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Unexpected Restoration for the Soul in Drumochter

Unexpected Restoration for the Soul in Drumochter


Postby mrssanta » Thu Dec 08, 2016 11:42 pm

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

Date walked: 05/12/2016

Time taken: 28 hours

Distance: 24 km

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It's been a tough year at work and I had a wee bit of holiday left which I was intending to use to write Christmas cards, clean the bathroom and suchlike activities.
But Rudolph had a look at the weather forecast and it looked like the lovely long spell of high pressure weather was going to last into this week. We hatched a plan.... perhaps a couple of nights of camping and a half dozen Drumochter Munros if the weather held...

West drumochter dec 16.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Camping in December seemed like a good idea. Plenty of time to rest and catch up on missed sleep :roll: . I was busy at the weekend with musical activities so we got away to Shish's house in the borders on Sunday night ready to get away on Monday morning and head for Balsporran Cottages. Shish treated us to bacon and egg rolls to give us a good start.
The forecast was for patches of low cloud and wind mainly from the south, so we decided to tackle the West Drumochter munros in a clockwise direction. MWIS reckoned Tuesday would be ok but Wednesday was going to be horrible. We would see how it went and modify the plans as needed. We brought all sorts of spikey things in the car but on arriving at Drumochter there was very little snow on the hills so we didn't take any with us.
It was bitterly cold as we set off South alongside the A9 a little after noon. After some faffing about adjusting boots and the like we made good progress and easily found the track under the railway line and up into Coire Dhomhain. As per the WH instructions we found the first bridge and picked up the boggy path which slants up the hillside on a nice gradient to reach the ridge at a notch just west of the 758m spot height. The bog was partly frozen which helped underfoot.
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Balsporran Cottages as we set off

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approaching the railway underpass.

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looking up coire Dhomhain

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notch just before reaching the ridge

We wondered if we had picked the wrong hill as ours seemed to be the only one shrouded in mist.
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looking back to A' Bhuidheanach Bheag. Looks better than our hill at the moment

Once reaching the ridge we were in shadow and the rime frost on the grass and heather was spectacular.
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frost on the grass

up the ridge we trudged and then suddenly we started to see the most amazing things. The sun was setting behind the summit of the hill in front of us and orange clouds were blowing over.
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orange cloud. in real life it was oranger than the pictures suggest

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sun on the slopes of A' Mharconaich

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That must be Ben More and Stob Binnein over there

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looking north

Then suddenly, we came out on the top to the most amazing sunset and inversion, with every hill from Schiehallion to Ben Alder and right across Rannoch Moor laid out in front of us. Words and even pictures cannot express how fantastic it was. It was spectacular and unforgettable.
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oh my goodness!!!

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and north again

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Rudolph on the summit looking over towards Bidean we think

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Bheinn Bheoil and Ben Alder

The sky continued to be amazing as we dropped down to the bealach at the 809m spot height just as the sun finally set.
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beautiful chust

Our first plan had been to pick up water here and possibly continue over the next hill in the dark (exciting or what) but we decided to be sensible and pitch the tent and camp at this spot. It was a bit tricky to get the tent pegs in through the crust of ice and we pitched up on what in the summer would likely be a fearful bog, but it was nice and flat and very sheltered.
It was about 4pm as we pitched our tent and it was soon quite dark. the moon was just a wee crescent and the stars were fantastic. It was very cold. We had a brew. We cracked out some hand warmers and put them in our socks (lovely). We played I-spy in the dark, which was brief. We played some word games. We discovered my down mat had sprung a slow leak. We blew it up again and had a snooze. We cooked our tea and ate it. We blew the mat up again and discovered where the leak was coming from. We found the first aid kit for mats and mended the leak. We had another brew, and eventually we went to bed. It was cold, but we had on all our clothes and some lovely cosy sleeping bags and we actually slept quite well, except that we discovered that my downmat was still leaking, more slowly this time. We could not find the second hole; it must have been very small. We think it was caused by the kitten. :(
There was barely a breath of wind all night. At bedtime the stars were amazing and we could see the Milky Way. At 5am the sky had clouded over and at 7.45 when it started to get light we were in thick clag.
We got ourselves ready and set off on our second day of adventure at about 9.30am. It was pretty straightforward going up the ridge to the next Munro, Beinn Udlamain.
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Rudolph on Beinn Udlamain

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and me

From there we navigated by compass bearing and pacing. The visibility was rubbish and the random scattered bits of fence post were helpful. We were very glad to have taken the route clockwise as there was a cold wet wind coming from behind.
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interesting bit of mountain art.

