A Landmark Day: Reaching a Century on the Drumochter Munros

An important milestone during my Munro-Bagging exploits was reached on a day out on the Drumochter Munros – south of Dalwhinnie – with Sarah on a day with a mixed bag of weather. As these were fairly rounded hills giving easy going, we’d decided to tackle the 4 western Munros in one go, making use of NCN route 7 to get back to the car at Balsporran.

[May ’22]

I had enjoyed a fair few trips this year so far, but the last couple had been backpacking trips and hadn’t involved any hills, so I was getting a little antsy to finally get some more hills under my belt. Sarah was also keen on getting a few hills ticked off, so we decided to tackle the 4 western Drumochter hills, which could be done in a pretty easy-going circuit. Some choose to separate these into 2 pairs, but with a long drive to reach the start (and fuel being a ridiculous price) we were keen to combine them and avoid a second drive in future.

An early start meant the drive north was quiet and uneventful, just the way we liked it. The car park at Balsporran was also empty other than one van, so we were also hopeful for a nice quiet round of hills. The morning was pleasant and bright and we set off from the car just before 0815, carefully crossing the railway line before heading along a good track initially.

A beautiful morning

The track continued a fair distance up the hill but soon became a little boggier. It had been quite dry leading up to our walk though so the boggy bit could have been a whole load worse. The going was easy and we very quickly reached our first summit of the day – Geal-Charn.

Loch Ericht and Ben Alder

Despite being very summery as we left the car, things had taken a more wintery turn again. There was a chilly and rather stiff breeze blowing and the temperature plummeted in comparison to an hour or so prior. A couple of extra layers were donned before we made our way south to cross a vehicle track before heading up a grassy path to reach the summit ridge of A’Mharconaich.

A quick hop along the almost level ridge saw us to our second Munro of the day after about 2.5 hours. If we had chosen to do 2 hills instead of all 4 I reckon we could have been back at the car in about 45 minutes, but I was on 99 Munros with another 2 easy hills ahead of me, so I wasn’t going home in a hurry!

Looking down Glen Garry

The down-and-up between A’Mharconaich and Beinn Udlamain was one of the easiest of any hills I had done to-date and we made very easy progress towards our 3rd hill of the day. Thankfully the wind had eased off a little and left us with a more spring/autumnal feeling day. I was starting to get a little excited about reaching another landmark, so was occasionally reigned in a little by Sarah.

Number 100 incoming

Less than an hour after leaving our second summit, we reached the top of Beinn Udlamain, my 100th Munro. For such a special hill it was a bit dull and featureless, but there were excellent views towards the Ben Alder hills and I was given a lovely surprise by Sarah – some cheesecake! She had very kindly bought (and carried) a packed of some luxury cheesecake slices for me to celebrate with (we don’t drink, so this is my whisky!). This was very quickly inhaled and we sat for a while enjoying the views, pondering over my first 100 Munros and thinking about the other 182 that lay ahead!

Ben Alder from Beinn Udlamain

We had one final hill to go and as was the case with the other hills in the circuit, the down-and-up wasn’t especially big or steep. There wasn’t much of a path but the terrain was grassy and gentle so picking the best line wasn’t difficult at all.

The 4th and final Munro of the day – Sgairneach Mhor – was reached after 4hrs 45mins. We were really pleased with our efforts and I was chuffed to finally have reached my 100th Munro, so we headed off down the reasonably interesting east ridge as it fell towards the glen below.

Flat and featureless
The descent begins

There were a few wet and boggy sections, but we made it down to the vehicle track in Coire Dhomhain with no difficulties. From here there weren’t any obstacles other than a fairly long trudge back to the car a few miles north. We’d endured a fair amount of tarmac walking a couple of weeks prior on the Affric Kintail Way though, so a few miles of cycle track would be like water off a duck’s back for us.

Looking back on our efforts

The A9 was busy as always and provided a noisy backdrop to otherwise pleasant surroundings. The sun had decided to make an appearance again though and things felt much more like summer (shame about the rest of the day!). Smiling away thinking about my achievements, we reached Balsporran and a busier car park than in the morning. All in all we’d covered just over 15 miles (with 1286m of ascent) in less than 6.5 hours. Happy that I’d earned my cheesecake, we headed home in the sunshine, plotting and scheming about some adventures to come over the summer.

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