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White Mounth in the wee small hours

White Mounth in the wee small hours

Postby colin leeming » Thu Jul 03, 2014 9:53 pm

Route description: White Mounth Munros, Glen Muick

Munros included on this walk: Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch, Càrn a' Choire Bhòidheach, Càrn an t-Sagairt Mòr, Lochnagar

Date walked: 27/06/2014

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 29 km

Ascent: 1228m

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And so it was decided the previous week that we would attempt a munro in the dark ( alcohol has a lot to answer for ) , the choice being Lochnagar , and seen as we were up there , we , that being myself , Chrissy and Iain , not forgetting Munro dog , ( we`ll call her that to retain her anonymity ) might as well do the 18 mile round trip White Mounth circuit of 5 Munro`s.

Munro dog before the off
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It was decided that we would start our walk at about 10 pm from the Loch Muick car park after our hour and a half drive from Arbroath. On arriving at the car park we noticed that there was about a dozen cars already there , we knew that a majority of the owners of these were probably wild camping and that some may have had the same idea as us , and were doing a night walk. In the immediate vicinity of the car park we noticed a couple of tents and ruled out any chance of meeting these guys half way up a hill. And so onwards we went turning right a the visitor centre and crossing the bridge over the river Muick where we came upon a herd of deer about 30 strong , time to put Munro dog on the leash me thinks, i find it amazing how the deer up here will let you get so close to them , this is my 2nd time here and they were as close as this the last time as well. We follow the path up through the woods and come across about another 8 tents , we are now thinking that the likelihood of meeting anyone on the hill is doubtful. After coming out of the woods we head onwards and upwards on the well defined path , Munro dog at this stage has now been unleashed and is running around chasing anything that moves ( unsuccessfully i might add , did she think she was really going to catch a hare ? ) . We cross the stream and follow the path for what seems like the next 2 hours . The next thing we know , we can hear a dog barking , we know its not Munro dog as she is by our side and strangely enough she is not barking back , then we suddenly realise we have come across yet another tent with a very unhappy dog in it , and i suspect a very unhappy owner at being woken up at around midnight by three hikers and a hare chasing dog.( sorry if that was you ) Can`t be sure of the time , but it must have been around 12.30 am before we came to the ladder , it is now starting to get really dark , up until this time we still had not put on our head torches , we notice that the higher we climb , the closer the clouds are getting and that we would soon be in them. Head torches switched on and Munro dog`s funky red collar switched to flash mode , we head off up the ladder. By this time we are in the thick of the cloud, and i can only compare the head torches to driving in fog whilst on main beam in the car , couldn't see a thing ahead of us , but if we tilted the torches , we could see about 6 feet in front of us. it was to be like this for a while. The ladder was the only part i had my concerns about doing in the dark as i had done this in daylight before and knew of the drop to the right hand side of us. The GPS was showing we were on the right track and extra care was given on this part of our walk in the dark. We finally reach the top of the ladder , and from then on in it was like pea soup , i cant remember if there is much of a path after this or if it was just the case that we could not find it , but we make our way along the plateau mainly being guided by the GPS until we come to our next ascent that would take us up to Cac Carn Mor , which we could not see as we passed it on the path we had now picked up again . As we approached the summit of Cac Carn Beag the cloud lifted for a bout 5 or 10 mins , enough time for us see what i assume was Ballater all lit up like a Christmas tree , and a short period of cloud inversion to the left of us.

We finally reach the summit of Lochnagar at 1.15 am

Iain and Munro dog at the summit

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Chrissy and Iain at the summit
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Studying the summit indicator
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We now decide a well earned brew is on the cards and proceed to get the gas stoves and mess tins out , a bite to eat is had and a packet of hothands hand warmers is shared between Chrissy and I as we both are now having trouble feeling the tips of our fingers after taking our gloves off to have a bite to eat. After updating my status on Facebook to " reached the summit of Lochnagar at 1.15am , all safe and well " ( letting my partner back home know I'm ok as she said i was mad to do it in the dark , can`t think why ! ) we set off at around 2am and head for our next Munro , Carn a` Choire Bhoidheach.

The walk to the next Munro was pretty straightforward and uneventful , a good path all the way to the next summit , checking the GPS every now and then just to make sure we were on the right track. Summit was reached from memory at around 3 ish , we didn't stay long on top , the only delay we had was when Munro dog decided to disappear all together , i suppose it was only a few minutes that she evaded us , but it seemed like an age that we had been shouting on her through the clag with no sight of her returning , but, not for the first time or the last , she came bounding out of the mist , her collar emitting its beam of red light.

So off we go again into the clag to head for the next one , Carn an t-Sagairt Mor. Again its a pretty straightforward walk to the next one with a couple of stream crossings , a bit boggy here and there , but nothing too drastic. It is now starting to get light now and the head torches are switched to off . We are now at the foot of our next objective ( our third Munro of the night ) and seen as we will be returning down the same route that we will ascend , we leave our rucksacks at the foot of the hill , much to Iain's delight as he is now nursing a sore shoulder from carrying his heavy pack for so long , We are all relieved that we will have no packs on for the next 40 mins or so. The summit was reached in a what felt like a relatively short period of time , after reaching the summit cairn , we would have a quick look at the wing of the Canberra aircraft that crashed into the hill in 1956 killing two young airmen.

