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Overnight bivvy up Lochnagar

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:29 am
by fionamac8
First things first: I am a bivvy virgin. Or at least was until a few days ago. Now I can happily report I’m a convert! To be honest, the whole idea of bivvying did not appeal - sleeping outside with no protection other than a waterproof sleeping bag? Nae keen. What about bugs and rain and being stood on by deer?

Scott and I had made a spur of the moment decision to test out our new bivvy bags, and having just come back from 5 nights in Ibiza, I was craving some good Scottish hills. So with a quick look at the forecast and a swift stop to pick up some essentials we were off. The drive through Aberdeen and up to Loch Muick was as expected, mostly bright but showery. Phew, we thought, get it all over and done with now. Sadly no such luck! But setting off from Spittal of Glenmuick all was well in the world: the sun was shining, we had full bellies after a tasty lunch and there were about 20 deer grazing just off the path.
The path and temperature rose quickly so upon breaking the treeline it was time to lose some layers. But what a view! As the boyfriend and I aren’t very experienced hillwalkers I wondered what I was letting myself in for as the hills seem to sprout on as far as the eye can see. But onwards and upwards it was. The path winds up by a burn for the first while with views to the left reminding you where you are heading. While the sun stayed out, clouds skudded across the sky and a few drops began falling so on with the waterproofs it was, and as the shower passed we stopped for a quick chocolate break and some water. After a few miles the path splits and the small track to the left leads up the side of Lochnagar.


Stopping for a quick chocolate break

Misty Cuidhe Crom and Meikle Pap

Having already decided that we may as well climb Meikle Pap for the view if it was clear enough, we cracked on through the light rain that was now fairly steadily falling. Not that it impeded the view any; we took advantage of my sore legs and took in the surrounding hills. Luckily, the climb cleared away my leg cobwebs and the rain so we had some amazing views from Meikle Pap, all the way back to Ballater and even Aboyne. Not to mention the incredible spot looking into Lochnagar!

Looking down


Scott bouldering around Meikle Pap

Now for the heavy stuff. Jeez, I don't like steep sections. Particularly steep sections with lots of boulders that act like steps. Oh-oh...but no choice now, I couldn't go back with my goal in sight and so near. So with some huffing and puffing I got to the top of the section called the Ladder. Obviously named with good reason! Now Scott is possibly the most persuasive person I know, so when he turns to me and says, "Come on, there's a cairn over there we haven't been to!" (good reason for that Scotty, it's off the path I want to take!) I find myself following suit. To his credit, the views downwards from Cuidhe Crom to where we'd started were pretty impressive and en route back we met a proper bona fide Mountain Man - long hair, huge bushy beard, big mittens, shorts and bare feet...hang on *double take* shorts and bare feet? As it was gusting and raining pretty heavily at this point we didn't stop to chat but I wish we had. Turns out, this was the man I'd heard and seen in the distance earlier, standing on a cliff top with his arms outstretched screeching to the birds...
Back on the right path, the track splits: left to the longer way round the back of the cliff to Carn Cac Beag or right along the considerably shorter but waaaaay steeper cliff edge. So right it is then. A wee bit windy (and a little scary) on the way up - call me a chicken if you will - but well worth the views at the top!

Over the edge


Bennachie is that way!



Walking round the cliff edge, Scott spotted a rock that he fancied taking some pictures from. An easy climb down from the path proper, he was on it in no time. However, while taking some shots on his camera/phone he dropped the bloody thing :roll: Out of the corner of my eye I saw him drop into a squat and quickly catch it – palpitations is not the word! He turned and gave me a sheepish smile, and while relieved I wanted to murder him. It would take too many @£%^*$%'s to write my actual response, so “Get off that bloody rock and back here!” will have to do. Just as we made it to Carn Cac Beag, the sun broke through the clouds and cast beautiful beams over Braemar and the surrounding hills.

Sunbeams over Braemar

After taking in the view and some obligatory trig shots we hop-skipped down and started down the backside of Lochnagar southwards looking for a sheltered spot to grab some dinner. Despite setting after a late lunch and a few chocolate breaks along the way, tummies were now rumbling. Luckily we came across a higher piece of ground among the much marshier stuff which was sheltered from the wind and near a wee spring – handy for Scott to wash the dishes haha. Nothing tastes better than rice and tuna when you’re hungry but by this time the sun was disappearing quite quickly and thoughts turned to where we’d be spending the night. Which brings me to point 1 of why I like bivvying – no worrying about tent pitching in half-light, marshy ground or high winds (we learned last time that our poor old tent and wind do not mix well :().

A nice wee dinner spot

Deciding to follow the path we’d be carrying on with the following day towards Carn a’Choire Bhoideach, we stopped off on the Stuic Buttress. The soft, flat ground and plenty of rocks to shelter from the wind meant we’d (literally) stumbled onto a winner. With the sun going down it was the perfect spot to get out the bags and rest our tired feet. This was my first outing with my new Alpkit Sky High 600 down bag – wowee, what a difference! I’m a bit of a cold fish anyway so my silk liner was a given, but I felt a massive difference in temperature compared to my old, very heavy synthetic bag. Poor Scott just had to look on in jealousy as his size is out of stock – that’s what you get for being a lanky boy! So we settled down for the night. Point 2 – although it was cloudy and there were no stars, bivvying meant we watched the moon rise. At the closest it would be to the earth all year, it was well worth the watching.


Best bivvy spot ever?

Not bad...

