Sgairneach Mhor’s (pronounced: Skarnyach Voar) translation from Gaelic to English is Big Scree. The peak is located in the West Drumochter Hills and is among a group of four Munro’s
that are located in its northern part. They are generally all completed in the one outing but can be split into 1, 2 or 3 peaks depending on your own expectations/capabilities. I personally done 3 instead of 4, and so leave one to summit for another day.
The range sits on the border between the Central and Eastern Grampians
and the difference between the two areas is very evident from their tops. The eastern hills have rolling, rounded summit plateau’s, whereas the western peaks are more rugged, craggy and easier to identify from afar. Sgairneach Mhor and its northern neighbours fall into the rolling, rounded category and have the added benefit of their starting points being at around 450m above sea level. This is not that common an occurrence in Scotland and is one that you really appreciate when it comes along!
Western side of Sgairneach Mhor
Sgairneach Mhor, as stated earlier, is a Munro. It sits at a height of 991m/3251ft and is listed as No.155 in the Munro’s tables. It is not the highest peak in the range, this honour falls to Beinn Udlamain at 1010m, but has a character all of its own due to its north facing corrie, Coire Creagach. It is from this corrie that the name, Big Scree, is derived and it is a corrie not to be taken lightly. This part is prone to cornicing in the winter months and it would be easy to wander further than necessary, so care should be taken at such times. There is no history, that I can find, of rock climbing, but for those keen enough to investigate a small amount may be found.
The ascent starts from the A9 road, just south of an area known as the Pass of Drumochter (Druim uachdar
- highest ridge). In the winter the road can fall victim of snow drifts and may be closed, but as this is a major road through Scotland, it is generally well maintained and quickly cleared. From the A9, you must cross the railway(be careful), from which leads a landrover track into and up Coire Dhomhain. As you follow the track, the conical shape of the Sow of Atholl or Meall an Dobharchain on the left catches the eye, especially as it’s a favourite stomping ground of the local deer, and they are aplenty here!
The Allt Coire Dhomhain
The Allt Coire Dhomhain is by your left hand side at all times and eventually you will have to ford her in order to attain Sgairneach Mhor’s northeast ridge. When this is in spate this is not that easy and you should pick your crossing point carefully so as to avoid getting your boots wet. Alternatives to this, if it is not possible to cross, are to get the boots off and start wading or continue up the glen and summit Beinn Udlamain first.
Once across the river the going is easy, through the heather clad slopes, and as long as the grouse don’t give you to much of a fright as they fly out of the heather at a rate of knots, you should summit within the next hour. The views are pleasant and the difference between the east and west, as earlier mentioned, is apparent.
I would recommend, at this point, continuing onward to summit Beinn Udlamain. The views from this peak are excellent. Looking over towards the Ben Alder hills and down along the deep, glistening lengths of Loch Ericht can only make you imagine the size of the glacier that must have formed this beautiful landscape.
Loch Ericht from Beinn Udlamain
In the heather clad Coire Dhomhain
cross the forth road bridge and follow the M90 all the way to Perth.
take the M8 south bound and then join the M80 Stirling road. Follow this until it becomes the M9 then the A9 and continue until reaching Perth.
follow the A9, signposted Inverness, until reaching the Pass of Drumochter, just after Dalnaspidal.
follow the A9 south until reaching the Pass of Drumochter, just before Dalnaspidal.
There is a small amount of lay-by parking available on the A9 just north of Dalnaspidal at the foot of Coire Dhomhain.
Use the following link for a detailed route plan from/to your destination within the UK. AA Route Planner
The nearest station for this peak is Dalwhinnie station. Train timetables from all of Scotland’s major stations are available here
The home page for Scottish Citylink buses,
which provides the majority of bus transportation between Scotland's major cities. Alight at Dalwhinnie on the Inverness bound bus.
There is no red tape in Scotland due to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 which incorporated the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. This code, which commenced on the 9th of February 2005, has established statutory rights of access to land and inland water for outdoor recreation.
The Land Reform(Scotland) Act 2003
Scottish Outdoor Access Code
The area is densely populated with deer and grouse, and as a result of this it is a popular place for deer stalking and grouse shooting activities. This should be taken into consideration as it may have an effect on your route.
The grouse shooting season starts on the 12th of August (The Glorious Twelfth) and runs right through until the 10th of December. The stag stalking season runs from the 1st of July until the 20th of October. The deer hind season runs from the 21st of October until the 15th of February. The majority of estates however, have the peak times of their stalking activities between the months of August and October.
In order to enable hill walkers and climbers to plan routes that skirt around the main routes used for planned deer stalking activities, the following website provides detailed information and contact numbers; Hill Phones
There is a varied choice of accommodation available in West Drumochter and the surrounding areas. The best places for basing yourself are in Dalwhinnie or Newtonmore in the north of the range or in Pitlochry or Blair Athol in the south. Below are a few recommendations that would provide an ample resting place for any activities in the area.
A'Mharconaich seen on the descent from Beinn Udlamain
The Inn Dalwhinnie
Atholl Arms Hotel
The Firs Guest House
Athol Estates Lodges
Pitlochry Youth hostel
Newtonmore Independent Hostel
Blair Castle Caravan Park
Spey Bridge Caravan Site
Another option for exploring the area is to wild camp. Wild camping is permitted in Scotland and is highly recommended. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland provides an invaluable leaflet providing a full breakdown of the dos and don'ts of wild camping in Scotland. Wild Camping, A guide to good practice
Books and Maps
The Central Highlands
by Peter Hodgkiss
The Munros (SMC Hillwalkers guide)
edited by Donald Bennet & Rab Anderson
Ski Mountaineering in Scotland
by Donald Bennet & Bill Wallace
Scottish Hill and Mountain Names
by Peter Drummond
by Cameron McNeish
The Munro Almanac
by Cameron McNeish
OS Explorer Map sheet: 393, Ben Alder, Loch Ericht & Loch Laggan
OS Landranger Map sheet : 42, Glen Garry & Loch Rannoch
Mountain & Weather Conditions
Gael Charn & Loch Pattack from Beinn Udlamain
The weather conditions in the West Drumochter can alter rapidly and you should ensure you are fully prepared for all weather eventualities. If you experience a sudden deterioration in the weather conditions and you have any doubts about continuing then please, just turn back.
Cairngorms and Monadhliath mountain forecast
General weather forecast
Another shot of Loch Ericht from Beinn Udlamain
Walk the Highlands
The Scottish Mountaineering Club
Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland
Deer Stalking Scotland
BASC - Grouse shooting