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Popped my Cherry on Ben Vorlich
by ScotFinn65 » Fri Dec 20, 2019 8:26 pm
Route description: Ben Vorlich and Stuc a'Chroin
Munros included on this walk: Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn), Stuc a'Chroin
Date walked: 28/07/2018
Time taken: 5.6 hours
Distance: 15.7 km
Ascent: 1200m7 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).
I have never felt homesick but over the last couple of years l have become more aware that l miss some elements of Scottish nature and the beautiful countryside. So, about 2 years ago l seriously started planning a solo holiday where l would travel to Scotland and roam the hills. Munro bagging seemed to be one way to give some focus to my planning.
I started to buy books, browse websites and generally gather as much information as possible. How do l start Munro walking in a safe and responsible manner and get to experience the outdoors that Scotland has to offer? How do people go about this? Where do l start? Can l do this? Questions that l am sure most people starting their first Munro consider and are sometimes even overwhelmed by.
I consider myself to be reasonably fit for my age and walking doesn't concern me. However, l had no idea how my body would handle the ascent work. I was aware that it would be different from forest walks on the level or my regular jogging routines, but could only assess my capabilities after the first attempt. I am also aware that I don't have a great head for heights or a good tolerance to exposure with direct vertical drops.
What would be a reasonable walk to bag a Munro but still test myself? I checked all the lists of the 10 easiest Munros and read some more books. Then l found this site. I am not sure all the contributors are fully aware just how invaluable the information on Walk Highlands is to people considering their first walk. I truly appreciate all the people that have taken time to construct informative and entertaining reports on their walks. A big THANKS.
After a LOT of purchases and learning to map read, l felt l was ready to start and thought Ben Vorlich (loch Earn) sounded reasonable. I was also intrigued by the notion of Stuc a' Chroin but what was this "scrambling"? After some more reading, it seemed to be a good introduction to scrambling as the Prow was not really "graded".
So the decision was made and the bookings followed. I planned a 10 day trip basing myself in Killin for 4 nights and tackle the Lawers hills after Loch Earn, then move on to Glen Coe for 6 days and give Glen Coe and Mamores a go. That was the plan!
On my day of arrival, l landed in Edinburgh at 9am after an early riser in Finland. Car hire was secured and bags were stuffed in the boot. By 12:30 l was parked in the exact spot shown in the various reports and Walk Highlands route guide. Good start!
I got changed, filled my day pack with my kit and started off towards the twin pillared gate that would lead me to the clear track for my first Munro. I could feel the butterflies in my stomach as l fumbled to fill the day bag but knew they would subside as l started on my way.
Navigation was easy as the weather was fair. Any clouds were above the summit level and the temperature was mild. Great weather for hillwalking. I proceeded through the various styles and gates as l gained height. The views back over the loch gave me confirmation that the decision to start hillwalking was correct.
But hold on! What's this? I was gasping for breath. It was an easy path, not too steep. I felt in pretty good condition, pack was not heavy, not too many clothes. What was wrong? Did l under estimate the walk? Over estimate my capabilities? Was this an ill-conceived plan?
I really considered turning back at this point on my first ever Munro walk. 2.5km and having doubts was not a great position. Time to engage the brain! Remember the butterflies? I checked my heart rate monitor and it was through the roof. On further inspection, my speed revealed the source of my problems. In all the excitement and nervous energy l made a mistake that (I now assume) has happened to thousands of others on their first walk, l simply started like a train.
After a short break to catch my breath and take on some fluids, l continued at a more reasonable pace and started to enjoy myself a lot more. The views began to develop more widely and peaks, that l was not able to recognise or identify at that point, had me reaching for my map. I started to get my bearings relative to the Lawers range and Crianlarich. This was fun.
Several people passed my on the way down. We exchanged greeting and passing comments about the fine day or the "not far to go now". In my fast start, l had also overtaken a couple of men in their late twenties or early thirties. It struck me that one of them may be also on their maiden Munro (see later)
The summit now appeared and with one last push l was on the summit ridge with the cairn at one end and the trig point at the other.
Fantastic views on all directions and such a sense of achievement that l felt like screaming out loud. I refrained. Maybe someone would mistake it for cries for help.
Well ! Decision time. Stuc a'Chroin or back down? It was such a nice day, despite beginning to cloud over a bit, and l had plenty of daylight left. Yes. Do it! I proceeded down to the bealach with a skip and a jump, delighted with my achievement but a little apprehensive about the coming scramble. Then out of the blue came a scream. Or was it a yell? There it was again! And again! It was a hoot and a hollar 😁. The guy behind me must have on his first Munro after all. Unlike me, holding in my elation, this guy could be seen jumping and dancing on Ben Vorlich, letting the world share in his jubilation. Back to the impending scramble. Mmmmmmm. I started to feel those butterflies again.
I packed my walking poles away, rolled up my sleeves and decided to go for it. First there was a small matter of my first boulder field. From the decent from Vorlich the boulders looked quite reasonable but now they were taller than me. I picked my way through it, taking it very cautiously. I reached the start of the scramble.
