The Monadhliath and Speyside hills

Monadliath Topographical map

The Monadhliath
The Monadliath form a large expansive plateau bounded on the south and east by the A9 and A86 roads. The northwestern end of the plateau is bounded by the B851 road. The plateau is at least as extensive as the northern Cairngorms between Linn of Dee and Glen More, but not as high. Along the southern end of the plateau lies a ring of 4 munros, the tallest of which is Carn Dearg at 945m. Further east the plateau is bounded by two more Corbetts - Carn an Fhreiceadain and Geal Charn Mor.

Looking west into Glen Banchor and the Monadhliath wilderness

Glen Banchor Munros
By far the most popular route for people to follow are the three munros which can be climbed from Glen Banchor, just northwest of Newtonmore. People often have a perception that these hills are entirely grassy and smooth. For the main part this is true, but at the end of this glen there are some fine corries that offer good camping. The walk in along Glen Banchor is along a path that is dry underfoot for the main part. This path is followed into Coire nan Laogh, and before reaching Loch Dubh, you can branch off and ascend a saddle south of point 923m. This ridge is the sharpest ridge in the Monadhliath, with distinct form and even some cliffs on its eastern edge. The ridge is followed onto the high point of Carn Dearg.

Looking south from the plateau of the Monadliath into Gleann Ballach

Carn Dearg is a subsidiary ridge to the main spine of the southern Monadliath ridge. This ridge is broad, and looking north, you begin to appreciate the extent of this plateau. It is punctuated in the middle by a deep valley of Strathearn carved by the river Findhorn. Heading northeast along this ridge, progress is initially along stony ground, but this eases to grass and small stones. All the while, the rise and fall of this ridge is gentle. The trail isn't well worn, however a line of fence posts follows this ridge most of the way to the next munro Carn Sgulain (920m).

The eastern Escarpment of Carn Dearg

Looking north over Lochan Uisge
into the plateau

From Carn Sgulain, you can catch sight of a large wind power station seen to the northeast on the plateau. From here the sight is small, but it is the start of a changing landscape in the highlands that has for a few hundred years remain unchanged. There have been rumours of more such stations to be installed on the Monadhliath.

New power station in the north east corner of the Monadhliath

Heading south, the final munro to climb is A' Chailleach. A slightly deeper valley is crossed, but the summit marks the beginning of the long descent back to the roadend at Glen Banchor.

Geal Charn seen from Carn Dearg with Creag Meagaidh behind

Geal Charn
Further West from the Glen Banchor munros is Geal Charn. While it is possible, and indeed rather interesting to continue west from Carn Dearg across peat bogged mountain plateau, most elect to climb Geal Charn from the road to the south on the banks of the River Spey. Glen Markie is followed north along a track and 4km in you turn off the track to ascend into Geal Charn's corrie. Out to the southwest, across the Spey Valley lies the Creag Meagaidh.

Geal-Chairn Mor
Just west of Aviemore is a Corbett that is rarely climbed. It is however, ideal for a short hill day, with a round trip taking 3 to 4 hours. Despite that, I turned back from it's summit once in a thick surface blizzard. I was however, successful in climbing the summit on a second attempt.

From the south Aviemore A9 entrance, a road turns off on the west side of the A9 which can be followed for a short distance to a gate where there is parking provision. From here, a bulldozed track is followed all the way to the saddle below the summit at 700m via An Gleannan. From here an easy walk along a good path is made to the summit with it's trig point. It's a good viewpoint from which to survey the northern corries of the Cairngorms.

Glen More Forest Topographical map

Speyside Hills and Walks
There are some very nice lower level walks to be had in the Rothiemurchus and Queens forests. If you are really keen, a long distance low level walk exists called the Speyside way which starts at the coast and ends up in Tomintoul.

Meall a' Bhuachaille and Bynack Beag
seen from Bynack More

Meall a' Bhuachaille seen from the south

The path through Rothiemurchus
forest leading to the Lairig Ghru

Looking down on the Spey Valley from Cairn Gorm