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The Drumochter round plus one

The Drumochter round plus one

Postby djarvie » Mon Oct 30, 2023 6:45 pm

Munros included on this walk: A' Mharconaich, Beinn Udlamain, Geal-chàrn (Drumochter), Sgàirneach Mhòr

Corbetts included on this walk: The Sow of Atholl

Date walked: 23/10/2023

Time taken: 7.9 hours

Distance: 25 km

Ascent: 1300m

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The forecast - over-optimistic unfortunately - was very promising, for sun with moderate wind, possibly starting to cloud over late afternoon. I was more concerned about the effects of the heavy rain from storm Babet in the last few days, but surprisingly the walk didn't turn out to be particularly boggy at all.

I left my bike by layby 79 at Drumochter summit (there is a cycle track alongside the road), and then drove back to Balsporran to start the walk shortly after 10 am. There was quite a cold wind, so I wore my fleece right from the start. Before leaving the car park, I helped a couple of people who had arrived map-less to identify the two hills they wanted to climb.
View north of the A9, and Càrn na Caim (left centre) and A'Bhuidheanach Bheag (right)

The walk up Geal-chàrn was straightforward, following first a track and then a path. The climb was steady, and not steep. There were bits of thin ice on the path, although nothing to cause problems. A few grouse flew away when I came near, which happened off and on throughout the walk.
View south of the A9, with Boar of Badenoch (right)

Once on the summit ridge, the slope eased off. Approaching it, there were some small patches of snow in places. There were good views of the next two hills, A' Mharconaich and Beinn Udlamain, although they were shaded by cloud.
A' Mharconaich (left) and Beinn Udlamain seen from Gael-chàrn summit ridge

Gael-chàrn summit ahead

I reached the summit after 1 hour 5 minutes. The sunshine made for great views of Loch Ericht stretching out to the south west and the hills on the other side.
Gael-chàrn summit, looking south west down Loch Ericht

Ben Alder (left), with another Geal Chàrn (right) behind Loch Pittack

Loch Ericht, with Beinn Udlamain (left), seen from Gael-chàrn summit

Loch Ericht and Ben Alder

There was a good descent down to a col, where there was a track for a short distance before heading off on the path up A' Mharconaich. By this time it was clouding over more, so that Gael-chàrn was in the shade.
Gael-chàrn seen from A' Mharconaich summit ridge, with Meall Cruaidh across Loch Ericht behind

Walking along A' Mharconaich's summit ridge took me into the cloud, so there was no view at all. The walk from then on remained in the cloud until the descent from the last Munro Sgàirneach Mhòr, apart from brief moments when the cloud would lift to reveal glimpses of the hills around. Because for obvious reasons I mostly took photos during those fleeting moments, the pictures are misleading in not showing enough mist and cloud (apologies to any mist/cloud fans reading this).
A' Mharconaich summit ahead

A' Mharconaich summit

The route to Beinn Udlamain was back along the summit ridge and past the path up from Gael-chàrn. Here I encountered someone who was doing the four Munros in the opposite direction, and the two people I'd met in the car park. After descending from the summit ridge, I reached a small col. Past the col, there was a small rise where I met someone else doing two of the hills.
A metal cairn built from fence posts at a random place along the path

There was a bit of a climb up to Beinn Udlamain's summit ridge. From time to time flocks of a dozen or more pigeon sized birds which I haven't been able to identify, dark on top with a white wing flash and light colour underneath behind, flew about, making among other sounds squeaky toy noises.
The shoulder leading up to Beinn Udlamain's summit ridge

The summit ridge was very broad and flat, and in the wind quite exposed, so it was time to put up my fleece hood.
Following the fence posts along Beinn Udlamain's summit ridge

A snowman and a fence post

Beinn Udlamain's summit cairn is quite impressive, although the shelters were once again filled with snow so not very enticing, and I ate a sandwich without sitting down.
Beinn Udlamain summit cairn

Beinn Udlamain summit

There wasn't much of a path down Beinn Udlamain's south ridge, but the fence posts were a good guide. The view was mostly of mist until I was quite far down, when the cloud sporadically thinned out a bit.
Coming down Beinn Udlamain's south ridge

Another fine view from Beinn Udlamain's south ridge

View over towards Sgàirneach Mhòr

View west before leaving Beinn Udlamain's south ridge

View south west before leaving Beinn Udlamain's south ridge

The route then descended out of the cloud and crossed a surprisingly un-boggy but trackless bealach before heading up Sgàirneach Mhòr.
Looking west from half way up Sgàirneach Mhòr, with Beinn Udlamain disappearing into the cloud on the right

I was soon back into the cloud. As I was reaching the summit ridge, three ptarmigan flew off. Once again there were no views from the summit.
Sgàirneach Mhòr summit, which was mistier than the impression given by the photo

The cloud was beginning to lift a bit by now, so after setting off down, I soon started to come out of it.
View south east during the descent: Coire Luidhearnaidh and the end of Loch Garry

Looking north north east past the Boar of Badenoch

The Sow of Atholl lay ahead, with its top persistently in cloud, although once or twice it nearly lifted for a photo. It didn't look too bad a climb, so given that I'd made good time so far and there was still time before it got dark, I decided to give it a go too.
The Sow of Atholl - no indication of the deep col ahead

I skirted to the right of the lump in front of it, along a rough path. This path disappeared at the edge of a very steep grass/scree slope down to a col. I slowly got down that before crossing to the steep slope up the other side. Traversing the cleft took 15 minutes in total. After this, there was a good slope up the hill, mostly with no path. I was a bit tired by this time, so took it slowly. Eventually after it levelled out, I saw the small summit cairn in the mist ahead. Much to my surprise, two other people were approaching from a slightly different direction - I'd expected that this hill would be relatively little frequented. They were climbing only the Sow from Dalnaspidal before going back down.
The Sow of Atholl summit

Because there was a bridge across Allt Coire Dhomhain to the north north west, I headed off the hill in that direction. The slope, while steep, looked alright on the map, and it was quite manageable in practice. Some partially white mountain hares ran away on my approach both at the top and part way down.
The Boar of Badenoch, and the track out in front of it, seen from the top of the Sow of Atholl

Coire Dhomhain, and A' Mharconaich under the cloud

Looking back up at the col which had to be traversed to reach the Sow of Atholl

After crossing the burn by the bridge, the track took me back to where I'd left my bike, although it had a frustratingly long diversion near the end to get under the railway. Only now when I reached the bike did I see the sign across the road saying Drumochter Summit, which promised a downhill cycle all the way back to the car. It was a very quick and easy cycle along a well maintained cycle path, and with minimal effort I covered the 2.3 miles back to the car in less than 10 minutes - so much better than walking! I was pleased to have made it to the car at 6 pm while it was still light.

Footnote: Interestingly, the distance which I recorded on this outing, 15.7 miles, was precisely the same as my walk last month on the other side of the A9, when I climbed Càrn na Caim and A'Bhuidheanach Bheag (with an extension to Glas Mheall Mòr). What a coincidence!
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Re: The Drumochter round plus one

Postby rockhopper » Wed Nov 01, 2023 6:35 pm

The weather can be so changeable up here but at least it was nice for the earlier part. Adding the Corbett does make sense and makes for a good round - cheers :)
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