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Two hard earned: Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn

Two hard earned: Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn


Postby Alastair S » Thu Mar 18, 2010 8:22 am

Route description: Creag an Dubh Loch and Broad Cairn, Glenmuick

Munros included on this walk: Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch

Date walked: 16/03/2010

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 23 km

Ascent: 702m

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Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn (actual).gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



With only 5 local Munros to go I’d had this route planned for quite a while. Wanted it to be a winter walk but not a post-holing extravaganza. As it turned out I picked the wrong week.

The whole of the previous week was brilliant blue skies and not a hint of a thaw. Just see Kinley’s report Lochnagar - Glen Muick redeems itself. Then the better half took ill so Sunday was spent shepherding daughter on her orienteering induction. I managed to negotiate a day’s leave at short notice and Tuesday was clearly forecast to be the best day for the week. The Met Office predicted clear skies for the afternoon & the MWIS reckoned for a 90% chance of a cloud free summit with little wind. However the thaw had set in over the weekend, with the SAIS putting the avalanche risk as Considerable on all aspects above 900m. So checked my route and the steepest slope I was tackling (final push to Cairn Bannoch) was only 23%. However the slope above Dubh Loch is both steep enough (35%) and South facing. However as I was going along the bottom it wouldn’t be me that triggered anything, so it was only naturally occurring ones I had to worry about. I was more concerned about the reports of soft snow.

Anyway enough pre-amble – got to the car park by 8 & on my way by quarter past and reached the queenies’ bothy (Glas-allt-Shiel) within an hour. The track was partially snow covered but firm at this stage of the day. However it was clear that earlier in the year peeps hadn’t bothered with the track as there were footprints all along the West edge of Loch Muick. There were also tracks across Dubh Loch.

P1070311.JPG
North-East end of Loch Muick


P1070317.JPG
Evidence of foot tracks on Loch Muick

P1070317_detail.JPG
detail of above


P1070356.JPG
Just below Dubh Loch


P1070359.JPG
Dubh Loch #1


P1070386.JPG
Dubh Loch #2 – location of elevenses


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What I take to be the Central Gully of Creag an Dubh-loch


So along Dubh Loch and up beside Allt an Dubh-loch. Progress was really slow now – down to about 1.5 kph, with foot penetration varying from 1 to 2 inches to 1 to 2 feet. Very annoying. High up Eagles Rock (to the North of Dubh Loch) you could see gullies that had dumped their snow, so I guess I was walking through the semi-melted remains of avalanche out fall.

My immediate concern was crossing the Allt an Dubh-loch. From summer photos it appeared wide, shallow and rocky. Now it was narrow, in flood and snow covered. In the end I need not have worried because just after the prominent lip (not so prominent on the OS map but its just above the 790m contour line) the burn simply disappeared. Needless to say I took it extremely cautiously crossing where I thought it may be (lots of violent prodding) but all was well. Treated myself to lunch #2 as a reward (only 2k on but it was a 1.5 hour hard slog since #1).

P1070396.JPG
Dubh Loch from North-West (beside Allt an Dubh-loch)


P1070398.JPG
As above but with better view of Creag an Dubh-loch


Not so well was the weather – instead of the promised lifting cloud I got light snow. The summit of Cairn Bannoch was obscured but at least I could make out the approach. Topped out at 12:40 – 4.5 hours since car park, not bad for a [very soon to be] 50 year old in the given conditions.

There was one set of fresh foot prints. Had come from Broad Cairn and was headed to Carn an t-Sagairt Mòr. My guess was that he/she was doing the 5 Munro White Mounth circuit. Good luck to whoever it was.

It was a white out so it was out with the compass and take a bearing. I had planned to head for the Cairn of Gowal summit but instead just went for the 991m summit and then another bearing straight to Broad Cairn. The snow up here was fine to walk on (firm, no ice, no post holing) so I just had to worry about keeping on course.

P1070407.JPG
Your reporter at Cairn Bannoch displaying specs that weren’t up to the job (well they do let me see, but they don’t protect from snow blindness)


P1070409.JPG
The only view of Cairn Bannoch I got all day (i.e. not very good)


The clag lifted about half a k from Broad Cairn. The snow at this point had been blown into deep (2ft) furrows. Would have taken a few photos but the light was so flat I had trouble making them out. Also not so good when trying to walk across them. Took an hour to get from Cairn Bannoch to Broad Cairn (just over 2k).

