Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Sunday, 14 February 2010

"What hills are like the Ochil Hills?"

Apart from the rhythmic crunch of boots on hard snow, all was silent; the February sun had only a trickle of warmth. Our eyes were constantly drawn to the north by the snowy peaks of Ben Vorlich, Stuc a Chroin and the Ben Lawers group, but today we were happy to be here climbing the friendly familiar slopes of Innerdownie Hill.

The cairn was a cold and exposed place so we headed for the shelter a short distance from there, but it was completely filled with snow.
The drystane dyke, part of which can be seen, was built by a local man and his brother in the early 1890s.

The Shelter
 Constructing a small wooden hut inside, they spent two summers up here building or repairing all the walls running over the surrounding hillsides and once a week they would walk down to Dollar, at the foot of the southern slopes of the Ochils, for provisions. We didn't linger long since we intended to visit Tarmangie, the hill to the far left in the picture below, and enjoy the grand panorama to the north en route.

               Drystane dyke running from Innerdownie
I have a great affinity with the Ochils, a predominantly grassy range of hills running for about 45 km west to east and 13 km north to south and I climbed the highest, Ben Cleuch (721m) when 9 years old. Only Dumyat at the western end is craggy and I did my first rock climb there, Raeburn's Gully (of Harold fame) 6 years later. I am eternally grateful to the teacher who introduced me to climbing, by leading me up the route on as foul an evening as could be imagined.  Such a long and happy association with these hills makes it hard, therefore, to witness the thuggery now in progress preparing the way for 13 wind turbines on Burnfoot Hill; turbines which will be seen from every summit of the Ochils, completely ruin the view northwards from many of them, and destroy the feeling of tranquility.  But it's equally heartbreaking to see this happening on a masssive scale across the Scottish hills.
NW to Stuc a Chroin and Ben Vorlich                     

Happily I was not thinking these gloomy thoughts as we strode along the flat ridge, keeping to the hard snow for easy going, and noting that Glen Quey Reservoir, like the three others in these hills, was still frozen.

                                 Frozen Glen Quey Reservoir
Save for a solitary crow, birds and other wildlife were not to be seen though there were many faint tracks in the snow. We reached the top of Tarmangie in a biting northerly wind  ".....austere and pure".   

What hills are like the Ochil Hills?
- There's nane sae green tho' grander.
What rills are like the Ochil rills?
Nane, nane on earth that wander.


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