Lochnagar Xmas Eve treat
by Alastair S » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:17 am
Route description: Lochnagar from Glen Muick
Munros included on this walk: Lochnagar
Date walked: 24/12/2010
Time taken: 7.5 hours
Distance: 19.2 km
Ascent: 1091m2 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Last winter it seemed that I sat in the office for weeks on end looking out at fabulous blue skies and perfect winter conditions and every weekend the cloud or another blizzard would come in and wipe out the weekend. The feeling was compounded by kinley's scintillating Lochnagar - Glen Muick redeems itself midweek report. Six days latter when I did eventually get to the Loch Muick area the thaw had set in and the going was fairly tough for Cairn Bannoch & Broad Cairn. I did have a good day in March when I tackled 3 White Mounth Munros from Loch Callater. It was while I sat atop Lochnagar on this day that I saw a couple of walkers approaching from the NE ridge and thought that would have to be my next way up (having failed to get to the Lochnagar corrie in late Feb when I only made it as far as Gelder Shiel).
So the week before Xmas the weather was set fair and I managed to get Xmas Eve off at short notice. The next problem was getting to the mountains. All the main roads may have been cleared but the minor ones were a different story. I thought the Linn of Dee road was more likely to have been cleared than the Loch Muick road so had planned to tackle Sgor Mor, a Corbett I have yet to do. But I thought I'd have a look at the Loch Muick road on the way. As it turned out the road was just about passable to non-4WD, 2-WD, non-snow tyred, non-snow socked, run of the mill, front wheel drive Mondeo. Only one other car in the mostly cleared car park, so £3 parking paid and it was off on my way by 8:30. Temperature was a balmy -4C, having driven though -9C on the way up.
Forecast was excellent so was initially a bit disappointed by the amount of lowish cloud gathered around Lochnagar. Going was pretty good to start with: 10cm of powdery snow but recent tracks to follow along the path. Followed the standard route onto the slopes of Meikle Pap and then diverged on a NW direction to edge round this top and so into the grand corrie. From around 750m there was hard ice under the powder and as I headed north this frozen névé became more exposed so it was on with the crampons.
When I rounded Meikle Pap I was bit disappointed by the cloud obscuring the top of the cliff but the lochan was a smooth milky expanse.
The map shows a series of wee lochans below the main one but from afar they weren't visible. So I headed for the northern end of the main lochan, found a small trickle of water draining out of it and crossed there... but as soon as I stood on the other side there was an ominous cracking sound. I hurried on and in retrospect I suspect I walked across 5m of one of the frozen lochans. Looking back it was still difficult to make out the outline of the lochans in the flat light - but it was the feel of the ground under my crampons that was the give away.
Next it was the brief but steep ascent to reach the NE ridge. I was hoping this section would be like the north side of Meikle Pap but the opposite was true, it was deep soft windslab. It may have only been 300-400m long with perhaps 100m of ascent but this section took me a good 20 minutes and was exhausting. I was not a little relieved when I reached safer ground on the ridge. There were still deep drifts round some of the boulders but generally it was only calf deep and not quite so steep. But not having been out much recently I was nowhere near peak fitness and it was hard work. On the way up had to stop a couple of times for a breather and a bit of sustenance. Sat down in a clump of rocks for some shelter and was struck by the formation of rime on the rock in front of me. The "teeth" are about 5-8cm long.
But once I got to the plateau the cloud had gone and the rest of the day was just wonderful. I'll let the photos tell the story form here...
Over 3000ft - looking down & across to Meikle Pap (980m) & a partially clouded Conachcraig (865m) from the north east ridge of Lochnagar.
