…And Then There Were Three

The origins of yesterday’s outing began at Cat’s office Christmas party, where a group of her colleagues rashly allowed themselves to be lured into agreeing to a weekend in Glencoe by the more outdoorsy members of the group. A combination of illness, injury, and the harsh reality of what a ‘weekend in Glencoe’ in February actually meant in terms of human suffering, meant that group numbers slowly dwindled until, at one stage, I was faced with the prospect of having to spend a weekend with my wife, and making her pay for the privilege. Fortunately, Michael, who had been laid low with the ‘lurgie’ earlier in the week, recovered sufficiently by Saturday to join us and add an air of respectability to the group size.

The weather forecast wasn’t particularly inspiring anywhere, but marginally lower windspeed towards the east encouraged us to switch from Glencoe to a location further east. After a bit of discussion, we decided to head up Ben Vorlich, with the option of carrying on to Stuc a Chroin if conditions merited.

It was fairly dreich at the side of Loch Earn, with a steady drizzle beginning soon after we left the cars, which progressively turned to sleet, then snow as we headed up the hill track. With last weekend’s snow having been stripped off again by ‘Henry’ at the beginning of the week, there’s little in the way of a solid base, and the overnight snow which was lying from around 500m was nothing much more than powdery window dressing over the underlying rock and heather. The path takes a route up the north ridge of Ben Vorlich, finally cresting the ridge at about the 700m mark and exposing us to a stronger than expected wind which was blowing spindrift round the hillside from the SE and making progress fairly unpleasant. On our way up, we passed a couple who had called it quits a little higher up and, after passing me without comment, stopped to warn Cat, who was dressed in almost identical kit to me, that she should turn round because it was too dangerous higher up! I can’t make up my mind if it was an interesting little insight into ‘everyday sexism’ on the hillside, or just that I don’t look like I’m worth saving…

The summit was a fairly inhospitable location on this occasion and, after a quick group discussion, we opted to forego the scramble up Stuc a Chroin in favour of a visit to the more civilised surroundings of the Mhor tearoom in Callander for a chat about kit, climbing and future plans.