I had reviewed the line many times in a fantastic WH article comparing S a'C with An Stuc and Tarmachan ridge. However, when you're at the bottom the line disappears, except for the path immediately in front of you. This doesn't seem too bad. Not too steep, no rock climbs, more of a grassy meander. But now, should l follow to the left or the right? I was half way up and faced with decisions that l didn't expect ( learning #43 today). Anyhow, right looks better, more trodden path.
In my nervous excitement, l had neglected to noticed it wasn't so bright as it was 5 minutes ago. It started to cloud over and it was way below summit level. In fact, it was at my level . The Scottish weather had kicked in. The famous quick changes were happening right in front of me, just as l had lost the line on my first scramble, alone, up my second Munro. Now the butterflies had turned to a different feeling, just a little further south.
I didn't fancy going backwards and the line forward looked a bit dubious (seems like learning #44 came a little bit quicker than expected). In a flash, l had my worst nightmares passing through my head. What an embarrassment, having to be helicoptered off a hill 3 hours into my Munro climbing career. How am l going to get out of this?
Answer, get your head down and take a straight line upwards.
Soon l gained confidence and found the route and popped out at the memorial cairn at the top of the Prow.
What a relief. I started to follow the path and after another 5 minutes came across the first summit cairn in the clag. Knowing there were 2, l kept going and very soon l found the second. Relieved and satisfied at the same time, l had a bite to eat on the top of my second Munro.
Now for my escape. During my planning, l printed A4 sections of the route maps as well as taking the OS map, compass, Garmin, Viewfinder, online OS maps ( better safe than sorry, right!). I remembered from all my reading on the plane this morning that the exit path down was on the right. Right?
I retraced my route to the first summit cairn and searched for the exit route on the right. The visibility was now about 30m. There was no exit route on my right. Let's try again. Back to the first cairn, l mean second cairn, and try again. Ok now it must be hear somewhere. Visibility now 10m. Still no exit route. I was back at the first or was it second cairn. Hang on. Is this the first cairn l arrived at or the second? Am l facing east or west? In all my walking around l had lost all sense of direction. I AM going to need that helicopter after all.
I am absolutely sure l am not the first rookie hillwalker to experience this feeling. Almost getting into a panic. Third time today, it was time to employ Mr. Brain. My day sack was full of planning material and navigation aids. What about sitting down and using them. Good idea ( learning #45, when lost, stop walking around in a panic and sit down and work out where you are).
The first point of reference was the cairn l was at. A quick look at the compass and the path to the "other" cairn told me l was at the west end second cairn. A second glance at my route map then showed me that, before the exit route being on the right, l had to first take a left turn.
Soon l was on a fairly steep decent track, but one that was clearly an established path. After 50m of decent l entered the land of visibility again. The clag was pretty much confined to the summit and it was almost like it was put there to give me a fast-track lesson to some of the challenges of Scottish hillwalking.
The track decended quickly and l found that sense of jubilation again. Not only at my double Munro achievement on my first day but being able to tackle the obstacles thrown at me, through my good preparation. This was only possible by the shared experiences on this forum. My conscientious studies paid off but it was the riviting material on this great chest of treasures that really was the main factor in my success. For this, l am grateful to each and every person that takes the time to share their experiences on this site. THANKS
I transversed the hillside back to my ascent path and was grateful when Loch Earn came back into view.
I skipped down the track like a child and was back at the car in no time. There was still about 3 - 4 hours of daylight left, so never in any rush but l felt like l had just completed an epic journey of sorts.
I got to Killin and settled in for an excellent meal and a well earned pint.
How would the Lawers compare to my first day?
My sincere thanks to all those that write these reports and my admiration to those that can do it in a timely manner. As you can tell from the walk date and the posting date, it has taken me a considerable length of time to write my first report and now l have 54 more Munros to catch up on 😉
by Sunset tripper » Fri Dec 20, 2019 11:36 pm
All the best.
- Posts: 2081
- Joined: Nov 3, 2013
- Location: Inverness
by Raynor » Sat Dec 21, 2019 9:49 pm
by ScotFinn65 » Mon Dec 23, 2019 5:42 am
Raynor wrote:A good read. I think everyone has had that sinking feeling in their stomach as panic sets in, at least once For me my big fright came on Beinn Narnain. I climed in the middle of the night in clag and at the time, the paths were being repaired so there was a huge bag of stones that had been helicoptered in. I forgot my map so was using this to navigate and keep my bearings. At one point the clouds briefly cleared and I realised there was about ten identical bags dotted around the mountain. It's funny the little things that can send your brain into panic mode
Thanks! Still, I think it beats the story about navigating by the heard of sheep in the field
by Silverhill » Mon Dec 23, 2019 8:13 pm
by Sgurr » Tue Dec 24, 2019 5:40 pm
by Colin1951 » Fri Dec 27, 2019 12:21 pm
by Grisu » Sun Dec 29, 2019 11:05 am
Thanks for sharing your experiences
by ScotFinn65 » Wed Jan 01, 2020 8:58 am
Grisu wrote:You really made the most out of the day. I think Stuc a Croin is always good for some sort of challenge. Your report made me smile because it reminded me of my adventerous walk of the two, not sure if you came across my report
I really see s whole lot of similarities in our reports. Never easy when you lose your bearings Keep up the great work. I always love reading your reports 👍