Ben Vorlich & Stuc a'Chroin - an unintended Midnight-Walk
by Grisu » Thu Oct 17, 2019 6:56 pm
Route description: Ben Vorlich and Stuc a'Chroin
Munros included on this walk: Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn), Stuc a'Chroin
Date walked: 10/07/2016
Time taken: 10 hours
Distance: 20 km
Ascent: 1452m2 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
It was a cloudy day and we expected a few showers but the weatherforecast didn't sound too bad. We have done a few walks together already and meanwhile I started to recognize features in the landscape at least in areas which has become a bit familiar, although the walk descriptions still kept a mystery to me with all these unknown tecnical terms - I hardly understood the translations. But that didn't really worry me because my friend said that he has done this walk before. Trusting this I was glad to go out for a walk, no matter the weather.
It took us some time until we finally managed to find a suitable parking close to a big puddle but not too far from the Ardvorlich House where a sign indicates the start of the walk.
We started walking around 2 pm and under normal conditions we were supposed to be back by something around 8 or 9 pm. It was a steady uphill walk and I don't remember having had any trouble.
Somewhere on our way up towards Ben Vorlich we a had little break and I remember trying to find some shelter from gusty wind which has come up. Several walkers passed us on their way down.
Getting closer to the first summit it started drizzling but there was still some visibilty.
At the summit of Ben Vorlich the visibilty has impaired considerably, so I took only one picture of my friend at the trigpoint and we continued heading towards the second Munro.
I can't recall any difficulties on the walk towards Stuc a'Chroin only that the mist was getting thicker.
At the summit of Stuc a'Chroin the mist lifted here and there for a short moment and I tried to catch some scenic pictures as compensation for the missing views .
Then it became interesting.
Confused by the mist blocking all views further around, my friend tried to figure out where to go. I hardly could follow his explanation and the way he was holding the map confused me and finally I lost my orientation completely so that I even couldn't say which way we came Therefore I was of no help .
Finally we made a decision and started to descend over a very steep and rocky section with huge boulders which took quite some effort and time. It led us over wet stones, gaps and cliffs and was not much fun. Not knowing whether we had been on the right track added to the uneasiness I felt during that scramble.
Finally we reached rough grassy ground which opened up between two minor hills. We checked the map again and again trying to find some sign we could recognize on the map but in vane. The main problem was that we had no clue at all in which cardinal direction we were going. The mountain tops kept covered in mist the rest of the day and when we have started our descent we couldn't have said whether it was south, east, west or north.
Therefore we actually didn't really know where to look at the map, although, somehow my attention was attracted to the southeast, but my friend couldn't confirm.
So we plodded on, and I tried to soothe myself by thinking: We can't be too far away from civilization no matter how remote it would be according to my experiences. During my walks through remote areas I have learned that a house or a little settlement will pop up suddenly, out of nowhere just around the next corner, surprisingly. So I clung to this fatalistically (despite the fact that there were no real hints on the map for this hope to cling to).
Luckily there was no mist in the valley, it has stopped raining eventually and the temperature was quite pleasant actually, even the light became brighter from time to time. So the walk, although over very rough grassy ground, was not too bad and allowed some relaxation, at least physically, after that scary scramble that we have managed without any injuries.
At one point I recognized that the sun was going down over a mountain pass behind us and I had an idea. I asked my friend for the map and his compass. He was mumbling that the compass is of no use without knowing where we are to place it on the map, but I didn't understand what he meant, I only wondered: Why would I have to know a point on the map when I have a compass with a needle showing towards north, a map which is north-oriented and knowing where the sun is going down?
This is still confusing me and I don't understand why he had not used his compass for the direction before we started the descent.
Then I made my studies and explained my assumptions: The map showed Loch Earn towards the north and the sun was going down rather north than west in summer time, although my brother disputed this with quite some verve when I once tried to describe my observation at the coastline at my homeplace: It is almost amazing how much difference there is between the point where the sun goes down in winter time, which is in the far west, and the point where it is going down in summer, much further to the north.
