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Dark Lochnagar, in Stunning September Sunshine

Dark Lochnagar, in Stunning September Sunshine


Postby Sabbathstevie » Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:06 am

Route description: Lochnagar from Glen Muick

Munros included on this walk: Lochnagar

Date walked: 08/09/2012

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 19 km

Ascent: 930m

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Having enjoyed the strenuous outing on Beinn A’Ghlo last month (except for the walk out!), my latest hillwalking companion Philip was raring for a return to the hills before our pitiful excuse for summer is all but over. I was still elated from the reptile fest I’d experienced on Mount Keen a few weeks back but I was hoping that we’d be able to tackle something a little more challenging. We had our customary pre-weekend pub meet, where maps of possible targets were scoured over several pints of Deuchars. :mrgreen:

My limited encounters on the Corbett of Clisham in Harris and the airy Saddle Yoke near Moffat notwithstanding, neither of had really experienced the feeling of traversing a narrow and airy ridge – something we were both keen to get to grips with. With all of my bagged Munros to date lying east of the A9, it seemed that we’d need to be heading further west to get our first taste of the narrower, pointier hills that seem to excite so many of my fellow WH users. I ruled out Glencoe, thinking that a Saturday still this close to the summer season would be akin to a stroll down Princes Street (though without the tram works, so maybe reason enough to go… :lol: ), but I liked the look of Ben Cruachan or Bheinn a’Bheither in the far west. Both of us still had a need to soak up what was left of our dwindling sunshine, so we had to source both a central and more easterly alternative, should the west prove to be stereotypically wet. For the central option we plumped for the Tarmachan ridge, which would at least satisfy some of our ridgy curiosity and provide a first pop at this scrambling lark. The easterly choice was an easy one – the sight of Lochnagar’s grand cliffs from the top of Mount Keen a few weeks back had been awe inspiring moment and one which had lodged the finest mountain of the Mounth well and truly at the top of my to do list.

Saturday morning and Phil and his shiny white GTI collected me and Maggie, my munro loving Jack Russell, at 06:00. A final check of the Met Office predictions and it looked like our decision had been made for us – every peak I was interested in was to be wet or foggy except one – Lochnagar, which was to bathe in stunning sunshine all day long. Incidentally, I know that the Met Office sometimes gets a bad rap and that we all use MWIS however I do find it useful that they allow you to specify individual munro peaks for the forecast – I’ve had 100% forecasted accuracy on my limited amount of walks so far. After mourning slightly the loss of yet another opportunity to head west, we jumped in the car and made good progress up the M90 to Perth and then on to Blairgowrie – the town where we both grew up, before heading onwards and upwards toward Glen Shee. As we wound up the ever steepening A93, the Cairnwell hills loomed impressively in their early morning haze, particularly the rocky flanks of Creag Leacach which rose to the east. After almost three hours, we finally pulled into the already busy car park at Glen Muick just before 09:00.


Lochnagar Circular.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



For years, I’ve lived under the misconception that the kind of voracious, man eating midges that thankfully keep our country slightly less overrun by tourists than it otherwise might be were confined solely to the wetter, warmer climes of the west and despite having grown up and lived in the east all of my life, it’s the encounters I’ve had with these beasts through in the west that had added weight to that argument: I’ve been munched by them in the thick pine forests of Glen Massan near Dunoon, been savaged by clouds of the tiny terrors in the Sunart Oakwoods of Ardnamurchan and, worst of all, absolutely devoured by them on wooded stretches of coastline near Badachro, Gairloch. It was a complete surprise to me that this far east, we would become victims of probably the most relentlessly vicious midge assault I’ve yet to encounter – I’d literally stepped out of the car for 3 seconds and walked towards to the pay and display machine before being instantly set upon. :evil: A glance back to Phil who was booting up at the car showed he was having similar problems. We decided to get underway as quickly as possible to escape the swarm – a glance round the very busy car park and many others were doing the same, including one group who I assumed were heading for Creag an Dubh-Loch, carefully dressing themselves with ropes, harnesses and hard hats.

Scots Pine.jpg
Scots Pine


We joined the steady stream of walkers making their way across the good path to the first clump of Scots pine, which looked wonderful in the sunlight, before beginning the long and gradual ascent around the base of Conachcraig. Maggie bounded along effortlessly in the sun, seemingly propelled by the powerful force of her enthusiastically wagging tail alone, though in the heat it’s fair to say that while this part of the walk wasn’t troubling, it certainly took more out of us than it looked like it would.

