With John working this weekend I was hoping to get out and bag some easy wee hills. Initially checking out Mount Keen and possibly Mayar and Driesh too. Weather looked good for the foreseeable so checked out the WH routes for both, maps etc all sorted.
Last minute discussions about John wanting to do Keen again (his first Munro) I then decided it was 3 hr drive too long to do Mayar and Driesh and with various discussions with John and me bruv Phil, I opted to do Meall Chuich on Saturday on my own,,then head up to Mayar and co, on Sunday, with Phil. Plans as they say, are made to be broken
Leaving home just after 7am on Saturday, headed up to Drumochter, Fabulous clear morning, hardly a cloud in the sky as I scooted up the A9, I started to think about the 2 on the West, Sgairneach Mhor and Udlamain. I had looked into these some weeks ago but weather's been rubbish so it never happened.
I pulled over in a layby, checked the Websters Munro book for the starting point and also a general read through of the route. Yep, why not go for 2, fine clear day, no nav issues (and no map , the Meall Chuich map didn't cover these two) Took a calculated risk and decided, should the weather even threaten to change,,get off!
Parked up and headed down the track to pass under the railway bridge. Smashing views of the day ahead with no clouds around. Reading the book on the way, it pointed out the Sow of Atholl, the Corbett, on the left. This carried a fair bit of snow on the East facing side but none on the North or West sides.
On seeing the bridge down off the track, I pondered for a while, according to the book, the bridge over to Sgairneach Mhor was right under the ridge, this was way too early. I passed on a bit, by now, hatching plans to do the Sow.
Until now, I've often read reports etc. where people add on unplanned hills etc. much to my horror, I now found myself considering the same lol Have I finally lost my mind????
I passed the bridge by, but ever checking up to my left for an obvious route up the Sow, it just looked SO steep!
Shortly on, I met someone walking back down the path, a little before 10am and on asking, he advised he had just completed the 4 Munros! I had a quick discussion about the Sow and a possible route round the back to Sgairneach Mhor instead of losing height. He also advised that the bridge for Sgairneach Mhor was indeed a bit further up the track, so I continued up the path for about 5 yards,,then turned, thought "what the heck" and marched back down to the bridge over to the Sow. I must be mad!
Heading round the side of the hill, I kept checking above for an obvious route, every now and then, what looked like a path came into view but never lasted long. I saw a kind of shelf area and decided to head diagonally up to that point, steep heather most of the way, nothing too wet (too steep to hold water lol) Gradually just chipping away at the height.
I'd seen another solo figure coming up the track behind and spotted them crossing the bridge below too, bright orange top on so not hard to miss. Reaching the top plateau, for such a pointy wee dome of a hill, I was surprised how broad and flat it was, with the cairn off to the South. Made my way over, bonus hill, in the bag. Amazing views all round, especially to my next two hills for today.
Heading off the Sow, South South East, easy enough to see the best route was to head down then over to the start of the ridge up Sgairneach Mhor. Lots of grouse around, also saw a vole and then something appeared on the snow above a wee lochan. On standing for a moment, there was a strange noise, getting louder, and I realised thatwhat was on the snow, was a wee frog, taking slow jumps towards the water, the source of the noise was then obvious,, the lochan was JAM PACKED full of frogs,,all croaking and up to who KNOWS what
There was a lot of snow on the broad shoulder to SM but it was clear enough on the ridge edge and also on the south face, not sure why I chose to just go straight up the middle then. Long snow fields punctuated by grassy sections but the snow had the texture of a drained slush puppy lol so no issues with ice or grip.
This section was tiring on the legs, not steep but the soft snow was pretty deep in places. I heard voices and on looking down, saw 3 people and 2 dogs who seemed to have appeared from the South of the Sow. No further sign of the man in orange Id seen on my earlier ascent........
...........Until that is, I dragged myself to the summit,,and there he was,,just arriving too. I asked how he'd got there but turned out he didn't follow me up the Sow but had crossed the bridge and then headed over the heavily heather covered ground to the normal ascent for SM. I did mention the better bridge for this but didn't want to sound too smug lol
Stopped for a pic or two and a bite to eat. The 'dogs party' stopped for a moment or two, (biggest Labrador I have EVER seen!) chat and then off. I waited for a bit and chatted to Tango man, then headed off again.
I had checked the view over to Ben Udlamain and the lovely ridge up to the summit cairn. Again, didn't want to lose too much height so headed West of SM and soon saw the 'dog party' sitting down having some lunch. Passing with a quick wave, I headed down but keeping right and soon picked out a reasonable way up to the ridge without heading out West.
Again, quite a lot of snow sections here so just followed some previous footprints up. 'Dog party' had headed off now and were a couple of hundred yards off to my left, appearing to aim for the bottom of the ridge. Tango man was following my route and we met up again when I stopped for a breather. The sun was scorchio by now and I had forgotten my sun cream, so he kindly offered me some factor 50 (bit late as it turned out,,face, neck and forearms already a lovely shade of lobster) Back on the climb and met up with the dog party when I reached the ridge, so, advancing, 3 of them spread out, 2 dogs, me then tango man wandering up the broad rocky ridge to the summit. I had a wee rest at a cairn and was overtaken ho hum! headed on up and over to the large cairn.
On approaching and looking over, what appeared to be a coach party was arriving from the other side, so I quickly asked another solo female at the top to take my summit pic, fine wee woman, prob in her 60s and now on her 3rd round of the Munros, inspirational stuff. Wee chat with her, taking in the views and off again. No map so re read the book description for the descent, main reason was, from Sgairneach Mhor the route of descent looked extremely thick with snow, and steep.
Fine clear view from the off, over to A'Mharconaich, we saw NOTHING on there in November lol
Headed over to the right a bit earlier than probably necessary but I wanted to stay above the steep snow to get a clearer view down. Eventually picked up some other footprints and decided to follow them down. Straightforward enough but then the angle got steeper and the snow seemed to just disappear down. Unsure of any crags and with the sharp left turn of the previous footprints, I erred on the side of caution and took the same route, shortly I saw a point where the footprints went over the edge,, fairly steep but short drop, nothing for it................................BUMSLIDE That was fun but the snow was so soft I ended up half buried Fun stuff.
The track down in the glen was now clearly visible, as was my whole days walk, fab.
Looking back up, the ridgeline of my bumslide was quite impressive and I could see someone wandering along the top, possibly wondering how to make their own way down.
Off down through the snow until it cleared off to the left and the deeper part of the ravine, only a few hundred feet and back on the track where the burn fords it. Took a few mins here to get into my trainers, bite to eat and headed off for the 50-60 min walk back to the car. Saw a couple of small newt type things scuttling across the track from the railway to the carpark,,managed to get one pic before it disappeared into the grass.
Fab day out for what was a last minute change of plan. Glorious weather , fantastic views , 2 sore feet but 3 more blue balloons.
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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.