I’ve taken a bit of a break from climbing in the last few months as our second baby is due in just over 2 weeks and my wife needed me around more. However, the past weekend presented me with a window of opportunity in weather and chance to achieve my 20th munro. My last opportunity to climb before our lives became busier.
The two days previous to Saturday 14 January, Drumochter was barely drivable never mind climbable. Strong wind and heavy snow made for blizzard conditions and the off and on closure of the A9 but the weather cleared late on Friday and so I took to the road at 5.30am Saturday and headed for the Balsporran Cottage B & B just beyond the Pass of Drumochter. Standing tall and clearly visible on the left hand side of the A9 on the long right hand bend following Drumochter was 3,198ft A’Mharconaich. Why this munro to mark my 20th? Located at the border where Glen Garry meets Glen Trium and just a few miles south of Dalwhinnie (coldest annual average temperature in the UK below 500m), this munro always catches my eye en-route to Inverness-Invergordon. It’s a wild spot, known for it’s windy and snowy conditions during the winter.
Did a quick stop off at Dalwhinnie. Love this place!
Now that daylight has arrived, time to climb!
Weather conditions were excellent with air temperature at a comfortable -2C (-4C in Dalwhinnie) and light NW breeze.
River Trium looking south
Main Inverness to Perth line.
While weather conditions were good at low levels, under foot it was a little more tricky with uneven terrain and drifting. Of course winds were gale-force for much of Wed through Fri. Once off the paved road at Balsporran Cottages, snow drifts became difficult to traverse.
Waist deep drifts
Looking north through Glen Trium
One minute your shoe is barely covered, the next your knee deep, then waist deep. For the 30-45 minutes, it was slow but once reaching the steeper gradient of A’Mharconaich, conditions under foot improved with less and less snow but the wind made up for the improvement under foot.
Nice clear view looking down into Glen Garry.
Looking across the A9 to the Drumochter Hills.
Looking down onto the A9, lorries look like toys.
Once out of the shrubby, snowy low levels, the environment turned a little more hostile with an icy, wind swept environment with views becoming obscured by clouds clinging to the upper mountain. Sustained winds we’re likely in the 30-40 mph range which made the -2/-3C air temp a little less comfortable on your face coupled with tiny ice pellets which hurt. The face mask is certainly your friend in these conditions where wind chills are biting and snow, hail or ice pellets are blowing horizontal.
Here it is… Didn’t seem to take too long but I reach the summit of A’Mharconaich. Unfortunately there’s nothing to see and it’s too windy to pour a coffee.
Couldn’t get a proper summit selfie as the cold wind kept killing my phone battery so got it a little off the top.
Heading back down and the sunshine and views return!