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Dark Lochnagar

Dark Lochnagar

Postby houdi » Mon Apr 25, 2011 9:46 pm

Route description: Lochnagar from Glen Muick

Munros included on this walk: Carn a'Choire Bhoidheach, Lochnagar

Date walked: 24/04/2011

Time taken: 7 hours

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Never been on any of the Grampian hills before. All my 55 Munro hills to date have been in the West Highlands as I’m not partial to tramping across big green lumps. Liked the look of Lochnagar though, so I put my Grampian prejudices aside and headed over there Easter Sunday morning. I lived in Perth for a while many years ago so I’ve driven over Glen Shee to Braemar many times (on the old ‘Devils’s Elbow’ road) but I got confused this time by the large ‘Cairngorms National Park’ sign. I was under the impression the Glen Shee hills were the Grampians and the Cairngorms were those hills over at Aviemore. Now it seems everything is bundled under a generic ‘Cairngorms’ title. I wish they’d make their minds up.

Glen Muick is a long, wild glen and arriving at the large car park with its picnic area and visitor’s centre after six twisting miles comes as a surprise. An oasis in the middle of the untamed Highland countryside. I got there about nine o’clock and the car-park was busy already. Don’t know where all the people were as I never saw any of them on the way to Lochnagar, but there are other walking routes around here. Loch Muick seems to be a favourite with many walkers.

I don’t use Twitter and I haven’t worked out how to upload pictures onto here via another web site so I’m afraid my pics can’t match the quality of those on ChrisW’s Lochanagar Walk Report. And Chris got a clearer, sunnier day than I did. His report on Lochnagar is a definitive journal – quite brilliant. I started off my day without any planned route. I thought about the ‘Lochnagar 5’ but would wait until I was up there first before making a final decision.

It’s a long walk from the car-park to the base of the hill proper which is, basically, at the path up to Meikle Pap. All the way there, those crazy grouse (I think they were grouse but I’m no twitcher so they might well have been pigeons) were driving me nuts with their stupid bird call which sounds like a vintage car being turned over with a starting handle and then dying off through lack of interest. It’s a long way from grouse shooting season but I found myself wishing I had a shotgun handy. Noisy bleeders!

I completely ignored the outlying top of Meikle Pap for the moment as this is where the stunning rock face of Lochnagar’s north facing corrie comes fully into view. And it’s really something – easily the best rock face I’ve encountered after the Ben. From here a carefully crafted stone staircase ascends the left flank of the corrie to Cuidhe Crom which, at 1083 metres, probably rates as a Munro Top, although it’s hardly a top at all and is merely part of the one huge mountain mass of Lochnagar. The proper Munro summit is Cac Carn Beag and lies some distance away at the opposite end of the corrie. There are two options here. The main path heads down and away from the corrie edge, taking a roundabout route to the summit avoiding all the interesting bits. To appreciate the corrie fully it is best to take the narrow path which follows the corrie rim. On the way, there is a large cairn marking the lower top of Cac Carn Mor. I was scratching my head by this time as every little undulation seemed to have a cairn and a title proclaiming it to be another top. A slight case of overkill. And isn’t Mor supposed to be higher than Beag? If the people who speak the Gaelic language are confused then what chance is there for the rest of us?

I’d left the car-park in bright sunshine with clear blue skies but the cloud had come in thick and fast – thick grey cloud though way above the summits. I was quite happy with that. I don’t ask for total blue skies so long as the cloud keeps its distance.

Several of the Lochnagar summits are exactly like Dartmoot tors. The rock is granite (as is Dartmoor) and scrambling up on them was just like being at home. Of the distant views, the Cairngorms tops were struggling to keep their heads out of the clag, but were winning so far. There are excellent views of Coire Lochan nan Eun from Cac Carn Beag and I made my way over there next. The huge grassy lump behind the corrie turned out to be the next Munro, Carn a’ Choire Boidheach. I haven’t a clue what possessed me to trek up this hill and I wish I hadn’t. It has to be the most boring Munro in history, a totally featureless expanse of nothingness. I’m reluctant to even tick it off my list. I’m not a Munro bagger and this smacks of bagging at its most shameful. A momentary weakness I won’t repeat in hurry as I got no joy whatsoever from ‘bagging’ this one. Ben Chonzie you are a prince among Munroes! From the summit (a few flat rocks scattered here and there), I looked across the adjacent valley to the next Munro on the ‘5’ list, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, and immediately abandoned any lingering plans I had to do the ‘5’. If I’d wanted to march across grassy hills I’d have stayed in Devon. To be fair, the outlying two Munros appeared slightly more interesting, but I’d a hankering to investigate Corrie Lochnagar at close quarters. I’d taken the main path on the way to Cac Carn Beag and hadn’t seen the best of it yet.

