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White Mounth Munros - Fail. Lochnagar - Pass (just)
by Frogwell » Fri Apr 15, 2011 2:25 pm
Route description: Lochnagar from Glen Muick
Munros included on this walk: Lochnagar
Date walked: 12/04/2011
Distance: 19 km3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
A well coordinated attack of problems at home and at work conspired to keep me firmly house and desk bound and very stressed while the rest of the UK enjoyed the warmest weekend of the year so far. Still, Monday and Tuesday didn't look too bad, the mountain weather information service even said we could expect an 80% chance of cloud free summits although the possibility of windy gusts up to 25mph. Still, it would keep me cool on the steep ascent, so despite the phone doing it's best to tie me to the desk, I managed to escape in the early afternoon and by 3pm I was pulling into the carpark at the Spittal of Glenmuick, slightly taken aback by the £3 parking charge. Ten minutes later I had my pack on and was ambling off in the direction of the bumpy bits, smiling at the blue skies and faulty parking meters that refused to take my money, but more on that later.
The walk starts with a three quarter of a mile flat crossing of Glen Muick - six times my mobile rang! A virus on the computer at home, clients asking for this and for that by tomorrow, other clients wanting the same this and that but yesterday. By the time I got to the other side of the Glen phone reception was lost. Excellent.
On Monday this was the extent of the precipitation, a passing shower that only just managed to sprinkle me slightly as the bulk of it went to my South.
For the most part the ascent of Lochnagar is not hugely photogenic as such, at least in comparison so some of the spikier Munros to the West. I thought I should at least get one photo on the way up just to prove I was there. I'll google Bill Stuart when I get home was the thinking behind this photo. I just did that a minute ago. I did mean to take some photos of the squadrons of Kazoo playing Ptarmigan that patrol Lochnagar but they would invariably adopt the most vain pose imaginable until I pointed the camera at them at which point they would fly away giggling into their kazoos.
After a while of relatively featureless terrain I was rewarded by the sight of the cliffs surrounding the Corrie of Lochnagar. Unfortunately the sun was almost directly behind it so the camera had to be kept pointed low to avoid burning the CCD. Not the greatest photo ever, but in my mind I was working out where the best place would be to get a decent photo of the cliffs basked in the warm glow of the morning sunrise that had been promised for the following day.
Coming back to the £3 parking charge, it was becoming apparent what it was for - the path really is very good and well maintained. The ladder/steps through the boulder field really is quite impressive. Much of the time I was working out how they did it - visions of winches, earth moving equipment, large teams of volunteers, army engineers was what I was thinking, but more on that later.
The view of the Corrie really is quite something, the photo doesn't really do it justice. the cliffs to the left of the photo have got to be among the biggest I've seen in the UK, I just couldn't get them in the photo due to the bright sunlight.
It was about 6:30pm by this point and the already strong wind was picking up so despite the summit being within spitting distance I figured I'd find somewhere to plonk my tent and do the summit in the morning. I managed to find a flat spot a third of a mile to the West where the wind wasn't too horrible - my little hand held anemometer was reporting gusts up to 25mph, but averaging 15 - 20. It made for interesting tent pitching, but half an hour later I was enjoying a cup of tea and vegetable casserole from a bag. Happy days.
By 9pm the cloud had started to draw in a visibility was patchy, although as I was walking about looking for phone reception I could clearly see lights of the towns and village round about and on the coast. The temperature had seriously dropped and I managed to find a little bit of shelter behind a big rock right on the edge of the corrie, phoned home and tried to sound sympathetic as I did my best to diagnose computer problems for the next hour or so. It's good to get away from it all.
After my technical support stint I decided that since I was so close I may as well take a little walk to the summit, so at around 10:30 pm I was standing on the summit of Lochnagar trying, in breaks in the cloud, to work out what glowing blobs of street lights were what towns. I quick check on my gps map back at the tent confirmed that I got them almost totally wrong. I was expecting some fine views on my return in the morning. Fifteen minutes later I was back at the ice covered tent with the temperature a couple of degrees South of freezing, although wind chill made it feel much colder (-11 Celsius according to the new wind chill calculator).
I fell asleep cursing myself for not remembering to bring the cross poles or side guylines. I only awoke a few times during the night due to wind noise and what I suspect was the Ptarmigan having a good giggle by making weird noises round the tent. They've watched the Alien trilogy one too many times I think. I definitely preferred the kazoo to the guttural clicking. How did they manage to get so close to the tent in such high wind anyway? Unless it was aliens of course.
My alarm woke me at 5:30am, giving me plenty of time to have some tea and amble over to the Corrie of Lochnagar and wait for the sun to come up and shine it's glorious rays over the cliff face giving allowing me the opportunity to grab some ego inflating snaps with my camera. Peeking out my hotel window I soon realised that wasn't going to be an option, as the photo below shows.
Eighty percent chance of cloud free summits with zero precipitation apparently.
Although the photo below can't show it, the winds were fierce, walking was hard going and the gusts from the side would catch my rucksack and twist me round which was sending shooting pains through my knackered knee. I'd already decided that the remaining four Munros were going to have to wait until another day, the wind and low visibility across terrain unfamiliar to me would, in all eventuality, lead to local newspaper headlines of "Idiot on hills endangers mountain rescue teams by being an idiot. Moron". I didn't much like that idea so I decided a quick amble back up to the opt of Lochnagar just to get a picture to prove I had been there and I'd head back down South path to Loch Muick. A couple of minutes after taking the photo the snow started again, and heavy this time, it was stinging my eyes so much that even though I was less than half a mile away I decided that people would just have to take my word for it that there is a top to Lochnagar.
Defeated, I did an about turn and punished my knee on the decent. I hit the cloud base a mile or so down and the snow had turned to a survivable wet misery. The misery was atmospheric in it's own way, but I didn't really get the camera out much as I didn't want to get it soaked. Great path though, and again I found myself marvelling at some of the large boulders that had been employed to make flood drains and steps, it really must have been quite a feat of engineering.
Sometime just before 9am I had passed the Falls of Glassalt and I met 4 guys powering up the steep path, two of them with large rubber buckets strapped to their backs. The one bringing up the rear stopped and we chatted for a few minutes. It turns out that the teams of engineers with a vast array of earth moving equipment responsible for the path is actually these four men with two buckets between them. Feeling suitably guilty about not paying the £3 parking fee I left them to trudge up into the misery for their days work while I reached the estate track which took me along the shores of Loch Muick back to my car and waiting macaroni pie. So guilty that I didn't even switch on the heated seat as I drove away. I vowed that next time I returned I would put £6 in the meter. Unless it's not working by then of course.
by Stretch » Fri Apr 15, 2011 2:36 pm
thanks for posting, I am planning on doing Lochnagar sometime soon so this report will really help - I didnt know there was a path and didnt know you had to pay to park at Lock Muick.
Great photos, they are crystal clear
by Alastair S » Fri Apr 15, 2011 3:18 pm
And such is Scottish spring time. The Sat & Sun were fairly good days but not nearly as good a the MWIS made out. While Stretch was been blown around on Beinn a'Bhuird I was fine a few miles west on Cairn Toul (but only just cloud free).
Being a Dee-sider now I regard Lochnagar as being my local. Been up three times now but never been on that well engineered path - looks like its time for another visit
by ChrisW » Fri Apr 15, 2011 4:15 pm
Oh, I think you'll find that 4 guys with 2 buckets represent the best kind of earth moving equipment going
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