Friday, 6 September 2013

Ben Vorlich & Stuc a' Chroin

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 06 September 2013
Walkers - Steve Smith, John Parkin
Accommodation - West Lodge, Comrie
Start Point - Off road parking near Ardvorlich House (GR NN 63231 23205)
Start Time - 10:12
Finish Point - Off road parking near Ardvorlich House (GR NN 63231 23205)
Finish Time - 18:21
Duration - 8hrs 09mins
Average pace - 1.32mph
Distance Walked - 10.75miles
Height Ascended - 1519.88metres

Other walks on this trip
14th The Glen Lyon Horseshoe
13th Tarmachen Ridge
12th Meall Ghaordaidh
  9th Beinn Chabhair
  7th Ben Chonzie
  6th Ben Vorlich & Stuc a' Chroin

Peaks visited
Munro (282)
Ben Vorlich (1)
Stuc a' Chroin (2)
Murdo (443)
Ben Vorlich (1)
Stuc a' Chroin (2)
Corbett (221)
Graham Top of Munro (194)
Ben Vorlich - Creagan nan Gabhar  (1)
Ben Vorlich - Ben Our  (2)
Marilyn (1216)
Ben Vorlich (4)
Stuc a' Chroin (5)
Hump (2168)
Ben Vorlich (4)
Stuc a' Chroin (5)

GPS tracklog of actual walk
Walk Summary
After all the planning, pontificating and pouring over maps the identity of my first Munro, assuming I stay upright for the next 2 to 3 hours, is now known. Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn), shrouded in cloud, is the Munro before me as we set off from the southern shores of Loch Earn towards Ardvorlich House from Haugh Bridge
Whether it is worthy as a first Munro for anybody, only time will tell and not just for today. I suspect, if it is anything like choosing the hill to be my last English Nuttall, my ability to choose a first Munro can only truly be applied after I have climbed a significant number. Now there’s a paradox to sort out.
Joined and planned by my walking mate who I met at Kettlewell Youth Hostel while walking Great Whernside, Yockenthwaite Moor & Buckden Pike back in April 2011, this trip is a departure from my previous trips in as much as I have had nothing to do with planning the route and hence do not have a clue about the route we will be following today.
All I know is 2 Munros are on the agenda; Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn) and Stuc a’ Chroin. The first difference to the English Nuttalls that struck me is the sheer scale of the landscape. There were no intermediate summits to break up the ascent and so after over 3 miles with over 850 metres of relentless ascent I was pretty breathless by the time we reached the summit 2½ hours later. It was warm work but soon chilled off as the cloud closed in more or less at the same time we were on the first summit. Because of the cloud we could not see the next peak so set off for Stuc a Chroin oblivious of what lay before us.
As we descended west then south of Ben Vorlich I took what I thought was one last look at the trig point through the mist at my first Munro. A combination of us descending below the cloud line and the cloud clearing revealed Stuc a Chroine NW Butress straight ahead. To me it looked quite daunting while at the same time appealing so we both agreed it was most likely not as difficult as it looked. In any event there is an easier but longer route to the right up the Allt a' Choire Fhuadaraich gully if necessary. We did manage the buttress, it turns out it is a grade 1 scramble, not sure if it was as bad as it looked but it was by far the hardest scramble I had attempted on any of the English & Welsh Nuttalls.
Arriving at the top well out of breath the cairn at the top briefly raised my spirits we were at the summit but soon remembered the top was a further 500m to the south. It was on Stuc a’ Chroin summit I realised I had lost my glasses. Well cheesed off for managing to lose something so important at the beginning of the trip I was well chuffed when we met another walker on his way to Stuc a’ Chroin who had seen a black pair of glasses on Ben Vorlich trig point. That was the good news. The bad news was he left them their as there was no chance he would come across the keeper. I would never have considered going back without this information, but knowing they had been seen there I had no choice but to return to my first Munro a lot sooner than I ever thought would have been likely. As I approached the summit for the second time I saw another couple taking photos. By the time I collapsed on the top gasping for breath, but only after finding out they had packed them away to take down and then report as “lost & found” on the walkhighlands website. After a quick recovery and smiles all round I then set off for the original return route over the 2 Graham Tops of Ben Vorlich; Creagan nan Gabhar and Ben Our.
 At over 8 hours of walking it would be very hard to manage both peaks in short winter day, especially if winter conditions prevailed. But with longer September days it is a real bonus to be able to bag 2 Munros in one day, both of which are Marilyns with the 250m drop between them, as well as managing a circular walk to include 2 other significant peaks.

Walk Description
Meall a' Mhadaidh an unclassified sub top of Meall Buidhe
across Loch Earn from walk start point
1.) We parked the van on off road parking on the shore of Loch Earn opposite Ardvorlich House
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2.) Start by walking east along the road towards Haugh Bridge where just before on the right is a memorial stone to the McDonalds killed near here in 1620 some 72 years before the "Massacre of Glencoe". The inscription reads "Near this spot were interred the bodies of 7 MacDonalds of Glencoe killed when attempting to harry Ardvorlich Anno Domini 1620."

