Saturday 24 May 2014

Geal-charn and A'Mharconaich

It's amazing what a difference a couple of months makes...

A'Mharconaich and Geal-charn from Balsporran Cottages

On 23rd March we were here in deep snow and high winds...

And on 23rd March, we had a bit of a scare involving Jim's heart, a S&R helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth and the staff of A&E at Raigmore, and CC at Raigmore and Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

River Truim, north from Balsporran Cottages

Its thanks to all those amazing people (and Fraser MacGillivary) that we were here today, setting off from Balsporran Cottages beside the A9, to complete the very same walk, in, oh, so different conditions...

A'Mharconaich and Geal-charn and Allt Coire Fhar

Jim has made, pretty much, a full recovery from his heart attack, and we've been doing lots of low level walking to help him regain his fitness. He'd just got the go ahead to try something a bit more strenuous.

A'Mharconaich from the ascent of Geal-charn

We set off from Balsporran in bright sunshine and in high spirits...

The views already good - back to Meal Chuaich (our last Munro, walked in March) and the Am Monadh Ruadh to the north and east, along with A'Mharconaich to the south, our second Munro objective of the day.

Views east from our ascent of Geal-charn

We made good time following the same route we had followed in the snow, this time plodging through some rather soggy peat. This was short lived though, the route dried out as we ascended.

Views south along the A9 from our ascent of Geal-charn

We gained height quickly (a 400m start point always helps with that!) and were soon near the summit plateau of Geal-charn. It was hard to imagine that only a few weeks ago...

Rafe and Jim - A'Mharconaich and the nearby summit of Geal-charn

As we neared the summit the views opened up, Loch Ericht and Ben Alder, away to the west and north, with the empty expanse of the Loch Rannoch moors to the south - a wild and lonely place... marvellous.

Views north east to Meal Chuaich from Geal-charn

A'Mharconaich from near the summit of Geal-charn

Ben Alder from Geal-charn

Loch Ericht from Geal-charn

The summit of Geal-charn (Munro 279, 917m), was a bleak and windswept spot (I like bleak and windswept) and not a place for lunch, so we descended into the bealach between Geal-charn and A'Mharconaich to find a sheltered spot.

Beinn Udlamain, Loch Ericht and Ben Alder as Jim and Rafe descend from Geal-charn

The paths were good and there was no navigational issues, so we set off towards Munro number two, making good time. The sky had clouded over - moody views...

Jim and Rafe ascend A'Mharconaich

Across Loch Ericht from the ascent of A'Mharconaich

The ascent was fairly gentle and easygoing...

Geal-charn from the ascent of A'Mharconaich

And we strolled across the plateau, feeling blessed.

Sheep family - views west from A'Mharconaich

Jim and Rafe near the  summit of A'Mharconaich

Once again, the summit of A'Mharconaich (Munro 175, 975m) was an exposed and chilly place, the wind blowing in from the east over the snow fields below - not a place to hang about today.

Rafe - A'Mharconaich summit (Munro 175, 975m)

Jim on A'Mharconaich's north east ridge with views to Geal-charn

We set off down A'Mharconaich's north east ridge, stopping to check out the cornices, hanging precariously from the edge (the photo really doesn't do them justice!). Rafe would have liked a closer look, but...

Snow on A'Mharconaich

The guide book had said to take a left off the ridge at an early point, as the ridge gets rather rough further down, but we didn't find this at all. There was a good path (occasionally boggy!) though the heather and myrtle, gently descending, with no issues.

A'Mharconaich and Geal-charn - from the "rough path"

The path brought us to Allt Coire Fhar just west of Balsporran Cottages. There was no bridge over the burn, but it was only a hop, skip and a jump on a few rocks and we were over. If the burn had been in spate, we might have had a problem. I would say, if that was the case, coming off the ridge and crossing the burn higher up the glen would be advisable!

A'Mharconaich and Geal-charn from near Balsporran Cottages

Well, Jim had completed his first hill walk since the heart attack without any problems... Where are we going next week??

Route:  Car park at Balsporran Cottages by A9 (NN627791), W along track, over railway line at crossing, continue W over 2 fords to NN622790, take track to right, NW then W and SW to cairns at NN606785, continue SW to Geal-charn summit (Munro 279, 917m), SW to bealach (SH 739m), path ascending A'Mharconaich W ridge, A'Mharconaich (Munro 179, 975m), descend on NW ridge along good path to just W of Balsporran Cottages (NN626793), cross burn (may be difficult in spate), E to start.

Statistics:  Distance 11.5km  Ascent 750m  Time 4.30hrs

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