Conachraig is a bulky hill with three summits, situated just east of Lochnagar. It is most quickly climbed from the Spittal of Glenmuick by a detour from the normal route up Lochnagar. For a walk in its own right, the best approach is from from the north. The summit views are superb.
I had originally planned to venture up Conachraig back in May 2014, during my first attempt at the White Mounth Munro circuit, but due to losing direction and ending up at Loch Callater, time didn't permit it.
I put together a new plan of action and returned, dragging my buddy along for the ride, one final adventure of the season, with the intention of wild camping. There were two possibilities:
Plan A: Conachraig from Balmoral with an overnight stay at a Bothy or a wild camp nearby, return to Crathie Sunday morning to catch the bus back to Aberdeen. (the relaxed chill out weekend)
Plan B: Conachraig from Balmoral with an overnight stay at the bothy or wild camp by Loch Muick, return to Aberdeen in the morning via walk to Ballater. (the long tiresome keep fit routine)
It was to be the latter.
So we caught the 7:45am bus from Aberdeen, arriving in Crathie at 9:45am.
It was a very wet morning after a night of heavy rain but we got lucky and the rain soon eased off as we arrived.
We crossed the River Dee from Crathie Car park into the Balmoral Estate where there was a guard standing by the gates to Balmoral Castle. We gave him a royal wave and continued to follow the route to Conachraig as described by WalkHighlands.
Jay Crossing the River Dee to Balmoral
following the landrover track
It wasn't too long before we arrived at our first destination, Gelder Shiel bothy (about 2.5 hours), where we would stop for some lunch.
Gelder Shiel Cottage
Gelder Shiel Bothy
Once approaching Gelder Shiel, we were greeted by some security/plain clothes officers, who were expecting a special guest. (not us apparently!) "She" was soon to arrive for lunch at the Gelder Shiel house (which is situated beside the bothy). They were friendly chaps but seemed quite eager for us to move on. It was suggested that we kept out of view and refrained from taking photos.
We had a 5 min rest inside the Gelder Shiel bothy before making a decision to press on a mile or two and have lunch where our presence would not offend anyone. As we left Gelder Shiel, we crossed the small bridge over the river, passing the back of the house and continued to follow the landrover track for a bout a mile before realising we were not supposed to have crossed the river!! Oh dear.
Too late to go back now, we continued to follow the river until we could find a suitable place to cross. After about two miles of trekking through the heather, I finally found a place to cross but it would include a Bear Grylls style run and jump from the last stepping stone. The plan was to throw the rucksack over first, then make a jump. It looked so simple!
trying to find a place to cross
Unfortunately after throwing my bag across and shouting "Geronimo", it bounced off the heather and into the water, and as I jumped across to save it I also ended up in the water. My bag was now in the process of being carried back down the river, there was only one thing for it, I ran along the riverbank for a short distance before jumping in to save it, soaking myself up to my knees. My pal was on the other side of the river in stitches, at this point I didn't know whether I was going to help him across or push him in!! But at the end of the day it was worth it just to get across that ruddy stream!!
After emptying the water out of my boots we climed up through the heather to reach the track we were supposed to be following. What a relief it was to be back on a path... and we stopped for lunch.
Back on the correct route
A couple more miles along the track we joined up with the Lochnagar path, where the climb up Conachraig begins.
Looking back - Which way now? (The left: Lochnagar, Ahead: Back to Gelder Shiel/Balmoral, Right: Conachraig Hill)
The path up to Conachraig
looking back down
We left the bags at the bottom of the hill while we ascended Conachraig, visiting the three summits and admiring the clear views of Lochnagar and the Spittal of Glenmuick.
Looking down to the Spittal of Glenmuick
After taking in the views we headed back down to the Lochnagar path, by now it was about 5pm, time was getting on and we had to get down to Loch Muick before dark. We followed the Lochnagar path down towards the Spittal of Glen Muick car park, turning right once reaching the forest to soon reach Loch Muick.
fun and games
through the forest
Reaching Loch Muick
Other end of the loch at Glas-Allt-Shiel, taken earlier in the year when I completed the White Mounth Munros
It took just over an hour to walk to the other end of Loch Muick, finally reaching the bothy, just after 7pm.
Inside the bothy
We cooked up some Burgers using the mess tin, which we'd been looking forward to all day before heading back outside to enjoy a few beers and some tunes by the loch. We got a small fire going using some left over wood that was lying around.
Sitting out by the loch enjoying a few Beers
It stayed dry for the rest of the night but after a while we moved the fire indoors and used up the leftover wood that was lying inside the bothy. Kept it going until the early hours, a few Vodkas here and there!
the fire glows into the night
We got about an hours sleep, then we were back on the road, at 5am to walk back along the loch to the Spittal of Glenmuick. This took about 2 hours. From here it was another 8 mile walk to Ballater, to catch the bus back to Aberdeen, finally arriving in Ballater at about 10am, with 45 mins to spare before the bus. Went to the Co-Op for munchies.
Hope you enjoyed the report, that is my adventures finished for this year although I still have a report to write for Skye Trail which I completed in September. Will get round to that soon.