A proper Midsummer walk

From Sgairneach Mhor

From Sgairneach Mhor

Back, I think it was, in February 2008, Nita and I got up early one morning and drove up the A9 to the DrumochterPass.  We spent the day walking two of the hills to the west, (Gael-charn and A’Mharconaich) and had a very memorable time in the snowy conditions on the tops.  As we stood on the icy summit plateau of the second of these hills, we looked across to the neighbouring hills in the group but it was far too far to go that day and we decided to make a return visit sometime in the future.  That day in February 2008, was for me, a particularly profitable one as, out of it, I created seven paintings ….five of which subsequently sold and just recently, I’ve had interest in one of the remaining pieces.

Summit of Gael-charn

Summit of Gael-charn

Anyway, on Tuesday, Nita and I once again got up at the crack of dawn and drove the three and a bit hours up to DrumochterPass.  Six years after our first venture into these wonderful rolling high hills, we were going back …this time to walk the two we’d looked at; Sgairneach Mhor and Beinn Udlamain.  After last weeks walk near Bridge of Orchy, we were feeling something like fit again and thought these two hills would give us another good walk.

Dark skies at the summit of Sgairneach Mhor

Dark skies at the summit of Sgairneach Mhor

We left the car at the summit of the pass and headed up the glen.  The route to Sgairneach Mhor involved crossing the big stream in the base of the glen and although it wasn’t by any means in spate, there was still a good bit of water flowing and we thought we might have to walk a long way up the glen before we could get across without getting our feet wet!  To our surprise, after about 1 kilometre Nita spotted a large new bridge spanning the stream.  As it is large enough for a vehicle, I don’t think it was put there for the soul convenience of hill-walkers, but what ever the reason, it certainly proved useful and we took full advantage of it.  We gained height after that quite quickly and before long gained the ridge and with it, views down to Loch Gary.  From the forecast we’d seen the day before, we’d been expecting a bright warm day, but alas, the clouds, although above our summits, remained heavy and dark with just an occasional short lived glimpse of the sun. ….it was certainly not going to be a day for using my new sun hat!

Overlooking the Drumochter Pass, evening

Overlooking the Drumochter Pass, evening

Sgairneach Mhor has an impressive corrie and the few remaining small patches of snow made for a good view as we neared the summit.  Beyond this, big expanses of grass led first down and then up onto the second hill, Beinn Udlamain.  This, at just over 1000 m is the highest point in this group of hills and as we picked our way over the stone clad upper slopes we got our first good views out over Loch Ericht to the Ben Alder hills.  This then was going to be it for the day …the original plan being to continue around the end of the glen before descending into it to pick up the path back to the road.

Loch Ericht from Beinn Udlamain

Loch Ericht from Beinn Udlamain

But ……of course, of course, we started looking over to A’Mharconaich and Gael-charn!!  It was late June and the days are wonderfully long and these other two hills looked so inviting.  To start with, we decided to aim for A’Mharconaich as from that summit we could still descend to the track leading back to the car.  We arrived at this summit at about 16.00 and by now the dark clouds were beginning to break and bright patches of sunlight were appearing all around …it looked like it was going to be a lovely evening…..we just had to continue over to the fourth and final Munro….Gael-charn.  By the time we were picking our way over the stony slopes near the summit of Gael-charn, we were both starting to feel a little tired …but the views were now stunning and we were starting to get a real sense of achievement.  All we had to do now was descend the long broad ridge of Gael-charn to another track leading the short distance to the A9 ….and then walk the 4 km back up to the top of the pass to our car.  We arrived there 11 hours and 55 minutes after setting out …phew, but what a day, a real mid summer walk.

For many hill walkers this wouldn’t be thought of as a big day, but for me with my still declining vision, it felt like quite an achievement still.  Its twelve years since I first went to the inspirational ‘summer mountain skills course for visually impaired people’, held each year at Glenmore Lodge.  That course gave me so much confidence and I’m certain I wouldn’t have been out on Tuesday dong that big walk, if I hadn’t attended the course in 2001.  The course is still being run and they’re looking for takers for this year’s course.  So, if you know anyone who is visually impaired who would be interested in a truly inspirational week in the Scottish Highlands, they should contact Glenmore Lodge for further details, or they can contact me and I can put them in touch with the course co-ordinator Norma Davidson.

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