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A tramp over the White Mounth
by adamarchie » Thu Mar 01, 2012 4:08 pm
Route description: White Mounth Munros, Glen Muick
Munros included on this walk: Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch, Carn a'Choire Bhoidheach, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, Lochnagar
Date walked: 28/02/2012
Time taken: 8.75 hours
Distance: 29 km
Ascent: 1500m3 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).
So I'd been obsessively weather-watching for a fortnight. The news on the whole wasn't good: a full-swing thaw was unceremoniously denuding the mountains. Straight off, this put paid to my plan of ski touring the route I'm about to describe, and the thought of missing out on its winter beauty was rather sad. However, too much of that attitude and you'd never leave home, eh? And it's worth remembering that, on the day, the mercurial Scottish weather can conjure marvellous things out of the most unpromising ingredients.
So my response to 5am's alarm was as enthusiastic as the hour generally permits. I drowsily located breakfast and some sandwich ingredients in my aunt's kitchen while feeding the cats who'd come in from the cold at the unlikely sight of a light. Then gear packed and into the car for the hour and half's drive to Glen Muick.
I was about halfway in when the crimson of sunrise forced me off the road and out into the chilly dawn air to attempt phone camera documentation. The hills to the west were blushing crimson and orange at the sight of this new day, seeming to presage something less utilitarian than a shepherd's warning.
Sure enough, as predicted by MWIS, the clouds didn't look too low. I got a first tantalising glimpse of Lochnagar, its corrie stark black and white against this sea of morning colour. It alone had the reach to grip the cloud down to it and there was no doubting its determination to hold on.
I got parked just before 8 - second in the car park - and set off. Soon the Paramo jacket came off and I was sweating uphill through the woods in a t-shirt.
Then the wind hit, a stiff westerly. If it was this strong down here, I knew the first half of the day could turn into quite a battle up on the plateau, and it wasn't long before the Paramo was back on.
I took a chocolate break in the last bit of shelter I could find beneath Meikle Pap and then climbed up to the bealach to see what Lochnagar had in store. Well, it was pretty ferocious, certainly gusting up to 70mph just at that bottleneck: the only way out of the corrie for the west to northwesterlies. This only added to the menace of the cliffs and gullies under cloud. Before the weather misbehaved, I'd hoped to ascend via Black Spout, the chink in the armour, and I was gladdened to see the thaw hadn't eaten into it much, this last northeast vestige of winter. However, the thought of being buried by a few tons of steep frowning cornice had been enough to scotch the plan.
Instead, I staggered up the boulder field to the left, balance a bit of an issue in the wind, before continuing round and up, keeping mostly to the lip of this most superb corrie. As I got higher, into the cloud now, I was pleased to find its majestic cornices still very much asserting themselves at the gully peaks, though there were clear signs of rot at the near edges (climbers beware!)
Having found my way to the top of Black Spout, a sudden break in the cloud revealed Cac Carn Beag to my left and I made for it.
The top reached, I chowed down in the lee of the summit rocks while the clouds fell away with perfect punctuality, revealing a semi-frozen Loch nan Eun couched in the Stuic Buttress and, to its left, the barely noticeable swelling of my onward destination.
All now clear before me, I walked some of the way towards Cac Carn Mor before turning southwest for Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach which was to be my 50th Munro. A less inspiring summit can scarcely be imagined. In fact even its local path eschews it to the north. My 50th really ought to have been a more fitting An Stuc under snow, 10 days previously, but for the downrating of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean to Corbett status. I did though dutifully take a picture.
The onward route to Carn an t-Sagairt Mor did at least promise a wee snow field on the ascent and, having contoured round Carn an t-Sagairt Beag, I made straight for it. En route, I was discovering an advantage to walking into a stiff wind in the wilderness: the animals ahead of you don't so easily sense your approach and I saw quite a number of snow hares - one came closer than 10m while I was sat eating lunch - as well as a couple of ptarmigan, not to mention plenty of grouse. After a minor slog I was on top of this slightly more prominent mound and met my first fellow-walker of the day. I envied his account of having done these hills on skis on a previous occasion. He was able to give me vague directions to the aircraft wreckage on the west slopes and, after some sustenance, I went in search of it.
