Ben Vrackie - 841m
Sunday 20th February 2011

Weather/Conditions: Cloud and wind all day - cloud base at 500m and ferocious winds on top.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 10.9km / 750m / 3h 55m
Accompanying: Dougie

Placed ideally above Pitlochry, Ben Vrackie makes a great short day out. It did Dougie and I well, even though the cloud was down and we couldn't see a thing for the majority of the journey. The route climbs out of Pitlochry, though Moulin (and past the Moulin Inn) and up through trees to Loch a' Choire. Then it's a short haul to the summit, where great 360° views await - or so I'm told. We didn't see a thing. I was staying at Backpackers Hostel on Pitlochry's main street with Dougie and Diane and since we had to get home that Sunday night, Ben Vrackie would get us on the hills in the morning.

Faced with a reasonably short walk we started late - about 11.30am - from Pitlochry, stopping in at Co-op en route. The road took us to the Ben Vrackie car park where a reasonable amount of cars were parked and would indicate the volume of traffic on the hill. A board describes signposted walks around and including Ben Vrackie but we were just visiting the top.

Out on the open hillside, we started seeing others walking up or down. It was a busy hill, but behind the cloud there was little sign of any mountain and we walked into the mist soon afterward.

Loch a' Choire was in the mist, and we walked alongside it on the dam. I was still wearing shorts, but it was time to wrap up. The wind was blowing around already and it wouldn't get any better at the summit! So we stopped for five minutes at the far end of the dam, pulled on trousers and jackets, then began the gradual climb up the top. Many people continued to pass by, so the path was well-trodden. As long as the path didn't end up over a cliff-edge, it should take us all the way to the top. Just below the summit, Dougie met an old pal 'Bash', and promised to meet at the Moulin Inn on the way down. Five minutes later we got to the summit. The wind was blasting along the top, worse than the day before, even though we were 100m lower in altitude. We were holding onto axes and cameras to stop them blowing away. Really exciting!

We got a number of photographs (even though taking them was hard work), we hunkered down behind the cairn for a while then set off again downward. Some views would have made me happy, but it's not such a bad thing to see the hills in harsh weather. If anything, I should do it more...

And so the path took us down through the uniform-white at first, all that ground-merging-with-sky stuff, then brought us down to Loch a' Choire. And although the walk itself was uneventful, we never fail to have a good time. The sky never opened up on us, the sun didn't come out, but it doesn't mean it wasn't a good hill.

And to make it better, the route finished at the Moulin Inn - and that is where the pictures of the birds come in. The conditions for taking the pictures were perfect (once the camera was set up correctly) but it's a shame there was a dirty window in the way because it covered the picture in smudges.

Later on, we headed back to the hostel to pick up our gear and chill out for a while. We left early and rushed out to get fish and chips before going for the train - and then it transpired that in the rush to get out the hostel, Dougie left his boots behind. I only picked them up a month later because I was passing through Pitlochry coming home from Beinn a' Ghlo and as of April, I still have them in my house.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 11.40am Moulin Inn
(2.15) 1.55pm Ben Vrackie
(3.55) 3.35pm Moulin Inn

Written: 2011-04-01