Meall Chuaich - 951m
Thursday 12th July 2012

Weather/Conditions: Overcast but ultimately dry and pleasant conditions.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 13km / 1200m / 4h 05m
Accompanying: Barry

I climbed Meall Chuaich at the start of a highly successful trip to the Central Highlands. With my family going off on their own holiday, I had free time and would eventually climb 14 new Munros in the region. I centred myself between Aviemore and Fort William. A family friend has a place in Boat of Garten which proved very useful. James Seaman has a flat in Fort William and I crashed at his for a couple of nights. This arrangement gave me great access to the Creag Meagaidh/Monadhliath area I wanted to visit so much. But first; before I did that I had a few things to sort out near Dalwhinnie.

The first of these was Meall Chuaich, the last of my Drumochter Munros. The following day, I climbed four mountains around and including Ben Alder and that finished off all my Munros in the first five SMC Sections. (You wouldn't think I'm systematically ticking off Munros, would you?)

I left home on Thursday afternoon in excitement about my first drive up the A9. I also knew I'd be away from Glasgow for a while, so there was that start-of-the-holiday buzz in the air. The drive up was great, (Rush's new album featured heavily) and I got my bike out the back to cycle into the bottom of Meall Chuaich. I'd planned to do this hill in January but changed plans at the last minute to Ben Macdui. Just as well. We hadn't brought bikes then, but now I was glad of mine because I found the first section to the foot of the hill very enjoyable.

It was also nice to see so much of the surrounding landscape. My other trips to Drumochter were usually done in less than perfect weather - the place sometimes seemed in a world of it's own. Meall Chuaich may be one of the nicest of the lot - the cycle in had given it a secluded feeling, and once I was up on the hill itself I could see back into the deeper recesses of the Drumochter plateau.

The plateau fascinates me in a way. There are no Munros in the land east of A' Bhuidheanach Bheag and Carn na Caim, so it doesn't attract much attention. From afar, there appears to be no distinguishing features, just flat, high and empty land. On the map, things are a bit different since the glens of Gaick turn the plateau to hills. You normally can't see those glens from a distance, so for the Munro-bound walker, it appears a featureless place.

As I approached the summit of Meall Chuaich, clouds brushed against that plateau. My hill blocked the rest of the view and I climbed the final bit to the top in mist. It was nice to be out again, I thought. I'd met an Edinburgh guy on my way up, coming in the opposite direction. He was out on a spur of the moment strike from home and back again, and I thought about how I would be out for a while.

I was also racing, because the sooner I got down, the sooner I could reach Culra, where I would spend the night. I left the summit and raced off downhill, quite happy to move quickly (it's the sort of hill you can do that with). When I was back at my bike, the light became low-angled and intense. The hillsides blew up in bright colour. The day was moving on, but I paused to absorb the colour in the hills. I got on my bike and pedalled down the glen.

Back at my car, I had little time to stop. I drove around to Dalwhinnie and packed my stuff for Ben Alder. It was the start of a fantastic trip.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 6.35pm A9
(0.25) 7.00pm Bike drop-off
(1.30) 8.05pm Meall Chuaich
(2.05) 8.40pm Bike pick-up
(2.25) 9.00pm A9

Written: 2012-07-30