Ben Vorlich

The Fatdog Beats the Christmas Rush

Sadly this will be the last report of the year from myself and The Fatdog.

The drudge of the Christmas shopping calls and there is no way J will allow myself and The Fatdog to sneak out the door at dawn until the festive spending is complete .

Ben Vorlich had been targeted for the past few weeks but the weather was never quite right. Saturday promised much and did not disappoint. As the sun struggled up above the horizon myself and the Fatdog set off for the last hill before Christmas.

There was a touch of frost on the surface as we slithered our way along South Loch Earn Road, heading for Ardvorlich House. Again I was amazed at the number of cars parked along the wide verge at the lochside. This is one popular hobby.

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You cannot help but be impressed as you step out of the car and view Ben Vorlich, framed above Ardvorlich House.

As luck would have it another car had arrived just in front of us and, after a brief chat, Allan and Angus took pity on The Fatdog and decided that it would be safer all round if they took us to the top.

If you ever meet this pair on the hill stop and get to know them. Sometimes it was difficult to walk for laughing. Their descriptions of larger than life characters and bothy nights make walking with them an absolute joy.

We headed up the east drive of Ardvorlich House which walkers are asked to do and headed through a series of gates towards the open hillside. Unfortunately the estate has seen fit to padlock the last gate (stile provided) which meant that FD had to be lifted over the fence! My enduring thanks to Allan who volunteered to catch her as I lifted her over. Maisie squawked indignantly as she was hoisted over the fence into the arms of the waiting Allan. Thankfully no photos of this embarrassing operation exist.

The party had a definite pecking order. Allan set the pace, Angus and The Fatdog tucked in behind and I staggered up behind continually falling off the pace. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a fast pace…it’s just relentless. These guys have many years experience of this and have their routine down to a fine art. As younger walkers flew by us on the lower slopes, all were later to be passed by the A&A machine as it stoically chugged it’s way up the hill.

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To the north, Loch Earn and the surrounding hills were bathed in sunlight with the Lawers range prominent on the skyline.

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A chill wind picked up from the west as we started onto the north ridge so it was time to zip up.

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…and off went the A&A machine again…scorching the heather in their wake.

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As we looked back down the ridge there were still a number of walkers chasing us up.

Looking in front we started to head into patches of thin, crisp snow.

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As we closed in on the final section of the hill I was struggling to keep up with my erstwhile companions and suggested they should just push on up at their own pace and I would see them at the top. As far as my new friends were concerned this was unthinkable. We started together…so we would arrive together. I must admit I was grateful for the support. The wind had knocked the stuffing out of me and this was the first time I had experienced really cold temperatures on my walks. I battled up behind the others towards the trig point, my right calf muscle about to pack in!
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As we passed the trig point Angus and The Fatdog headed off to the lower summit cairn. Allan suddenly asked “What age do you think Angus is?” This is an incredibly dangerous question. One wrong answer and you make enemies for life. I thought I was on a winner…with that sort of question he’s got to be older than you think he is. “I would guess about 70…ish?” I said, more in hope than conviction.
Allan beamed proudly…”He’s 83”. I just about fell off the mountain. I’d found both a legend …and the demon of the hills!

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In temperatures of -16 and with 35mph winds, we parked ourselves for lunch behind the cairn.  TheFatdog proceeded to terrorise anyone who might just have a morsel of food upon their person. At one point she disappeared round the cairn, her heart shaped tag jingling as she went. There was a disconcerting moment as the jingling sound suddenly got louder and more intense. I had visions of some poor individual requiring trauma counseling having been pounced upon by the black coated mugger of the hills. Seconds later the FD returned, licking her chops and grinning widely. I rushed round the cairn but there was nothing to see. Must have been the rabbit crap again!

By this time A&A had finished lunch and had decided on the next course of action. At the start it had been muted that we might go on to Stuc a Chroin, but the consensus was that we should just head on back. I think my unspectacular performance on the way up suggested that the easy option was in order.

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Stuc a Chroin

Allan picked a route taking us down the Bealach and then cutting N around the side of the hill, thus missing out the steep, narrow, snow covered path that we’d followed on the way up.

So as we cut north off the path from the bealach, we traversed some scree, back towards the start of the N ridge. This was a new experience for me, having stuck to paths since I started hill walking.

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Arms and legs flailing like some demented windmill I capered across the face of the hill behind my companions as they strode comfortably across the snow covered scree. If only they had looked behind them. I have yet to master the art of traversing crusted snow!

Once back on the path it was an easy plod back to the cars where it was time to pack up and say goodbye.

My many thanks to Allan and Angus who made Ben Vorlich such a memorable walk. I do hope I get a chance to walk with you again.

As I pondered over the somewhat dangerously low level of the fuel tank, the Fatdog, totally oblivious to my concern, thought about the strange events at the summit cairn.

“OK” thought the Fatdog. “I can cope with the oversize dogs with the antlers…but who on earth is the fat guy with the long white beard and the red coat dishing out the Bonios?”

A Merry Christmas to all at scottishhills from myself and The Fatdog.

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