Meall an Dobharchain (The Sow of Atholl) - 803m
Monday 28th November 2016

Weather/Conditions: Cloudy, and wind but not too bad - some sun breaking out, and occasional innocuous snow showers.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 4.3km / 400m / 1h 20m ||| 8.3km / 300m (Monadhliath)
Accompanying: Alone

I'd meant to get up early, but things didn't quite work out that way. I'd been up Meall a' Bhuiridh the day before, and when it came to heading north for Drumochter, my head still wasn't quite in the game. The morning passed gently, and I headed off later than intended. I stopped in at Perth for food, then north again to Drumochter.

My initial plan was Meall na Leitreach, but it was apparent I'd arrived too late. The limited parking by Dalnacardoch was full, and the remaining ground was sheet ice. I was suspicious of leaving my car right on the elbow of the junction against the fast-moving A9, and when a jeepload of 'jakies' (as we'd say in Glasgow) pulled up, hanging out the window for some pictures of the hills and shit banter, the vibe was wrong and I thought it best to move on and take the easier option of the Sow of Atholl.

Meall an Dobharchain was immediately above. Wikipedia handily suggests this is the watercress hill, but I saw none of that. Down under the railway bridge, I crossed the river, then headed up the hill.

Bog gave way to heather, giving way again to a gentle fall of snow and showers blowing in from the east. Drumochter isn't as bad as folk make out, especially when you detach a bit from the traffic. The summit itself was a flat plateau peppered in snow, with a cairn at one end. I got some pictures, then quickly made my way down off the hill.

Back at the A9, I headed northward again with the intention of meeting Kev Mckeown and family. He'd mentioned they were climbing A' Chailleach and Carn Sgulain. A cracker of a sunset gave way to gloom at Newtonmore, and I headed into Glen Banchor, intent on walking into the hills: hopefully I'd meet the Mckeowns coming off their hill.

The walk itself was very enjoyable I headed northward up the track. The track gave way in time to rough path, which turned to bog. I felt a gentle thrill at heading into the hills in gathering dusk, and I'd keep looking into the coire below Carn Sgulain to look for any signs of life. In the end, I got at least a couple miles into the hills, and up to the lip of the coire. I realised that in this very last light, there was not a signal sign of life. Nothing but the grey, silent hills and licking mist. It was pretty atmospheric. I was quite content to walk back myself - perhaps they'd changed their plans, maybe I'd just missed them altogether. But in contrast to hauling myself up the Sow, this walking felt like less effort; as though the day's walking had got me back in the mood.

In the end, I never met them, and followed tracks back to the car in half light. I did however, meet them back at the car park. They were just about to drive off. But anyway, we were all headed for the Roundhouse below Creag Dhubh for a couple nights: first stop Newtonmore Co-op for supplies, then in for an evening of mountain films.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 1.20pm A9 parking nr. Allt a' Chaorainn outflow
(0.45) 2.05pm Meall an Dobharchain - Sow of Atholl
(1.20) 2.40pm A9 parking nr. Allt a' Chaorainn outflow

Written: 2016-12-14