CHAMPAGNE and cake, then down to Dunkeld
It has been a five-year traverse over 282 Munros (plus the two now found to be under 3,000ft) to complete a tenth round, ending on A’Bhuidheanach Bheag, (A’BB). It would have been quicker, though less exciting, had I not included the 227 subsidiary Tops, a 4th round completion, with the main challenges being in Skye, Torridon and on An Teallach.
Unfairly regarded by some as one of the dullest Munros, this small yellow hill lies east of the Pass of Drumochter, although the top is not visible from the road. On the lower slopes it is impossible to avoid the noise of the A9. So, not an exciting hill to mark the completion of a round? Maybe so, but the reason for selecting the hill is that not too long an outing is required; important if the weather is adverse on the chosen day – a climb of only 500m over two miles and a bit. In addition, A’BB has a certain distinction in matters Munro, being the first in the alphabetical list, hence there’s a certain perverse appeal in finishing there. My first visit was unashamedly as a Munro bagger; a late evening swoop, getting back to the car in two hours, feeling pleased but not quite fulfilled.
There is a subsidiary Top, 928m Glas Mheall Mor, some distance from the main summit; a separate Munro in the original list, downgraded to Top status in 1921. It has a more attractive summit than the 936m/3,071ft Munro, but linking the two involves a traverse over a rolling plateau where strict navigation is needed on a poor day – not a good idea for that final party. That is why Rhona and I, studiously ignoring the Munro, had earlier climbed the Top via the attractive long ridge on the south-east side of Coire Mhic-sith.
From any of the parking areas at Drumochter (crossing the A9 with care), climb steeply north-east near the south bank of a stream or by the line of fence posts – the only demanding part of the day. The gradient eases once at 650m on the broad south-west slopes, and a faint path by the fence posts also helps. Once at 900m a diversion to 916m Meall a’Chaorainn may be of interest. In the original 1891 listing (as Meall a’Chaoruinn) it was credited as the main summit, with A’BB (listed as Fuar Bheinn) as a Top. The 1921 revision saw the “polarity” reversed, with Meall a’Chaorainn retaining its Top status until 1981.
Continue by the fence posts to a mapped 936m spot height, map ref 654774, 600 yards west of the summit trig point. The dip between the two “summits” is not exactly cavernous, around 10m or so. Various same-height problems have cropped up elsewhere over the years and with A’BB it is perfectly possible that the western point is marginally higher. For all that, the betrigged summit has traditionally been regarded as the “official” top. Until re-surveying clarifies which summit is higher, both points should be visited by those in search of a clear conscience – no problem on this approach from the west. Head east over the plateau to the forlorn trig point amid flat cheerless ground. This final stretch can be boggy or icy, depending on the season.
I have been blessed with my hillwalking companions over the years and it was a pleasure that Rhona, Jimbo, Peter, the Mountain Maid and Hare, the Mountain Lamb, Dave, Tessa, Graham and Richard were able to accompany me. We did not linger too long at the top; champagne, cake, photos, then down to Dunkeld for drinks and dinner.
Map Ordnance Survey map: 42, Glen Garry & Loch Rannoch
Distance: 5 miles
Terrain: Grassy slopes to moorland
Start point: Parking areas at Drumochter, map ref 631760
Time: 3 to 4 hours
Nearest villages: Dalwhinnie and Blair Atholl
Recommended refreshment spot: House of Bruar, north of Blair Atholl
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east