A wee day out on Ben Vorlich

I’ve been doing a lot of fairly low level, low intensity work recently; lots of fun, but it’s left me champing at the bit to get out and do something a bit more strenuous. The recent run of minging weather has made getting out on the hills a tricky matter requiring good judgement, and a degree of self-restraint, so a forecast suggesting 36 hours of settled, dry weather was too good to miss this Saturday. Cat was keen to get out as well, although she needed to be back in time to pack for a trip to Barcelona, meaning that we had to be a bit circumspect in terms of objectives. The upshot was that we opted for a trip up to Loch Earn and a visit to Ben Vorlich; we’ve been up it a few times already this year, but it’s a great hill, with the option of carrying on to Stuc a Chroin if you got up early enough and you’re feeling fit. Given we didn’t really fit either category today, we restricted ourselves to an out and back trip from Ardvorlich.

We were slightly perturbed to see three young lads heading off just ahead of us wearing nothing but Vans trainers; I’m not a big fan of commenting on the kit choices of other people out on the hill, but wearing smooth soled skate shoes onto a hill you can clearly see is covered in snow from your car, is a pretty high risk strategy. They made it down safe and sound despite a fair bit of slipping and sliding; it would be comforting to think that the lack of any serious consequences didn’t in any way affirmed poor decision making on their part, but it’s a common ‘heuristic trap’ for people to ‘get away’ with bad choices, and draw the conclusion that they took a good option. If you’re a winter walker and you haven’t come across the concept of heuristic traps before, it’s worth reading up on them; this article is a good starting point.

There was a fair number of people making their way up and down the hill, and from the passing chat, they were clearly enjoying the good weather as well. The high level cloud was burning off as the day went off , and the Ben Lawers range to the north was bathed in sunshine. The walk up Ben Vorlich is pretty straightforward, with a well maintained path leading up to the final little steep section where there was a fair bit of ice around, requiring either careful footwork or a set of crampons. We opted for the former and picked our way up the scoured areas of the path.

Up on the summit, we were rewarded with atmospheric views, with Stuc a Chroin’s snow-mantled northern crags looking a much more serious proposition than they had when I’d been there with a group back in September. I was trying out a couple of bits of new kit, so we spend a little while on the summit soaking up the views and photographing some of the new stuff for upcoming reviews. Catriona was keen for me to ‘work the camera’ – you can see the results below!

After the photography based hilarity was over, we set off back down hill and soon encountered a group of lads who were having even more fun than us as they attempted to bike downhill through the snow. There was a fair bit of laughing and carrying on, as they repeatedly got hung up in the drifts and spat over the bars into the soft fluffy mounds.

We got back to the car as the light began to fade; not our most energetic day on the hills by a long stretch, but it was good to have been out letting nature do it’s thing to sort out mind and body, and of course justifying a stop in Callander to check how Mhor Fish was getting on; I’m pleased to say that expectations were fulfilled!