Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Drumochter Hills: Sgairneach Mhór (155) and Beinn Udlamain (119)

Walk date: 14/04/07
My Munro #'s: 104 and 105

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Skaarnyatchvore - big stony hillside - 991m
Byn ootlaman - gloomy mountain - 1011m

Duration - 12:00 - 16:00
Distance - 14.6km
Weather - warm. Blue sky with fragmented cloud but with strong haze developing through day. Light winds becoming cooling on Sgairneach Mhór. Remaining snow in hollows.
Team - solo

A nice route with a change in plan on the return leg:

After another fun drive in fine weather, I parked up in the thin lay-by at the top of the Drumochter pass and assessed the days targets; Sgairneach Mhór with its impressive snow clad cliffs and the hidden mound of Beinn Udlamain. A quick cautious crossing of the railway tracks and a jumping of a fence or two gets you onto a fast wide track leading up the glen. This is followed as far as your judgement calls - my route was to take on Sgairneach Mhór first, and to take on its eastern flank ignoring the unnamed mound at 758m further east - but no obvious path revealed itself, so I left the track where I saw some thin trails leading off from a river crossing. However, these trails soon disappeared, and left me freestyling it up rough heather slopes, dodging newts and frogs jumping out of my way, as shocked to see me as I was to see them! Half of the heather at the lower levels had been burnt away, leaving an intense tar-like smell, which in the afternoon heat made me imagine I was walking through some post-apocalyptic landscape, a tragic survivor to mankind's end! You get the picture, it was bleak.
Sgairneach Mhór (L) and Beinn Udlamain (centre):
Allt Coire Dhomhain, would be very tricky if any higher:
Some of that apocalyptic landscape for you:

Fortunately, my line towards Sgairneach Mhór hit upon an actual path that must have started further up-river, and quick progress was then made onto the summit plain and a path that skirted its dramatic cliff-faced northern edge, complete with unstable snow cladding. A quick lunch at the same shelter-cairn and I returned to the edge (completely hidden at the summit) to take a few dozen more photos!
Snowballs anyone? Snow-cladding on Sgairneach Mhór:
Coire Creagach with an impressive snow-cover stream:
More cladding; where sane people fear to tread:

From there I returned to the route, heading for the low bealach between my tops, and then a good rocky path up the wide back of Beinn Udlamain. A long series of metal fence posts that apparently mark the Perthshire-Inverness-shire boundary take you straight to the impressively big cairn at the summit, complete with three separate shelter-divisions. Here I had a good sit down and food-stop, with my supplies luxuriously laid out around me. Just before I left this peak, two runners came up from the northern side, cheerfully greeting me and not looking all that tired at all, gits! There are the mad, and then there are the mad...
Despite the haze, some fine views to Ben Alder:
Sgairneach Mhór from the summit of Beinn Udlamain:

Heading north made it obvious just how close A' Mharconaich and Geal Charn were, and made me wonder whether I should have done those hills in combination with these two after all for maximum Munro efficiency, but the day I did those was particularly snowy, and the heather slopes of Sgairneach Mhór would have been seriously knackering; no point crying over spilled Munros...
Geal Charn (L) and A' Mharconaich (R):

Having viewed the eastern slopes off Beinn Udlamain earlier on, I had changed my planned descent to this route, but initially I started down the gully of an obvious stream. This turned out to be too uneven so I moved back onto the heather slopes, which worked out great as I found an obvious path that I couldn't help but run down all the way back onto the wide track in the glen. Once down and refreshed, a quick stomp back to the car was all that was required. A good day out.

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