Walk In.jpg
The Walk In


A short while later, the smaller walkers path peeled off from the landrover track and began to climb a little more steeply – evident by the systematic slowing of almost all the other groups of walkers at various points on the track ahead of us. By now it was really quite warm, with little in the way of a breeze to keep the ever burning sun at bay, however as we neared the bealach between Cuidhe Crom and Meikle Pap, the very edges of those famous cliffs I had seen from so many reports on WH had started to reveal themselves, gradually tempting and beckoning us closer and higher. Ignoring the path branching up to the left, we pressed onto to lip of corrie and stood for some time, marvelling at what lay before; the grand cliffs of granite which plunged down to the strangely impenetrable darkness of the lochan of Lochnagar. Simply jaw dropping stuff. :shock:

Lochnagar Corrie.jpg
Lochnagar Corrie


After a brief fluid stop, we decided to press on directly up through the boulders of “the Ladder”, rather than backtrack to the path. It was great fun picking up the various routes and paths through the mass of flattened granite rocks, though the climb itself was a little steeper and tougher than it looked from down below. This does at least ensure that height is gained quickly and it wasn’t long until the plateau was reached, and we followed the main path away from the corrie edge a little, in order to make the most of the slight breeze which revealed itself at this altitude, and savour the extensive feeling of space across the vastness of the Mounth – stretching to the horizon and punctuated by the rounded humps of at least Mount Keen, Driesh, Mayar and possibly Tom Buidhe and Tolmount that I could see.

Cliffs.jpg
Cliffs


Down to the Pap.jpg
down to the Pap


Boulder Field.jpg
Boulders up "the Ladder"


As the path began to climb the last piece of ascent toward Cac Carn Mor, we noticed that the summit rocks of Cac Carn Beag were crowded with happy walkers and decided we would stop for lunch first, gaining the peak when it was little quieter. We deviated from the path towards the rim of the corrie again and were staggered by the views. From this angle, the shattered granite pinnacles looked even more impressive, as were the views down to the now tiny looking Meikle Pap. As we stopped on a large flat rock overlooking the edge for lunch, I couldn’t help but be puzzled at the steady stream of walkers who clung religiously to the path all the way to the summit, thus missing out what I took to be very much the finest views and features of this wonderful mountain. :)

Down the Gully.jpg
Down the gully


Gully 2.jpg
Another Gully


The Corrie.jpg
The Corrie


Crags.jpg
the Crags


Lochan.jpg
Dark Lochan


Lochnagar Crags.jpg
Lochnagar Crags


After lunch, we found a quieter “slot” in which to nip up and claim the summit – Maggie was chuffed to be standing on the trig point of her 6th munro. Most striking to me were the views of the high Cairngorms – this was the best opportunity I’d had to look across to the vast and sprawling summits of Ben MacDui, Derry Cairngorm, Cairn Toul et al. Though it hasn’t materialised this year, I’m very much looking forward to working towards a 30km epic from the Linn of Dee to investigate some of those mountains…when I’m fitter! Similarly, there were excellent views to the north over Beinn A’Bhuird and the prominent Tors atop Ben Avon.

Summit.jpg
Summit


Maggie at the Summit.jpg
Maggie at the Summit


More immediately, and as we trekked back along the path, the views across to the impressive Stuic buttress gave me a good “real life” example of what a scramble looks like in the flesh, this of course allowing me to put Graeme D’s excellent recent report of that ascent route into context. Apart from the very uppermost section which looks like it might be a bit trickier, it all looked very doable. That also made up my mind on the question that had been hanging over Phil and I throughout the day – should we do just Lochnagar or aim to bag the full 5? :?

The Stuic.jpg
Over To The Stuic


Having enjoyed our lunch and stunning views throughout the day so far, we were both keen to get back to Edinburgh for a reasonable time. Furthermore, the impressive look of the Stuic confirmed to me that the other two munros on the northern flank of the White Mounth plateau should be ascended this way, starting from the north and adding a fresh take on the area rather than doing the full round from Glen Muick. It would also allow me to explore the stunning looking crags of Creag Dubh-loch and the Dubh loch itself when tackling the two munros fn the southern half of the plateau on a another visit, as per Black Panther’s recent and also excellent report – I’m definitely pleased to have the reasons for two further visits to this stunning area that don’t involve retreading familiar steps!