Snug as a bug in a rug

During the night, the rain came on a few times and as I am a bit paranoid about getting my down bag wet, I toggled my bivvy in around me and turned over so I didn’t feel like I was suffocating – one thing I’m not a fan of is the bag being so close to my face. And other than wishing I’d taken a wee pillow, I had a pretty good sleep outside in the open air on top of a mountain above 3500 feet.
The next morning we woke to a bright but misty mountain. The advantage of being on top of a hill at this time of morning was that while everyone on ground level was shrouded in thick mist we were actually above it, which soon burnt off. Waking up my first words were, “ I think I’m converted!” I loved being in the open air and bivvying was so much quicker to pack up than a tent. Once out of my cosy bag it was too chilly to cook breakfast so we packed up and set off to bag our first Munro of the day – Carn a’Choire Bhoideach. A 10 minute walk and an easy stroll later and we were there. Consulting the map, we decided to take in Carn an t-Sagairt Beag as well as it’s bigger sister Mor. Skirting around a patch of icy snow we made our way down Bhoideach and across to t-Sagairt Beag. By this time the clouds had rolled back in and were looking much more ominous than before. Waterproofs on then. Proved to be a wise decision as once the rain got going, we were in the thick of it for a good hour. Apart from being scared by a few grouse and seeing some hare bounding off into the mist, visibility was too poor so we plodded on and up Carn an t-Sagairt Mor. Around three-quarters of the way up we started finding large chunks of mangled metal. Not thinking too much of it, imagine our surprise to find a full wing of an RAF aircraft! Scott tells me this is from a crash in 1956 so not exactly undiscovered, but exciting nonetheless.
Once we’d bagged Munro number 3 it seemed an appropriate breakfast time. Shame the lovely Scottish weather didn’t agree, but I made do with sheltering my porrige and tea from the wind with my back (brrrrr).


Carn a'Choire Bhoideach


Back the way we came...


Slightly less chilled and considerably better fed, we were now back onto a clear path. Thank goodness the weather gods decided to smile upon us and the rain soon cleared on our way up Cairn Bannoch (Munro 4 – tick). This allowed for a quick rest stop and some teeth brushing – hurray, feeling human again! The views across to the waterfall at Eagle Rock from Cairn Bannoch were brilliant now we could see 5 feet in front of our noses! Broad Cairn was also in sight, and didn’t seem too far which was a blessing as I’d just finished off our water. Mostly downhill, apart from picking across the boulders at the top of Broad Cairn and we’d done it – 5 Munros in 2 days – a pretty big deal for 2 novices like ourselves.
It was now just a case of popping down and along Loch Muick. Yippeeeee. On top of Broad Cairn we came across the first people we’d seen in what seemed like ages and it soon got busy. It is a fast and very steep descent down to Loch Muick (my ears popped!) and the path loses height quickly which is a bit hard on the knees. The loch looked fantastic though, and by this point I was dying to dip my feet in to cool off. Although cloudy, the temperature also picked up as we descended and we were soon losing layers again. Sadly the path along Loch Muick is not as long and straight as I would have wished for – my tired legs did not want to climb up and down a hundred times round wee corners! – but the last miles are always the longest when the car, a change of socks and lunch are almost in sight. On our last rest stop Scott encouraged me to actually take in the view again properly and I am glad, as there were around 60 deer grazing in a field about 200 yards off the path. All in all, a great trip. Lochnagar is my favourite Munro to date as it wasn’t nearly as tiring as I’d expected – woooohoo. Maybe I’m getting fitter after all? Also I found that bivvying wasn't as traumatic as I'd thought - no bugs, no horrendous weather and no deer stomping (although we did find deer poo 2 metres from our bags the next day). I actually really enjoyed it, and Scottish weather permitting, will be getting out in it as much as possible over the next few months.


Re: Overnight bivvy up Lochnagar

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:43 am
what an adventure :clap: ...still do do a high camp this summer ..but now youve got me thinking if id be better to bivvy?.! ....just waiting for the weather to play ball :D many hours sleep did you get?

Re: Overnight bivvy up Lochnagar

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2013 9:12 am
by The Rodmiester
Great stuff, really good read and some lovely photographs to boot, a fabulous record of your first bivvy :clap: :clap: :D Look forward to following your future mountain adventures :D

Re: Overnight bivvy up Lochnagar

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:36 pm
by simon-b
Well done Fiona, a really excellent outing, so early in your hillwalking career.

Re: Overnight bivvy up Lochnagar

PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2013 3:04 pm
by jester
Great report and some nice photos there.

Re: Overnight bivvy up Lochnagar

PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:23 am
by fionamac8
SAVAGEALICE wrote:what an adventure :clap: ...still do do a high camp this summer ..but now youve got me thinking if id be better to bivvy?.! ....just waiting for the weather to play ball :D many hours sleep did you get?

I managed to get around 7 hours, the best I've ever had outside! This was probably due to having a nice new mat, a new cosy bag and really tired legs, but so satisfying to wake up the next day and realise it was 0655!

Re: Overnight bivvy up Lochnagar

PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2013 4:45 pm
by Sabbathstevie
Some stunning pics there!

Re: Overnight bivvy up Lochnagar

PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2013 5:24 pm
by kevsbald
Some lovely composition to those shots.
Affa fine to see some mair posts fae the toonsers.

Re: Overnight bivvy up Lochnagar

PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2013 7:57 pm
by Stingray
Great walk report and photo's too
I wish we had bivvi'd now instead of the tent. I see you found the Canberra on CSM :wink:

Stingray :)