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Ben Vorlich & Stuc a Chroin

14th of February 2003. A memorable end to a good week in the highlands

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Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! What a day! Azure, silver and gold, hardly a cloud in the sky and the mercury well below zero. My breakfast finally seemed to have settled by the time I made the north-west ridge of Ben Vorlich. A little way behind me but gaining height fast was a stalking party. The fact that all they needed to carry was a rifle or two and a bit of snap against my ice axe, crampons, food for the week (or that's what it felt like) and extra layers, gave them the advantage. Luckily I knew they were heading for the slopes of Ben Our as I had met the stalker soon after parking my car and he OKed my intended circuit of Coire Fhuadaraich.

The track from Glenample had proved harder to find than it ought. I made a basic error in not following the farm fence past the forest track to pick up the "hill road" this did however mean I came across two stags. I saw the tops of their antlers over a rise in the road and crept forward slowly to get a good view before their flight behaviour kicked in and disappeared into the trees. I realised my mistake shortly after and followed a stream to hopefully return to the right track. The major obstacle with this course of action was not the steepness of the ground but a deer fence. I heaved my pack over the fence and wandered down to cross at a lower gate.

Part way up the steepening ridge I decided to take out the insurance of donning crampons and so began the first of many episodes of clunk chink chink as I stepped my way up and down Ben Vorlich. Once on top the familiar game of spot the peak ensued and a lot of time was spent looking at the next problem, the crags guarding the summit of Stuc a Chroin trying to figure out the best way up them.

In the end it all seemed rather easy, despite thinking at one point my choice of route seemed to be coming to a dead end. I had started out leaving a set of footprints at the foot of the crags and found another set near the top where there were some huge foot holes and deep axe shaft holes made when the snow was much fresher and soft. Coming over the top I was greeted with a memorial cairn (with plaque dating to 1958).

Then more "spot the peak" and drinking in the view, all the time thinking how lucky I was to get such a good day. My return route into Coire Fhuadaraich was over the headwall part way down the Creag Dubh ridge. There was a small cornice here and I looked at a couple of places to descend before finding one I felt confident about.

The snow was crisp and hard and the crampons bit well as I followed the fall line down towards the stream. By the time I reached the end of the snow slope the sunlight on Ben Vorlich was just starting to change to orange as shadows crept across the coire with the nearly full moon almost opposite the sun in it's journey across the sky.

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