P1070457.JPG
Loch Muick from Broad Cairn summit (Mount Keen just visible below clag)


P1070460.JPG
Mount Keen shows itself


I could now see the track that goes past Sandy's Seat but choose a more direct route to Loch Muick. Below 900m and it was back to post holing and my route now hunted out the exposed heather. Above Loch Muick the views where [for the most part] great: Lochnagar never put in an appearance but Mount Keen, the head of Glen Clova and the frozen waves of Loch Muick kept my interest. The zigzag path down to the loch side was the last of the post holing and then it was tired trudge back to the car. The only other poeple I saw all day appeared a mile ahead of me on the trudge back, but I never caught up with them. It was a Tuesday.

P1070469.JPG
Loch Muick


P1070478.JPG
Looking back at Dubh Loch with Carn an t-Sagairt Mòr looming behind


P1070490.JPG
South-West end of Loch Muick


As a footnote the next day (forecast to rain all day) was fine with high fluffy clouds in a clear blue sky – ‘spose you can’t win them all...
Last edited by Alastair S on Fri Mar 19, 2010 3:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Alastair S
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Re: Two hard earned: Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn

Postby mountain coward » Thu Mar 18, 2010 9:31 am

Superb report! I'm glad you posted that in such detail as I'm wanting to go off and do that sometime on my own this summer and had planned to take that exact route! Having done it, do you think it's best done in the direction you did it or would it be better the other way round?
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Re: Two hard earned: Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn

Postby Stretch » Thu Mar 18, 2010 9:58 am

Nicely done Alastair. Like yourself, I got excited about the forecast for Tuesday and headed to Mayar and Driesh, what a let down huh? Still good to stretch the legs, even when they were knee deep in wet snow.
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Re: Two hard earned: Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn

Postby gaffr » Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:08 am

Many thanks for your images from the far side of the great range.....don't very often get over to that side. Tuesday, here on the North side, produced a grand day on the well covered snowy ski slopes of Cairngorm. From what your pictures show the thaw has been greater on the South and East sides.
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Re: Two hard earned: Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn

Postby Alastair S » Thu Mar 18, 2010 2:06 pm

Thanks folks

mountain coward wrote:Having done it, do you think it's best done in the direction you did it or would it be better the other way round?

Don't think it makes much difference. Broad Cairn is a gentle slope in either direction and Cairn Bannoch isn't that steep. I simply chose to go anti-clockwise because I'll done the North-West shore of Loch Muick twice before in the other direction.

mountain coward wrote:I'm glad you posted that in such detail

I'm glad its appreciated as I'm a very slow writer as I like to get every detail right (& Gaelic doesn't come easily for me). In fact it felt a bit like homework :lol: May well go for the easy option next time....
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Re: Two hard earned: Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn

Postby kevsbald » Thu Mar 18, 2010 6:01 pm

Violent prodding indeed. :lol:
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Re: Two hard earned: Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn

Postby kinley » Thu Mar 18, 2010 7:41 pm

I'm glad we were out the week before - that sounds much harder work :lol:

I tend to get a bit gripy struggling through snow at that pace :?

Cheers for the report :D
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Re: Two hard earned: Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn

Postby Graeme D » Fri Mar 19, 2010 1:15 pm

Brilliantly atmospheric report and pictures Alastair. I'm hoping to do this as part of a two day overnighter expedition in May, so thanks for the heads-up, although I'm sure conditions will be somewhat different by then.
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Re: Two hard earned: Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn

Postby Holly Harlow » Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:43 pm

Glad you put this report in - I really enjoyed the photos and description but also I'm surprised there aren't more WH reports on what looks like an obvious circular route and the best scenery in the area after Lochnagar itself.

Am going to be in the area in Sept so was thinking of having a go at Creag an Dubh Loch central gully, seems to be a recognised easy winter climb but there's not much about it as a summer route except one or two mentions of some new rock debris.

If I do it, I'll post a report to keep yours company!
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