Meall Chuaich, Drumochter isn’t exactly the most exciting Munro to climb if you go by some of the descriptions of it. However that depends very much on what kind of weather conditions you get!
And, as I think you’ll agree from the pictures and description below, my recent climb of Meall Chuaich, Drumochter at the end of November with Mike, proved what a stunning winter hillwalk this can be!
Plus there was the added excitement of a new bunkhouse to stay at for the weekend. With several pubs to choose from for our Saturday night dinner!
Strathspey Mountain Hostel
So, our weekend saw us staying in the highland village of Newtonmore at the Strathspey Mountain Hostel which we drove up to on the afternoon of Friday 18th November.
Both Mike and I had that day off so it was nice to drive up through the centre of Scotland in the daylight enjoying the clear views.
The bunkhouse itself is situated right in the heart of the main street of the village.
With the main A9 road long since having bypassed the village, it’s really quiet.
Able to sleep up to 18 guests (according to their website), we found ourselves the only people booked in there for the Friday night.
The facilities as you can see are excellent. We made full use of the cooking facilities, cooking our traditional pre-walk meal of stovies.
That evening we basked in the fantastic centrally heated bunkhouse.
We enjoyed our evening cheese and wine (oh yes we dine well) we soon forgot about the sub zero temperature outside!
Meall Chuaich, Drumochter
An early morning start is needed in order to secure your car parking space in lay-by no.94 on the A9.
A hot cup of freshly brewed coffee always tastes amazing in the crisp cold fresh mountain air.
As well as providing a little caffeine lift for the trek ahead!
The weather forecast really couldn’t have been much better for the day, for the area that we were climbing in.
Clear blue skies, cold. With snow flurries on the mountain peaks.
Contrast that with a group of fellow climbers we met in the bunkhouse that Saturday evening.
They had been climbing just 10 miles south of us and had what they described as wet “claggy” conditions where they saw very little – except cloud.
Anyway, so after parking the car we followed the track alongside the concrete aqueduct.
The aqueduct was build to transport water from the Cruaich hydro-electric station (above).
We walked past the huge pipes which bring the water down from a higher up mountain loch.
We were heading for the start of the ascent of Meall Chuaich, a 5 hour, 14km round trip and climb of some 951 metres.
The first part was rather boggy.
However, as it was also pretty frozen underfoot that actually made it easier for us.
I remember Mike remarking that it would “probably be a right muddy mess” in summer!
Loch Cuaich is seen over to the left hand side as we started climbing up the shoulder of Stac Meall Chuaich.
We brought our winter gear (crampons and ice axes) in our rucksacks but in the end never used them.
Although the snow got deeper as we progressed upwards it wasn’t necessary to use the gear.
And it was too cold to stand about for too long fiddling about putting it on!
Naturally though, we always make sure we are prepared for the worst!
Looking behind now you can see it was a bit of a walk in to get to the foot of the mountain.
I never really noticed how long the walk-in was. The scenery was breathtaking and that consumed the time.
It was certainly a longer walk-out though!
With the forecast of the day having been so good (and correct for a change) there were quite a few other walkers out on the mountain.
Indeed I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large group of children and their families.
The reason for their attempt at the Meall Chuaich, Drumochter was it was the last of the 282 Munros being finished by a family member.
In this quick clip above, Mike was so engrossed in the climb that he had barely any energy left to share his enthusiasm for the day! 😉
Finally after a good two hours grind upwards we reached the summit plateau.
The bright winters sun shone down on us and although we did experience some cloud on the summit, the 360 degree view was still stunning.
It’s customary to try and take a picture of each of us at the top of every Munro we climb.
Sometimes it isn’t possible, and sometimes its that busy that everybody’s doing that very same thing too.
I always joke that I look the same in every photograph when I’m hillwalking because I’m always wearing the same clothes!
Here though, at least I can claim to have some “new gear” on, in the shape of a new hat!
And if anyone was going to be spotted on a mountain side today, wearing bright gear………
A brief photograph session and a grab of a sandwich to eat and some small talk with the other climbers there was enough for our core body temperature to start descending rapidly.
So, we turned around and began our walk-off the summit plateau, retracing the footsteps of the many people who had made it up that day.
We made it back to the car for about 3pm.
That gave us plenty of time to get back to the Bunkhouse in Newtonmore for a pot of tea and some snacks prior to our dinner that evening.
We’d booked ourselves into The Glen Hotel for dinner at 6.30. It was just as well that we had booked ourselves in as it was a pretty busy place!
I had lamb shanks which were done in a rich gravy with seasonal vegetables. Mike had scampi with fries and salad. And as usual I forgot to take pictures of our dinner as I was that hungry and wolfed the whole lot down pretty quickly!
Our weekend hillwalk of Meall Chuaich, Drumochter was just brilliant.
Another fantastic adventure to add to all the previous and growing hillwalking posts!
Beautiful views (and so cold and tiring!) Hahaha! Don’t know if I would last!
Oh I definitely think you would last Rebecca, we’d just keep eating lots of cranberry banana muffins to keep us going! 😉
One day, I really really want to go on a hillwalk with you. And stay in a bunkie. #lifegoals
I’m a big believer in that what you want and dream of are what you’ll get. So keep wanting and there will be a space booked for you in a bunk house with us!