A wintry wander on The Fara – Sunday 10th December 2017.

Date: Sunday 10th December 2017
Distance: 18km
Ascent: 910m

A rather tasty forecast for Sunday – winds light with seriously cold air temps. Not being serious winter mountaineers we thought we’d seek out a high reward/low challenge option.

One of our standby favourites is The Fara – the Corbett above Dalwhinnie. The summit is an easy dawdle from Dalwhinnie, but is merely the northern tip of a 5km ridge which undulates gently between 850m and 900m and has rather nice views of the surrounding characterful hills.

A dark, cold drive up from Edinburgh saw us parked in Dalwhinnie for just before 0700. Air temps at around -10C is fairly stimulating!

Got booted up and set off in the dark – actually enough moonlight to walk without headtorches on the estate road heading down the W shore of Loch Ericht.

A bit of mist was clinging to the loch depriving us of a good view down to Ben Alder. Tried a moonlit shot anyway.

A quick march along the road to An Tochailt and then heading up the forestry gap at NN 614 835. It’s a bit soupy getting round the overgrown gate on the SE side of the gap, but from here it’s easy progress direct uphill.

Breaking out of the forestry we were racing dawn, it is one of the great experiences of winter, heading uphill as the sky lightens and dawn nears.

Geal Charn and A’Mharconich sit to the south across Loch Ericht.

We were not far from the ridge when the cloud breached the hills and cloud to the SE.

….and then an outbreak of sloth, to lap up the great vista.

There’s a great view SW towards the behemoths of Ben Alder, Geal Charn, Beinn a Chlachair and the other Geal Charn.

Ben Alder:

Having enjoyed the view, and donned a lot of insulation we headed to the summit at the NE tip of the ridge.

The summit has a couple of cairns. Some nice rime/frost formations:

This end of the hill gives a view of the complex ground around Glen Banchor – often under-rated.

Meall Cuaich and the summit wall:

Our plan was to wander SW along the 5km of ridge and then return the same way – 10km of easy walking with fantastic views.

Another much-loved feature of winter is seeing the animal tracks in the snow, there was a smattering of hare, ptarmigan and fox tracks to be seen.

Hare tracks and hills:

….and of course boot prints:

Loch Ericht comes into better view about 2km down the ridge, with views down to Stob an Aonaich Mhoir, Beinn Bheoil and a distant Beinn a Chreachain across Rannoch Moor.

To the NW Creag Meagaidh had been partly clouded, now the clouds seemed to be spreading our way.

A little nonplussed to see the cloud cover increase.

Happily it all quickly broke and disappeared – perfection resumed.

It was a pleasant wander down to Meall Cruaidh at the SW end of the ridge – from here there’s a cracking view across to Ben Alder and Geal Charn. It only takes a glance at a map to see the character of these hills. This really whetted the appetite to get the tent back in there.

Geal Charn and Beinn a Chlachair:

We sat for 30 minutes, had some grub and enjoyed the view. We’d happily walked the ridge in rather insulating down jackets. Spotted with interest that Hazel’s water bladder had turned to slush inside the rucksack. Not had that happen before – seriously cold air temp.

Still, despite that we could feel the sun and it was a great place to sit. It was interesting that we could count nearly 20 happy walkers on Geal Charn/A’Mharchonaich while we had this whole hill to ourselves – the vagaries of the Scottish hill-list system at play.

Eventually got up to return the way we’d come. You could drop off the ridge to Ben Alder Lodge and walk back up the road, but why drop low on a great day?

The sun was swinging round, making photos along Loch Ericht difficult due to sun glare.

Loch Ericht and Beinn a Chreachain beyond:

Creag Meagaidh had fully come out to play:

The E Drumochter munros show a bit more of their contours once the shadows come into play:

Wandering back we could see the hints of cornice formation starting, but actually the snow load was rather less than I’d been expecting.

The grasses were clad with rather attractive frost:

Once back up to the 901m point we savoured the view SW down Loch Ericht:


The sun was starting to lower as we headed back to our descent point – the scallops of Carn na Caim and A Bhuidheanach Beag are nicely highlighted.

To the north shadows were developing around the Meagaidh coires:

We lingered on the ridge line for a while before heading downhill (into shadow) about 25 minutes before sunset.

The low light remained on the Cairngorms beyond Meall Cuaich as we dropped towards the forestry.

….and then a yomp down to the track as gloaming developed. The orange sky clad Beinn Bheoil as we reached Loch Ericht.

We do like this walk – pretty benign slopes and no real technicality, but a quiet little grandstand to ourselves.

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