I’ve been trying to catch up with my old mate Richard for ages now, and it was great to finally find a day when we were both free to get out onto the hills together. In terms of conditions, we’re still in that period between the final disappearance of winter and the arrival of summer underfoot so, as Richard doesn’t do a lot of winter walking, we opted for a fairly safe bet and agreed on the Loch Earn version of Ben Vorlich. Weather-wise, we couldn’t have asked for better; there was a hint of frost in the air as I left the house, but the rising sun was framed in a clear blue sky with barely a cloud in sight.
I’d suggested Ben Vorlich on the basis of an informed guess about where any remaining snow would be lying; it was a bit of a relief to park up at Ardvorlich and catch our first sight of our route through the trees, as it was clear of snow all the way to the summit. We set an intentionally leisurely pace up through the trees in the lower half of the glen, giving us the opportunity, and breath, to chat as we went. Up on the open moorland above, I had the opportunity to demonstrate my sheep-wrangling skills when we spotted a ewe struggling, and failing, to extricate itself from a stretch of wet bog; a couple of minutes of Neil-assisted heaving and she ambled nonchalantly off down the hill, apparently non the worse for the experience.
It’s relatively easy walking to the summit of Ben Vorlich, although there’s a steep sting in the tail just before the trig point that makes you earn your summit butties. The early morning haze had cleared by the time we arrived, rewarding our efforts with some excellent views towards Ben Lawers and the Crianlarich mountains.
We had a fairly relaxed lunch in the shelter of the rocky outcrop at the east end of the short summit ridge, catching up with each other’s news before continuing our stately progress back down the hill. We had a brief look at Stuc a Chroin to the south, but there’s still a lot of snow around the northern buttress, and slopes on either side, so for the moment it remains very definitely in winter condition, requiring an axe, crampons and the knowledge of how to use them.
It was warming up nicely as we made our way down, and the folks who passed us heading uphill were clearly feeling the heat with a lot of red faces and damp brows. We made it back with plenty of time to let the dogs go for a cooling dip in Loch Earn, before heading back to Callander and and the calorie laden delights of the Mhor tearoom.