|Early morning at Loch Earn|
We were early and only one other car was parked at Ardvorlich on this perfect morning. I can never come here without momentarily recalling the tragedy that occurred back in 1977 or thereabouts. Camped by the loch we were jolted awake by screams but by the time we’d got out of the tent all was quiet. Someone had drowned.
Nor will I ever forget the fiasco on this hill one awful winter’s day in 1976 with Lynne, my then boss John and his friend Sandy. My boss’s wife didn’t walk so he was restricted to one day a month, maybe two, on the hill and this day was one of them foul weather or not. Sandy had forgotten his gloves and wasn't worried about that (he ought to have been) but half way up the hill he discovered he’d forgotten/lost his hat, left all his food, hot drinks and extra clothes in the car. The conditions were now appalling and he looked a sorry state – and a potential exposure victim for certain. My boss was unhappy at 'losing' his day out and muttered that he "hadn’t suffered enough” to allow him to retreat feeling satisfied with the day's effort. Down we came nonetheless.
|Ben Vorlich from Ardvorlich|
Lynne and I climbed Vorlich and Stuc a’ Chroin later that summer.
The track makes for fast progress and we gained height quickly today. Sheep in lamb were undisturbed by our presence, no doubt used to the hundreds that pass this way. I love sheep. True hill-goers.
I was slightly ahead of Lynne - we often walk in 'companionable silence'- but waited a short distance below the trig point so that we could go to the summit together.
A cairn lies some 100m along the ridge and we wandered across, chatted briefly to a solitary walker then left him to his peace and quiet after gazing in anger at the Braes o’ Doune windfarm in the distance. Poor Scotland.
A 'cheeky wind', as Lynne put it, had us donning tops before having a hot drink, the scene dominated by our next objective Stuc a’ Chroin.
I’d be about seventeen when my brother invited me to climb what I've always known as 'Y-Gully' with him one winter. He drove up from Ayrshire and I took the bus from home and met him in Callander. It was the most wonderful winter’s day and why his wife wasn’t with us I can’t remember for she was also a keen climber. As I recall,we approached the hill via Keltie Water and enjoyed a fine climb – my first proper winter route - and after we were back on reasonable ground put on short skis that we’d carried up (I had his wife’s!). These were very light affairs with no metal edges and I’d never worn skis before, so it’s fair to say that my brother skied back down the glen while I did the best I could, slowing down by the skilful technique of falling over – sometimes on purpose, more often unplanned. I was already hooked on climbing, but I could now see just how useful skis could be in the winter mountains and as soon as cash allowed (many years later unfortunately) took the plunge (as it were). A good decision [Edit: at that time skiers were regarded by climbers as being well down the food chain. Thankfully all that has changed]
Reminiscing over, we descended to the bealach.
At the Bealach an Dubh Choirein we pondered whether to go straight up the rocky prow, our previous line of ascent, or follow the path which I knew would lead us into the 'Y-Gully' area. Staying in the sun won the day. Goodness knows we've spent enough time without it this year.
.... and after a steep little climb we emerged on the ridge a short distance from the summit. A large-ish lump of snow from the old cornice broke off and hit me as I stood beneath it sagely advising Lynne, who was some way below taking photographs, to "move out of the line of this snow, it might be a bit unstable". It was soft and no harm was done but lest the whole lot should go, I took my own advice. "For once", Lynne might add.
A short walk along this delightful ridge took us to the cairn and much lazing around.
Returning to the bealach the way we'd come (the sun won again) we took the path which leads to Coire Buidhe and rejoined the main route but, although this is a pleasant enough way to go and new to us, we agreed that a re-ascent of Ben Vorlich would have been preferable and a finer finish to a quite magnificent day on the hills. I hope to return next winter and maybe repeat 'Y-Gully' with Lynne (a doddle with modern ice tools), traverse the hill and go back over Ben Vorlich. It would be a great day.
Here are some stats and a map of the route. All images can be enlarged by 'clicking'. More photographs of this day out and of the Ben Chonzie day can be found here and can be viewed as a slideshow or individually.
Two sets because I'd failed to clear previous data and I was getting a warning about memory being low so saved this first before clearing.
|Ardvorlich to Ben Vorlich|
|Ben Vorlich to Stuc a' Chroin and return to Ardvorlich|