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An icy end to lockdown; routes from Braemar in the snow

An icy end to lockdown; routes from Braemar in the snow

Postby Christopher Pulman » Sun Dec 26, 2021 11:59 pm

Route description: White Mounth Munros, Glen Muick

Munros included on this walk: Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch, Cairn of Claise, Càrn a' Choire Bhòidheach, Càrn an t-Sagairt Mòr, Càrn an Tuirc, Creag Leacach, Driesh, Glas Maol, Lochnagar, Mayar, Tolmount, Tom Buidhe

Date walked: 01/05/2021

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While the last week of lockdown in Scotland was warm and sunny, the first week of (relative) freedom from 30th April brought a sharp cold spell. I was celebrating the end of tight restrictions by spending eight days in Braemar. It was hovering around zero degrees in the village, never mind the on the peaks. But for much of the week, the cloud was reasonably high, shrouding the higher peaks around Ben Macdui but leaving the lower peaks of the Mounth fairly clear.

This report covers three walks on 1st May, 5th May and 7th May. There's nothing particularly special about my routes, but the weather produced some fine views and (I hope) a few decent photographs.

1st May: Lochnagar circuit of five Munros

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The first walk took the standard route around the White Mounth Munros, starting with Lochnagar. (Well, I say it was the standard route, but the mountain tops were covered in deep snow, so I have no idea if I was actually on a path.)

The weather report for 1st May suggested it was going to be clear and sunny until around 12 am, so I got up early and my partner kindly dropped me off at the Spittal of Glenmuick. A lot of other people (many from in or around Aberdeen) had the same idea, hoping to make the top of Lochnagar before the weather closed in. Everyone I spoke to seemed elated that Covid restrictions had finally been lifted. A few, like me, also went on to brave the deep snow covering the other four Munros.

I got some excellent shots of Lochnagar and Càrn a' Choire Bhòidheach. After that, the cloud closed in, although it did not actually rain until I was skirting Loch Muick on my way back to the car park. Also, a few notes for those thinking of walking the White Mounth in the spring: the area holds snow until late in the year. With the cold spell in early May, the snow when descending Lochnagar towards Càrn a' Choire Bhòidheach, and when descending Càrn a' Choire Bhòidheach towards Càrn an t-Sagairt Mòr, was deep (in a few places, up to a metre). There is a stream between Càrn a' Choire Bhòidheach and Càrn an t-Sagairt Beag which can be hidden under the snow. If in doubt, stay on the top of the ridge all the way round to the top of Càrn an t-Sagairt Beag . The flank of Carn an t-Sagairt Mòr is a little steep, but not too bad (although I accidentally left my phone in the bealach between Mòr and Beag, and had to walk back down to retrieve it :(). The slopes on the route are, in general, quite shallow. Most people were, for example, managing the ascent up Lochnagar with standard walking boots (although the initial ascent up from Meikle Pap was a little slippery).

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Lochnagar from near Meikle Pap

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Lochnagar from a bit higher up

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The ridge to Lochnagar

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The eponymous black loch

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Highway to the summit

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Càrn a' Choire Bhòidheach

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Looking back at the ridge line from Lochnagar

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Loch nan Eun

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The odd sunny patch remains

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A brief clearance near Cairn Bannoch

5th May: the Glas Maol Six

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My plan for 5th May was to do the Glas Maol circuit of four Munros from the Cairnwell Pass, but to add in Tolmount and Tom Buidhe as well. The weather had grown colder -- it was around minus 8 on the summits -- but it was generally clear, with cloud sitting at around 4,000 feet. Finding the route was straightforward, with only a couple of issues. First, the wind caught one of my gloves and carried it away while climbing Glas Maol. I had to traverse across the mountain side, clinging onto the ice, to retrieve it, or my day would have come to a premature end. Secondly, route finding from the Cairn of Claise to Tom Buidhe was tricky, with low cloud blowing in, deep snow and hidden streams and dips. Given the snow, the round took me 10 or 11 hours.

The views during the ascent of Glas Maol were spectacular, with a dusting of snow highlighting the Cairnwell group of mountains.

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The best photo of the day was (I think) this picture of the ridge to Creag Leacach, which was also worth a zoom in.

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The ridge to Creag Leacach

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Zoom in of Creag Leacach

The route back to Glas Maol didn't make a bad picture either.

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The route back to Glas Maol

And the surrounding peaks still looked wonderful in the snow.

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There were occasional breaks in the cloud towards Beinn a' Bhùird and the high Cairngorms.

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The high Cairngorms

The route on to the Cairn of Claise also provided views of Glen Isla back towards Glas Maol and down to Driesh and Mayar.

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Cliffs on the hidden side of Glas Maol

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Mayar and Driesh

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For most of my trek over Tolmount and Tom Buidhe I was stuck in (or just under) cloud. But the end of the walk on Càrn an Tuirc gave some renewed views.

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7th May: Driesh and Mayar from Glen Isla

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If staying in Braemar, the route from Glen Isla to Mayar provides a convenient way to climb the mountain without needing to drive a further hour to Glen Clova. There is a good path (perhaps it would even be called a road) all the way to Bawhelps and a large track onward to the plateau at 850 metres just next to the summit cone of Mayar (although the later part of the path did not appear on my OS map for some reason), and a track up to the actual summit. It provides a longer but easier approach to the mountains. Also, the weather on 7th May was chilly but beautiful, the best day of the month so far.

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The "road" (with occasional snow drift)

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The track that comes after the "road"

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There was far less snow in the south of the Cairngorms

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Still snowy towards the White Mounth

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Looking towards Driesh from Mayar

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Glen Clova

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Northern end of Glen Clova

Anyway, that's probably it for my 2021 walk reports. (I might post the photos from my walk along the South Shiel Ridge in baking hot early September, but am currently on the fence). Not a bad year: 40 Munros, 2 Corbetts and 1 Graham. Let's see if 2022 matches up.
Christopher Pulman
Posts: 50
Munros:115   Corbetts:30
Fionas:13   Donalds:5
Joined: May 17, 2019
Location: Reading

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