Meall Chuaich, to me it should mean hill of the cloud- but actually it means hill of the quaich.
Fifteen years ago I was on a weekend meet with the Granite City Hillwalkers club. On the Sunday, the forecast did not seem promising. Rather than just wasting our weekend and driving back home, we decided on an easy straight forward relatively short hill walk and set our sights on Meall Chuaich- our hill for the day.
Weather was awful- it was wet, windy and cloudy. I never saw much of the hill that day, nor of the surrounding views. Infact the views I can remember of that day were of the ground below my feet and that of my friends if they were within 30 meters of me!
My Friend Stuart had called me earlier in the week asking If I wanted to go for hill walk and the Cairngorms were to be the destination- first thoughts were Ben Macdui, but I’ve ascended it many times this year and fancied somewhere different, then our thoughts changed to the Feshie hills, then I remembered-a slightly further drive but not by much, Meall Chuaich near Dalwhinne. The forecast was promising and it was worth more, than just one ascent that it has had by me. This time there would be no could and cracking summit views I thought!
The temperature was hovering at zero when I left Buckie and by the time I arrived in Dufftown at 7.20 to pick up Stuart, it had dropped to minus 2. Nearing Cromdale it was now minus 6, then it started dropping slowly as we drove between Grantown and Aviemore. The Strath between Nethy Bridge and Aviemore was filled with freezing fog and I think it had dropped to minus 8 as we approached Aviemore.
On reaching the lay-by on the A9, we soon were ready for the walk along the track at the viaduct to the base of Meall Chuaich.
The central cairngorms were cloud free as we passed Aviemore, but the Drumochter hills had pockets of cloud on the summits, but the forecast was good and so was our hill.
We had reached the end of the track at the loch at the base of the hill and now for the short steep section which wasnt too bad and we made height quickly, but as we did- a drifting cloud decided to settle on the summit dome of the hill!
All to soon, we had reached cloud level and we nearing the summit.
It was a small breeze at the summit, but with the windchill- it felt very cold and we were glad of a large summmit carn to shelter us from the wind whilst we ate our sandwiches. A lady whom we passed earlier with two dogs wasnt long in catching up at met us at the cairn. She explained to us that she had forgotten her rucksack and left it in the car, the map was in her jacket pocket- but her compass was left behind in the rucksack! She said that she might have to follow us back down.
We saw her at the car park earlier and the lady did say to me at the car park, that she was walking Meall Chuaich. I thought it was funny that she set off without a pack. I’m glad to say that the lady did make it off the hill no problem- navagation wasnt really a problem coming off the hill- five minutes down the hill, the cloud lifted! What struck me and Stuart was- how could you leave your rucksack in the car and forget to put it on?
If only I had been ten minutes late this morning I had thought to myself- I would have had a view form the summit! Weather only improved on the way down and we stared to warm up again out of the wind. By the time we picked up the landrover track, the temperature had risen significantly and we stopped to take some layers off.
The walk out down the glen was pleasant and full of grouse chatting away to each other! A more memorable experience than my first walk on this hill. It took us in the region of four and a half hours and I would thoroughly recommend this walk as an introduction to the Munros- one of the easier ones to start off with.