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7 things learned on the Munros, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin

Written by Fiona

October 22 2020

Life’s twists and turns can take you to some unusual places and a recent walk of the two Munros, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin, from the shore of Loch Earn, near Lochearnhead, gave me plenty to think about and ponder. Here are some of the things I learned.

1 My Munro memory can properly fail me

I know that I have walked Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin before but I can’t remember when and with whom. Hubby G reckons it was with my friend Ellen, but she can’t remember either.

It seems strange to me that there was a time when I didn’t keep track of the Munros I bagged, nor wrote about all of them. These days, I record all my Munros and Corbetts and while I did mark on a map that these Munros had been bagged, I can’t tell you when I did this.

2 The second time can be better than the first

Since I can’t remember the first time I walked Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin – did I walk the route in the opposite direction; in thick mist or low cloud; or while talking so hard I didn’t notice the views? – my more recent outing is easily going to surpass the first.

This time, I was the leader, planner and navigator and, also, the weather was perfect. I walked with an old friend and the chat was wonderful and memorable.

So, this time, I think I will treasure the memory of these to Munros.

3 I am far more skilled and self-confident

Of course, I can’t recall if I was led or did the leading the last time I was on these Munros, but this time I was confident of my ability to navigate and be safe. Over the past decade, I have gained many mountain and hill skills.

I have listened, learned and practised how to plan, forecast and navigate. I might sometimes go off course a bit but I am quick to realise this and I know how to remedy small errors. Mostly, I am good at route-finding and as well as being a proficient map reader, I have the experience to be able to read the landscape.

A decade ago, I believed I was a hopeless navigator and a previous partner unfortunately underlined this some dismissive comments. I am surprised I was taken in by this sort of talk and I firmly believe that everyone can confidently navigate the hills using a map if they are shown how to do so with patience.

These days, I love that I can walk on my own or with friends and feel confident in my knowledge of the Scottish mountains.

4 Years can pass, but a friendship still remains

I had not properly talked to or seen my friend Sarah for at least a decade. Although we have stayed in contact since I split with her dad – my ex-husband – more than 11 years ago, we have not found the right opportunity to meet up.

I always got on well with Sarah and although she was a teenager for most of the time that I knew her when I was with her dad, I think we had a good friendship.

She is now grown up, with a child of her own, and amazingly she is the same age as I was when I met her dad. There was no difficulty for either of us in picking up on a friendship formed many years ago – and, if anything, we did not have enough time to fully finish all our conversations during our walk of the two Munros.

Sarah is fit and loves spending time outdoors, so I expect we will walk more mountains. I really hope we manage to get together much more frequently than we have over the last decade.

It was good to know that a friendship made, even if it was when she was younger and I was her step-mother, is one that has the potential to last a lifetime.

5 A mid-week walk can feel like the best walk ever

I don’t mind when I walk and I am always keen to head to the mountains. I prefer good weather and if that happens at a weekend, then all the better. But I do really relish a mid-week get-away.

Leaving my desk and work for a cheeky day in the mountains always pleases me; ridiculously so. Freelance life can be uncertain, unpredictable and bloody hard work, but it also allows for the flexibility of mid-week adventures. I am truly grateful for that.

The mountains are good for my mind. I have been feeling the pressure of life and work recently and usually the best solution is to go for a run or walk. Without my time outdoors amid nature in many beautiful places, I would find life a bit of a struggle.

It is in the mountains that I discover my greatest peace of mind and stress relief. Sarah and I talked about why Scotland’s hills and mountains make us feel so much happier and it has left me pondering the “whys” a wee bit more. There is so much to be happy about in the Scottish countryside, including beautiful views, the closeness of nature, the wonders of wildlife, easy accessibility, a huge sense of freedom, the delights of sights such as temperature inversions, fog bows, rainbows, sunsets and sunrises, as well as the ever-changing seasons.

Feeling the sun or breeze on bare skin, standing at the top of a hill or mountain, wandering a glen and looking up at high places, tramping through a forest with a carpet of crunchy autumn leaves, strolling a woodland surrounded by bluebells, walking to a a white sandy beach and over machair filled with thousands of wildflowers, paddling a calm loch… All this and so much more are remedy for the stresses and strains of a busy work and home life.

6 Scotland in autumn is stunning

It is difficult to choose a favourite season and each one has its merits. For breath-taking scenery, I think that autumn in Scotland really is hard to beat. The stunning hues of red, yellow, orange, ochre and russet add an incredible beauty to an already magnificent landscape.

7 The path is boggy!

Before setting out to walk these two Munros, many people in my Facebook group Munroaming had warned that the path on the lower return route from Stuc a’Chroin is boggy; very boggy! It is, but if you are wearing waterproof walking boots and you can retain a good sense of humour, the path is manageable.

Many paths in the hills of Scotland are boggy and muddy at this time of year and this one is not the worst I’ve encountered.

However, I suspect that there will be some work required in the future to maintain some semblance of a path here, especially given the apparent increase in the numbers of walkers since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin

Distance: 14.5km / 9 miles

Ascent: 1145m.

Route: Walk Highlands.

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