See http://www.aircrashsites-scotland.co.uk/canberra_c-t-sagairt-mor01.htm for details of the aircraft and the mysterious circumstances surrounding its demise. The most noteworthy remains I was able to find were a wheel and a crumpled engine. To find the former, bear 200m at 230 degrees from the southern summit cairn. From there, it's about 150m at 185 degrees to the latter.
Still out of the cloud, the onward journey over Cairn Bannoch to Broad Cairn was a fine moorland tramp affording cracking views of Eagles Rock to the north and Coire Loch Kander to the southwest.
Broad Cairn reached, I was back in sight of Loch Muick, the air scented with burning heather ahead.
I managed to find a bit more snow on the northeasterly aspect of the mountain to give the descent some variety, though nothing warranting an exchange of walking poles for ice axe, before picking up what is more of a Landrover track than a path. I considered leaving it to take the route which leads down the hillside to the southwest end of the loch, but opted for the high-level views instead. I was not disappointed, finally getting a good eyeful of Creag an Dubh-loch.
However, the feet were now starting to hurt a little and I pressed on all the more quickly with the Spittal back in view: the final descent of the day is one aspect of hillwalking I could happily skip, fine sunsets excepted. As final miles go though, those along the east shore of Loch Muick, looking back at your last summit as a prodigal sun threads late afternoon light over the water, aren't bad ones.
I reached the car with its accompanying comforts (principally a change of footwear) at quarter to five and, with a good dinner in prospect, the day was still looking better and better.
by adamarchie » Mon Mar 05, 2012 6:33 pm
love the first photo
by Steve B » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:15 am
This is timely too as I have been of thinking this trip for my next one.
Well done on the 50.
I would suggest you look at the Cairnwell for a sorry excuse for a Munro!
by adamarchie » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:04 am
Can heartily recommend the White Mounth route. You never know, we might be lucky and get some more snow. If I were to do it again in summer, I reckon a good plan would be to descend from Lochnagar into the Loch nan Eun basin and climb Byron's Stuic scramble to add some further interest.
by Steve B » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:21 am
by adamarchie » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:17 am
I don't have it (yet) in any guidebook, though have just ordered one or two that may contain it. Here's a description which can handily be accessed for free via Google Books: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=J4J0 ... on&f=false
by icemandan » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:45 am
for Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach which was to be my 50th Munro. A less inspiring summit can scarcely be imagined.
Agree that this is one of the least inspiring summits in Scotland. As pointless objectives go, it's almost up there with the South Pole. I wonder if it would have made the cut if Sir Hugh hadn't been from the East.
by Steve B » Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:49 am
Thanks for the link. Looks like the way to go!
by Fudgie » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:52 pm
by adamarchie » Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:43 pm
Icemandan, that may well explain it! Just completely nonsensical that this is a Munro. Only 2km from Lochnagar and only rises 60m above the low point between the two. So many "tops" are considerably worthier. Just think of the Tarmachan ridge for instance. One Munro?!
by icemandan » Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:55 pm
Many years ago I had to turn back on Carn an -t-Sagairt Mor due to bad weather and for a long time it remained the only Munro east of the Cairnwell Pass that I hadn't done.
On a short day last November, I did a trip specifically to do it. It was cold, boggy and wet and the clag never lifted.
So at least you saw the view and did some proper hills as well!
by Fudgie » Thu Mar 08, 2012 12:49 pm
adamarchie wrote:Fudgie, go for it! It's a day you'll certainly not regret, and the extra daylight in April will enable a slightly more leisurely start. Just make sure you've got comfortable footwear!
Cheers for that. It's a 3 hour dive from here to the starting point so I'll probably head up the night before and stay in a b&b or hotel. The problem is I can't plan it too much as I've no idea what the weather will be like