I've been trying to get to hills by train this year. This was the last - with the change of clocks, you waste light in travelling and the return's after dark. It's mostly fun though it obviously takes longer. I was up Cruachan twice last month - once arriving by train, once by car. Train was a fifteen hour day as compared with twelve and a half. On the other hand, I traversed from Stob Dearg to Sron an Isean coming down at Lochawe where I had a couple of beers - no car to return to. On the train back I watched the scenery till the light faded then read a book, instead of two and a half hours hunched over the wheel.
Incidentally both times I ran into map-challenged people on Stob Diamh. The first time I was asked "Can you help me - I'm disoriented." The second, three people were asking me were they on Stob Diamh or Stob Garbh. But what they said was "Is this the one?" Munro-bagging is like the pursuit of the one night stand. You don't even ask her name. No complaints about the baggers, though, all nice guys.
Anyway to return to Drumochter. You can get to Dalwhinnie just after 9 but the 5 o'clock train just whizzes past, quite understandably, I think. I would have to catch it at Blair Atholl. That gives 8 hours for 26 miles cycle and three Munros and a pint. This is quite manageable, but I got nervous. It was an hour before I left my bike, 2 K up in the corrie and I felt that was slow. The bit between my teeth, I was on a'Mharconaich in less than an hour. Cracking view of Ben Alder made me wish I was there but the 8 pm train time at Dalwhinnie put the knackers on that.
It was another hour to Beinn Udlamain. Cloud was still persistent to the south though the tops were often clear. You could see the huge cairn on Beinn Mholach. When I visited it I was grateful for the warning I'd had. Coming from the west you see the cairn and think you're there when you're actually three miles off.
Again an hour across to Sgairneach Mhor. Looking back at A'Mharconaich, its Munro status looks doubtful with minimal descent to Udlamain. Peeking across its shoulder is the notorious Corbett Fara - height 911.
After another hour I was back at the bike. It's an evil track to descend down the corrie, steep and loose but fast and then off to Blair Atholl. The route is very even in its loss of height and if there'd been a west wind it would've been effortless. At first it's just a path along the northbound carriageway of the A9 but that's less obtrusive than I expected. Then it's the old A9 and that's great.
The river Garry gets kidnapped twice, first from Loch Garry under the hill to Loch Ericht. Then when it's got a bit of body back it's dammed and removed again near Dalnacardoch. After that it's an empty major river bed and the rock formations looked fascinating. I'd just got obsessed with progress but I should have stopped and walked in.
The house of Bruar was stowed as usual. It's incomprehensible. I made Blair with one hour twenty in hand so I'd a macaroni pie and chips at Food in the Park and two pints of Moulin at the Atholl Arms. I can't wait for the start of the train season next year. I'll have to improve my measures of progress, but.
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