One thing that had put me off was the fact the bridge over the Keltie Burn had been washed away in a storm some years ago, and there were therefore two difficult burn crossings to be made in normal Scottish conditions...well, that and the expected bog once over the bealach at Meall na h-Iolaire. But here we were, the chance to scope out another route, excellent blue skies and the ground as dry as it was ever going to be. It's on!
I parked at the forestry road end a couple of kilometres past the tourist honey-pot of Bracklin Falls, (though I doubt there was much of a fall in these conditions!), and got out the bike to cycle as far as I could up the track. As I was doing so, I greeted a chap who was planning on camping out, and he informed me that Drummond Estates had reinstated the bridges. Hurrah! As we chatted, we spotted our first Red Kite of the day, and I was to have them circling overhead for many hours as the walk progressed, and added bonus. They weren't the only things in flight though - The heat had all but suppressed the midges, but the horseflies, a.k.a. clegs in Scotland were out in force. I had liberally applied Smidge, which seemed to stop them biting, but by heck they were annoying until over 600m or so.
I dumped the bike at Arivurichardich, where some guys have apparently rented the old bothy and have done it up for stalking and the likes, and set off up the feint path. Though it is shown on the OS map as going right over to Loch Earn, it doesn't. It sets off up my panned descent route at the bealach, so it was off piste after I reached the high point at 580m, and I lost height as I waded through the swamp grass to gain the SE ridge of Ben Vorlich. It was very hot indeed, and I was glad of the 3 litres of water I brought. I didn't want to bank on the burns, knowing that even if they weren't dry, they would be very brown and acidic. The Allt na Dubh Coirein was exceptionally low, more resembling things I have seen in Argentina than Scotland!
There is nothing exciting about the slog up the ridge, other than it's remoteness and expanding views, though the kites added entertainment, as did another hovering bird of prey that you may be able to identify but I am not good at my birds :( Before long I was at the summit at 985m, which I predictably shared with folks coming up the standard route. The views were expansive indeed. I chatted with one chap, and said that I was planning to try some scrambling on the connecting ridge to Stuc a'Chroin, and he said he'd watch me first before trying it! I had once backed of before when I had my young son with me, and know of a couple of fatalities and injuries there, so I planned to be cautious. There is a much easier path that takes the shallow coire to the NW, but I knew the other path, though steep and loose, is easy enough if I decided to back off.
Once at the foot of the boulders, I elected to follow the path to the second terrace, but could not find any decent rock to start on. Maybe a little higher? And so it went - Every time I went higher, looking for a decent place to start, I was faced with loose piles of choss and vegetation. I suspect there may be cleaner rock around to the SE side, but that has much greater consequences in the case of a slip. Eventually I made the top, and the cairn memorial to a member of Falkirk Mountaineering Club. I peered over the edge to see if I could spot a decent route, but simply put, I couldn't. I am sure there may be a safe-ish route, but I don't think it's a coincidence that there is little in the way of a route description anywhere, as it is a pile of teetering blocks waiting to fall in my opinion.
I rested a minute at the summit a little further on, slightly miffed at my cowardice but knowing that I had made the right decision, when I was joined by the chap from Vorlich who concurred on the scrambling decision, and Bill, (the chap I had met at the start of the day) who had ascended my planned descent route from his camp. We decided to wander down together, and had a lovely chat about mutual folks we knew from our days in the Carronbridge Hotel and further afield in the hills. Folks of Bill's advanced years (76) who are still on the hills always inspire me to keep going. Well done to him!
I was so glad of the bike for the final few kilometres of the descent, and even more glad of the cold beer in the garden when I got home after the unusually short drive. A great day's recce, and a very satisfying route.