02-Mar-2002 -- 57N 4W and I go back a long way. For a start I have been there before, long before I ever saw a GPS unit or I ever saw a website. I skied past on a descent of the nearby hill, Meallach Mhor, a wanted Corbett (Scottish hill over 2500', I am trying to climb them all).
The confluence is situated at about 590m in an open bowl on the northern slopes of a rather nondescript hill, Meallach Mhor. It is between two big glens Glen Feshie and Glen Tromie, near the famous Cairngorms. It is rather remote from public roads, but there is a nearby private road up Glen Tromie, posted against vehicles, but being Scotland, the prohibition applies only to internal combustion engines. Walking or cycling up the glen is OK. The site is a boggy upland, covered in peat and managed as a grouse moor and for deer stalking. It’s a fairly typical piece of Scottish hill country. See topo here.
Autumn 2001, I decided to return and document the site for the project, it was also a chance to get some photos of the nearby hill Meallach Mhor for my website. I took a bike for the 7km tarred private road up Glen Tromie, no way did I want to walk that twice in a day. Unfortunately, one hour from home my journey was interrupted by somebody running into the back of my car. These things don’t just happen to other confluence hunters. Nobody was hurt,and the bike was undamaged. The car was off the road for a couple of weeks.
Next attempt, New Year 2002. This time I drove past the road end, due to a massive thaw of fresh snow and thick cloud, there would have been no photos.
I finally went for it at the start of March. The appallingly mild winter had left little build up of snow on the hills which were deceptively white under a fresh fall. I knew that there was no base to provide firm footing for boots or skis. The road would be snowed up too, so no point in taking the bike, I would have to walk it.
More in hope than expectation, I took a pair of touring skis with me. I parked in a pine wood near Druimguish (a small village with a distillery, this is Strathspey! Water from 57N 4 W ends up in whisky.)
Glen Tromie is very pleasant. It is a shallow valley between low wooded hills, mostly of birch and alder. There are two or three inhabited houses, by humans, I passed an old house that was being used as a doo cote (pigeon loft). There is a lot of wildlife here, a large herd of red deer, red squirrels in the trees and a lot of noise from the resident birdlife. Spring is coming and territories need hammering out. A source of annoyance was that there was insufficient snow cover on the road to be able to ski it. Another was the weather, it was threatening to cloud over and was getting very warm making the snow unpleasantly wet.
Had I continued walking the road it would have led through the Gaick Pass, renowned in folklore as a site of ghosts and supernatural happenings. It used to be the main road to and from Northern Scotland, before being superseded by the military road over the Drumochter Pass (the current road). It was used for moving the wealth of the Highlands, large herds of cattle. It’s a spectacular pass with steep slopes , cutting through The Mounth, a vast plateau that occupies a large part of Eastern Scotland. Amongst the strange events that happened here was the strange death of Walter Comyn a cruel medieaval landowner, who supposedly met his death by witchcraft in the Gaick. On the first day of the 19th Century a hated recruiting officer and his party were killed when their lodgings was avalanched. Another avalanche here once saved a starving family when they found that the snowfall contained many grouse, hares and a stag. Today I was to turn off for the hills before the road turned too spooky. (I have slept in the Gaick before it’s a very unsettling place.)
After a steep and slippery climb the snow became deep enough to ski, and I made good progress over a gentle pass and across the bowl to the confluence, a totally boring place. The monotony was broken by the large number of mountain hares in their white winter coats. One was waiting for me on the spot. The light was bad, and the cloud low, it was gently snowing. It is a similar place to 57N 3W except there there was a glorious view. No view here, just the distant Monadh Liath hills across Strathspey and the nearby gentle hills. After practising my kick turns, doing the dance on my skis, I decided that the site needed to be marked, so I built a snowman. Sadly the thaw was so violent that it is doubtful it survived very long. The snowman is hardly up to Calvin and Hobbes standard, but its nice to have a guardian of the confluence.
The altitude was 590m
I returned by skinning up Meallach Mhor, where the weather cleared, to give a view into the Gaick pass and an aerial view of 57N 4W . I enjoyed a good run down Coire Bhealach back to the glen. It was a long way back to my car, but by now the thaw had taken hold and the road was clear of snow. I passed the time listening to a radio commentary of Ireland beating Scotland at rugby. A large herd of stags watched me pass, they are fed in the winter.
Notes for future visitors. When not snow covered there is a lot of boggy ground to be covered, so expect wet feet. The roads up Glen Tromie and Glen Feshie are tarred and although closed to cars are easily cycled. Glen Tromie being the nearest to the confluence. You don’t need a mountain bike. It’s a long way to walk. Parking at the end of Glen Tromie is limited. There is no places at Tromie Bridge or by the distillery. The best tactic is to park off the side road into Druimguish. Its also an easy bike ride in from Kingussie.(railway station, bike hire). Meallach Mhor (pronounced Myaollach Vor, ch as in JS Bach, the name means big lump) is worth 'climbing' for the view. Take a pair of binoculars, its great bird watching country.