In an attempt to make best use of the shortening daylight hours and to up my Munros completed count,I decided on an early start to the 4 West of drumochter, a well known round from Balsporran cottages parking area.Leaving the house in Fife at 04.30 with a real crispness to the air for the first time since spring, arrived at parking around 06.30 to a very peaceful car park with only 2 motorhomes.
In planning I had bought the OS Map for the area, and downloaded the gpx file of the route into my garmin etrex 20x, also having read a view trips reports to have a mental picture of what, where and when.
Across the railway tracks (closing both gates ) and onwards and upwards to Geal Charn the first summit of the day, straight forward and with a break in the clouds some views down to Loch Ericht, as the visibility improved I could now see the next summit or at least where I was aiming for on A’Mharconaich,a faint path can be seen, boggy at times but the short decent drops you out the wind for a while at it’s peaceful again, before the ascent to the summit.
A coffee and cake stop at the summit where a dell runner seemed to appear out of nowhere, probably has 10-15 years on me but in no doubt much fitter to be running the round!,said our hellos, and off he ran to in the direction of Beinn Udlamain ,also my next stop ,as simple as follow the fence posts to the summit, the decent cairn provided much needed shelter from the wind and blowing sheet of rain that was passing through, took the opportunity to have a roll and enjoy the scenery for 5-10 mins, but really did start to feel chilled so didn’t hang around too long, backpack back on, poles in hands and set off for the 4th Munro of the day Sgairneach Mhor,this was probably the toughest as it’s a fair descent to the Coire before the ascent back up,and over some boggy ground which slows the pace and saps some energy of of tiring legs,once onto the shoulder it’s a simple path to the summit with its OS trig point, great views 360 if weather god allow!
From here it’s a drop down then up to the Sow of Atholl ,standing proud over the busy A9 with It’s never ending line of campervans, caravans and cars with bikes on roofs and tow bars, all going too or coming from a great adventure i hope.
Descend from the Sow is steep and needs concentration, aiming for the wooden bridge to cross Ford without the need for wet feet, then o to the land rover track towards A9, under the railway underpass and the 4km trek along the cycle path back to the car at Balsporran,the bliss of fresh socks and trainers in the boot of the car .
All in all a great day out in the hills again, but it made me think about how we may download gpx files or other peoples routes on smartphones from the likes of ViewRanger etc, do we trust these routes and indeed the route maker? Was it completed in winter or summer? My take away is plan, review any downloaded routes with the actual map, and once on the hills cross reference where the gpx is telling you to go with what you see in front of you and what the map shows, find a feature and double check.
The temperatures are dropping and the seasons will be changing soon, and we all know the hills are different beasts when the weather gets wilder, which can make navigation tricker, having sound knowledge of what route your taking, what you expect to see on route, and how long each leg or summit should take is my basis going forward, an extra couple hours planning and double checking in the warmth of home
to prevent unintended and miserable hours spent in the hills due to following the wrong path!
P.S. I had a viewranger route on my smartphone and it wasn’t accurate to the gpx file that I had downloaded on my garmin from Steve Fallons mountain guide site.
After checking the map to the gpx I turned the smartphone route off, I’ll stick to the OS map, and routes from well respected/ experienced guides in future, as this is the way to improve map reading and Nav skills.
Looking forward to more great times on the hills, and hope to see more friendly faces enjoying them also.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.