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Gusty and hazy! Drumochter round: 7 Munros, 33 miles, 11 hrs

Gusty and hazy! Drumochter round: 7 Munros, 33 miles, 11 hrs


Postby goingforawii » Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:22 pm

Munros included on this walk: A' Bhuidheanach Bheag, A' Mharconaich, Beinn Udlamain, Carn na Caim, Geal-charn (Drumochter), Meall Chuaich, Sgairneach Mhor

Date walked: 23/02/2019

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 53 km

Ascent: 2452m

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I decided to add this report to let people know that this is a very possible option to do as a longer hike in a single day, as a circular route, should anybody fancy it. Generally speaking, the hills are not that impressive and at times offer little views, so you can certainly get a stomp on large parts of the way round. Not much jogging on this round either, mainly just down Meall Chuaich and along the road/cycle path at the end.
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I'd planned on coming up during this weekend for a few weeks now and was hoping to be able to book onto a Winter Skills course, to give me more confidence in the deeper snow. That was a great idea... at the end of January... and then as the weeks went by and the air from the Canaries kept coming, it looked less and less likely there'd be a 'good' weekend for skills. The usual providers Glenmore Lodge, Cairngorm Adventure, Adventure Peaks etc all still had space available for the course, even by Friday 22nd, but reading their blogs of weekends previous to this - it just didn't seem the same... searching around for a patch of snow big enough to do the skills was fine - but not getting a full day out in the deep snow seemed a shame... so anyways, I decided against this and just headed out into the hills instead.

In preparation for any such winter skills weekend, I'd bought my first ever pair of B2 boots... A pair of Scarpa Mountain Tech OD's. I'd completely ruled these out when trying boots on, as the average price on t'internet was around £360 (RRP of £410), which was a bit heavy - but when I saw a pair of size 46 on ebay, 'used once', for £200 - I jumped at the chance and made the investment:

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hopefully get many days out in these

Anyways, having ruled out a winter course for this weekend, I decided on three Munro circular routes over the three days I had: Drumochter 7, Monadh Liath 4 and Creag Meagaidh 5 - and I guess I would see how I got on.

I decided to start with the Drumochter round. Doing all 7 Munros in a day seemed very achievable, with the total ascent only being around the 2400m mark - it seemed like splitting this into two (or three) days would be overkill. Parking was at Balsporran Cottages to do the Munros west of the Drumochter pass first and then complete the east side straight after. I knew doing it this way would mean I'd be back at the A9 after having done Meall Chuaich with just over a 5 mile plod back to the car (possibly in the dark), but the vast majority would be on the cycle path to Pitlochry so all good.

So even though the weather/terrain really didn't require my B2s, I wanted to give them a run out, so off I went... Having had some clear blue skies, temperatures of 18 degrees and very light winds in Brum, I was hoping there'd be a little less cloud than there was - but at least it wasn't lashing down :D It wasn't an early start - only 8am, but it was a very gusty start and the wind was bitterly cold, so certainly was not going to be much hanging around today. With the southerly winds, the theme over the next three days was to be gusty and very hazy:

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start at Balsporran Cottages

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definitely on the right track :lol:

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looking back to Balsporran Cottages and across the Drumochter Pass - very hazy!

There's a well trodden, and sometimes boggy, path all the way to the top of Geal-charn, with another shelter cairn just as you reach the sort of 830m mark:

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well trodden path

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shelter cairn at 830m or so

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Geal-charn summit

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very hazy views across Loch Ericht

From the top of Geal-charn, there are nice views ahead to A'Mharconaich and you see the plateau on top. There's a well trodden path down from Geal-charn where it meets up with a Land Rover track briefly, before you simply fork off it and head up the side of A'Mharconaich. Here I realised I went off the Land Rover track too early as just ended up stomping up across the heather in a straight line to the top, but was probably slightly quicker:

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View towards A'Mharconaich from Gael-charn and the well trodden path

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looking back up to Gael-charn from the Land Rover track

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A'Mharconaich summit

From the A'Mharconaich summit, you pick up some fence posts and another well trodden path to the top of Beinn Udlamain:

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follow the posts

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and the path

There are some good views towards Sgairneach Mhor as you start climbing again towards Beinn Udlamain, but these disappear for a while as you plod up the domed top of Beinn Udlamain. I met a nice chap at the top and we both took a wee rest from the biting wind as it really was blowing a gale up there:

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views towards Sgairneach Mhor

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follow the posts again

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Beinn Udlamain summit

From here it was then a simple follow of the path to Sgairneach Mhor. There was about a 190m descent and then 160m re-ascent to get to Sgairneach Mhor's summit, so nothing tricky - but approaching the summit, there were still some cornices I made sure I avoided. The wind was still biting and so took a quick shelter with four chaps from Yorkshire at the top:

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still some snow left...

