My hopes of completing the Cairngorms Munros were fading fast as the fine weather of the summer starts to collapse into the rain, wind, and cold temperatures of the autumn. I’d made vague plans to head up North towards Dalwhinnie on Friday, taking the day off to try and climb the four hills West of Drumochter, but the weather looked pretty abysmal. The forecast for Saturday was a lot better, but plans would be scuppered by rail strikes. And so it was that I’d given up hope of big hills for this weekend, only for a serendipitous suggestion to pop up on a Westies WhatsApp post: does anyone want to run the Drumochter hills on Saturday?

So it was that I found myself being picked-up shortly after 6, sleep-deprived but keen, before heading up to Perth, via Kirkintilloch to complete the party. It was a little before 9am that we arrived in the layby at the notional end of the route; the route ends with around 4km on the tarmaced A9 cycle path, and we decided this would be more pleasantly done at the start rather than the end of the outing. With hindsight this was the correct decision. We made a decent pace along the tarmac, and soon we found ourselves at the bottom of the main climb of the day, up to the first Munro, one of the many Geal-Chàrns of this part of the highlands. The climb started up a landrover track and we managed to stay on this all-too-tempting path for a little bit too long before spotting walkers heading up a different path, so made a quick course correction cross-country to find the other path. We soon spotted a rather convincing cairn—surely this couldn’t be the summit already? A quick look around confirmed that it wasn’t, and we had a bit further to go for Geal-Chàrn, which was Will’s 100th Munro (and my 140th).

A photo of me, taken from behind, looking along a Glen. I'm wearing a green rain jacket and grey shorts. The hills are brown.
▲ I stare off distantly into a Glen.

From here it was a fairly small drop down to the bealach linking to the second Munro, A’ Mharconaich, which was an uninspiring summit in many ways, but was my halfway point through the Munros. Again from here the route continued down gently, before then turning fairly steep (by the standards of these hills!) at the climb to the third Munro; en route we passed an… artistic installation(?) of rusted fenceposts arranged as a metallic simalcrum of a cairn. This was repeated at the summit, which had a well-built shelter cairn with another cluster of fenceposts next to it. The entire run had been spent in thin cloud up to this point, and there seemed to be no immediate prospect of change.

The run over to the final Munro in the circuit was around 2.5km and possibly over the easiest terrain of the day, but by this point I could feel mysefl flagging a bit. The highlight of the summit was our only trig point of the day, which had a somewhat unusual, squat stature. We decided to add in the Sow of Atholl, a Corbett, at the end of the route, which turned out to involve more descent than we’d realised, down some of the most interesting terrain of the day. The climb back up from the bealach was largely pathless but fast, and we soon reached our final summit, which had almost no cairn to speak of at all. We opted for a (very) direct descent, which turned out to be fine, though my descending skills were shown up as rather lacking here. To get back to the car we had to wade across a fairly steep burn, cross under the railway, and then return along a stretch of the old A9.

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