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rather unspectacular summit of A' Mharconaich

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but we both made it to the top!

Coming down A'Mharconaich we went a bit far and missed the right turn down to the bealach with Geal Charn, but no great harm was done and we found our way back on course. This was because we were both enjoying a good trudge downhill counting paces and each thought the other was navigating. :oops:
We hadn't stopped much because it was cold, but we found a sheltered spot just before the climb up Geal Charn for a brew and a bite to eat.
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happy mug has a personality change when the kettle takes too long to boil

It almost threatened to clear up as we climbed up, giving a tantalising glimpse of Loch Ericht, but it didn't last long.
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could that be a view? surely not!

Geal Charn has two summits and we went to both to be sure.
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Cracking out Viewranger to prove we did reach the summit.

We took a bearing again off the summit to find the top of the track down, and we never saw Balsporran Cottage until we were almost at the bottom of the hill.
Two completely different but totally unmissable days! But as the weather was deteriorating we decided to save East Drumochter for another trip (summit camp maybe?) and decided a warm bed at Rudolph's parents' was preferable to another 16 hours on a flat downmat!
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mrssanta
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Re: Unexpected Restoration for the Soul in Drumochter

Postby Jaxter » Fri Dec 09, 2016 3:11 pm

These hills have a really bad reputation, but like you I had a fantastic time on them :D isn't it just great when everything clears and you can suddenly see...lovely sunset photies :thumbup: :D
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Re: Unexpected Restoration for the Soul in Drumochter

Postby Alteknacker » Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:43 pm

As you say so expressively: "oh my goodness!". Indeed - wonderful stuff!

The 2nd day wouldn't have been much to my taste though, I have to say (though worth it for the first evening). For some reason, clag-bound summits always look rather similar to me :roll: You are truly hardy spirits!

As I was reading I noticed Rudolf's foam mat, and thought, "I wonder why he hasn't got something like an Exped..." (I recently invested in one, but not yet used). And we find out just why later in the tale! Fortunately I don't have a kitten...
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Re: Unexpected Restoration for the Soul in Drumochter

Postby mrssanta » Tue Dec 13, 2016 11:59 pm

Jaxter wrote:These hills have a really bad reputation, but like you I had a fantastic time on them :D isn't it just great when everything clears and you can suddenly see...lovely sunset photies :thumbup: :D

Thank you it rendered me almost speechless. Of course you have to camp to get the hilltop sunset - shame about the Clag next day but at least we got navigation practice.
Alteknacker wrote:As you say so expressively: "oh my goodness!". Indeed - wonderful stuff!

The 2nd day wouldn't have been much to my taste though, I have to say (though worth it for the first evening). For some reason, clag-bound summits always look rather similar to me :roll: You are truly hardy spirits!

As I was reading I noticed Rudolf's foam mat, and thought, "I wonder why he hasn't got something like an Exped..." (I recently invested in one, but not yet used). And we find out just why later in the tale! Fortunately I don't have a kitten...
yes the kitten can be a pest. We actually each have an Exped downmat for comfort and a closed cell mat which goes under the groundsheet as protection and security in case of puncture of downmat. The exped is really excellent.
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mrssanta
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Re: Unexpected Restoration for the Soul in Drumochter

Postby simon-b » Wed Dec 14, 2016 1:31 am

A nice adventure in a landscape that's bleak but full of character.
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Re: Unexpected Restoration for the Soul in Drumochter

Postby NeepNeep » Thu Dec 15, 2016 6:19 pm

We also had a great time in the two Northern hills. The weather had been really poor up North and on the way home, slightly disheartened we stopped for these two Munros. The views are great and the wildlife even better - "Bean" wrote a great report on it. :)
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Re: Unexpected Restoration for the Soul in Drumochter

Postby dogplodder » Fri Dec 16, 2016 8:16 pm

You're hardy souls right enough. :wink:
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Re: Unexpected Restoration for the Soul in Drumochter

Postby mrssanta » Sun Dec 18, 2016 12:00 am

simon-b wrote:A nice adventure in a landscape that's bleak but full of character.

Thanks. We didn't see much of the character on day 2 but it was fun.
NeepNeep wrote:We also had a great time in the two Northern hills. The weather had been really poor up North and on the way home, slightly disheartened we stopped for these two Munros. The views are great and the wildlife even better - "Bean" wrote a great report on it. :)

We did see a hare and a lot of ptarmigan but couldn't take pictures of them. Its always good when you get an unexpected bonus hill.
dogplodder wrote:You're hardy souls right enough. :wink:

Ha ha not really just a bit unhinged and seriously needing to get away from it all!
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