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A Drumochter Birthday Bag

A Drumochter Birthday Bag

Postby old danensian » Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:43 pm

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

Date walked: 27/09/2012

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 19.5 km

Ascent: 1213m

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There are days when a walk is simply rewarding.

Sometimes there’s no need for precipitous cliffs, swooping knife-edge ridges or the thrill of an epic battle against the elements.

Instead, it’s about the comfort of just being out and getting up high. It’s about taking in your surroundings, putting things in perspective and plotting future trips to hills in the distance. It’s about seeing a day’s worth of exercise stretching out ahead and getting back with that quiet sense of satisfaction.

Yesterday, on the western side of the Drumochter, it was all of that, and icing to my cake as it was my birthday as well. These four don’t always get the best of press, but they needed to be given a chance.

It was a route that had been planned for last Friday, but getting home the previous evening to find the back garden completely underwater had changed my priorities. With water cascading in from neighbouring properties and the contents of the garage needing to be lifted from the floor there was to be no brownie points earned by leaving the other half to cope with the aftermath.

So, five of us, in three parties, set off from Balsporran within five minutes of each other yesterday morning and proceeded to leap-frog for the rest of the day.

Geal-charn from Balsporran Cottage

The route up Geal-charn is straightforward, provided you take the second path to the right rather than the first: you’ll end up heading for Creagan Mor and adding more kilometres to your day than is necessary. The cluster of cairns at about 820m is the first target on the skyline and the easier angled dome of the summit stretches out beyond.

Cairns looking north east to Meall Chuaich

The prospect offered at the top shows a spectacular divide between the hills in this area. Loch Ericht dominates the foreground and splits the undulating hills in the east from the craggier, aggressive looking peaks and ridges in the west. Arriving within a minute or so of each other, we all gathered round the cairn, plotting and planning future trips and comparing experiences. Bike in from there, walk in from here, try a long stretch of kayaking, catch the train, bivvi or bothy: with Culra and Ben Alder the focus of most escapades.

Looking west from Geal-charn across Loch Ericht to Beinn a' Chlachair and another Geal Charn

Although the weather had promised bright to begin with, the cloud base was now settling in at about 1000m. The tops to the west stopped popping out and skeins of cloud began to drag across the top of Beinn Udlaimain to the south.

Looking down the Allt Coire Fhar

So, off we set, in our various groups, for the sweep round to A’ Mharconaich, summiting in dribs and drabs an hour later as the mist swirled round the exposed top. The wind had a bite to it now, and with little scope to shelter behind a friendly sheltering cairn, it was no time to dawdle.

A wind swept shelerless summit of A' Mharconaich

Retracing steps along to the south western end of A’ Mharconaich’s plateau brought the descent to the bealach at 861m and the start of the gradual climb to Beinn Udlamain. Although the track was largely clear, the ferrous friends occurred every few metres, culminating in a gathering of their surplus stocks on the summit, which was reached within another hour.

Beinn Udlamain through the fence posts

Where are the Udlamain metal theives when you want them?

By now the cloud level had definitely dropped and glimpses across Loch Ericht were few and far between. Similarly, the opportunity to keep an eye on the final Munro of the day to the east had disappeared. Better shelter meant that a sandwich could be snatched out of the wind before the chill started to bite again.

The ferrous friends showed the way from the top for a few hundred metres before a track struck off to the left and down to what had the prospect of being the first genuinely boggy experience of the day as the route headed east to the slopes of Sgairneach Mhor. While some parts of the wide bealach looked distinctly uninviting, there was nevertheless a decent route between the gloop and gunge – a bit like my back garden I thought. I arrived at a prominent cairn that emerged out of the mist feeling smug that this final haul had proved to be far easier and quicker than I expected.

“If it’s too good to be true, then it’s not true.” My GPS backed this up by showing that I was in fact on the end of the spur that sits about a kilometre to the west of the summit and a couple of hundred feet lower.

By now we were a party of four, and as we discovered joint interest and use in Walk Highlands, spent the last stages of the ascent extolling its virtues – the site that is, not the hill.

The hill however was not to be the end of the day.

Now when you descend a ridge, there’s only one pure end to it: along to the last bit before it drops to whatever watercourse separates it from another hill. With that as a basic principle, and with my new acquaintance Rod, The Sow had to be taken.

The Sow of Atholl and the logical end to the ridge

A final look up The Drumochter from The Sow

And so it was, and it made a fine and fitting end to a great day out. It wasn’t sullied by a wade across the Allt Coire Dhomhain, not because we used the bridge but despite the rain of the last few days the river was nowhere near in spate and we could cross pretty much where we wanted without having to retrace steps upstream.

Up Coire Dhomhain to Beinn Udlamain in the clouds

With clouds still clinging to the tops by the time we got back to the cars we bade each other and the hills farewell: Rod, Russell and Gavin to a fry-up en-route back east and me to a birthday meal at The Wheatsheaf.

As I said at the beginning, simple but rewarding.
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old danensian
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Re: A Drumochter Birthday Bag

Postby The Rodmiester » Fri Sep 28, 2012 4:33 pm

Hi Nigel, very good report, something I cannot match. Hope you had a fabulous Birthday meal, we certainly made short shift of our 'FRY UP', it didn't touch the sides, washes down by black coffee, great end to a fabulous day on the hills, hope to meet up with you soon, on the hills of course.
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Re: A Drumochter Birthday Bag

Postby LeithySuburbs » Fri Sep 28, 2012 7:50 pm

Great read as usual Nigel :D . Underrated round this - might re-visit in winter this year :think: .
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Re: A Drumochter Birthday Bag

Postby dogplodder » Fri Sep 28, 2012 8:16 pm

That was an enjoyable read. :D
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Re: A Drumochter Birthday Bag

Postby PeteR » Sat Sep 29, 2012 11:36 am

I'm with you on these four OD. Did them as two separate winter walks and enjoyed both trips. Hills I would definitely return to. Glad to see that you had some decent weather and a great time out in the hills too :D
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Re: A Drumochter Birthday Bag

Postby jonny616 » Sun Sep 30, 2012 3:05 pm

Great report OD. like PeteR i did two winter trips for these.
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Re: A Drumochter Birthday Bag

Postby pollyh33 » Sun Sep 30, 2012 3:21 pm

Belated birthday wishes Nigel XXX

But timely report for me! Hoping to head for these 4 on Friday so your report couldn't have come at a better time- thankyou :clap: :clap:
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Re: A Drumochter Birthday Bag

Postby old danensian » Sun Sep 30, 2012 3:43 pm

Thanks Polly - hope you enjoy the day as much as I did - and that it turns out to be more benign than your trip on MnC last week.

If it's a MWSPC outing you must have lost the "sneaky" bit by declaring it almost a week in advance.

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