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Mount Battock - beautiful sunshine with a twist

Mount Battock - beautiful sunshine with a twist


Postby denfinella » Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:46 pm

Route description: Mount Battock from Glen Esk

Corbetts included on this walk: Mount Battock

Date walked: 22/05/2013

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 17 km

Ascent: 700m

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The flipside to working every other Saturday is that I get a weekday off every fortnight too. And that gives me the chance to get out into the hills when everybody else is working - perfect for getting away from it all and enjoying peace and quiet. Not quite away from it all mind - my other half was "revising" for exams so was effectively on holiday too. So the two of us set off from Aberdeen at the usual 8:30 time, down to Angus and Glen Esk, with the Corbett of Mount Battock waiting to the north of the valley. We had to be back by 4:30 at the latest, so this seemed ideal. A longish but easy-going walk which meant we could be up and down in good time.

The usual signs were all promising - light traffic and the bouncy road between Fettercairn and the Glen Esk turnoff by the Rocks of Solitude was good fun. Bright sunshine as well - MWIS suggested a chilly day for May but with fairly light winds and a patchwork of sun. The winds were from the northwest so we were hopeful of staying in the rain shadow away from the heavy, squally showers forecast to materialise over the Cairngorms as the day progressed. This was achieved... nearly.

Mount Battock should be considered an essential destination for any Aberdonian walker - it's only just over an hour to the parking area at Millden Lodge, which makes it a shorter drive than almost every other hill of its stature, with the exception of Mount Keen and Morven (both of which I've yet to climb). We were just putting on our boots by the side of the car when I whispered "look behind you!" to my boyfriend who was crouching down tying his right bootlaces. No more than a few centimetres away from his other, left foot was a bright-eyed robin, head cocked as if observing the boot closely.

It was surely going to be one of those moments where everything is set up perfectly for a photo until you finally retrieve the camera, at which point the bird flies away and you end up taking a picture of an old boot. But no, this time Mr Robin seemed very happy to hop around very close at hand, even scrabbling around the tyres where perhaps they'd warmed the shady ground a little. Ever the smart one though, he was happy to munch on breadcrumbs on the ground, but became instantly more wary when they were on the tip of an outstretched palm.

Robin 1.jpg


Robin 2.jpg

Anyway, we set off well before 10 o'clock up the narrow lane alongside the Burn of Turret. A few escaped sheep watched us carefully from suntraps on the sides of the road. Beyond the Mill of Aucheen, still boasting its water wheel, the tarmac stops and we broke out into open country. It was one of those really clear days where the temperature's just perfect for walking.

Blackcraigs.jpg

The local wildlife was out in abundance here, with lapwings absolutely everywhere along with rabbits, loads of tiny birds I couldn't possibly identify and the usual farmyard suspects. We'd altered the walkhighlands route a little to ascend via Mount Een then head along the ridge to Mount Battock, meaning a totally circular walk instead of having the same start and end.

Edging past a few cows beyond Blackcraigs farm, I had the not-so-smart idea of taking the westernmost of three tracks up the shoulder of Mount Een. Supposedly this would be a "gentler gradient so less tiring" - wise words until you realise that the track's mostly covered by heather now. Take one of the other two if you go up this way! The views were superb already though.

I should also say that, as has been alluded to by another walkhighlands user in a separate topic, there are miles of new hill tracks in this part of Glen Esk. Along with the fact that some of the fencelines seem to be in the wrong place, this just means you should pay slightly more attention to the contours on the map than usual. Not a problem for me as I adore maps!

Once we got back onto the main track, the going was easier and the views just got better and better. The "patchwork of sunshine" description seemed apt above the Hill of Wirren behind us, whilst Mount Battock still basked in uninterrupted sunshine and seemed to be holding back the clouds building behind it. Lines of grouse butts are everywhere on this hill, including lots of new ones. Maybe it should be called Mount BUTTock? Sorry. Ironically we didn't see a single grouse though!

Hill of Wirren.jpg
Hill of Wirren


Grouse Butts.jpg
Mount Battock & the butts

Glen Esk still had a few patches of snow visible on its northern slopes.

Glen Esk.jpg
Up Glen Esk

The climb is fairly steady but rarely steep, and on an excellent surface. Mount Een was soon reached from which the next few kilometres is pretty much flat - along a broad ridge with lovely views stretching in all directions. By now the cloud was really building to the north and west, but here, and Mount Battock ahead, was still basking in the sun!

Bennygray.jpg
View to the top from Bennygray

The track descends into shallow, winding gullys in the peat at times, and it was in one of these gullys that my other half decided to go for a quick number one. Just as the flow started (too much information?!) a young guy in a land rover trundled right past, the sounds of his approach completely swallowed up by the gully. I'm not sure who was more surprised at the unexpected view...

Finally the track began to climb Mount Battock proper, and we forked left onto a much rougher path to pay a visit to Wester Cairn. The tall, compact cairn is a great viewpoint for Glen Esk and made a good spot for lunch as well, with enough shelter from the wind to eat sandwiches in peace.

Wester Cairn 2.jpg
Blue skies and boyfriend looking happy - a rare sight in the hills!


