Words & Photos Keith Fergus
Distance: 7 miles/11.5km
Start/Finish: Car park half a mile N of Moulin Inn (GR: NN 945598)
Time: 4-5 hours
Maps: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheets 43 (Braemar & Blair Athol) and 52 (Pitlochry & Crieff)
Information: Pitlochry, 01796 472215
Travel: National Express coaches and First Scotrail trains to PitlochryTraveline: 0871 200 22 33; www.traveline.org.uk
I had always been unfortunate when climbing Ben Vrackie – the wonderful Corbett rising sharply above Pitlochry – as views from her summit seemed hard to come by. This being Scotland a little thing called cloud got in the way.
But with a small window of good weather forecast, we decided to present ourselves with the best opportunity possible of a clear summit by camping overnight at Loch a’ Choire, leaving a short ascent to the top in the morning. Furthermore, particularly with the short winter days, an early start for the summit would let us explore more of Ben Vrackie’s surrounding terrain rather than just retreating by the tourist track.
And so, having endured a slightly uncomfortably cold night under canvas, a beautiful morning greeted us with a spectacular sunrise over Perthshire. We were on the move quickly and glad to be, heat slowly penetrating our bones as we paced ourselves up the last few hundred metres of the steep path zigzagging to Ben Vrackie’s 841m/2759ft summit. The anticipation of the early morning panorama pulled us onwards and our only companion was a buzzard, her wings extended to take advantage of the thermals rising on the cold winter air. Watching this beautiful specimen glide silently only added to the serenity of the morning.
The early start had proved priceless as the views which welcomed us were astonishing. Ben Lawers and her neighbouring Munros rose spectacularly to the south-west, the early sunshine reflecting pink from their snowy flanks, while Scheihallion’s inimitable cone shone in the morning light. But it was the Beinn a’ Ghlo massif a short distance across the glen which took our breath away. The sheer size of her three Munros and the complexities of her corries, beautifully sculpted by the low winter sun, looked exceptional and it was difficult to pull ourselves away.
An icy wind reminded us that it was still winter and ominous clouds were gathering to the west but we still wanted to see a little more of the surrounding landscape and so we descended east towards Carn Geal, meandering along craggy outcrops enjoying the distant views towards Glenshee and the Cairngorms.
However, the views were soon extinguished by a curtain of mist, the speed at which it rolled in catching us off-guard. We had to turn to our compasses to ensure we kept on-course. The terrain was rough underfoot and we continued to take regular bearings as we descended from Carn Geal over featureless terrain. But once we dropped below the mist our route home was clearer, the day completed by the spectacle of 30 deer making their way across the glen below, briefly stopping to give a furtive glance in our direction before continuing on their journey.
From car park take track N through forest, pass through gate onto open moorland. Path rises gradually past Creag Bhreac to Loch a’ Choire. Follow path along E shore of loch and climb steep path NNE to just below summit. Track continues W for short distance to summit. Descend NEE along then down craggy ridge then ascend SE short distance to Carn Geal. Carefully descend Carn Geal S to reach obvious crags at 650m contour line. Farm track lies below crags taking you across heathery slopes SW towards Creag Bhreac then pick up tourist track leading back to car park.Tweet