Drumochter Pair in May

Route: A' Mharconaich and Geal Chàrn, Drumochter

Munros: A' Mharconaich, Geal-chàrn (Drumochter)

Date walked: 02/05/2023

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 11.5km

Ascent: 731m

2023 was a year that never really got going for us in terms of hills. Work, illness and various other distractions seemed to sabotage every planned trip. Not helped by long spells of miserable weather. This is a much belated report from an outing in May - which we hoped was in preparation for more ambitious things. It ended up being the last of the year. Here's to better days in 2024!

Being on the A9 we realised that the Drumochter Munros, though further in distance, were closer in driving time than many of the more 'local' ones we'd done. Fancying the chance to explore new territory, Francis and I set off north one morning with a forecast of cloud to clear from the tops by lunchtime.

Setting off past Balsporran Cottages and across the railway track.

We booted up in the spacious car park and set off across the burn, past the cottages, over the railway and, finally, along the track.

The first, easy, section of track.

This first bit was easy going and we were careful to stick to the WH route and take the second branching track to the right. This second track was significantly steeper but did give a bit of a view back over toward the A9.

Looking back on the second, steeper, track section.

Things got messier when the track fizzled out into a path turning up the shoulder of Geal-charn. The lower stretches were slippy, soggy and a bit of a slog.

Things get a bit stickier.

Conditions improved underfoot the higher we got however. Things got rockier and drier. A welcome change.

Past the worst of the soggy stuff, into the clouds.

What didn't improve was the low cloud cover. The weather gods stubbornly ignoring the timing on the forecast. We ascended into the mist.

Crossing the plateau in search of the summit.

The plateau was spooky and visibility was limited but there was no real navigation issues. There were cairns to help and a simple bearing set us tramping toward the summit of Geal-charn.

Found it!

We soon found the summit cairn but with no views to detain us we didn't hang about for long. We set off down the southern ridge toward the beallach. Again, straightfoward route-finding, even in the mist.

Two monkeys. No views.

As we descended, the clouds finally started to lift and drift on the breeze and Loch Ericht appeared on our right. Having waited so long for a decent view, we decided to stop for a while and enjoy it properly.

The cloud finally starts to lift.

We slurped hot chocolate and munched some flapjack as we watched patches of sunlight pick out Loch Pattack to the west. Though the cloud was proving stubborn over the higher tops.

Taking a break to admire Loch Ericht.

Refreshed, we scampered down to the beallach and crossed it quickly to pick up the path up the slope of Coire Fhar which would take us up onto the summit ridge of A'Mharconaich - our second munro for the day.

Down towards the beallach.

The first section of section of this path is very well set out with flat stones at steps. Things get a little rougher higher up but it's an easy ascent up to 950m.

Starting the ascent towards A'Mharconaich.

Looking back at the path descending from Geal-charn.

The view across Loch Ericht with the other Geal Charn visible.

Once up on the ridge, we found ourselves back in the mist - though visibility was better than on Geal-charn. We headed off NE towards the summit. The going was easy what was trickier was deciding which of two cairns was the actual summit! I favoured the smaller cairn we encountered first. Francis preferred the larger cairn slightly further NE. In true belts and braces mode we made sure we recorded both!

Cairn 1

Cairn 2

Having bagged our two munros for the day we took a leisurely pace on the long descent down A'Mharconaich's NE spur, taking time to enjoy the views as we again emerged from the clouds.

Geal-charn from A'Mharconaich

Hazy view up Glen Truim and the descent path.


Leaving A'Marconaich behind.

Coming off the spur we had to decide how to navigate the boggy section between us and the car park. Rather than heading straight, we opted to veer left and drop down to cross the stream early, regaining the track on the far side. This left us retracing our steps back to the car and looking forward to some fish and chips in Pitlochry.

This was a day which seemed distinctly unremarkable at the time - but I found myself looking back on it with increasing fondness as the rest of the year slipped by. Writing it up now, makes me more determined to get back out more next year. And to be less deterred by imperfect weather. I've realised that even an overcast day in the hills is still a good day out! :wink:

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Location: Edinburgh
Activity: Walker

Munros: 19
Tops: 4
Corbetts: 1
Fionas: 2
Donalds: 2
Sub 2000: 7
Islands: 19

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Trips: 2
Distance: 24 km
Ascent: 1443m
Munros: 3


Trips: 9
Distance: 105.8 km
Ascent: 6875m
Munros: 14
Corbetts: 1


Trips: 4
Distance: 34.5 km
Ascent: 2211m
Fionas: 2
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