However, right or wrong, from this observation I concluded that we obviously were walking south/southeast. This was a little confirmation of my gut feeling that always attracted my attention to the southern parts of the map.
Then I assumed that the burn I have noticed for quite a while could be the Allt na Dubh Choirein and I suggested to go to the riverside and then following the river until the slopes of the neighbouring hill were levelling off.
At that point the burn made a sharp turn and the Allt a Bhealaich Gliosgarnaiche joined the Allt na Dubh Choirein. On the other side of Allt na Dubh Choirein the map showed a path leading along the Allt a Bhealaich Gliosgarnaiche up to the spring and the mountain pass. I suggested crossing the Allt na Dubh Choirein, following Allt a Bhealaich Gliosgarnaiche up to its spring, going over the pass, trying to find the spring of the Ardvorlich Burn and following it down to Loch Earn. As my friend had no better idea we followed that plan.
Before we crossed the Allt na Dubh Choirein, which was quite a stream with strong currents and deep water, we took a break trying to figure out where to cross without getting wet. The bridge shown on the map was not there and the fords were flooded.
I was checking the map again and asked my friend what the little squares are meaning shown on the map. And while he explained we were looking around and discovered the remnants on the far side of the burn. With this we've got some proof confirming my assumptions, that was cheering us up a little bit.
Somehow we have managed the crossing without falling into the water . The path on the far side, clearly shown on the map was barely visible and finally vanished completely, so we gave up looking for it. All we had to do was following the burn straight up to the mountain pass where I kept my eyes on.
I still regret that I haven't taken any more pictures. But the scenery was not very exciting, the light was already fading, and I was too strained to be able to take my camera.
At the mountain pass I had a very mystical moment and I wouldn't have been surprised to encounter Juan Sanchez Villa‑Lobos Ramirez on his horse coming down form the left (I wonder why not the Highlander himself?) .
The constant noise of the burns around us has stopped and the sudden silence in the twilight stirred a very vivid sensation. For a moment I felt as if I was experiencing a time leap backwards into ancient, historical times, very long ago, it was such a strong impression! This moment is engraved so deep into my memory. And it is for this particular moment that I always want to get back to this arcane place. But I don't get rid of the notion that this place is more within me than at that specific point, however.
It was getting dark meanwhile and as we resumed walking it didn't took as too long until the familiar sound of gentle water running through the fields became audible again, and as a sort of confirmation it matched my sense of timing quite well. So there it was: The spring of the Ardvorlich Burn. Only the path shown on the map never appeared. Again we followed the sound of the water and I was determined not to leave the riverside, no matter what comes.
My friend was walking 30-50 meters ahead of me, as usual, and I struggled behind over very rough ground and later through thick heather as high as my hips, trying not to fall or stumble and get an ankle distorted or something like this. Keep calm, go on steady, don't panic I told myself with each step and breath.
However, the sky has cleared after the sunset and so there was always a faint light the eyes got used to so that we always could see a bit of the surroundings and further down the glistening of the water of Loch Earn. And what a relief I felt when I saw some lights at the far side of the Loch - civilization, eventually !
Finally we reached a path but after a short distance on solid ground we stood in front of a really huge gate .
I made attempts to climb over when my friend started laughing. That made me so angry that I started shouting at the bl**dy gate. I couldn't believe it!
Although there was a sign on the track to the left telling the walkers to follow the track, I didn't trust it. I was determined not to leave the riverside, never!
Finally my friend could convince me to follow the track and eventually we reached the bridge we have crossed on our walk uphill and the familiar sound of the Ardvorlich Burn returned.
It was midnight when we were back at the car, tired but very glad that we've found our way back safe and sound eventually, 10 hours later.
Despite our detour or may be just because and because of this magic moment on the pass as well as the fun we had afterwards and the lot of laughing when we were looking back I give this walk an eight on a scale out of 10.
