winter in the drumochter hills

Mon, Mar 30, 2009

I was booked on the MLTA winter navigation course at Glenmore Lodge at the weekend, so I took the Friday off and headed across to Dalwhinnie and down to Balsporran Cottages for a plod around the high moorland ahead of a horrendous forecast. It rained all the way over from Skye but the temp dropped to 2C on the high road from Laggan with large slushy flakes falling from a leaden sky. Wind was strong westerly with the forecast giving a swing to the north and increasingly wild and wintry. Just what I wanted! Plodding up from the cottages the sun came out for a bit but was then hustled out of the way by some vagrant blizzards looking to mess up spring’s handiwork, which had cleared the hills of snow recently. I took the first track on the right after the railway crossing and just followed it up, not really caring where it went as I was intentionally trying to get lost, hopefully in a whiteout, to scrape the rust from my winter nav skills. The path was a real mess though. Deep bog with basically a fence laid horizontally along it to give the estate vehicles grip on the vertical mush and it made walking very very difficult indeed. Thankfully at 625m it headed off up Creagan Mor and I headed off into the whiteness and deep snow making for the headwaters of the Allt Beul an Sporain, along the south face of Creagan Mor above a rather deep and steep gorge.

Looking down the headwaters of the Allt Beul an Sporain

Crossing the headwaters I plodded up deep snow, passing an energetic hare still in white coat and up into the drifting vapours on the summit plateau. Visibility was 100m and the top was scoured and rocky so nav wasn’t as challenging as I was hoping. Cold at the cairn though so just a quick cram of nuts into mouth and off on a bearing for the SW ridge. As viz was around 100m it was easy to keep to the fall line all the way down to bealach above Coire Fhàr where I lunched in a small shelter out of the wind. Heading up A’Mharconaich was made much easier by following hard packed runnels formed by cross loading which led all the way to the plateau where I hung a left and plodded along the flat ground to the scoured summit, where the weather hit.

Quick bearing to get down the north ridge, estimate timing, 8min? actually took 10 in the conditions to reach the catching feature of the steep drop off into the coire, then hang a right and plod down the ridge out of the cloud. As I descended the weather really came in with screaming wind and blizzards all the way back to Balsporran. A great day out indeed and good to blow the cobwebs off.

You can see all the pics here.

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