A last minute change of plan turned out to be an absolute belter.
I'd taken another trip back to Aberdeen for the weekend from NL. I was in major need of some Munro Therapy and had convinced (read: bullied) one of my good mates to climb Lochnagar with me. I assembled the flimsiest of excuses to work from our Aberdeen offices that Friday - like some off-beige IKEA bookshelf - in order to maximise the amount of time spent enjoying time back at some sort of altitude. Poster's note: I Live and work in The Netherlands and am fully convinced, as a born and bred Scot, that humans are not built to survive exclusively at sea level..
Lochanagar was one of my first Munros and without doubt my "most frequently climbed". I love it due to its proximity to home (grew up within 50km of Aberdeen itself), how accessible it is and that view of the Loch and Corrie from ~250m below the summit.
I'd recently purchased my MSR Elixir 2 Tent (along with a Rab Neutrino 600 bag) in a moment of particular sea-level-induced weakness a few weeks back. I'd had experience with this tent before but now I had my own I was absolutely itching to get the good of it - as either of my Doric grannies would encouragingly remark. My friend had never climbed Lochnagar and was delighted at my suggestion however, on the morning before we left i'd thought we'd somewhat underestimated our abilities and I reckoned we could stretch the legs a little further.
Walkhighlands to the rescue once again, upon searching for decent routes we could cover over a couple of days with reasonable time at height and with ridges we could walk I stumbled across the White Mounth Munros circuit around Loch Muick (https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/cairngorms/white-mounth.shtml).
Being a circuit, as circuits tend to be, you can choose to attack the round either way around the Loch. Personally i'd recommend beginning with Lochnagar as the way up towards the Corrie from the Loch is the real money shot here. The weather did not disappoint and allowed my lowly iPhone to take some of the best panoramas i've ever managed to capture during our excellently timed ham and beetroot sandwich break (believe me, they're a game changer). Sadly the dreaded 690 pixel wide rule negates the ability to upload said panos, but here we are.
Take the very well-definired and equally well-travelled path from the Car Park, past the wee shop and turn right at the wee stone buildings to begin your ascent up to Lochnagar. You'll get to "the Ladder" before you know it and the repetitive - and somewhat wearisome stone path - accelerates you up to your paydirt with a plateau at the top opening up to reveal views down to the Loch, the famous crags over the far side and Meikle Pap over your right shoulder. Class.
Steeply to your left the stone steps wind up to take you up almost to summit height, where you'll rejoin a clear path taking you past two separate - and sizeable - cairns round to your right and following the rough top of the crags you saw a wee half hour before. The path straightens out and leads you straight up to the summit which on a clear day would seem impossible to miss however, when the snow closes in and visibility drops right down settling for one of the lower "poor-weather" cairns is much more palatable.
Trace your steps back down off the summit and take the path which would lead you back down to Loch Muick if that was your intent only to tackle the one summit that day. Instead of peeling of to your left hand side, continue on towards Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach which is a slight detour of approx. 1km to the South of the path (which is easily spotted as a 90 degree take off).
We elected to double back at this point (partially due to the time of day - we had a later than planned start due, in part, to my route planning) as given the early evening weather an overnight on the shores of Loch Nan Eun was far too good to pass up. There's a reasonable steep scree down to the Level of the Loch from your existing path but fairly easily navigated. Keep an eye our for the not insignificant snow patches still present around here perpetuating the age old saying about snow melt in this region.
The choice to stay here overnight was an absolute corker. One of the most picturesque wee Lochans we'd come across, the whole place to ourselves and phenomenal sunlight long into the night. Be aware that even so, you'd still be sleeping at approx 1100m here if you decide to strike camp. The Elixir 2 dealt with a fair bit of wind whipping through overnight as the temps dropped and the Rab Neutrino 600 was barely aware we were outside - albeit the thing is designed for somewhat harsher conditions. Fully recommend to overnight here if you're going to split the route into two relaxed days.
Instead of scrambling back up the scree you camp down first thing the next morning, strongly advise to continue round the Western edge of the Loch and head West still for about 1km. You'll jump over a wee run off from the Loch which almost manages to make it's way further North to feed Sandy Loch before you come across a much more gradual kick-up to your left letting you climb much more easily back towards your path taking you down the Southwestern flank of Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach before kicking back up towards your 3rd summit: Carn an t-Sagairt Mor.
If you're running this route then Summits 2 through to 5 are going to be a piece of cake (if potentially a little dull?). Largely you're at fairly consistent height from here on and certainly after Carn an t-Sagairt Mor you're lead in a Easterly direction essentially all the way back to the car on a long, softly undulating ridge before a sweeping descent off Broad Cairn. Having said that, if you're walking then the path is consistent, well marked and easy to follow.
Continue to Cairn Bannoch which is a relatively unassuming summit so don't miss it altogether and have to come back purely just to get this one in the bag. A very slight climb up to your last Summit at Broad Cairn will reward you with some great views of the Loch and Glen from the South Side. The climb down from Broad Cairn is fairly gradual and the path is massively well-maintained. Broad Cairn is "accessible" and because of this it's busy. Call me negative but i'm hugely glad we elected to do the round the way we did as coming up Broad Cairn, personally, just pails in comparison to the effort and reward of Lochnagar straight out of the traps.
An additional bonus of doing the circuit this way around will afford you a cracking walk back towards the car with the Loch on your left and fantastic views of the Glen. If you've time head down to one of the beaches on the Lochside and if you're running it make sure to take the fell runner's dip by the Boathouse on the Eastern shore once you're almost home.
A massively versatile route made a hundred times more pleasant by knock-out Scottish weather. This makes a great, and very relaxed two-day or a brilliant day out running if you're that way inclined and the distance is made somewhat more manageable tackling Lochnagar first on fresh legs and taking full advantage of the helpful gradient on the way back in.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.