BEN Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin, usually referred to in that order, are invariably climbed as a pair in summer using the too-busy-for-my-liking Ardvorlich approach – yet they could hardly be more different.
When viewed from Glen Ogle or the Balquhidder hills, Stuc a’Chroin is seen as a blunt, rough hill with a long ridge tapering south, lacking the more refined cone of Vorlich.
AE Robertson, the “first” Munroist, climbed both hills on a one-day rail trip from Edinburgh; an early train to Lochearnhead then a return from Callander. Changed days! However, his diary states that he climbed well up the ridge of Stuc a’Chroin, but not quite to the top. This incident is of interest as it appears to be a second example of the less-than-scrupulous AER not visiting the top of a Munro – the notorious Ben Wyvis incident being the other. At least he was honest about admitting his near misses to his diary.
Stuc a’Chroin possibly means hill of the little sheepfold, a reference to Gleann a’Chroin which is overlooked by Meall na Caora, hill of the sheep, and Beinn Each, hill of the horses. The Stuc a’Chroin hill race starts and finishes in Strathyre; 14 miles with an overall ascent of 5,000ft. The record time is under two hours.
In winter of short daylight hours, it is sensible to tackle just the one hill, in this case the slightly lower 975m/3199ft Stuc a’Chroin. Longer approaches from Callander, Glen Artney, or via Glen Ample starting from Loch Lubnaig, are not ideal for winter. Accompanied by Rhona, my route started from the Falls of Edinample on the south-side Loch Earn road, map ref 601225, west of the rebuilt twin-arched bridge that straddles the rocky ravine.
Head up the short road, then turn left as signposted - Loch Lubnaig and hill routes via Glen Ample (a well-trodden right of way) - and follow the track by the west bank of the Burn of Ample. That name comes from ambuill, meaning a vat, alluding to the falls that plunge over a ledge of rock to a deep cauldron below. After one mile the track crosses the burn, and then follow the signposted path by the east bank that skirts the Glenample perimeter fence. (The previous route was on the west bank, but the mapped bridge at map ref 597203 was washed away in 2004.)
Head east, crossing the track, and follow a small path between the forest and estate buildings to join a track coming in from the left. This is the mapped path (in fact a grassy track) that climbs south-east through the forest and into Coire Fhuadaraich. From the path/track end, continue south-east following ATV tracks into the grassy upper corrie, cross the stream and head towards the right hand side of Stuc a’Chroin’s outstanding feature, its 250m high north-east rocky buttress.
A zigzag path, but most likely snow-covered, leads to the north-west ridge. At this point hillwalkers should be well equipped in terms of axes, crampons and with knowledge of how to use them. It is then a gradually stonier approach to the small cairn at the head of the buttress, then a ten-minute walk south to the summit, with a choice of two cairns. The easterly one, nearer to the edge of crags, is the more dramatic.
Return to the north-west ridge, but continue as far as map ref 612184, then descend west, later south-west, on the northern slopes of Coire Chroisg. Stay on the north side of the ravine gouged by the Allt Coire Chroisg. Descend by a vague path by the forest edge to reach the forestry track, map ref 597182, then an easy return to Glenample.
Maps Ordnance Survey maps 57, Stirling, and 51, Loch Tay
Distance 9 miles
Terrain Track to grassy hillside, then steeper slopes to stonier summit
Start point Falls of Edinample, south side Loch Earn road, map ref 601225
Time 5 to 6 hours
Nearest village Lochearnhead
Refreshment spot The Golden Larches, Balquhidder Station