Gael Charn

Saturday 29th February 2020

Today we were off to undertake some winter walking.

We were heading to hike the Munro Geal Charn situated in the Drumochter Pass area.

Geal Charn is a bit of a lump of a Munro in the heart of the Ben Alder range and its said to have superb views towards Ben Alder and A’Mharconaich.

I had read the summit cairn, located on a broad, featureless plateau can be difficult to locate in bad weather. Also the descent between the crags can be troublesome and care needs to be taken.

Today as we arrived at the Drumochter Pass everything was white. We have passed by here several times in the past few months and it’s always had a pretty good amount of snow.

Heading out

Geal-charn ironically in Scottish Gaelic translates as ‘white hill’, how fitting today!

As we reached the car park it began to snow some more. As we stepped out of the car and began to layer up, including waterproofs we knew we were going to be tackling this Munro in cold temperatures and pretty harsh conditions.

We started to head up.

It wasn’t long into the climb before the winds picked up and we were walking in blizzard conditions. Snow was really deep so every step was an effort, pushing into the deep snow and then having to pull yourself back out.

As we got further up the soft snow began to disappear and was replaced by icy patches.

It kept getting windier and windier and by this time we had a total whiteout. We had to stay close together as visibility was so poor and with the noise of the wind you could hear nothing.

If only you knew what I was thinking!

At this point I began to think about Andy’s conversation with me the night before. It went something like this….

“Mary do you fancy heading out for a nice walk in the hills tomorrow. It’s meant to be the better day. Mountain weather forecast is saying 70% chance of cloud free Munro’s so visibility should be good and wind will ease by lunchtime”!

Hell yeah I was in, we’ve had so much rain and wind this year this was a no brainer…let’s do it!!

Welcome to my world!

We kept moving slowly forward and upwards using GPS as the snow had masked any path, and with no visibility we had to make sure we were picking out the correct route past crags to reach the summit.

One step at a time

As we started to crest the plateau we were met by the full force of the wind. It was unbelievably strong. The snow was blowing feircly around us, blinding us. We had to quickly stop, take out our ski goggles, ice axes, crampons and be as best prepared as we could.

We had to keep moving as by stopping we began to get so cold. We moved forward a few hundred metres before agreeing (read: Andy making the decision to turn around as conditions were becoming horrendous and me fuming as we had put in so much effort to reach this point and we were almost at the top) we turned around and headed back down.

On the way down I had a few falls, either with sliding, getting stuck in deep snow but more so just by being literally blown of my feet with the winds, at this point we were estimating the winds at 55mph, I’d have said faster personally!

White out

On the way down it’s fair to say I had a few bum slides before reaching safety.

We were back down at the car in no time at all…this must have been one of our quickest downhills ever!

The mountain on this occasion had won, it will not be ticked of our list and we will revisit Geal Charn as officially we didn’t complete it…we didn’t reach the cairn.