After our trip to the Innses, the weather was (as forecast) poor the following day so we spent that day festering and hoping things would improve. The indications were that the weather might improve but that it would be necessary to travel east to see the benefits. It is quite common in the Highlands for the weather to be poor on one side of the country but for it to be OK on the other.
This is what we banked on when we travelled alongside Loch Laggan. Regular showers peppered the windscreen, clouds covered the tops and it did not looked promising.
But as we reached Dalwhinnie with its whitewashed walled distillery some patches of blue sky began to appear. I had offered Ciaran the choice of various combinations of the group of four Munros that lie to the west of the A9. The southern two, Beinn Udlamain and Sgairneach Mhor were chosen. This would give me the chance of adding The Sow of Atholl at the end, a wonderfully named Corbett balanced by the equally intriguingly named Boar of Badenoch.
Beinn Udlamain stands at the head of Coire Dhomhain with a convenient track leading up the glen. Sgairneach Mhor flanks the southern side of the glen. This is the view from our start point (with a snowy Beinn Udlamain in the distance), a lay-by on the A9 adjacent to the railway that, like the road, threads its way over the Drumochter Pass linking Perth and Inverness.
We set off, first negotiating a 400m detour to take us under the railway. The track wound and reared its way up the glen. We soon gained some height and our turn off point by one of the streams coming down from the north east ridge of Beinn Udlamain. Here we had a brief stop for refreshments before following the stream. There was even a faint path for a while.
View up the glen
View up the stream
The final steep slope was covered in snow that introduced us to a more wintry feel.
Sgairneach Mhor provided a backdrop as we hit the broad ridge of Beinn Udlamain.
Although the cloud was well broken, the wind was strong and wintry showers blew through from time to time. Here we saw our first couple of people away in the distance coming from A’Mharconaich. We turned south west and followed the line of fence posts on the gentle ascent to the broad summit and its large, untidy cairn.
From here Sgairneach Mhor looked less shapely. We hunkered down as best we could behind the cairn to shelter from the wind and to have some lunch. Normally there are some views down Loch Ericht and over to Ben Alder. However, these views were largely obscured by cloud when we were there.
One of the figures from afar arrived and I stayed to chat to him. I suggested to Ciaran that he start off towards Sgairneach Mhor. I would catch up. A few minutes later I set off. This coincided with the beginning of a longer shower which stung the face with the wind trying to knock me off course. Going down the wide stony slopes towards the col I had lost sight of Ciaran. I hoped that he had not gone off course, but he was using a GPS to navigate by.
After some moments of concern I eventually spotted him standing out as he crossed a large snow patch. I sped up to catch him up. The wind now pushed us up the slope. The ground was less stony and progress was quick up to the top.
Snow flew by. We did not stay long!
We then followed the top of the coire. There was evidence of cornice collapse with brown streaks smearing the white face of the coire.
We went down towards the col between Sgairneach Mhor and The Sow. There Ciaran and I parted. Here there were some tracks back down into the glen and a couple of bridges over the river there. Meanwhile I continued down to the narrow col where there was a peaty path up The Sow.
As with most of the hills around here, the summits are wide but the views expansive. Here is the view looking north east.
And one looking back the way I had come.
The weather had now cleared.
It was a quick 20 minutes back down to the col and I then followed a narrow hanging valley between The Sow and the eastern slopes of Sgairneach Mhor for almost a kilometre before dropping back down to the outward route.