Geal Charn: the white mountain

Route: Geal Charn, Monadhliath

Munros: Geal Charn (Monadhliath)

Date walked: 09/12/2018

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 15km

Ascent: 741m

One of my early "conquests", Geal Charn has for some time been on the list "to repeat in white". During my first visit to this Munro in 2011, we ascended by the most popular route, along Feith Talagain, then up the SW shoulder straight to the summit. Most guides suggest returning the same way, but we spotted an alternative descent via Beinn Sgaith and Meall an Domhnaich, which turns this route into a proper circular. Turned out to be a nice addition to the day's portion of walking :D

For the winter version, we decided to reverse this circuit. There is another option, a route from Glen Markie which looks interesting as well, but it requires crossing Markie Burn and as it had rained a lot recently, we expected the river to be in spate, hence the choice of the Garva Bridge approach. We are saving the Glen Markie route for a dry day.

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There is a good car park by Garva Bridge. We arrived early in the morning. Forecast was for a band of showers around 8am, but the rain was a bit slow to clear, so we sat in the car for 15 minutes, waiting for the shower to pass. It did eventually, leaving behind a wet, murky, depressing landscape...
...but no amount of grey sky could discourage Panther from marching up another hill!
Since our previous visit, a new metal bridge was built, one serving the Beauly-Deny powerline. It does look a bit out of place in this God forsaken corner of Scotland...
...but we walked past the bulldozed road very quickly and aimed for the wilder country. It started to rain again, thankfully it was just another 15-min shower. Kevin's idea was to follow the track into the forest on the lower slopes of Meall an Domhnaich as far as it goes. Indeed, the track goes much further than shown on 1-25k map. If you follow it carefully, it will lead you out of the forest through a dilapidated metal gate and out onto the open slopes. A faint path quickly disappeared as we marched up, but the terrain was surprisingly easy, low heather and grass. We aimed uphill for the summit area of Meall an Domhnaich (not that we cared about bagging this one, we're not Sim Collectors). To reach the true summit of this lump, best to follow the edge of the forest:
We took a less steep line, towards the lower of the two tops (601m). Higher up, the vegetation was covered with a thin layer of snow:
On the flatter area near the top of Meall an Domhnaich, Gairbeinn and Creag Mhor behind me:
Weather was improving, we even experienced some sunshine and spotted a few patches of blue sky, which was a good omen for the rest of the day.
Sunny Meall na h-Aisre:
Loking south to the true summit of Meall an Domhnaich and the northern side of Carn Liath behind:
In contrast, "our" Munro was still in cloud, but we expected it to clear at some point. Just hope that we'll be on the summit when it happens!
We descended to Am Bealach, keeping slightly to the right to avoid peat hags, then picked an ATV track, winding its way to the summit of Beinn Sgiath. From the col, visibility was still all right, we could see the Laggan hills to the south:
...but as we began to gain height, we were caught in snow shower and grey mist again. Not that we were desperate for a clear day. Always nice to see the views, but this was more than just visiting a viewpoint. We enjoyed the walking, the workout (not much of the latter, this slope is very gentle, easy climbing) and the silence around us. We haven't seen anybody else so far. I expected to bump into people maybe on the summit, as most folks just do the simple up-and-down, not realizing that there is a much better (DRY!) route up this Munro.
The last glimpse down to Meall an Domhnaich and the ridge below us:
Black Panther in white wonderland:
The snow shower passed when we neared the summit of Beinn Sgiath, and suddenly blue sky appeared again above us. Hopes held high for summit views!
This is the summit cairn of the lower top. In deeper snow, it would be impossible to locate :lol:
To the east, The Cairngorms still in cloud, not much to see at the moment:
Just across a shallow col, the true summit of the Munro:
The traverse via Uinneag Coire nan Lochain provided more opportunities for silly poses:
...and the hill rewarded us with a lovely, if short appearance of a rainbow...
...before the cloud rolled in again and spoiled the party!
The final walk to the summit was on another ATV track (it leads almost to the summit cairn). We were back in the whiteout at the moment but stayed optimistic:
The summit cairn is hard to miss. I posed with Lucy (her 97th Munro!):
We quickly warmed up with hot tea and had something to eat to keep us going. It was very cold on the summit, well below zero, but we decided to wait a few minutes and we were not disappointed. The views started to show!
It's beginning to look like...windfarms! Everywhere you go!
Looking south to the return route:
After 15 minutes maybe,we were almost frozen solid so it was time to go. We left the giant cairn behind...
...and headed down the well-worn path, still visible even under the snow cover:
Views from the descent:


We met three other walkers heading uphill as we descended, I guess they were just doing the simple up-and-down. I wonder how many hillgoers miss the better option simply because the Munro guides don't mention it? The only Munro book suggesting the Beinn Sgiath ridge as an alternative descent /ascent is the M guide by Cameron McNeish. I'm surprised this line of attack is not more popular, as it's much drier. We really hated the lower slopes of the traditional route, as we descended, it was all mushy tatties, yuck! I know that the alternative over the two tops adds about 120m of ascent but it's worth the extra workout. Also makes the whole route more scenic.
In comparison, even the worn path down in the glen was more like a stream:
As we returned to the bottom of the glen, I felt frustrated and depressed for a short time, having to deal with so much bog-hopping!
...but as it usually is with Black Panther, she won't stay sad for long and as soon as we reached the beaten track, she was all happy and ready to meow again!
An enjoyable walk, Geal Charn really stood up to our expectations. The aptly named White Hill gave us some nice white winter walking. And as this was our last opportunity to visit hills before Christmas, we could not have wished for better.

The next two weekends will be busy with festive preparations. Our next trip to the mountains will hopefully be somewhere around the New Year's Day (depending on weather and how much Talisker/Zubrówka wodka we drink :lol: ). For now, may we all have Very White and Very Merry Christmas!

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Comments: 4

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Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire
Interests: Hillwalking, cycling, jogging, mushroom picking and many other outdoor activities, meowing on mountain summits included :P
Activity: Mountain Walker
Mountain: Beinn Eighe
Place: Isle of Skye
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Camera: FujiFilm Finepix HS10
Ideal day out: Anything - from beach strolls to scrambling up icy slopes. Just bring it on!
Ambition: Tick off all Munros...

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