Date: Friday 1st March 2013
Start: Layby 94 on A9 just south of Cuaich
Weather: Blue Skies
Distance: 16.22 km
Time taken: 3 Hours 26 Minutes
Ascent: 642 metres
Accompanied by: Emma, Milo and Inca
Munro: Meall Chuaich (951 metres)
hen we chose the Cairngorms as our honeymoon location I would have been happy if we had managed one decent day in the mountains. By decent i mean not getting blown over but getting some semblance of a view from the tops. Hey, I am not greedy, any kind of view will do and I am not bothered if it is cloudy. Maybe this was a talk ask. The weather had been awful recently but for some unknown reason, we had had the best February weather I can remember. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were perfect; blue skies, no clouds, amazing visibility. We had took full advantage of this, nailing Cairn Gorm, Creagan a’ Chaise and Sgor Gaoith respectively. Thursday was a little overcast but a rest day did no one any harm anyway, but today was business as usual. But it was our last full day (and my birthday 🙂 ) so we decided to take in a peak on the way home. Something close to the A9. A mountain near the Drumochter Pass.
Drumochter is one of those places that feels so barren, even though the busy A9 that dissects is always busy. I have had some memorable trips in this area including an epic ‘white-out’ with Graham on Beinn Udlamain. But there is something about this area that I just do not like. It seems that even when it is sunny, it remains gloomy. None the less, there are ‘easy wins’ in close proximity to the A9 and the fact that it was directly on the route of journey home was an added bonus. We wanted something quick and fast and a peak we could run. We chose Meall Chuaich, a round and featureless hill that if I was honest, did not intill me with much enthusiasm. But the dogs needed some exercise and the weather was yet again amazing so we decided to get involved.
We parked up in Layby 94, just south of Cuaich Cottages. With the dogs on the harnesses, we set off along a wide track that ran adjacent to a water channel. This aqueduct is part of the Tummel Hydro-Electric Power scheme which opened in 1961. We were all running at a decent pace (even Inca who normally wide flat paths) and we soon passed the power station and reached Loch Cuaich. The path up the mountain side was clearly visible and with three big mountain days under our belts, we felt strong. As the path ascended, it became stonier and as we approached the summit of Stac Meall Chuaich we headed directly east towards the top.
The views from the top were extensive. The vast plateaux of Drumochter and Gaick looked amazing. Maybe I had been wrong about Drumochter after all? There was another couple at the summit cairn so we did not hang around. Just took a few photographs and then headed down. The plan was to run down but to do so would mean letting Milo off the harness. He is just too strong to be attached whilst running down a steep hill. Obviously, letting him loose was dependent on on wildlife but there was no sheep in the vicinity and I had not seen any deer so there did not seem anything to be concerned about. I should have realised something was not right when instead of running off at full pelt he was skulking about the rocks, sniffing.
Then it happened. A white mountain hare came hurtling across the hillside at full pelt with Milo in hot pursuit. There was something amazing about watching him run at top speed and thankfully the hare was fast and agile. A couple of fast switch-backs and he had disappeared. We quickly got Milo back on the harness before he actually caught one and descended down the hillside.
Once we were at the bottom we grabbed some food then retraced our route past the power station and back to the car. On reflection, I was pleasantly surprised with this mountain. I was not expecting much but it was a decent run and if we had not had the dogs it could of been knocked off in a couple of hours. I suppose it all comes down to how you approach the ‘less glamorous’ peaks. If I had hiked rather than ran this peak and the weather had been grey and miserable then I suspect that it would have been just a case of ‘trudge on and get it out of the way’ but it was not like that, it was really enjoyable. With this in mind I will look forward to running the remaining two Drumochter peaks; Carn na Caim and A’Bhuidheanach Bheag but I will bide my time and wait for a decent weather window, maybe a sunrise or sunset run. After all, for me it is not about just collecting ticks. 🙂