Hills: The Sow of Atholl, Sgairneach Mhor, Beinn Udlamain, A'Mharconaich and Geal-charn
Date: Sunday 15th March 2015
Company: Myself, John, DaveM, Graham, Lucy, Ella, DavidT, DavidBD, Tom, Brent, Ray, Bill, Alastair & Kevin
Distance: 21.1km, Ascent: 1230m
Time: 6Hrs 30Mins

The MWIS forecast had suggested a day of low cloud. On waking, and looking out the window, the weather looked fantastic; MWIS was wrong big-time! In an instant, I abandoned plans to ascend a fairly dull Graham. Instead I decided to drive North to meet up with the Moray Mountaineering Club Bus Meet, at Drumochter.

To arrive at Drumochter in sufficient time I would have to forego my hotel breakfast; a small price to pay .

I parked at Balsporran Cottage where I was picked up by the MMC bus and was subsequently dropped-off at Dalnaspidal. Fourteen club members set out together from Dalnaspidal to ascend the Sow of Atholl, Sgairneach Mhor, Beinn Udlamain, A'Mharconaich and Geal-charn.

This would be my third ascent of the Drumochter Munros but on this occasion from South to North instead of from North to South.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

From the A9, we followed the road to Dalnaspidal and crossed over the railway line at the level crossing.

Crossing the railway line at Dalnaspidal:

Beyond the level crossing we walked a short distance along the track, towards Loch Garry, before striking off up the hill.

The Sow of Atholl:

Lochan at Dalnaspidal:

During the ascent of the Sow of Atholl, I chatted with several friends. It was good to catch up with my old friend Dave who I hadn't seen in several years.

Ascending the Sow of Atholl:

Ascending the Sow of Atholl:

During the ascent, I tried to stick to as much snow as possible. The snow was nice and firm; perfect for walking on.

Looking back during ascent of the Sow of Atholl:

Looking towards our next hill, Sgairneach Mhor:

We all stopped for a break at the summit of the Sow of Atholl allowing the whole party to re-group.

MMC at the summit of the Sow of Atholl:

From the Sow of Atholl we descended South-West to the col between the Sow and Sgairneach Mhor. Before heading up Sgairneach Mhor, I stripped down to my base layer as it was going to be a warm ascent.

The ascent of Sgairneach Mhor was probably my favourite part of the walk. The incline wasn't too steep and the snow was perfect for walking. I also enjoyed the company of Lucy and Ella.

Ascending Sgairneach Mhor:

During the ascent, I passed the place where my dog Beinn had collapsed almost two years previous with a heart-bleed. I still really miss Beinn's company on the hills.

Ascending Sgairneach Mhor:

Sgairneach Mhor (still lots of snow):

Looking back towards the Sow of Atholl:

Looking back towards the Sow of Atholl:

As we reached the rim of the coire, we stopped to take some photos of the large cornice. While taking photos several small groups remerged and more and more photos of the cornice were taken.

Cornice on Sgairneach Mhor:

Myself and the cornice:


View from Sgairneach Mhor:

We all re-grouped again at the summit of Sgairneach Mhor. Beyond this point we would be in several small groups for the remainder of the walk.

At the summit of Sgairneach Mhor:

Several different lines were taken during the descent of Sgairneach Mhor. I must have taken quite a good line to get ahead of Tom! Much of the descent was on crisp snow; crampons weren't needed.

Looking back during descent from Sgairneach Mhor:

A short distance below the col, on looking back, I could see that around half of the group had stopped for lunch. I carried on with the front party towards the summit of Beinn Udlamain.

During the ascent, I could see dozens of hills some of which were really far away. I think I could see through to Glencoe and what I believe to be the Buachaille.

Buachaille Etive Mhor? (full zoom):

Heading for Beinn Udlamain:

The Ben Alder range was looking particularly good during the traverse of Beinn Udlamain.

Ben Alder range:

Beinn Udlamain:

Loch Ericht:

For the next few hours ,we were treated to numerous lenticular clouds hovering in perfect blue sky. These looked even better through my polarised glacier glasses.

Lenticular clouds:

I caught up with the front-'runners' at the summit of Beinn Udlamain where I had my first bite to eat and drink of the day.

At the summit of Beinn Udlamain:

We next made our way round to A'Mharconaich. The initial kilometre or so was very straight-forward.

Heading for A'Mharconaich:

We then came to a short section of steep descent that warranted crampons. It was a bit of a faff to put on crampons for such a short descent but better safe than sorry.

Heading for A'Mharconaich:

Looking back to Beinn Udlamain:

Ben Alder and Culra hills:

By the time I got my crampons off, I was on my own. Four or five were ahead of me and the remainder still some distance behind.

Heading for A'Mharconaich:

I walked across the summit plateau of A'Mharconaich to reach the summit cairn where I met two other MMC walkers who were undertaking a circuit of Geal-charn and A'Mharconaich.

At the summit of A'Mharconaich:

I joined Manda and Fiona for the descent of A'Mharconaich. During the descent we could see three skiers. I assume these were MMC skiers as we had several members out cross-country skiing.

An MMC skier:


Looking back to A'Mharconaich during descent:

At the col, between A'Mharconaich and Geal-charn, I parted company with Manda and Fiona who took the track from there back out to Balsporran. I then set off up Geal-charn.

Amazing clouds above Geal-charn:

Looking back to A'Mharconaich:

I stopped several times during the ascent of Geal-charn to photograph the clouds and Loch Ericht. Unfortunately many of my photos came out far too bright.

Amazing clouds:

Loch Ericht:

I visited the large summit cairn, and then the other large cairn a short distance beyond, before making my way downhill to Balsporran.

At the summit of Geal-charn:

The descent to Balsporran was excellent; lovely crisp snow.

Long shadows in descent:

Looking back at descent from Geal-charn:

A perfect day out on the hills .