I retraced my steps to the summit before heading over to the corrie edge. Here, at this side, are the tall, narrow rock pillars seen in ChrisW’s vertical panno picture and a fine view down through the gulley to the lochan below. My extreme sense of insanity got the better of me then and I walked round and out on to the top of them. The top stone on the outermost pillar rocked when I stood on top of it. Not sure if it’s completely loose as it felt more like one of those rocking Logan Stones. There are extreme vertical drops down into the gulley on three sides and this is definitely not the place for those of a nervous disposition. After coming off the pillars, I gave myself a quick self-diagnosis, coming to the conclusion that I am a total lunatic. It cheered me up no end to realise I’d arrived at this conclusion without the need for an expensive psychiatric evaluation.

In many ways the corrie cliff face is more enjoyable than the Ben as you can at least walk around the extreme edge and investigate all the gullies, buttresses and terrifying rock faces at close quarters without falling through a snow cornice. I climbed down and out on to a precarious bird perch which no one in their right mind would go anywhere near. It involved jumping across to the end section on rocks no more than a couple of feet or so wide. Why do I do these things? I keep asking myself the same question.

By the time I’d messed around on the corrie rim time was progressing. I’d originally planned to descend via the valley and Loch Muick, but this is quite a lengthy route and I still fancied visiting Meikle Pap to see if I could get an even better photo of the corrie wall. The summit of Meikle Pap is one of the best ‘tors’ I’ve ever seen and rivals any of those on Dartmoor.

On the return a couple of East European ladies asked me how far it was to the summit. They had a little girl with them who was about five or six. The little girl showed me her hat which was full of cream eggs which she claimed to have found on the route up to Lochnagar. I could only assume they’d had some kind of Easter Egg Hunt down at the car-park. I commented that I hadn’t seen any on my way up here. “Would you like one of mine?” the little girl asked, all sickly sweet and polite. I had a sudden moment of sublime madness, brought on by a severe lack of blood sugar. “What do you mean one, you horrible little scrote? I want all of them.” There then followed a furious tug-of-war as I tried to wrestle the little girl’s hatful of eggs away from her. I swore I was winning at one point until her mother started beating me with her Lecht walking stick. Time to run away before they managed to get a detailed description of me for Crimewatch. I never did get an Easter Egg.

Are we nearly there yet?

Cairngorms in the distance

The corrie comes into view

Coire Lochnagar

Looking back over the ascent path

On top at last

Approaching the summit

Carn Cag Beag Trig Point & Viewfinder

Cloud over the Cairngorms

Looking across to Meikle Pap

Coire Lochan nan Eun

Cairngorms across Lochan nan Eun

Glen Shee & the Grampians from Carn a’ Choire Boidheach

Cac Carn Beag across Lochan nan Eun

ChrisW’s vertical ‘panno’ pillars

On top of the pillars – watch that one on the left. It’s a bit loose!!

A surviving snow cornice

Looking down into Coire Lochnagar

Spectacular corrie cliffs

Did I really jump across that gap???

Coire Lochnagar from Meikle Pap

Lochnagar wildlife

Anyone got a shotgun handy?

Loch Muick
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Re: Dark Lochnagar

Postby ChrisW » Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:48 am

Fantastic houdi - some of the funniest stuff I've seen on here for a while, your description of Carn a’ Choire Boidheach made me laugh so much because I set off toward it but turned away after a short time as my tired legs didn't think it interesting enough to go on :lol:

Some cracking pics, I went out on the pillars but didn't scramble about jumping gaps where slipping would result in death, though to be honest before my leg incident I would have :wink:

Loved this houdi, walked every step with you and laughed out loud at some of the descriptions.....
were driving me nuts with their stupid bird call which sounds like a vintage car being turned over with a starting handle and then dying off through lack of interest
brilliant :thumbup: :D
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Re: Dark Lochnagar

Postby yokehead » Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:53 am

Great to see you've got some time in Scotland. Enjoyed this very much, a great laugh and great photos as well as a further insight to your lunatic tendencies! :lol: Don't blame you for avoiding the lumpy hills, I see myself going that way too.
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Re: Dark Lochnagar

Postby skuk007 » Tue Apr 26, 2011 12:08 pm

houdi wrote:... coming to the conclusion that I am a total lunatic ...

Looking at those pillar pics, if you want a second opinion, then I agree with your conclusion. :lol:
Great report though. :)
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Re: Dark Lochnagar

Postby houdi » Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:10 pm

Cheers for the great comments lads. I'm enjoying a rare excursion into the Scottish Hills at the moment (around Glencoe and Glen Etive) with some incredible weather. Not sure if I'll bother doing any walk reports though as all these hills have been covered extensively already. Think I'll enjoy them in private.
Posts: 288
Munros:93   Corbetts:1
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Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:74
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Location: South Devon

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