about to ease.
And then it did. My heart stopped galloping, and we regained our smiles. “Who’s idea was that then?”, “Don’t know, but I’m not fucking well doing that again”.
The slow and wide ridge walk to the cairn, was happily an anticlimax compared to our scramble, and Stuc a’Chroin gives the best view of Ben Vorlich. It looked much more of a beast from this hill.
We found a quiet spot to have a cup of tea & some sandwiches. The route back off the Stuc afforded a wee chance to take a picture of the scramble we had attempted, and also a chance to descend the bypass path, which was steep enough!
As the clouds started to thicken, we passed a fellow and his red-faced girlfriend, who had taken the right fork on the ascent of Ben Vorlich and were about an hour or so into their hike. No backpacks, no jackets. No supplies. Numpties.
The boggy walk down into the glen was so gentle it felt like we had talked ourselves down before we knew it. Not a bad way to spend a day. A modest investment of petrol money and 6-7 hours effort, and a good return.
- Ben Vane review (rennyrambles.wordpress.com)
- Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean (rennyrambles.wordpress.com)
- The Big Drive Up (yorkshireladsworld.wordpress.com)
- Ben Lawers – The legend of Ross Black (glasgowmbc.wordpress.com)