Two Very Different Neighbours

Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’ Chroin on Loch Earn are two of the southernmost munros. Both can be done in a 14k loop and although they share a saddle between them, they couldn’t be more different.

Gentle Ben Vorlich, elegantly sitting above Ardvorlich, almost inviting walkers with a lovely rounded shape and a path you can pretty much see all the way to its top from the roadside.

And resolute Stuc a’ Chroin hidden behind the Ben, with a steep rocky prow that seems to challenge the most daring of walkers to try and climb it.

I had planned those two for Thursday from the beginning of my trip and the weather forecast didn’t change my plans. At least not much. The chance for scattered showers had moved from 3pm to mid day, so I opted for an early start to get as much done as possible before any rain.

Got up at 6am like usual, but instead of faffing with plenty of time to spare, I was more my efficient self and left the guest house premises at 7am after a streamlined routine of getting dressed, breakfast, lunch prep, packing bag for the day, checking forecast and all the usual stuff you do in the morning.

For the first time since I’d been here the sun was shining brightly as I left. It was crisp and clear and all the hills looked very dapper, like dressed up for Sunday church.

It amazes me every time how different Scotland (and British nature in general) looks in all sorts of weather. It’s almost like the many moods of mother nature. She can be chilled and relaxed, sad and weeping, angry and rampaging, cheeky and mischievous. Today she was beaming and proud and I couldn’t help myself but smile with her.

Parked up in Ardvorlich and started my walk up at 8:30. It’s hard not to notice Ben Vorlich first thing when walking up the path. But it’s far from intimidating, more so inviting and beckoning the walker to come up to the top and have a look around.

I guess that would be me.
Ardvorlich House. Wow!
Ben Vorlich beckoning

The path is fairly gentle and very easy to walk on. It gets steeper and slightly eroded when heading up the mountain’s North ridge. One hour and 40 minutes after starting my walk I was standing at the top. Easy! Brilliant weather so far with a mix of sun and clouds.

Views were far reaching and amazing. What a lovely mountain. An icy wind was blowing up here, so I didn’t linger too long. I also had another mountain to climb and wanted to be done with that before the promised rain came.

View towards Loch Earn from Ben Vorlich
Views West from Ben Vorlich

Ben Vorlich was also a great viewpoint for my first real glimpse of Stuc a’ Chroin and whilst the ascent to munro number one had been easy and enjoyable, the ascent to number two looked very much intimidating and challenging. I had taken some notes from the route description and I was indeed supposed to climb that very dominant prow Stuc a’ Chroin had so conveniently set right at his side of the saddle between both mountains. Like a castle that needed to be conquered first in order to get to the prize.

Stuc a’ Chroin from Ben Vorlich

But first I descended down to the saddle Bealach an Dubh Choirean and found a nice spot sheltered from the wind behind a large boulder for a short break with tea and an apple. Without the wind it was actually quite warm in the sunny spells, but clouds were slowly but steadily building up.

Descended all the way down to the bealach and then up to the foot of the prow,
all the while having a look for the intended route up this thing. I wasn’t quite sure which one to choose, there were a number of possible routes up I could see.

Up there? Okay then…

The closer I got the more I thought I saw it. Crossed a boulder field and was then supposed to stick to the left of a “slabby rock”. Ah huh?

Stick to the left of a slabby rock…. which one?

I kept to the right of the main buttress and followed a faint path through the rocky maze, at times just a couple of inches away from a sheer steep drop, using my hands almost as much as my legs with a couple of grade 1 scramble moments. I was having a blast!!! Carefully looking up and always planning the next bit, “hand-railing” to specific features, I made my way up, taking my sweet time, savouring every bit of it.

Someone’s having fun.

Eventually I reached the ridge topping out at a cairn. Then walked the last bit over to the summit. Wow. Again fantastic views all around. To countless hills and mountains West and North and flatter ground East and South.

I found a nice sheltered spot leaning onto the summit cairn, squinting into the sun and marvelling at the view whilst having lunch. After all it was only just past 12.

Ben Vorlich from Stuc a’ Chroin
Looking West from Stuc a’ Chroin

Reluctantly I packed up and made my way back down on a grassy and at times very boggy path, circumventing both munros in the West, avoiding going down the buttress and climbing Ben Vorlich again.

Clouds were looking more and more rain bearing and I had once again timed it perfectly. Back at the car at 2:30pm, drove back to the main road and caught the first shower, ha!

Brief stop at the Crianlarich Hotel halfway for a coffee and scone, then back to the guest house.

What a fantastic day! The best one so far. Two so very different munros. I had really enjoyed both, but this time surely favoured the more awkward one. That little scramble up the buttress of Stuc a’ Chroin was brilliant and quite unexpectedly so. I love it when a mountain or certain part of it looks impenetrable from afar and you just take it step by step and all of a sudden you’ve done it!

I’ve got an idea for tomorrow, but as always will make the final decision based on the forecast in the morning.

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