Wester Cairn 3.jpg
Showers gradually getting nearer though


The view to the northwest would usually be great too, but this time all we could see was a succession of very heavy showers, completely drenching most of Deeside and the Cairngorm plateau. The weather had been better than predicted over on this side of the range, but further north was definitely getting a battering and it would only be a matter of time before one of these "showers" reached us.

With this in mind, we made haste towards the trig point a kilometre to the east. To our dismay, especially as I was wearing jeans, a monster of a shower was gaining on us too.

Shower 2.jpg
Gaining on us...


Shower 1.jpg
And closer...


Shower 3.jpg
And closer!

Out came the waterproof jackets, even though we were still in sunshine, and not a moment too soon. In less than ten seconds, the weather changed from sun and a gentle breeze to torrential horizontal hail and winds so strong we had to crouch a couple of times to avoid being blown over. Even the mist came down. Wow - what a change! Mount Battock really hadn't been down on the "predicted dramatic hill walks" list, but this was something of an epic. We staggered to the summit which was only a minute or so away, and thankfully had an array of shelters facing in all directions. Hiding in one, we watched in awe as the ground turned white and the hail continued to pelt down.

Then, only a couple of minutes after it started, the shower passed and the hail briefly turned to snow and then stopped altogether. The sun reappeared, the wind died down and the hail covering the ground melted just like that, save for a few mounds stacked against rocks. The whole episode was so quick that we didn't manage to get a single photo, even though we got the camera out as soon as we'd sat down inside the shelter.

Clachnaben.jpg
Clachnaben now under the clouds

And with that, we set off down the fenceline towards the Hill of Saughs. Instead of annoyance that the summit had been clagged in (only for the second time in my Scottish hillwalking life!), we were thankful that we were able to witness such a spectacle. Not really for its ferocity - there are plenty of days in the Scottish mountains with far more extreme conditions, days which we would avoid - but for the contrast between three moments each about a minute apart: sunshine, to storm, to sunshine again. Even better, hail and snow don't really make jeans wet!

The next section down to Hill of Saughs was a bit of a comedy routine. We were under the impression that the tall fence separating us on the east side from the better path on the west side was electrified. Cue several unsuccessful attempts to use a mixture of protruding stones and fence posts - and even some miscellaneous wooden posts serving as stilts - to try and scale the fence. By the bottom of the steep bit, the fence had deteriorated anyway and we realised there was no way it could be electrified.

It was still a bit of a challenge to get over though. As soon as we finally managed it we noticed that the path immediately disappeared into a minor bog, so perhaps we should have stayed on the other side after all! Never mind. After the bog a proper track started up and it was an easy descent towards the intriguingly-named Gruiggal of Dye. Another hail shower hit us here, albeit much more benign than the earlier one. Bearing in mind how relatively minor this one was, it still formed some pretty impressive clouds, and these photos show the hit and miss nature of the showers. These two were taken at the same moment. Upper Glen Esk escapes completely...

Shower 4.jpg

...but the storm spews hail onto the unlucky Hill of Wirren and the Angus plains behind. As for the cloud formation... wow.

Shower 5.jpg

To cut a long story short, the rest of the descent to the Burn of Turret is a lovely walk on a faint but mostly dry track, winding down through the grouse butts with more expansive views back to Mount Battock and over Glen Esk. I have to admit that I never thought this type of hill would be my cup of tea, but this walk proved me wrong. Some words from a report by formerly-Aberdeenshire-based walkhighlands user Chris W are poignant now - someone said something along the lines of "you really love these featureless rolling landscapes don't you?", and he replied something like "I guess there's just something about this wide open type of countryside that draws me back time after time". Or something. How true.

Mount Battock.jpg
Mount Battock from Burn of Turret


Butts.jpg
Lots of butts...

Finally the track comes down to ford the main burn. Instead of reascending onto the opposite terrace, we opted to stay by the stream (on the west bank), and follow it down. I'd definitely recommend this as the best return route from here - the stream forms a delightful, windy little valley with beautiful views. There were fish in some of the shady pools, and a succession of pretty little waterfalls.

Burn 1.jpg


Burn 2.jpg


Burn 3.jpg


Burn 4.jpg

And that draws Mount Battock to a close for us, but it was a walk that far surpassed our expectations. It was certainly a great route anyway, but the dramatic weather conditions were the icing on the cake - 95% sunshine and 5% storm! Walking in Scotland is such that you never quite know what you're in for - and that's half the fun of it...
User avatar
denfinella
Wanderer
 
Posts: 1104
Munros:65   Corbetts:34
Grahams:21   Donalds:13
Sub 2000:58   Hewitts:11
Wainwrights:6   Islands:45
Joined: Mar 19, 2012
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Mount Battock - beautiful sunshine with a twist

Postby denfinella » Wed Jun 12, 2013 8:00 pm

Thanks :) This part of Glen Esk certainly seems to be neglected as most people seem to carry on up the valley to Mount Keen / Craig Maskeldie / the waterfalls up there.

The robin must be a regular there then!
User avatar
denfinella
Wanderer
 
Posts: 1104
Munros:65   Corbetts:34
Grahams:21   Donalds:13
Sub 2000:58   Hewitts:11
Wainwrights:6   Islands:45
Joined: Mar 19, 2012
Location: Edinburgh

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