Ever wondered why there are often a lot of cars parked near that white-washed B&B by the A9 just north of the Pass of Drumochter? Well most of the occupants are going up Geal-charn, one of the easier Munros to reach the top of and the first one for my son a couple of years ago. He got to the top easily enough but had to be persuaded the view of mountains was preferable to spotting trains down below.
The views from the top are world class; down Loch Ericht and across it to the magnificent peaks of Ben Alder and Aonach Beag with their twisting ridges, all set amid a vast area of empty, wild land. Further afield the Cairngorm range can be seen on a clear day as well as the Monadhliath and Creag Meagaidh ranges, truly a place to linger.
Some would include A’Mharconaich or the other Munros which lie next to the Pass of Drumochter but that would entail rather more exertion than this route.
Take a picnic and sit at the top to admire the view as well as looking out for wildlife – mountain hare frequent the slopes and I am reliably informed the relatively rare dotterel has been seen flying about these parts.
DISTANCE: 7 miles / .11.5km
HEIGHT CLIMBED: 1,615ft / 492m.
TIME: 3½ to 4½ hours.
MAP: OS Landranger 42.
PARK: At Balsporran Cottages, by the west side of the A9 about 2.5 miles north of the Pass of Drumochter. (Look for the big white house with “B-B” on the side but don’t drive right up to it, use a car park on the right before you reach it.)
THE ROUTE: Walk past the cottages and cross the main Inverness to Perth railway line at a gate, taking care. Follow the estate track on the other side, crossing a burn and ignoring a turning right. After crossing a second burn look for a more narrow track on the right and follow it uphill.
The built track ends and the route becomes boggier before bearing left to reach the north-east ridge of Geal-charn. As the going becomes stonier beware of a “false” summit about two-thirds of a mile from the actual one. It is, however, worth pausing here for the view of A’ Mharconaich and its prominent north ridge.
Even the real summit is confusing – the highest point is a stone shelter beyond a large cairn. After enjoying the views walk past the summit and bear left, then slightly right, to head south to a bealach below A’ Mharconaich. At a track go left and walk all the way back, below Geal-charn, to the start.