View North - still wearing crampons but could have done without up here
Lochnagar Plateau - even the snow was rimed making it very bobbly
The Clag Clears
No guessing where I'm headed
Virgin Summit - definitely the first & almost certainly the only person to reach the summit of Lochnagar on this day. The trig point is dead centre
Frozen trig - that black midday sky again
Towards the Cairngorms #1 - looking north from the summit
Rime rock @ summit
Lochnagar sunburst #1
Approaching cloud - cloud coming up from The Stuic. Luckily I only caught the edge of this so didn't have any whiteout problems
Lochnagar plateau #2 with Cac Carn Mor on the horizon
Conachcraig & Meikle Pap from the summit
Towards the Cairngorms #2
Foot prints (mine)
Through the gap: Meikle Pap (980m)
Cac Carn Mor
Lochnagar cliffs #1
Lochnagar corrie #1
Lochnagar sunburst #2
Lochnagar cliffs #2
Lochnagar corrie #2
Towards Loch Muick
Approaching Loch Muick #1
Approaching Loch Muick #2
Loch Muick sundown #1
There's a crack in Loch Muick. A small burn (Allt an Dearg) flows into the loch at this point and it would appear to have weaken the ice at this point such that a crack propagated right across the loch. Snow has built up at the crack making it visible from afar.
Lock Muick sundown #2
Risky. The distant walkers turned out to be three young lads. One of them ventured a good 20m onto the ice while his mate attacked it with his ice axe! I stood well back. In the end no harm accrued. The ice was apparently over 2 inches thick.
Sun sets behind Loch Muick
Loch Muick boat house sunset
Back to the car park in good twilight by 4pm and was soon on my way - I still had Xmas presents to wrap but it felt like I'd opened mine early
Flickr slideshow over here
by LeithySuburbs » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:30 am
That cracking sound over ice is a little unnerving from experience .
That sky is sooooo blue in your great pics - did you use a polariser?
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- yorkie bagger
by alanmurray » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:15 am
Dawn and dusk are awesome times, and you have captured it superbly.
Much better to be on the hills than wrapping presents and preparing for Christmas lunch.
Just a fab report!
by Paul Webster » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:23 am
by Merry-walker » Tue Jan 04, 2011 11:56 am
I'm a bit speechless, which I don't often get.
Stunning pictures and fantastic report. Thank you!
by malky_c » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:24 pm
Are you trying to make Paul break his own rules and award report of the month to you twice in a row?
Would love to have been out on Christmas eve. It was probably the best of the good weather before the thaw.
by Alastair S » Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:32 pm
What I didn't mention was that originally I'd intended to return via Meikle Pap to get more shots of the corrie. However when I saw the other walkers on the plateau I just followed their tracks assuming they were going that way. It wasn't till I got to Little Pap that I realized which way they were going. But serendipity was smiling on me.
It was also the kind of day where company would have been most welcome - you don't get many such days in the hills and it would have been nice to share it with someone(s). Also would have helped gee me up when I was feeling knackered
LeithySuburbs wrote:That sky is sooooo blue in your great pics - did you use a polariser?
No, I have a polariser but when using a wide-angle lens I don't like partial effect it gives. I shoot in RAW, convert to JPG and then tweak in Photoshop Elements - which is why I take so long to post my reports (especially when I take tons of photos like this day). The two main tweaks I do are to sharpen the foreground and balance the levels between the foreground and sky. On sunny days pro snappers will use graduated neutral density filters to balance the [exposure] levels between ground & sky. This means using a tripod and I don't have time for that on the hills. Another technique is to take bracketed exposures & blend in post-production, but again you need a tripod for the best results. I just make sure the sky isn't blown out (over-exposed) when I take my shots in the field. The conversion from RAW to JPG also gives you options to balance levels. The effect of all the balancing is to darken the sky making it much richer in colour.
yorkie bagger wrote:Im sure I saw this report and photos and few days ago?
I posted a link to my flickr set before I went off to Kintail for hogmanay as I didn't have time to do the report then. Kintail reports to follow (eventually).
As for Walk of the Month prizes I couldn't possibly comment
by Merry-walker » Tue Jan 04, 2011 3:00 pm
by tomyboy73 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 3:07 pm
by weemistermac » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:08 pm
by kinley » Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:33 pm
I want a few more days like that
Seem to have missed this report - glad I found it now
by foggieclimber » Sat Jan 08, 2011 3:36 pm
Have been up Lochnagar many times but never on a day as stunning as this.
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