Sgairneach Mhòr from The Sow of Atholl
|Summit:|| 3,251 feet NN598731 |
Sgairneach Mhòr is a mountain of the Drumochter Hills in Perthshire, which reaches a height of 3,251 feet at its summit, and so it qualifies as a Munro. The mountain is situated eight miles south of Dalwhinnie and 2½ miles east of the broad water of Loch Ericht.
Sgairneach Mhòr lies to the west of the A9 road in area of high ground which was historically called the Druim Uachdair ("Ridge of the upper ground"). It is a Munro (and a Marilyn) with a height of 3,251 feet.
The hill is well seen from the Pass of Drumochter, showing off its impressive north facing corrie, Coire Creagach, which holds snow well into the spring. This notable rocky corrie gives the mountain its name, which is Gaelic for "Big Rocky Hillside"; this descriptive name underlines the fact that Sgairneach Mhòr is the only hill in the group with any significant stony areas on its surface and makes it the most visually striking of the Drumochter hills.
Sgairneach Mhòr has extensive southern slopes which include the subsidiary tops of Màm Bàn (3,015 feet) and Meallan Buidhe (2,884 feet) and descend to the glen of the Allt Shallainn which is the main tributary of Loch Garry.
Two distinct ridges go north and east from the summit enclosing Coire Creagach which is rocky but not overly steep giving a sporting scramble to the summit.
The summit of the mountain is a south-west to north-east orientated plateau with the highest point never in doubt, standing at the north-eastern end close to the edge of Coire Creagach and being marked by an OS trig point surrounded by a low stone built wind shelter. The summit of the mountain was given as some 500 yards south-west of the present position in the original 1891 version of Munro's Tables, due to the limitations of the available mapping. This position (marked by a cairn) measures only 3,159 feet in altitude, almost 100 feet lower than the true summit. The correct position was noted in the 1921 edition of the Tables, but the 1974 edition, the first to give grid references, gives the old position, doubtless an oversight.
The eastern ridge connects to the adjacent hill, The Sow of Atholl, and is narrow near the summit as it goes round the rim of Coire Creagach before broadening as it drops in easy angled slopes to a col with a height of approximately 2,130 feet. This eastern ridge is one of the main routes of ascent, and the north-east ridge another, the latter coming up from upper Coire Dhomhain although its slopes are steep and rough in places.
The hill's western flank consist of broad slopes which contour around the head of Coire Dhomhain and descend to a col which links to the adjacent Munro, Beinn Udlamain.
Ascents and view
The direct ascent of Sgairneach Mhòr is not a difficult walk as the starting point is at the summit of the Drumochter Pass on the A9 road and has a starting altitude of 1,516 feet. The walk crosses the railway and ascends Coire Dhomhain on a good track on the north bank of the Allt Coire Dhomhain. After approximately a mile and a half, the track is left and the burn is crossed (no bridge) to its southern bank. It is then a walk south through pathless heather to reach the eastern ridge which is followed to the summit. If the burn is in spate then an alternative is to walk higher up into Coire Dhomhain and then ascend by the steeper northern ridge.
The ascent of Sgairneach Mhòr can be combined with any of the other three hills which stand around the glen of the Allt Coire Dhomhain. The Scottish Mountaineering Club's Munro handbook recommends climbing Sgairneach Mhòr with Beinn Udlamain, but the high starting altitude at Drumochter Pass means a complete traverse around the valley including the hills of The Sow of Atholl, Sgairneach Mhòr, Beinn Udlamain and A' Mharconaich is not an over strenuous day. The highlight of the view from the summit is to the west where there is an excellent view of the Ben Alder group of mountains.
- "The Magic of the Munros", Irvine Butterfield, ISBN 0-7153-2168-4 Page 76
- "The Munros, Scotland's Highest Mountains", Cameron McNeish, ISBN 1-84204-082-0 Page 94
- Database of British and Irish Hills. Gives details of former 1891 summit.
- The Munros and Tops 1891-1997
- "The Munros (SMC Guide)", Donald Bennett (editor) et al., ISBN 0-907521-13-4 Page 90 Gives mountain description and routes.