Geal Charn and A’Mharconaich are two Munros to the south of Newtonmore on the west side of the busy A9 trunk road to Inverness. Both are fairly easy to climb and on a good day give outstanding panoramic views from their summits.
Back at the end of June Mike and I made a successful ascent of Geal Charn and A’Mharconaich.
That was after a previous attempt in February which had to be abandoned due to a complete white out! Compare and contrast this picture below to those after and you’ll see what I mean!
Continuing in treacherous conditions like that would have been really dangerous. Mike and I are both experienced hillwalkers and we carry all the professional equipment needed for such an attempt, but long gone are our mad student days and we both have wives and many reasons to live so the attempt was abandoned for that day in favour of a visit to the pub!
So, as you can imagine, after the disappointment in February, we were both determined to get back as soon as possible for a fresh attempt at the two Munros. So once the snows had cleared and we both able to find a clear weekend in our diaries we headed back for a second attempt.
We drove up to the hostel on Friday 23rd June and after our usual evening catch up over wine and a hearty dinner of stovies had a good nights sleep ready for our walk the next day.
Having checked on the weather forecast the day before we knew that being able to go up Geal Charn and A’Mharconaich on the Saturday was again going to be challenging. Whilst this time there wasn’t any snow forecast there were gale force winds we were going to have to contend with.
We parked in the dedicated parking area by Balsporran Cottages just off the west side of the A9. These cottages are a B&B and they really couldn’t be situated in any more of a bleak spot at 425 metres. In winter this is as cold as spot as you will find in Britain!
Bleak as it is, it’s still extremely beautiful and remote. A perfect location if you want to get away from it all.
Not only that, this area is teaming with all sorts of wildlife that you just don’t see anywhere else, for example you can see black grouse, red grouse and capercaillie to name just a few which the “Welcome to the Moor” board informs you of in the above picture.
As you can see from the sign that you pass, prior to walking over the Bridge which crosses the river Truim, it’s also possible to do another Munro in this area, Beinn Udlamain. But for now, that one is saved for another day.
In fact this whole area is pretty good for walking whatever your level of comfort. There are land rover tracks and well beaten stalkers paths covering most of the area.
Stalking takes place between mid-Sept and the end of Oct and is a vital part of the rural economy bringing in valuable funds to the estimated tune of £70m which helps to maintain the estates and also to keep down the deer population. There are estimated to be between 360,000 and 400,000 red deer. Also, 200,000 to 350,000 roe deer, 25,000 sika and as many as 2,000 fallow in Scotland, so no shortage!
The level crossing above crosses the main railway line to Inverness in the north and Perth in the south.
We cross the level crossing to take the path beyond which will start winding its way upwards, gradually, giving a good walk in before we leave the defined stalkers path for a more boggy and steeper ascent.
Turning round from our ascent you can just make out Balsporran Cottages on the left.
The main A9 road follows the line of the grey electricity pilons from left to right. These pilons are part of the Beauly to Denny electricity transmission line which was recently controversially upgraded to bring power from wind farms and other renewable energy schemes in the north to consumers in the south.
There were huge protests at the time of building and the line took 5 years to upgrade. Nobody really says anything about it anymore. Personally, as Mike and I often discuss we never really saw what the fuss was all about. If we want sustainable electricity then I’d rather see a few pilons than a dirty great huge coal fired power station in the middle of this Glen!
The A9 road is more evident in the view south through the Drumochter hills above.
That road is one of Scotland’s most dangerous due to the fact it is mostly single carraigeway and extremely busy. Frustration is the cause of many accidents where drivers tire of sitting behind endless lorries and overtake only to find cars speeding towards them.
Fortunately the road is finally being upgraded to a dual carriageway status between Perth and Inverness, a project which has just started and will take 10 years to dual the whole 80 miles (129 kilometers).
I know, I know…. I’m not talking much about the actual walk but these are all the sorts of things that you see and think about when you’re actually climbing!
You kind of go into a daze and forget all about the stress and pressures of modern day life and view everything from “above”.