Chrissy and Iain head towards the Canberra wing
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A blurred Munro dog complete with flashing collar and Iain

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And so off we were again , we descend southeast towards the bealach and our fourth Munro of the early morning to retrieve our packs and head for Cairn Bannoch. We are about 10 mins from reaching the summit when we see yet again another tent in the distance, hopefully this time we have not disturbed the occupant as it is now somewhere between 4.30am and 5.00am.
Doesn't seem as cold as it was earlier , we have now been out on the hill for approximately 7 hrs. and feel we need to recharge our batteries....i.e ..get the soup on.

Soup time !
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Why does it always taste nicer on the hill out of a mess tin ? Sandwiches and soup eaten , we head off for our last munro , Broad Cairn , we can now safely switch off Munro dog`s flashy light as visibility is now getting better, the sun is even trying to make an appearance.

A tired looking Iain and Munro dog on Cairn Bannoch

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By this time there is a feeling of relief as we head south eastwards towards Broad cairn knowing that this is the last Munro of the day , we eventually reach the summit at 5.50 am

Iain on the last summit of the day , Broad cairn

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Me on the last Munro , Broad cairn

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I now stress to the other two that although we have completed our objective , we still have to get off the hill , which means descending through a boulder field off our final Munro whilst we and our legs are really tired , this is probably the time where things can go wrong , the last thing we need is snapped ankles etc. Fortunately for us , we get through the boulder field without any mishaps , Iain did say that he felt as if he could have fallen asleep whilst walking , he was that tired .
Seeing the animal shelter in the distance from Broad cairn ( Sandy's seat )
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we decide that we are going to have a rest there before the final leg to the car park. We reach it at about 6.40 am and decide that those who want to sleep can do so , but only until 7am , so Iain and I fall asleep almost instantly while Chrissy plays with her phone for the next 20 mins ( why isn't she tired ). I wake up at about 7.05am feeling really cold , Iain eventually wakes up and we are off again. Chrissy correctly estimates that we will descend from the plateau down to the level of Loch Muick and be at the bottom of the zig zag path in about an hours time. This has taken us to approximately just after 8 am and we still have an estimated 4km still to do. We are all in agreement that we should reach the car park at around 9am.

Iain , Chrissy and Munro dog head down the zig zag path
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Iain crosses the bridge over the Black Burn
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View from the Bridge looking back up the Black Burn
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Some of the local wildlife seemingly not too bothered about our presence
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just as we had predicted ,we arrived back at the car park at Loch Muick at exactly 9.00am. I don't know who was more relieved , us or Munro dog who made a beeline for the nearest cushion in the van and promptly got her head down.

Munro dog has more than earned her kip.....sleep tight !
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After taking our packs off and assessing which bits of our bodies ached the most , we sat for a short while and discussed how we were going to get our heads down as soon as we got home , that being after our hour and half drive home that was still to come , but for now we would head into Ballater in search of the finest full English breakfast they had to offer . By chance we were directed to a café called the Bothy ( highly recommended ) by one of the locals where each of us had what was a very good and plentiful full breakfast complete with toast and tea/coffees.
I was the volunteer driver for the return journey back to Arbroath whilst the other two who were also up front with me in the van were trying to fight sleep ( not very successfully i might add ) This kept me amused for most of the journey as Iain who was sitting in the middle seat , nearly ended up on my lap a few times every time i took a left turn. We arrived back in Arbroath at midday and I Myself was sleeping within 20 minutes of getting in the door.

So all in all a great night was had, I enjoyed every minute of it , Would i do it again ?.....YES!! , I don't know if I would have the confidence to do a hill that I haven't done before , i would still stick to hills that i have been on previously and know well. It would also have been nice to get a clear starry night and a stunning sunrise , but hey , maybe next time...watch this space.
Last edited by colin leeming on Fri Jul 04, 2014 9:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
colin leeming
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Re: White Mounth in the wee small hours

Postby weaselmaster » Thu Jul 03, 2014 10:56 pm

Interesting idea, never really done a hill in the dark except for return routes by headtorch in winter
would definitely be good on a clear night with a cracking sunrise
will think about trying it out sometime soon
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Re: White Mounth in the wee small hours

Postby Lmyk85 » Fri Jul 04, 2014 12:45 am

Backpacker and I did this route at night this year for the summer solstice and it was heaving!! Not seen such a busy hill since I was up Big Ben. Unfortunately claggy and tiresome when there's not too much to see :( I was a bit like Munro the dog and passed out in the car for 2 hours without even making it as far as breakfast!
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Re: White Mounth in the wee small hours

Postby Silverhill » Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:28 pm

Hmm, interesting indeed. I have walked through the night before, as part of a few 24 hour 50 mile charity walks. It was very special and I loved it. Yet I have never considered doing a munro at night. May have to amend this.
Anyway well done! :D
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Re: White Mounth in the wee small hours

Postby egeshills » Sun Jul 20, 2014 1:11 am

What a great review of our night Colin.most recommended night walk on a clear night very long nights walk with great rewards,plus the bonus I can do it again in daylight maybe just lochnagar on its own next time.some points of night / morning got very hard to cope with specially around sands seat with long road down still to do.will never forget this walk maybe food for thought for others. By the way Chrissy Glass while you were on holiday last week Colin & myself completed 4 more Monroe's which I recon takes me 5 in front if you require any blister patches I will happily go to chemist for you. Thanks again Colin for your planning and such a good walk report maybe next time Luggs will get a mention?
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