Ben Vorlich at Loch Earn is a lovely hill. It is steep, shapely, easy to access and provides the most wonderful views across Perthshire's hills. It's less than an hour's drive from my house, and I see it regularly from afar. It's a fantastic sight from the A9 as one heads down from Perth towards Stirling, and is a distinctive part of the skyline from Perth's Kinnoull Hill - our regular quick walk. It is ridiculous then, that I haven't been up Ben Vorlich since July 1996. I remember the last trip very clearly indeed. It took place about a week or two before I got married. My fiancee was at that stage in Africa working at a remote mission hospital in Niger. The country was quite volatile at that time, and there was some sort of coup d'etat being attempted, and communications were down. I was, as you can imagine, a little anxious!
On a blazing hot summer's day in 1996, four of us drove in my tiny Ford Fiesta to lovely Ardvorlich, on the minor road on the south side of Loch Earn. Then, as now, there were cars and minibuses all wedged into the verges and parking spaces by the loch. This time I was alone, in a VW, and it was February. The sun was shining, and its beams danced prettily on the loch, just as I remembered from before. This time however, there was a hint of steam on my breath, a hat and gloves on my body. A delightful stream runs down to the loch at Ardvorlich, and access path goes up it's east bank, as far as a bridge, where it crosses towards an impressive mansion, before resuming up the west side of the burn. The track gains height quickly then splits, the left fork by-passing the hill and the right one heading straight up a huge ridge ahead.
The path has eroded significantly over the last 23 years, it is now a significant, and in paces ugly path. It leads with increasing steepness up to a summit with a trig-point and an amazing view which quite unexpectedly seems to overwhelm the senses. The last, steep part of the climb is up a North facing ridge which is in the hill's shadow. The trig point was in glorious sunshine - and the views were stunning.
February 2019 treated us to a freaky foretaste of Spring - it was abnormally warm when I went back up Ben Vorlich. Hats, gloves and thermal layers were dispensed not long after the start of the ascent, and I stood on top of the hill in Munro in February T-shirt! Back in 1996, the air was still, and unbearably hot; this time it was blowing a hard wind - but the sun still shone. Last time we continued on to scramble up Stuc a Chroin, before diving off the hills westwards to find a river and some water in the fierce heat. This time, I had to get back to pick children up from school and so had no time to go on and do the second hill, which meant a trudge back down the eroded ascent path.