Geal Charn and A’ Mharconaich are on the Drumochter Pass separating the northern and southern Highlands of Scotland. Contrasting in prominence, these Munros can be incorporated with a couple more routes in this mountain-rich region.
The alpine scenery in this part of Scotland is dramatic, especially in the winter with snow common even at the starting point. It’s quite normal in this area to see skiers in winter and paragliders leaping from the slopes in summer.
Starting at around 420 metres (1378 ft), the hike’s total ascent is significantly cut making this a great option for less experienced walkers. The short distance also makes it a child-friendly hike.
- Geal Charn – 917 metres (3009 ft) – pronounced GELL-HARN
- A’ Mharconaich – 975 metres (3199 ft) – pronounced A-VAR-COREICH
For some more information on Scotland’s mountains, check this out.
The starting point is quite easy to find with the car park next to the big white Balsporran B&B on the A9 between Inverness and Perth.
Coming from the north, it’s 59 miles from Inverness. Follow the A9 and the B&B is 4 miles past Dalwhinnie on your right-hand side. Coming from the south, Balsporran B&B is 54 miles from Perth on your left-hand side. There aren’t any similar buildings by the roadside so you really can’t miss it.
I did this hike with quite a lot of snow still on the slopes making it significantly harder, especially going up A’ Mharconaich. With no snow, they are 2 dome-like peaks covered in heather which shouldn’t present too many difficulties.
The toughest part is the initial steep descent from A’ Mharconaich – take your time and be careful of the steep corrie down to your right.
The steady climb up to both summits and relatively short distance make this a good choice for beginner hikers.
Duration & Length
Duration: 3 – 6 hours.
Length: 7.6 miles (12.3 km).
For experienced and fit hikers, 3 – 4 hours should be achievable. If you’re a beginner or don’t do much hiking then you should aim for 5 – 6 hours.
Where To Stay
The no-brainer option is the Balsporran Bed And Breakfast – the starting track is by the entrance with plenty more hikes in the surrounding area. Further options are Dalwhinnie, which has a big campsite, or Newtonmore with several guesthouses and B&Bs.
After you park up, follow the road past Balsporran B&B and through the gates over the railway track. Continue along the track ignoring the first right fork.
Cross over the river and fork right following the steep section of track up onto the slopes of Geal Charn. Straight ahead and bearing slightly to the right is the summit cairn making for an easy climb.
Follow the slope up to the first cairn where the terrain levels off slightly. Continue up the wide ridge a further few hundred metres up to the 2 summit cairns. On a clear day, you’ll get spectacular views of Loch Ericht to the north/northwest. Beyond is Ben Alder, one of Scotland’s remotest mountains.
Directly south is the summit of the slightly more prominent A’Mharconaich which, if you don’t wish to head back down to the car park, will be the day’s second Munro.
Head southwest and then directly south down the rocky slopes of Geal Charn. There are plenty of loose stones so mind your footing. The climb up to A’ Mharconaich is in front of you and there is no exact route. I went straight up the slopes to be able to dig my boots into the ice.
In normal confitions, the slopes are covered in heather so you may want to zigzag your way up to make the climb slightly less steep.
You can bear to the left to get yourself closer to the cairn or head straight up to the plateau for a flat walk across the wide ridge to your destination. Well done on reaching your second Munro! If conditions remain clear then enjoy similar views to those from Geal Charn.
The descent from A’ Mharconaich is the steepest section of the hike but shouldn’t be a problem if you take it easy. Head down the wide ridge and when you reach the boggy terrain below bear left so that you link up to the track leading back to the car park.
Geal Charn and A’ Mharconaich is the most popular route but if you’re feeling fit you can include the Munros of Beinn Udlamain and Sgairneach Mhor, and a Corbett, The Sow of Atholl.
The 4 Munros and Corbett together is approximately 13.7 miles (22km) and will take from 6 – 9 hours.
You can also either do Geal Charn or A’ Mharconaich by itself. It’s a simple case of going up and coming straight back down.
Nearby Hikes & Things To Do
There are a plethora of hikes in the neighbouring area. The Cairngorm National Park is to the east so it’s a case of taking your pick.
- Trout fishing on Loch Ericht.
- Dalwhinnie Distillery.
- Quad Biking at The Old Filling Station in Newtonmore.
- Highland Wildlife Park.
Geal Charn and A’ Mharconaich are in the easier bracket of Munros, great for beginner Munro-baggers or those looking to climb some relatively straightforward mountains.
They are a good option for winter hiking with the starting altitude of approx 420 metres (1378 ft) cutting off a lot of the hike time. I found A’ Mharconaich to be the more exciting of the 2 peaks.
The spectacular views of Loch Ericht are worth some photos and you should keep an eye out for mountain hares.
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