3.) Cross Haugh Bridge and turn immediately right down the drive to/from Ardvorlich House.
Looking down on Ardvorlich House
4.) Stay on drive and look out for conveniently place signs to guide you to the open access land.
As we reach tree line following track,
looks like cloud is trying to lift off Ben Vorlich
5.) Going through first gate takes you out of Ardvorlich House gardens and on to an easy to follow track all the way to bridge crossing over Allt a' Choire Bhuidhe.
Looking back at Loch Earn and steady ascent up easy to follow path
6.) After crossing the bridge over Allt a' Choire Bhuidhe the track fades to a path and ascent increases to the west of tongue that eventually becomes Sgiath nam Tarmachan
Cairn confirms still on track
7.) From here the path is easy enough to follow but if visibility deteriorates cairns mark the way along Sgiath nam Tarmachan.
Final push to the summit
8.) By the time we reached the top of Sgiath nam Tarmachan we had been walking uphill relentlessly for nearly 2 hours and still there was a long way to go to the next ridge. Hope it is not a false summit.
The summit party - Steve Smith & John Parkin
9.) It was not and I had reached my very first Munro summit - Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn)
Last look back as we leave Ben Vorlich on the way to Stuc a' Chroin
10.) The cloud closed in during our time on the summit. But there was still an obvious path to the west to follow. Although there is a wall marked on the map there was no evidence of it on the summit so extra care was taken to make sure we stayed to the left as we descended the summit. In winter conditions I do not think we would have the time or the energy to go on to a second summit of the day and would have to be satisfied with just the one summit for the day.
Stuc a' Chroin NE Buttress our route to the next summit
11.) We had not gonefar when the cloud lifted and/or we had descended below the cloud line. To our left we could see the route to the next summit via Stuc a' Chroine NE Buttress.
Walk to right of first hill then drop to bealach
before following path to base of the buttress
12.) There is an alternative albeit longer route  to the right via Allt a' Choire Fhuadaraich gully that avoids the scramble up the NE Buttress but we both fancied the scramble and as we approached we were studying the crag and likely route of ascent.
The only stop on the scramble to look back at Ben Vorlich
13.) Follow the path which takes you to the left end of the scree slope at the base of the buttress. From the base of the buttress at the right end of the screes.
Pointing camera over my shoulder at last part of scramble
14.) From the start of scree stay on grass diagonally up to the right until come to large stone bottom middle. Climb up left side of stone and continue following grass path to the right until it turns sharply to the left for the final ascent to the top.
John waiting at Stuc a' Chroin NE Butress cairn.
Yes I know this is not the summit
15.) As you top out on a scramble do not be fooled by the cairn immediately in front of you.
Stuc a' Chroin summit on the left, approx. 500m from NE Buttress cairn
16.) The summit is 500m beyond on the left at the end of an easy to follow path.
Stuc a' Chroin cairn and summit. Ben Vorlich beyond
17.) Whilst checking map for route back I discovered my glasses had fell out of my pocket. Oh no first day and lost something already.
The lower SW cairn on Stuc a' Chroin.
18.) After photos of the summit cairn I decided to visit the other and lower cairn to the SW just to be sure I visited the summit.
On our way down, turn right at next bealach on the left.
Route home is over tops centre right
19.) Descent route is back towards NE buttress cairn staying left to pick up path to bealach at top of Allt a' Choire Fhuadaraich gully. On this section we met a lone walker and I asked him in wild hope if he had seen  a pair of glasses. "Black ones?" he asked. "Yeah why have you got them?" Er, no they were on Ben Vorlich trig point and I left them as there was no chance of meeting the owner"
Ben Vorlich beyond Stuc a' Chroin NE buttress
20.) Descending the gully looking at the steep slope on Stuc a' Chroine NE Butress on the right my mind was racing with questions.
What should I do? Have I enough energy to go back to Ben Vorlich? What will John say? Can I manage without my glasses? "Crikey they cost £100".
John helped suggesting "You might as well go back for them."
Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn) second visit. A lot clearer than this
morning - looking towards lower twin top to the south east
21.) "I'll meet you on the next top" So off I went on my own (see map for route taken) It was a bit of a rush though I could see people on the top and was hoping they would not go down with the glasses. Exhausted I reached the top. The people had hung around taking photos over the last hour taking advantage of the changing light conditions.
"Have you seen any glasses" I asked "Yes" they said digging them out of their backpack. We were going to advertise them on walkhighlands web site.
After descending Ben Vorlich you will then have to reascend the
Graham Tops of Ben Vorlich - Creagan nan Gabhar and Ben Our
22.) The route off Ben Vorlich was the same as this morning, except I tended right to the Graham Top ridge of Ben Vorlich instead of left to Stuc a' Chroin. But their is an easy enough path to fallow all the way to the bealach.
Creagan nan Gabhar.
Ben Vorlich's other Graham Top - Ben Our beyond and next
23.) The path tends to disappear in places on the ascent to the first summit Ben Vorlich - Creagan nan Gabhar so but does reappear as you reach the summit. Not a problem for us on a clear day we just kept going up hill with the benefit of seeing the high point if the cloud is low still keep going uphill but keep an eye on the old map & compass.
Approach to Ben Our summit from the south
24.) There is an obvious path heading north to the next summit Ben Vorlich - Ben Our
More than 1 hour after leaving Ben Our get sight of van and walks end
25.) Following the path north from Ben Our summit we were hopeful this would take us all the way down to either the road or the path we came up from Ardvorlich House. Unfortunately it disappeared somewhere around Sròn Mhòr so we decided to head down the east side of the hill into Glen Vorlich and join up with the track we followed on the way up Ben Vorlich and return to the van on the shore of Loch Earn

More Photographs
Proud as punch on my first Munro - Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn)
Click on photograph to view slide-show


  1. Nice blog Steve, best of luck with your aspirations to bag all of the Munros. Perhaps I may be able to assist with this during next May? All the best, Iain.

    1. Thanks Iain
      Looking forward to writing up reports for Cuillen Ridge next May.