Glas Allt.jpg
Glas Allt


Having made our choice, we began the descent along the long path alongside the tumbling waters of the Glas Allt – another fine feature of this mountain that we wouldn’t have seen had we opted to do the full horseshoe. It always amazes me how gradually mountain streams like these pick up strength and power as they are fed by successive burns and springs, winding attractively through the ever sloping plateau until they spill forth across the glistening rocks in an impressive set of falls, out into the steep sided trough of Glen Muick.

Glimpse of the Glen.jpg
Glen Glimpse


Falls of the Glas Allt.jpg
Glas Allt Falls


And what views there were, as gradually the deep bowl of Glen Muick was revealed with the sparkling beautiful blue waters of Loch Muick at its heart. This had to be one of the most pleasant and picturesque descents off a hill I’ve yet to experience, though it has to be said that the stony and steepish path was taking its toll on our feet and I found myself feeling very sorry for the few red-faced walkers we passed who had chosen this as their ascent route.

Loch Muick 2.jpg
Loch Muick Again


Loch Muick.jpg
Beautiful Loch Muick


We finally emerged into the attractive pocket of pine at the foot of the path before rejoining the wide landrover track and the long (or so it felt at this point in the day) trudge alongside the loch. From here, the munros of the White Mounth at least have some definition and look like mountains, rather than the shapeless humps they appear to be from up on the plateau above. Though long, the walk out was still a pleasure compared to the boggy retreat we’d endured on Beinn A’Ghlo , rounding the corner of the loch and its sandy looking beaches (cue Maggie and some impromptu swimming), punctuated by glances back up to the peaks on the plateau high above and the occasional swooping of enormous dragonflies. In a short time we arrived back at the car making it 6 hours for the round – not bad considering the frequency and length of our breaks and the somewhat oppressive heat but a glorious day on a fantastic mountain – the true royal and lord of the Mounth and the finest I have climbed to date. I look forward to coming back, maybe when it is a little cooler! :thumbup:
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Sabbathstevie
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Re: Dark Lochnagar, in Stunning September Sunshine

Postby ChrisW » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:40 am

Another cracker Stevie, really brings back great memories for me too. This was my target hill after years of mobility issues, operations, injections and physio but I finally made Lochnagar in April 2011 via the same route as you.

Anyway, as always Maggie is looking epic in the summit shot (I think she should have a cape :lol: )

Congrats on a great hike and thanks for the memories mate :thumbup:
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ChrisW
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Re: Dark Lochnagar, in Stunning September Sunshine

Postby Sabbathstevie » Fri Sep 14, 2012 10:04 am

ChrisW wrote:Another cracker Stevie, really brings back great memories for me too. This was my target hill after years of mobility issues, operations, injections and physio but I finally made Lochnagar in April 2011 via the same route as you.

Anyway, as always Maggie is looking epic in the summit shot (I think she should have a cape :lol: )

Congrats on a great hike and thanks for the memories mate :thumbup:


Thanks Chris! I'll admit to having read through your inspiring "Landmark achieved" report way back when I discovered WH and was far less sure of my walking abilities - back then it looked like a monster and over a year later I'm pretty chuffed to have seen it wall with my own eyes!

Yes, I'm waiting for tyhe point when Maggie becomes recognisable on the hills to other WH memebrs who know her but not me! Maybe a cape will speed up that process! On Lochnagar she caught the attention of a group of happy Germans who though it hilarious that she was a bagger! :lol:
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Sabbathstevie
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Re: Dark Lochnagar, in Stunning September Sunshine

Postby Steve B » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:22 am

Nice pictures on what was a good day. I must have started this just before you and passed a gentleman from NZ on the way up to Lochnagar. I recall seeing 2 figures arriving at the large cairn before the summit as I was on the 2nd peak of the round.
I saw your descent path from the other side of Loch Muick and have that in mind for doing this with a single Munro walk as an introduction for some friends. It looked great and your pictures confirm it.
Steve B
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Re: Dark Lochnagar, in Stunning September Sunshine

Postby ChrisW » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:06 pm

back then it looked like a monster

It bloody felt like on too mate :lol: :lol: If I ever get the chance I'm going to return to Lochnagar and do it again to see how it feels now :wink:
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