Wednesday, December 12, 2007

43-44. A'Mharchoniach (179), Geal Charn (279) 08/12/2007

With the forecast set to be relatively clear in the morning and deteriorating into blizzards in the afternoon, we set off early and were picking our way up the rocky slopes of A'Mharchoniach in short order. The conditions, while in no way clear, were at least relatively dry compared to the previous day and this was able to keep us warm in our thick coats despite the raging wind. After several false summits, we got to the summit shortly after 10am and were even able to have a bite of food before moving off. There was a lot of snow on the ground and visibility was very poor (and mostly white), so navigating our way towards Geal Charn was non-trivial, but the trusty compass did the trick and we managed to find its southern slopes eventually. We saw several hares here and possibly a fox and were following the tracks of a munro-bagging deer all of the way. The snow began to come in and before getting to the summit we had it by the bucketload at 60mph from our right. But it was just bouncing off our coats by virtue of being dry, so we soldiered on and even met a group of several other walkers at the top, proving that we weren't the only mental people in the world. Exchanges of "nice day for it", etc ensued and we parted ways. We descended to the north to try and avoid the blizzard being in our faces and succeeded to a certain extent, although this did mean a rather roundabout route. We got to the B&B before lunch time and decided that that was about enough fresh air for one day.

Mike at the cold but dry top of A'Mharchoniach

41-42. Sgairneach Mhor (155), Beinn Udlamain (119) 07/12/2007

The forecast was dreadful, but that wasn't likely to discourage two intrepid explorers like ourselves. We set off from Balsporran Cottages (an excellent B&B with a good Scottish sounding name) at dawn, having walked from Dalwhinnie station in the dark. After an hour, we had passed the Boar of Atholl and were into Perthshire by the Drumochter Pass, where we left the track and headed west up the valley in the ever-increasing drizzle. We caught glimpses of our first goal every now and again, but we mainly relied on hope for any sort of views. After an interesting traverse of the river in which one glove (but no feet) got wet, we climbed south on the slopes of Sgairneach Mhor. Visibility eventually disappeared completely and the sleet-filled wind strengthened so that at points it had us literally on our knees. We reached the top a bit iced up, but generally in good spirits (especially since the summit was eerily still). One Mars ice lolly eaten and then we were off to find Beinn Udlamain. This was relatively straightforward by following the contours and we were soon approaching the top. Now the wind began to really pick up again and was carrying a lot of snow with it, so we decided that 3 miles along the ridge into the wind probably wasn't the best idea. With visibility down to a few metres, it was still possible to tell which way the ground was sloping and we made our way down a rather steep and snowy slope into the safety of the valley up which we had originally walked. The walk back was picturesque in the snow and was more sheltered than on top - we saw several herds of deer on the leeward slopes of the hills we had climbed. Despite the curtailment, it was still a good walk and the weather conditions provided a certain amount of excitement.

The summit ridge of Sgairneach Mhor from the north east

Looking east after a hasty descent from Beinn Udlamain

Sgairneach Mhor in the distance, enshrouded by cloud