But now: SHOCK!
While I was trying to reconstruct this odyssey for my report I discovered: WE NEVER MADE IT! We have missed the summit of Stuc a' Chroin!
It never has occured to me that the cairn where we have taken our pictures had not been the real summit. Only now when I have enlarged the Strava map I've discovered it. and double checked it with the descripiton on WH and in the SMC.
After all the struggle I've been through again while writing this report with my heart beating like during the walk I can't believe it!
Well, now that I know I hardly can befool myself pretending that I made it. And I have deleted the tick from my list very reluctantly
But then, I suddenly had an idea: Each time I read a completion I am thinking: Which munro will be my last? Now I know: Stuc a' Chroin: The peak of a sheepfold. , see you again, cheers
by rockhopper » Thu Oct 17, 2019 8:49 pm
Have a look at this link which includes:Grisu wrote:Picture at the Cairn on Stuc a' Chroin with the memorial for Donald Stuart who was the founder of the Falkirk Mountaineering Club. But that's all I could find about him apart from some vague hints from which I conclude that he died by an accident presumably somewhere over here.
His brother Donald Stuart was another giant of a man and wore a full beard. Uncle Donald had the capacity to walk phenomenal distances over the Cairngorms, and he helped to found the Falkirk Mountaineering Club which gave me my love of the hills.....Uncle Donald was to die as a relatively young man falling from a roof at his work in Bonnybridge. His cairn and memorial plaque still stands on the summit of Stuc a Chroin in Perthshire, where it was erected by members of the Mountaineering Club.
by Grisu » Thu Oct 17, 2019 9:12 pm
rockhopper wrote:Have a look at this link which includes:
His brother Donald Stuart was another giant of a man and wore a full beard. ...
I came across this website but couldn't be bothered to read - the print is so tiny and without any search function it seemed to be endless. But now I found it - thanks!
by Alteknacker » Thu Oct 17, 2019 11:00 pm
They must be out to get us walkers, for I too ended up with an unintended long walk in the dark!
I'm quite puzzled about your friend's reluctance to use the compass - I find it absolutely essential in mist or darkness, even if I'm not sure exactly where I am. Though as Dav2930 commented on my WHR, there is GPS these days..... .
I see you did this in 2016 - you must have quite a backlog of reports....
by Grisu » Fri Oct 18, 2019 8:15 am
Alteknacker wrote:I'm quite puzzled about your friend's reluctance to use the compass - I find it absolutely essential in mist or darkness, even if I'm not sure exactly where I am. Though as Dav2930 commented on my WHR, there is GPS these days.....
I know, and while writing so many questions came up again . Before then, I was walking only with guided groups and I trusted him not least because he has done this walk before. However, I have learned my lesson and never went out unprepaired on a walk with him. And since I started walking on my own I always have a GPS as a back up and meanwhile a powerbank too - I won't dare to walk on my own without the help of modern technology, I wouldn't even find the place where to start, I always get mixed up at the begining !
Alteknacker wrote:I see you did this in 2016 - you must have quite a backlog of reports....
Yes I have, as a matter of language. My first report I wrote last year. This year I became a bit more confident in writing my reports in english and at the moment I use some time of my autumn school holidays to catch up my backlog
It is actually a very nice way to remember and even to share these memories with people who are interested and fond of walking as well - thanks WH! And it is a nice compensation for the looong time I have to endure until I am back, but plans are in progress I trust you'll have a good walking weekend ahead!
by rockhopper » Fri Oct 18, 2019 8:32 am
Grisu wrote: the print is so tiny and without any search function it seemed to be endless.
If you're using Chrome, just get the page up on the screen, then:
- click CTRL+F or click the three vertical dots near the top right of the screen, click "Find", enter the search word, then use the down/up arrows to scroll to each instance which is highlighted
by past my sell by date » Fri Oct 18, 2019 5:45 pm