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Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 8:11 pm
by jupe1407
After a decent walk on the Monadliath Geal Charn, it's fair to say I was really looking forward to the Drumochter version. It's one of my favourite hills (in winter anyway) as the views over Loch Ericht to the Alder Hills are sensational with a thick layer of the white stuff. With a massively promising forecast, Graham and I met up with Rob, leaving a car at the finishing layby (sort of) and starting from Balsporran Cottages. We were off at 9:30am and the car park was already filling up.

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Starting out

Things were looking promising. The hills looked fantastic with a thick coat of white snow, and the sky was beautifully blue. I've now done this Geal Charn four times, and each time somehow contrived to miss the proper starting path, although this time to be fair, I was following the other two, not paying full attention and faffing with the camera settings. As on my first winter visit here, we ended up breaking trail through deep snow right at the start of the ascent to get back to the actual path :lol:

We were however soon on the well trodden highway up Geal Charn. It took about 10 minutes for us to stop and remove fleeces/jackets and gloves, as the sun was beating down and it seemed incredibly warm, almost alpine.

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Wide angle view of the initial ascent, A'Mharconaich to the left.

Height was being gained quickly, though the energy I'd expended walking out in softer snow yesterday was causing a touch of leg burn :lol:

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View back down to another couple of walkers. Meall Chuaich in the distance.

It wasn't long until we reached the flatter plateau at around the 800m mark and the walking was easier, if a touch icy. Not icy enough for crampons yet though. There were several groups on the hill, and no wonder in these fantastic conditions.

A very brief pull to the summit, and there was my favourite view right before my eyes. What a day this was going to be :D

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Loch Ericht and the Alder Hills

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Across to A'Mharconaich, or "mararoni" as we later decided to christen it

We stayed at the summit for a short while, but not too long as a breeze had got up and we were cooling down rapidly. We also decided that we still couldn't be a***ed with crampons and decided to carefully descend. There's nothing to worry about on descent at all, it's very gentle, nevertheless it would still have been easier with them on :lol:

After a short while the bealach between the two was reached and we took a steeper line up through the crags. Bizarrely there was an ATV buzzing around these hills giving skiers random lifts about the place :lol:

I didn't take any pictures of the ascent as I was too busy cursing my lack of fitness and steep trudges on hills I'm repeating for the third time :lol:

However, after a while we emerged on the long and wide summit plateau of A'Mharconaich. The views here were again terrific. Beinn Udlamain looks, and indeed is, a massive featureless dome from this (and most other) angles. There are a couple of walks in these next shots which show the sheer scale of the thing.

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Beinn Udlamain

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A wider angle

The summit plateau of A'Mharconaich has a useful line of fenceposts, which are a fine aid in poor visibility. However, for today, they served the purpose of displaying some pretty damn cool ice rime.

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Ice Rime

It was a short daunder to the summit from here, and time to have a bite to eat and take in our wonderful surroundings. This was a bit of a throwback to my first walk on these hills in late 2012, when I did the first two with a couple of friends on similarly stunning day. The air clarity in winter really is something else.

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Meall Chuaich, East Drumochter Plateau and distant high 'Gorms

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Crossing flight paths above Schiehallion

From the summit of A'Mharconaich, it's a lengthy, but easy plod to the next target, Beinn Udlamain. The summit plateau only drops to 861m, before a long, gradual pull up to Udlamain's summit at 1011m. There's one slightly steep section, during which I was absolutely knackered :lol:

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Ascending towards Beinn Udlamain

This was the busiest, and indeed largest summit, with a huge shelter cairn. We joined the throng and had another bite to eat, soaking in the stunning views across to the Alder range, and beyond into Glencoe and across to Glen Etive, the Crianlarich hills etc. It was simply fantastic. Not a breath of wind and not particularly cold. It was the sort of day you just don't want to get up and leave a summit.

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Close up of the Alder hills from Beinn Udlamain

Reluctantly, we eventually dragged ourselves up and started the initially gentle descent along the line of fenceposts, before a steeper drop into the bealach between Udlamain and Sgairneach Mhor. Again it was flat calm here, resulting in the removal again the fleeces. The light was also catching ice crystals in the snow, it was almost like walking on a carpet of diamonds. The image doesn't quite pick it up, but trust me, it was cool :lol:

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A distant Coire Domhain

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Looking back at the descent off Beinn Udlamain

So began the final ascent, the long slow plod up Sgairneach Mhor. I was pretty knackered now and it felt as though this took an eternity. Luckily, awesome views mean plenty of scope for photo stops :lol:

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Ascending Sgairneach Mhor, looking back to Udlamain

I eventually dragged my sorry a**e to the summit cairn where we had a good break, scoffed a bit more food and in one case, phoned home. As with the other hills in the range, the best thing about it were the views elsewhere (and that it was the last one).

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The omni-present Schiehallion

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The final summit

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Towards Udlamain, and a distant Glencoe

All that was left was the long, very long descent :lol: We followed the ridge down, almost as far as the bealach with the Sow of Atholl, encountering some interesting snow formations on the way.

