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Dreich Drumochter New Year

PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 10:52 pm
by Jeremiah Johnson
Breaking off from family New Year celebrations I drove south in darkness from a still sleeping Aviemore heading for Balsporran Cottage intending to climb the four Munros west of the A9. For many these hills are dull and uninspiring but ever the optimist when I planned the days climb some weeks before I thought surely at New Year the hills would be wrapped in snow and hopefully glistening under a deep blue January sky.

A serious of winter storms had battered the UK causing rivers to rise and devastating floods in many parts of the UK, including Strathspey and other locations in the North East. As I gained height driving along the A9 towards the Drumochter Pass, the weather became ever gloomier and low cloud concealed the high hills either side of the road from view. The latest storm ‘Frank’ had brought mild, wet and extremely windy weather and consequently not sufficient snow for sking or other winter sports for the many visitors to this important centre for winter sport.

Cocooned in waterproof jacket and overtrousers I walked passed Balsporran Cottage, crossed the rail line and joined the good stalking path which rises to the dark heathery slopes of my first hill Geal Charn. With ease I crossed the Allt Beul an Sporain and higher up left the path and continued to climb on an ATV track before continuing on damp, squelching heathery slopes towards the north east ridge engulfed in cloud above. I found the higher slopes of the ridge covered in a thin layer of snow but they could be negotiated easily without crampons. Looking east, from the ridge a glimpse of Loch Ericht, far below, only teased at the fine views Geal Charn provides of Ben Alder and neighbour Ben Bheula on a clear day.

I continued slowly up the ridge, buffeted by a strong wind, onto the small snow covered bouldery summit plateau passing the first small cairn to reach the second cairn which marks the summit. I stopped briefly celebrating my first Munro of the New Year but the bitter wind and lack of view encouraged me to leave the cairn. I descended south down rocky slopes towards the bealach above Coire Fheur seperating Geal Charn from its higher neighbour A’ Mharconaich. Just beyond the path I found a reasonably sheltered spot and stopped for a well needed hot drink and some food.

From the bealach I climbed steep slopes, holding more snow than Geal Charn, towards A’ Mharconaich’s south west ridge. I weaved a route up the slopes avoiding the larger snow sections occasionally spotting recent Hare paw prints in the soft snow, however, I never saw any Hares. Reaching the easier slopes of the ridge I fought the strengthening wind and continued north east passed the first cairn to reach the true summit further on.

With the wind and heavy rain showing little prospect of easing continuing to Beinn Udlamain and Sgaineach Mhor did not appeal so I decided to leave them for a better day and return to Balsporran Cottage. With so much rain falling I was unsure of being able to ford the Allt Coire Fhoir so missed out the interesting descent down the north east ridge of A’ Mharconaich and elected to return to the bealach above Coire Fheur and from there descend the stalkers path back to Balsporran Cottage.

I reached the car park soaked and chilled but hey it was only the second of January and I had visited two new Munros and burned off a load of calories.

Re: Dreich Drumochter New Year

PostPosted: Tue Jan 05, 2016 3:56 pm
by The Rodmiester
A good start to 2016, Martin. See you soon, Rod

Re: Dreich Drumochter New Year

PostPosted: Tue Jan 05, 2016 6:18 pm
by Jeremiah Johnson
The Rodmiester wrote:A good start to 2016, Martin. See you soon, Rod

Thanks Rod. Looking forward to Glen Feshie. :D