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Ice, Snow and Rock and Conachcraig

Ice, Snow and Rock and Conachcraig


Postby GariochTom » Tue Feb 07, 2012 12:07 am

Route description: Conachcraig and Gelder Shiel, from Balmoral

Corbetts included on this walk: Conachcraig

Date walked: 05/02/2012

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 25 km

Ascent: 680m

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Starting at the car park at Crathie, we headed over the bridge over the Dee (designed by Brunel but apparently disliked by Queen Victoria) passed the entrance to Balmoral Castle and the golf course, then walked past the estate buildings at Easter Balmoral. Fortunately we were not stopped at a security checkpoint - it was unmanned - but we might still have been being watched.... beside the checkpoint there is what looks like a big pair of binoculars atop a pole – the royal CCTV we assumed.

We went through a gate and continued along the track for some distance, through another gate and onwards. Then...oops! Checking our position on the GPS we realised we had passed the junction in the track where we were meant to turn left to head south. I was convinced that it must have been a well-hidden path. We retraced our steps to the last gate, and lo and behold there was the track heading south, completely obvious and not at all hidden – how did we miss it?!

This track through the trees was steeper, but soon we emerged from the forest and Lochnagar, veiled in cloud, came into view.
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Lochnagar comes into view

We frequently stopped to take pictures of Lochnagar and the surrounding landscape, as we made our way up this good track.

After around 2km we took the right fork to visit Gelder Shiel, and then got sidetracked by the frozen river where we were distracted by the icy sculptures and patterns in the water – glaciers, miniature icebergs, rocks marooned in the ice....
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Marooned rock

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Frozen river

Once we had taken plenty of icy photographs, we continued to Gelder Shiel – having a good look at the royal bothy and then paying a visit to the MBA-maintained Stables bothy. There was a pile of National Geographic magazines, and some filled baguettes and other food on the table. The bothy seemed quite cosy and comfortable – even featuring bunks! One was lined by an old 'Lochnagar Survival Bag'. This is the bunk that I would go for.
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Lochnagar Survival Bag

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Gelder Shiel Stable Bothy

Leaving Gelder Shiel, we did not cross the river by the bridge but stayed on a narrow path following the eastern bank of the river for a few kilometres, being careful not to slip on the snow and ice which was solid in places. We found a suitable lunch spot by the river, then boshed across to join the main landrover track heading south.
Conachcraig and Lochnagar.JPG
Conachcraig and Lochnagar

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On track

There were deeper snowdrifts within this enclosed track, and we identified various tracks in the snow - from horses, grouse and hares. One hare had clearly ascended the bank of snow to get a better view of Lochnagar....
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Ascent to Lochnagar viewpoint

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Moody Lochnagar

We noted that the Walk Highlands route recommends following the track beyond Conachcraig and then heading up from the southwest, but we decided to head up from the col to the west of Conachcraig. This was hard work, especially as the snow was deep in places and falling snow was blowing into our faces. Eventually we reached the 865m summit.
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Approaching the summit

There were great views all around, particularly down to Glen Muick.
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Glen Muick

Panorama from Conachcraig 2.JPG
Panorama from Conachcraig

We headed across to the 850m top and then to Caisteal na Caillich.
Looking back towards the descending Sun, the light, snow, wind and rocks combined to form atmospheric scenes.
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Wildland

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Windblown

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Wild

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Snow and rock sculptures

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Heading towards Caisteal na Caillich

Near Caisteal na Caillich there were excellent views all around, including across to Loch Muick which now peeped around the corner.
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On Caisteal na Caillich

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Loch Muick peeps around

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Starting the descent, we spotted a ptarmigan flying away from the slopes below Caisteal na Caillich.

It seemed to be a very long time before be reached the track again, but once there we made a fairly quick return back to Crathie, our way lit by the setting Sun and the bright moon.
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Moonlit River Dee


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GariochTom
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Re: Ice, Snow and Rock and Conachcraig

Postby mrssanta » Tue Feb 07, 2012 1:40 pm

Smashing! that picture "wild" looks like the sea!!
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mrssanta
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Re: Ice, Snow and Rock and Conachcraig

Postby GariochTom » Tue Feb 07, 2012 2:50 pm

mrssanta wrote:that picture "wild" looks like the sea!!


I thought so too! :)
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GariochTom
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Re: Ice, Snow and Rock and Conachcraig

Postby BlackPanther » Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:24 pm

Hi, nice report. We were on Conachcraig on the same day as you, though we climbed it from Glen Muick. I think I saw you from the distance - four people were coming down from the main summit of Conachcraig as we were on Caisteal na Caillich :D :D
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BlackPanther
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Re: Ice, Snow and Rock and Conachcraig

Postby GariochTom » Tue Feb 07, 2012 7:09 pm

BlackPanther wrote:Hi, nice report. We were on Conachcraig on the same day as you, though we climbed it from Glen Muick. I think I saw you from the distance - four people were coming down from the main summit of Conachcraig as we were on Caisteal na Caillich :D :D


Ah yes, I think we saw you! That's the second time another 'WalkHighlandser' has been on the same hill as me at the same time... Small world!

Like your walk report - nice pictures.
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GariochTom
Wanderer
 
Posts: 142
Munros:148   Corbetts:34
Grahams:9   
Sub 2000:9   Hewitts:1
Joined: Aug 5, 2008
Location: Aberdeenshire

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