I’ll confess that, when the alarm woke me at 6.30am and the sound of rain being driven against the window entered my consciousness, the thought of heading out the door to spend a day on the hill wasn’t the draw it had been earlier in the week during our mini-heatwave. I only mention this in the spirit of full disclosure, given that, having hauled myself out the door and down to SiMY Community Development, the group of young adults I was due to be leading were notable by their absence. Sitting in the gear store with the sound of rain drumming off the metal sheeting on the rood, I couldn’t find it in my heart to blame them if they’d opted to stay in bed rather than face this weather transformed by 900 metres of height gain – that said, it’s not going to stop me taking the piss when we next meet up.
Eventually, Ryan did make an appearance and, as Louise and Laura were already en route to our rendezvous in Callander, we opted to get kitted up and join them. The plan for the day involved a second visit to the Loch Earn edition of Ben Vorlich for me this week, a decision based around the reappearance of snow to the southern Highlands, and the group not having winter walking ironmongery. Knowing that the path up Ben Vorlich was clear of snow on Thursday made predicting conditions after a weekend of snow showers more straightforward and, as a group, we agreed at the start that, if we didn’t feel comfortable in the conditions, then we’d turn round and call it a day. In the event, there was a bit more snow lying on the path than I’d expected, but it was soft, sticky and easily consolidated into secure steps, allowing us to make safe progress in the three-season boots most people were wearing. It’s worth noting that the final steep section of path has the potential for significant risk in conditions where there is hard snow or ice lying on the path, as there would be scope to travel a considerable distance if someone slipped .
The rain continued as we got ourselves kitted up at Ardvorlich, but by the time we reached the top of the woodland section of path, we could already see patches of blue sky around us, and the clouds steadily cleared as we drew closer to the summit. The windspeed increased significantly however, and it was bitterly cold as we took refuge in the little rock outcrop east of the trig point to eat our lunch and enjoy the unexpected views across to a now snowy Ben Lawers and Tarmachan Ridge. To be honest, having made the decision to revisit Ben Vorlich largely on the basis of being able to safely manage the group in the forecast weather, I wasn’t expecting a lot from the day at a personal level, and sitting taking in the breathtaking scenery was a welcome reminder that you write off a day in the Scottish hills at your peril; the effort to get out is usually rewarded in some shape or form.
Heading back down the hill, it was pretty obvious that folks felt that today had far exceeded people’s expectations of a few hours previous; the challenge now is how to get people out of their beds on the rainy days to experience that reality. If only there was a pill that would help…