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A potential snow hole :lol:

The initial descent had been a pleasure, on nice solid snow, however after dropping to the lower slopes, it soon became a long a tedious trudge through deep stuff, with the occasional leg disappearing through the snow into the heather below. Eventually the bridge across the Allt Coire Dhomhain was reached, with what we assumed would be a relatively straightforward walkout to the layby remaining. I was pretty much broken by now :lol: but not as much as Rob, who spent a good 20 minutes thinking his camper van had been pinched, before realising it was parked half a mile further up in the wrong layby :lol:

Eventually though we made it, I think I may have almost immediately downed a can of Tennents Lager in record time, before we were dropped back at Balsporran to get the other car (I wasn't driving i hasten to add :lol: )

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Last light on "Macaroni"

We returned to the Strathspey Hostel in Newtonmore, where we enjoyed a few drinks and introduced a couple of young german students to the joy/evil of Glenlivet Whisky. They seemed to greatly enjoy it :lol:

I couldn't have asked for a better final walking weekend before going under the knife to get my crappy knee sorted out. I can't wait to get back 8)


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Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 8:39 pm
by tombombadilio
The blues in those photos are unreal! :D

Glad you got in a good round before your op. All the best with that.

Adam.

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 8:52 pm
by Jock McJock
Cracking pics! Looks like a great day out. :thumbup:

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:34 pm
by Gordie12
That's a great way to finish off before your op - hope all goes well and you get back in to the hills soon.

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 10:54 pm
by Beaner001
I agree with Gordie, what a way to finish before the op, hope all goes well for you
Class pics as always :clap:

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 11:10 pm
by jupe1407
Jock McJock wrote:Cracking pics! Looks like a great day out. :thumbup:


Thanks :D It was fantastic. You don't get winter days like this very often, but they're worth waiting for.

Gordie12 wrote:That's a great way to finish off before your op - hope all goes well and you get back in to the hills soon.


Thanks Gordie, very much looking forward to it :D

Beaner001 wrote:I agree with Gordie, what a way to finish before the op, hope all goes well for you
Class pics as always :clap:


Thanks Beaner :D

tombombadilio wrote:The blues in those photos are unreal! :D

Glad you got in a good round before your op. All the best with that.

Adam.


The clarity in the sky was something else. I've not had a winter walk like that since 2012 :lol:

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 11:24 pm
by dooterbang
Fantastic report, enjoyed that. Stunning photos. I had a similar experience on these hills in 2011, loved the views over to Ben Alder range.

I think you may have met my mate and his girlfriend, it may have been them in the photo. I almost joined them but opted for a solo walk in Glen Orchy.

Thanks for posting.

Cheers

Paul

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 11:31 pm
by jupe1407
dooterbang wrote:Fantastic report, enjoyed that. Stunning photos. I had a similar experience on these hills in 2011, loved the views over to Ben Alder range.

I think you may have met my mate and his girlfriend, it may have been them in the photo. I almost joined them but opted for a solo walk in Glen Orchy.

Thanks for posting.

Cheers

Paul


Thanks Paul. Your report on these hills is a topper, as were the photos :D The two folk in the Beinn Udlamain shot were a couple of older guys we chatted to on Geal Charn. We did bump into a few others though. A couple from Glasgow, a few skiers and an Ecuadorian Marine Biologist and his other half who was from London i think. There were another couple who I think may have headed back after A'Mharconaich. It was a busy round of hills :lol:

Cheers.

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 12:57 am
by trekpete
Was a cracking day to be out. I was probably one of the throng on Udlamain.

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 1:08 am
by jupe1407
trekpete wrote:Was a cracking day to be out. I was probably one of the throng on Udlamain.


It was indeed.

It was quite a crowd on that hill :lol:

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:09 am
by Jaxter
Wow some stunning photies here, the sky is amazing! Dead jealous of you managing to get out both days this weekend too! These 4 have been on my hit list for a while so nice to see what it's supposed to look like :lol:

Good luck with the op :thumbup:

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:35 am
by jupe1407
Jaxter wrote:Wow some stunning photies here, the sky is amazing! Dead jealous of you managing to get out both days this weekend too! These 4 have been on my hit list for a while so nice to see what it's supposed to look like :lol:

Good luck with the op :thumbup:


Thanks Jaxter. You should definitely save them for a nice winter's day, great views, and no boggy sections :lol:

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 10:16 am
by Alteknacker
Some wonderful pics there (are you sure you haven't been fiddling with Photoshop...??? :D ).

Wasn't it just such an amazing day??

We were out on Ben Lui - one of my best hill days ever!

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 12:53 pm
by litljortindan
That's a great set of pictures, very inspiring.

Re: Dazzling Winter Views on the West Drumochter 4

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 3:47 pm
by jupe1407
litljortindan wrote:That's a great set of pictures, very inspiring.


Thanks very much :D

Alteknacker wrote:Some wonderful pics there (are you sure you haven't been fiddling with Photoshop...??? :D ).

Wasn't it just such an amazing day??

We were out on Ben Lui - one of my best hill days ever!


I have PS but my computer is too crap to run it properly :lol: I use Lightroom instead which restricts some of the "creativity" you often see on PS :lol:

Ben Lui is a wonderful mountain, looking forward to seeing your TR on it!