Hills: Geal Charn (Drumochter Pass)
Date: 31 July 2009
Weather: Overcast & dull but dry
Who: Self, Stuart, hangovers (x2) bog – thankfully not too vertical
Distance: 4.7 miles (checked the GPS!)
Time: Just over 2 ½ hours
My husband’s suggestion for a walk report – and why he doesn’t get to write them – would have been something along the lines of ‘Had hangover. Chose hill. Walked up hill. Took pics. Walked back down hill. Went back to pub’. This is a little bit more verbose than that but you get the general idea!
This is a hill-walking blog with added wine. Sometimes, a little too much added wine! Sitting on my sofa with a hangover today after sampling the rather tasty Italian wine at a new local bar, seemed an ideal opportunity to catch up with a few blog posts. My hill-walking tends to be punctuated with mishaps, sometimes hangover related but other times due to various travel debacles.. one of the disadvantages of taking up a hobby which it is physically impossible to do near where we live (in South-East London). This was a classic example but also demonstrated that hill walking is actually a rather good hangover cure… if one can drag oneself out of bed to actually go and do the walk that is!
The previous weekend Stuart and his mate had finished the West Highland Way, with me joining them for the last stage and after a day to recover we had climbed Buachaille Etive Mor, one of the most iconic Scottish mountains. Post walk libations in Fort William had been copious and we then staggered home on the train on Sunday getting home at around midnight. Fell into bed and then into the office the following day. Then ensued a week that I knew was going to be busy and which definitely was! Only a bit busier…. Packed on auto-pilot on Wednesday night, and on Thursday we were once again at Euston station boarding the 18.30 which got us into Irvine (and Stuart’s parents) shortly after midnight. Unfortunately, we’d decided it was a good idea to drink rather a lot of red wine en route. Repeat after self.. I must not go drinking before hillwalking (ad infinitum)…..
7.00 the alarm goes off. Ugh. 😯 Hit snooze. It goes off again at 7.15. Grrr! Remember that the hire car company is picking us up at 8.30. Fall into (then out of) the shower and then drink most of Stuart’s mum’s supply of cranberry juice. Fail to remember where various things have been put and faff around looking for them. Eventually get picked up by hire car company and get hire car sorted out, getting on the road at about 9.15. It was already obvious that anything resembling a long walk was out as we wouldn’t get to Aviemore (where we were staying) until at least midday and probably later.. plus the forecast was for the weather to get worse towards the late afternoon/ evening. Fortunately there was a plan B! We had missed out the Drumochter Geal Charn when we did the other 3 on the west of the A9 at Easter. Perfect 😀 – a short hill, a high start point and a path. With only 500m or thereabouts of ascent we figured that even in our hung over state we should be able to drag ourselves that far. Battled through various sets of road works and were eventually parked up at Balsporran Cottages and ready for the off at about 12.15. The weather was overcast and gloomy but the tops were all clear and it was also obvious that there was a path.. which meant that taxing our brains with too much complex navigation would thankfully not be required.
The first bit of the walk involves crossing the railway line and then following a track. A path then splits off shortly after the first stream of significance. This is initially pretty good, but soon deteriorates into bog and widens to about 2 metres or more due to the passage of a lot of feet searching for the best ground. Fortunately, it was the sort of bog that just goes ‘squelch’ a lot rather than dropping you ankle deep (or worse) into the mire. 😀 Just as well as I realised when we were about 200m into the ascent that I had left my gaiters in the car.
The views started to open out as we climbed, and I knew various reports I’d read online that those from the top would be pretty special. We were also making pretty good time, although it was very much (for me at any rate) a case of head down, keep heading up, try not to think about having a headache. Thankfully the gradient wasn’t too bad (and neither was the ongoing bog, although we were pretty high up before we eventually lost it. The bog I mean, not me losing it generally). It was also getting pretty windy, as well as pretty dark overhead.
Once you get to the summit area, there are two cairns. The second one seems to be marginally higher and certainly has the better views, although I made sure to visit both just in case. Would be very easy to get the wrong one in bad weather!
On the summit for 1.30, about an hour and 15 minutes after leaving the car, which I didn’t feel was too bad given the hangovers (which miraculously had pretty much cleared up). The views were extensive all round, though again (like when we did the other 3) the views of Ben Alder haven’t come out as well as I’d hoped. 😦 A mountain that’s difficult to photograph as well as to get to methinks!
In some ways this hill reminds me a bit of Meall Buidhe (Glen Lyon). You’ve got the same sort of approach – boggy and a bit of a plod – but you have expansive views all round once you get to the top, and into a very remote area in this case. Is it a boring hill? Well, it’s not the most scintillating, but the views are great and it was just what we needed, a nice unchallenging hill with a good payoff at the top in terms of what we could see. Job done! 😀
It was getting really windy at the summit and was also very dark overhead. 😕 We’d considered dropping down towards the bealach between Geal Charn and A’Mharconaich then following the track through Coire Fhar, but decided that discretion was probably best and headed back the way we’d come. I find bog less of a nuisance in descent anyway, at least the slightly dried out version!
An easy enough descent back to the car. Somewhat to my surprise, back at the car before 3, which meant we’d taken just over two and a half hours, including a couple of brief breaks. Kept the faffing about with the gear to a minimum and we were checked in to the Aviemore Bunkhouse by 3.45. Pottered around Aviemore for a bit, and then retired to the Old Bridge Inn for the inevitable post walk drinks… which for reasons of combining rehydration and dehydration, were shandy! :
A very enjoyable little walk despite the hangovers… but it was definitely a case of needing an early night. I think that would be sensible tonight, as well!