Sometimes though you have to watch out that you don’t completely “zone out” when the weather is bad because that’s when you can lose your concentration and become lost and disorientated.
Anyway, as you can see from the picture above Mike and I were joined by some friendly local sheep. Indeed apart from 4 other people on the mountain that day, the sheep were our only companions!
Going up the weather was a mixture of really strong winds, rain, hail and sunshine. A typical day of typical weather in Scotland!
The man made shelters (like the one above where Mike let’s his Mrs know he’s not been blown off the mountain 😉 ) were welcome temporary breaks from the elements.
Like many of the mountains that you can climb in Scotland the summits can be decidedly deceptive.
You think that you’re on your final stretch only to be faced with a “false summit” like the one above.
And just to prove how windy it actually was I got Mike to take this picture of yours truly leaning backwards into the wind. Although I did have one foot carefully placed behind the other just as a precaution.
I suppose you can’t really tell how windy it is, but when I get round to finishing editing the video to go with this write-up (it might be there at the bottom by the time you read this) I might leave some of the sound in and then you can hear it for yourself.
Anyway I say I might leave the sound in it. That depends if my voice is on the video and if it’s as bad as it was on the Ben More and Stob Binnein Video where I removed it in favour of music!
That’s the first summit of Geal Charn at 917m finally in sight, with a few wetter grayer clouds about too.
I’m not going to complain about the weather though. It was what it was and as you can see from these photographs we still got an amazing panoramic view of all the surrounding mountains and scenery.
From the summit of Geal Charn you get an amazing view of Loch Ericht and normally you would be able to see Ben Alder but unfortunately that was surrounded in cloud. Oh well you can’t have it all can you?
The next Munro, A’ Mharconaidh is to our left and to reach that we need to descend southwest and then south to the bealach before climbing again to the summit.
It’s a good half hour or so to descend to the bealach. I must admit its always a bit annoying when you’ve climbed up to such a height that you then have to descent 200m of what you’ve climbed to then climb back up again!
But then again I suppose the benefits are that you a burning plenty of calories. Research says that the average 160lb person will burn about 400 calories an hour. A heavier person burns more.
And of course in the burning of all of those calories you need food to replenish them. I recommend these no-bake almond oat bars which are a superb easy to grab high energy releasing snack (shameless plug 😉 )!
So anyway we start climbing back up again following a sometimes boggy, but well trodden path, bearing slightly left.
The well trodden path makes me think that these are probably really popular Munro’s when the weather isn’t actually threatening to blow you right off the hills!
Eventually after a bit of a slog you reach the summit plateau of A’ Mharconaich
Here we just continue northeast across the featureless plateau to reach the summit cairn, the second Munro of the day at 975 metres.
Although we briefly paused here at the summit to take stock, there was no point in hanging around. The stone shelter provided next to no break from the wind, and the rain had begun to lash down.
Normally we would sit and have our lunch at the summit and congratulate each other on our achievement but that wasn’t going to happen today so even though we were both hungry we headed off for the lower more sheltered slopes.
This descent from the summit to get to the lower more sheltered slopes is actually the steepest part of the day.
Here we descend northwards down a long spur. There is really steep corrie on the right and this is precisely why we went no further on that original failed attempt in the winter “white out” conditions mentioned at the start. In such conditions it’s easy enough to walk right over the edge and that could prove fatal.
Anyway, eventually the long spur flattens out and we will end up back on the path we started up on which you can see on the photograph above just to the left.
We got to the path after stopping to admire the Allt Beul an Sporain Burn.
There was a new bridge that had been built over it and Mike had become obsessed about finding it and walking over it. Then it was back to the car park and home to the Hostel for a well deserved
beer cup of tea. 🙂
Geal Charn And A’Mharconaich Video
Well folks if you got this far in reading through this then thanks for keeping up! Remember you can check out all my other hillwalking adventures just by clicking on the hillwalking link.
There will be a new Mediterranean themed recipe up on Thursday then Lynne and I will head off for our weekend break to the very same hostel Mike and I stayed at for these two Munro’s. Catch you then!
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