Geal-charn - 917m
A' Mharconaich - 975m

Saturday 20th June 2009

Weather/Conditions: We had rain and a cold wind at the very beginning, however the weather improved throughout the day. Some cloud was on the tops initially, but cleared as we started out. We walked beneath a mix of sunshine and cumulus all day with a moderate amount of wind throughout.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 11.2km / 750m / 4h 10m
Accompanying: BBC Gaelic Dept. walk

Through my dad, who works in the BBC, I was invited on this walk by Colin Macleod. Colin works in BBC Scotland's Gaelic department and presents the Gaelic hillwalking show Tir is Teanga. On this Saturday, I met him in Glasgow and with four of us in his car, we headed on to the Drumochter Pass. The weather was forecast to be brighter in the east, so the original plan of the Black Mount was changed to try and catch the good weather.

The journey north took a couple of hours, including a stop for a roll and a cup of tea. Colin and Donald occasionally transferred from speaking English to speaking Gaelic which, given my interest in the language, was an interesting experience. With the knowledge of Colin and Donald I even managed to learn a couple of new words and sort out the badly pronounced ones. One of these days, I'll commit to learning Gaelic properly...

When we arrived at the Balsporran Cottages, more of the group arrived until there were over ten of us. Some opted to go for a low level walk, and with six of us going high, the first stop was Geal-charn. It had rained a little at the car park but the clouds were clearing and the sun also made an occasional appearance. We crossed the railway and then followed a track up onto Geal-charn. Fairly quickly, we turned off this track onto rough ground making a direct line for the summit. It had been fairly boggy down below, but the slopes were drier as we gained height.

On the higher slopes, views progressively opened up to the Cairngorms and Monadhliath, most of which was new terrain for me. But the bulk of the hill we were on blocked views westwards to the Ben Alder region, the area I was anticipating to see the most. At 840 metres, the terrain flattened out and it was a short walk along to a cairn NE of the summit where we stopped for lunch. Having taken a break, we arrived at the summit shortly afterwards and the views were widespread; most mountains had shed their cloud. Ben Alder was clear, it's eastern cliffs magnificent even from this far distance. Bounded by steep mountain walls, Loch Ericht drew the eyes down it's length. Some say the Drumochter Hills are some of the dreariest but far from it with views like these. It's so often true that experiencing the mountains has just as much or more to do with the environment that they are climbed in, whether that be the surrounding terrain, weather or anything else. Maybe some just have their eyes to the ground...

From Geal-charn's summit, we had a short walk down to the bealach between it and A' Mharconaich. The other walkers that had opted to stay low had walked up Coire Fhar and given that we were crossing the head of Coire Fhar, we met them at the bealach on the way to A' Mharconaich. From here, the path continued up to A' Mharconaich's summit region, and we followed it steadily to the top. When we were up, we had arrived some distance back from the main summit cairn and it was a short walk to the summit, where two cairns can be found. After studying the ground and some consultation with the map, the first cairn turned out to be the top, even though it was the smaller of the two.

The general consensus now was to head down, so we left A' Mharconaich's summit and headed down its north-eastern spur, which descended steeply before flattening out and taking us gradually to the valley floor below. This route took us down alongside the steep north-east face which is a prominent feature from below. Lower down, the ridge took us into areas of bog and it was a short walk to the river, which we crossed by the railway bridge. We arrived at the Balsporran Cottages and now late in the afternoon, we headed down to Blair Atholl for some drinks and finally the drive back to Glasgow.


Drumochter from Geal-charn

Geal-charn 360°

Alder, Loch Ericht from A' Mharconaich

A' Mharconaich 360°

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 11.30am Balsporran
(1.40) 1.10pm Geal-charn
(2.55) 2.25pm A' Mharconaich
(4.10) 3.40pm Balsporran
Written: 2009-06-23