Winter walking gives way to Spring [# 81 & 82]

Ben Vorlich (Callander) (986m); Stuc a’ Chroin (975m)

  • Pronunciation:              Ben Vorlich; Stuc a’ Chroin
  • Translation:                   Mountain of the Bay; Peak of the Sheepfold
  • Total distance:              15.2km
  • Total time:                     6hrs 17mins
  • Total ascent:                 1257m
  • Weather:                        Cloud covering summits dissipated by lunchtime to reveal a bright, warm and sunny afternoon.
  • Start / end location:   Small lay-by on the minor road on the south-side of Loch Earn by Ardvorlich at the base of Glen Vorlich. [OS Map Sheets 51 & 57 – Grid Ref: NN 632 232]
  • Map:                               A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

Looking towards Creag Dubh from the NW ridge between Ben Vorlich and Stuc a' Chroin

It was a bit cloudy but dry and warm with little wind as we drove along the south side of Loch Earn passed the white washed Edinample Castle en route to our parking spot just to the west of a small bridge over the substantial burn running down Glen Vorlich passed Ardvorlich Estate House.

Once parked and kitted up we walked along the road leading up to the Ardvorlich Estate House where signs directed walkers passed some ongoing construction work for a small hydro-electric power plant located alongside the burn.

A well maintained (by the estate) path ran up the west side of the burn, whilst a newly constructed access road followed the east bank. The latter was almost certainly being put in place as part of the renewable hydro-electric energy work being undertaken and was probably necessary to allow access as sluices and weirs might be required further up the burn.

Ben Vorlich from the west

Our route, up the west side, was very straightforward on the excellent path and we didn’t encounter any snow until up around the 600m mark, and even this was only patchy in places. Although the ascent steepened quite noticeably over the last 250m we made short work of it and in less than two hours we were standing beside the Trig Point on top of Ben Vorlich at 986m or 3,235’. The mist hanging over the summit prevented any sort of view from being had, but despite this we made a quick detour on to the other top just 2m lower than the summit and only 150m further to the east.

Elaine at the Ben Vorlich summit Trig Point

We retraced our steps to the true summit and descended west for 300m before dropping steeply SW down to the bealach between Vorlich and Stuc a’ Chroin. We crossed the bealach, Bealach an Dubh Choirein, which comprised a broad ridge of grassy islands and craggy rocks. At the southwestern end of the bealach we came up against the prow headwall that signaled the start of the very steep ascent of Stuc a’ Chroin. This ascent proved to be more challenging than we had thought it might be. The headwall, essentially a prominent prow, was a mixture of steep loose scree runs, tough to negotiate crags and soft ribbons and pockets of snow encrusted with slippy ice around the edges.

There were apparently many routes leading through the jumble of crags – none of which was without scrambling challenges in less than ideal conditions. The steepness of the headwall would have been totally unforgiving had we slipped and so this prospect kept us vigilant as we scrambling higher.

Returning to the summit from the lower top on Ben Vorlich

After a few pauses to work out the optimal (least suicidal) route up the inclination eventually mellowed as we “pulled” over the last obstacle to reach a marker cairn at the top of the prow. From here a much easier 1/2km took us to the summit cairn of Stuc a’ Chroin at 975m or 3,199’.

Without any hesitation we both agreed that we should try to find an alternative descent back to Glen Vorlich that did not include a descent of the prow headwall and after analyzing the map we decided to retrace our steps back 250m towards the top of the prow before veering NW just below the SW side of the ridge to the west of the prow. About 500m along and down this ridge we found a steep, but safe route descending NE into the large corrie to the west of Ben Vorlich. The descent was a mixture of grass runs and long ribbons of soft snow, the latter providing one or two good sledging opportunities.

Cameron sitting at the summit cairn of Stuc a' Chroin

Once we reached the floor of the upper section of the corrie we followed a contour line (of constant elevation) around the corrie and aimed for an obvious broad col on the opposite side of the corrie to the one of our descent, midway between the summit of Ben Vorlich and Creagan nan Gabhar to its NW. As we approached this col was saw a group of four people descending from the direction of Ben Vorlich who were also aiming for the col en route to climbing Creagan nan Gabhar. We paused at the col to chat to them, only to discover that we recognized a couple of them from our climb last week on Ben Lomond! I think that they said they were a “works group” from the Scottish Ambulance Service and some of them were using this and recent outings as training for an ascent of Ben Nevis planned for 30 April. One of the chaps mentioned that he was in the same mountaineering club as Hamish Brown, a very famous Munroist. [In 1974 (4 April to 24 July), Hamish Brown (MBE) became the first person to complete a round of the Munros in a single trip with only a bike and ferries as means of support. Hamish has subsequently completed multiple rounds of the Munros.] It is a small world!

The prow - main peak on the left - hides the summit of Stuc a' Chroin

From the col the other party continued NW en route to Creagan nan Gabhar and Ben Our, whilst we headed NE and dropped down into Coire Buidhe, which is a subsidiary corrie that joins Glen Vorlich. The Ardvorlich Estate has requested that walkers try to avoid descending directly to the base of Coire Buidhe to limit erosion damage and, instead, remain further up the corrie hillside and traverse round in a high contour anti-clockwise until the main path from the summit of Ben Vorlich is intercepted. This is exactly what we did without losing or gaining any height as we made our way back to the main path. Once on the path it was a short walk back in the glorious sunshine to our car at the foot of the glen.

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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3 Responses to Winter walking gives way to Spring [# 81 & 82]

  1. Robin Dickson says:

    83 done, only 200 to go! Well done guys, a real milestone in your odyssey.

    • Cameron says:

      Hi Robin,
      Thanks for your words of congratulations. We’ve been pretty focused over the last month and are now sitting at 89. We’ll be glad of a few days off next week when we are back down to the Midlands.

  2. Robin Dickson says:

    Also, it must be really great to actually get to feel the passing of the seasons like that. While we get to sit in an office and watch the world change, you are out in it. Outstanding.

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