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avoiding the wind at Sgairneach Mhor summit

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hazy summit views

From the summit of Sgairneach Mhor, I believe there was a route down - but I missed this and ended up following the path towards the Sow of Atholl by mistake and so just skirted round this and headed down towards one of the bridges I could see over the burn. This meets up with a Land Rover track which then takes you underneath the railway line and pops out at the parking layby on the A9 next to the Drumochter Summit road sign:

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view back up to the Sow of Atholl

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track towards the A9

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back on the A9

From the Drumochter road sign, it's a case of going through the gate by this and then just heading on up alongside the waterfall on the very worn (sometimes completely worn away) path. You can seemingly follow these falls nearly all the way to the A'Bhuidheanach Bheag summit, but I decided to hop across this and go up the slope of A'Bhuidheanach Bheag instead. You eventually reach fence posts (and a gate) which take you to the top:

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follow the waterfall

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bit of shelter from the wind with a nice view

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please close the gate :lol:

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A'Bhuidheanach Bheag summit

From A'Bhuidheanach Bheag to Carn na Caim the plod is bleak... very bleak - made all the more picturesque with some rain coming in :roll: There is a line of fence posts to follow for most of it, along with a marble cairn part way along the route at 873m at A'Bhuidheanach. I finally found a tiny patch of snow as well, so had fun trying to kick it about in me boots :lol: - but otherwise from A'Bhuidheanach to Carn na Caim, it's very plateau-y offering little by way of views:

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very bleak going try and follow the posts

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marble cairn

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so glad I put the B2s on now in these conditions :lol:

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Carn na Caim summit

From Carn na Caim, there is a trodden path for a while heading towards Meall Odhar Mor, but this seemed to disappear, but it's largely plateau walking up to the point where you would head up the top of Bogha-cloiche, so easy enough. There are some splendid views from here looking down to the valley and you can just about see Loch Cuaich. The route is to continue skirting round Bogha-cloiche where you pick up a path which then zig-zags down the side of the hill. The views of Meall Chuaich at this point are pretty grand. The path doesn't quite take you to the saddle between Bogha-cloiche and Meall Chuaich, but there's not much in it:

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views down towards Loch Cuaich

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skirting round the top of the valley

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path along the side of Bogha-cloiche, with first proper views of Meall Chuaich

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at the base of Meall Chuaich

There is a trodden path of sorts up this side of Meall Chuaich, but it's not particularly steep so a simple plod. The mist was just about coming in now at the top - with just a brief break to get a gaze at some lovely red sky... maybe shepherd's delight tomorrow? :wink: The route was far more defined on the west side heading back down:

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Meall Chuaich summit

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red sky at night...

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looking back up Meall Chuaich

Once back down, you meet up with a land rover track next to Loch Cuaich and it's a case of plodding along this. You reach the beginning of an aqueduct which the track carries on along. Now my plan here was to follow this... I was on the understanding it went along the east side of the A9, then passed under it and came out just below Dalwhinnie on the A889, where you can then have the short walk back to the A9 and meet up with the cycle path to Pitlochry... For whatever reason, as I was hastily jogging along, I went straight to the A9 and had started jogging along the side of it, before I realised my mistake... anyhoo - it was just a couple miles or so along the A9 and then I eventually met up with the cycle path and this took me directly back to Balsporran Cottages, for a just after 7pm finish.

While the boots weren't the most comfortable towards the end of this round (especially trying to jog along the cycle path - my feet were feeling a bit tender), they were warm (my feet were very sweaty), very light and seemed to give good support, despite being comparatively thin. Back to my normal boots for the next couple days though - to get the flexibility back!
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goingforawii
 
Posts: 148
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Joined: Nov 15, 2017
Location: Birmingham

Re: Gusty and hazy! Drumochter round: 7 Munros, 33 miles, 11

Postby noobie30 » Wed Mar 20, 2019 4:11 pm

Good to see doing it in a day is achievable. Thanks for the report.
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Joined: Mar 20, 2019

Re: Gusty and hazy! Drumochter round: 7 Munros, 33 miles, 11

Postby prog99 » Wed Mar 20, 2019 5:04 pm

I've done a variation on this before missing out Meall Chuaich but adding on the munro top of Glass Mheall Mor as well starting at Dalnaspidal. In fact adding on the Sow would have been slightly shorter but then you don't have the novelty of walking along the old A9 at the end.
Yes it is of course doable but not everyone is as fit or motivated as yourself (or me for that matter).
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prog99
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