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Passing the Pigs

Passing the Pigs

Postby Driftwood » Fri Jun 21, 2013 8:03 pm

Munros included on this walk: A' Mharconaich, Beinn Udlamain, Geal-charn (Drumochter), Sgairneach Mhor

Corbetts included on this walk: The Sow of Atholl

Date walked: 06/06/2013

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 24 km

Ascent: 1430m

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After several days in Killin, my plan was to head towards Spean Bridge, taking in at least one walk along the way. I'd considered something in the west, but opted for the A9 approach since the forecasts seemed particularly good in this direction.

Gradual progress and a diversion to Dalwhinnie meant that it was past 12 by the time I had my boots on. I could have saved a couple of minutes by parking further south rather than where mapped, but I wasn't worried. I had a plan. Apart from the high level start and rounded nature of these hills, I intended a route to spend longer on the hill and avoid the miles of walking cycle tracks usually suggested to bag these four.

As ever, this is an approximation of my route (omitting a lot of zig-zagging and some of the meandering).

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

The weather looked promising, though warm enough that I hoped a few of the scenic clouds would hang overhead to shade the ascents.
Drumochter Skies

The first kilometre was along the cycle route, so close to the busy A9, but a track soon lead off to the railway underpass. This had a fence and locked gate, but those seemed a lot simpler than daring the line above. The same track divides, fording the Allt Coire Dhomhain to continue west along its northern bank. It's not pretty, but easy walking; there's a recent bridge and some more track than appear on my OS Explorer.
From the Boar to the Sow

I turned slightly north of west for a rising traverse of the Boar of Badenoch's south side. This is heathery, with a few burns and damp patches, but in the dry weather was fairly easy going except for the warm weather.
A Mharconaich

Patches of snow defied the heat in sheltered corries higher up, but the peaty bealach before A Mharconaich was almost solid underfoot.
Emerging from the peat

I headed up the southeast flank to avoid some steeper ground and lingering patches of snow in the eastern corrie. That left several hundred metres of open top to cross, easy going though with scattered stones. A Mharconaich offers fair views, as did most of these hills, though robbed of drama due to the flat, or very gently rounded, tops.

After a brief break, I decided to traverse the northern flank down to the bealach rather than follow the ridgetop (if it can be called that). Some snow clung on in sheltered spots, including several burns trickling down the hill:
Towards Geal Charn

I picked up traces of a path, then joined a track which crosses the gentle bealach. After a couple of hundred metres that starts to descend the eastern side of Geal Charn, so I continued on a walkers' path heading up its south ridge. This crosses some rock outcrops and bouldery swells, but was straightforward going; certainly easier than wading through heather. Geal Charn itself barely tops the 3000 feet mark, but is a fair viewpoint across to the Fara, over Drumochter and, in particular, towards Ben Alder and its companions.
Loch Ericht hills

From there, I retraced my steps, but decided to keep with the track for a little longer. This becomes more unsightly as it descends a little, but I wanted to avoid ascending the western side of A Mharconaich only to lose height again.
Geal Charn to Beinn Udlamain

The resulting rising traverse did cover some moderately steep ground, so wouldn't be ideal in worse conditions, but I reached the dip before Beinn Udlamain without trouble. There is a pronounced notch between the hills, a smaller version of the gouged bealachs at several other points. From here, there's a gradual ascent in various combinations of south and west. This picks up a fenceline, crossing a rounded false top, to eventually reach the summit of the highest Drumochter hill.

There are scattered stones, a fair sized cairn and - OK, I admit it, it isn't the most breathtaking summit I've ever seen. The views are good (at least, in the fine weather I was enjoying), but underwhelmed by the almost-flat ground easing gradually away in most directions. After my usual snack and break at the top, I continued with the fence line, descending some bouldery patches down the broad south ridge.
This offered more interest ahead, with quite a narrow steep dip before the last of these Munros. I chickened out of a direct approach and opted to stay with the posts, then cut southeast to a peaty bealach. This was good dry going, though with a few hags to step down and up, as well as some snow patches. After a cautious crossing, I was soon onto the grassy west side of Sgairneach Mhor.

This enjoys the only trig point among the group of hills, together with a cairn which wants to be a wind-shelter when it grows up.
A Mharconaich from Sgairneach Mhor

Conditions were still warm, so I soaked up the sun and views for a few minutes. I'm getting to recognise more hills, though some aren't exactly testing to name:

Once I started on the usual descent route, heading east, one decision remained: whether to tag the Sow of Atholl onto the walk. Having acquired the habit of including a Corbett along with my Munro(s), it was hard to resist, even though it was now well past 5 pm. This required heading southeast down the south flank of the 758-metre top, following a path. There's a relatively easy bealach at this point, much simpler than attempting the rather steep and rocky slopes that face each other between pt 758 and the Sow herself.

The Sow is quite a steep and heathery lump. The top is rounded, but it's low enough for the sides to hold heather, as well as some rocks to trouble the unwary. It might have been the evening sun or the distance covered, but I felt it the match for any of the earlier Munros. There are some scattered sheep-paths, but I found nothing that seemed made for boots. The descent northwards was just also fairly steep, turning a little softer underfoot as the slope eased.

I picked eastwards to reach and cross Allt Coire Dhomhain (easy in these dry conditions), then joined the same track from my approach. Over some stones at the ford, through the railway underpass, before a last stretch along the cycle-path with warm evening sunlight playing on the hills. I had a way further to go to eat and camp that night, but this had been an afternoon (and some) well spent.
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Mountain Walker
Posts: 299
Munros:200   Corbetts:40
Grahams:16   Donalds:21
Sub 2000:19   
Joined: Jun 9, 2011

Re: Passing the Pigs

Postby skuk007 » Sun Jun 23, 2013 6:05 pm

That looks like a nice round when you get the good weather.

Sounds like you had them to yourself too, bonus :-)
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Location: Bristol

Re: Passing the Pigs

Postby Driftwood » Mon Jun 24, 2013 12:03 am

skuk007 wrote:That looks like a nice round when you get the good weather.

Sounds like you had them to yourself too, bonus :-)

I know that they're often thought of as "winter hills", but travel means my hill-walking "season" is a couple of weeks, usually in June and September. I certainly found them a fine walk in those conditions (though there isn't much which wouldn't be pleasant in that weather!)

There were a few cars parked up in the layby slightly closer to the underpass and it's quite possible that others were out earlier in the day, but I didn't see another soul (unless you count distant glimpse of the A9 traffic). Maybe everyone who could get out that day was off on something more "interesting" :lol:
User avatar
Mountain Walker
Posts: 299
Munros:200   Corbetts:40
Grahams:16   Donalds:21
Sub 2000:19   
Joined: Jun 9, 2011

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