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Lochnagar & Conachcraig come what May - damn you Judith!

Lochnagar & Conachcraig come what May - damn you Judith!

Postby Graeme D » Tue May 04, 2010 5:44 pm

Munros included on this walk: Lochnagar

Corbetts included on this walk: Conachcraig

Date walked: 01/05/2010

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 18 km

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A bank holiday long weekend and May is upon us! :D :D :D :D

I was absolutely determined to get out this weekend, come what may. With various other commitments over the next 6 weeks (friends coming to stay, Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, annual school trip to Strasbourg e.t.c.), it could be some time until I get out in the hills again. OK, I've got my D of E outings to look forward to, but it's not the same as just getting out there and going where I want to go.

My wife also seemed keen to get out for a hill day. With her having thrown her hat into the ring, that narrowed down the options. I knew she wouldn't fancy an unassuming Corbett, or even a double header on Oss and Dubhcraig, so it was either Beinn Narnain and the Cobbler or Lochnagar (hopefully with the Corbett Conachcraig thrown in). We settled on the latter, but I didn't fancy mingling with the multitudes on these popular routes on a Bank Holiday Monday. In any case, we were hoping to spend the day on Monday in Edinburgh.

I really only had one eye and one ear on the weather forecast on Reporting Scotland on Friday night, but it was enough to hear Judith Ralston swear blind that Monday was to be the best day (hey ho, no good to us) but that Saturday was to be pretty good too, certainly better than Sunday. If I recall correctly, her exact words were something like "some cloud and patchy rain in the morning but mainly in the south and clearing by early afternoon, fine with increasingly frequent sunny spells further north". Debbie had checked the forecast online too, and she said that Saturday did indeed look like a decent day. That was decided then!

We were off by 8.30 the following morning, accompanied by grey skies and heavy showers all the way up through Blairgowrie and over the Cairnwell Pass and down into Braemar. As I stopped at Braemar to pop into Alldays for some provisions, there were definite signs of blue sky burning through. Nice one Judith - tell it like it is!

This proved to be an all too fleeting sighting of blue sky however :( . As we turned off the main road at Crathie and past the main Balmoral entrance, the windscreen wipers had their work cut out and I could tell that Debbie was not a very happy passenger. The rain did ease before too much longer and by the time we were pulling into the almost packed out car park at Spittal of Glenmuick, it had entirely relented but there was no sign of the sun or blue sky breaking through the grey skies. :(

We headed off across the flats towards the estate buildings at Allt-na-giubhsaich, with a steady stream of walkers in front and behind, and serious doubts forming in my mind as to Judith's credentials as a weather forecaster! :?

Heading towards Allt-na-giubhsaich

Beyond the buildings, the numbers on the path were swollen by people coming in from the other side of the estate buildings, and by the time we left the forestry and emerged onto the open moors, the scene resembled some kind of biblical exodus or flood of refugees from some natural disaster in the Third World!

Emerging from the forestry

Like Princes Street during the Festival!

We put our feet to the boards and tried to make our way through the masses as best we could. A moment of light entertainment was inadvertently provided by some guy who thought he could cross the river without due care and attention and promptly took a full length header into the drink :lol: . Bad enough this happening when nobody is watching, but the poor bloke had an audience of thousands! Ahhh, the joys.... :lol:

Debbie didn't fancy doing Conachcraig, but she was happy enough for me to go on ahead and catch her up on the path up Lochnagar. Just before the track bent right to head due north, Lucy and I cut off onto the heathery slopes of the Corbett and began to make a bee line for the summit. I had checked the map and knew it wasn't too far away. I was moving fast, not wanting to let Debbie get too far ahead while I was gone, and could feel myself beginning to burn up under my layers. It was a relief when we finally met up with the path up Conachcraig, where I left my pack and poles and proceeded to half walk, half run up towards the summit. It wasn't long until the flat granite tors on the summit plateau came into view, covered in a light dusting of that days snowfall. I took a few quick shots and headed back off down the path at a fair canter.

Conachcraig summit (865m point looking north to Caisteal na Caillich)

A cloud covered Lochnagar from Conachcraig

It wasn't long before I was reunited with my gear and not long after that I was back among the seething masses. The forty minutes or so of solitude had been very welcome.

There was no sign of Debbie anywhere, and these masses were not the same masses I had fought my way through earlier. She was surely ahead of me on the path up Lochnagar, so I continued to eat up the ground and whizz past a multitude of jeans, tracksuits and trainers until I eventually caught up with a couple of women I recognised from earlier, who confirmed that Debbie was not far ahead. Right enough, 5 minutes later, there she was taking a breather on a rock by the side of the path. I felt like I was on fire and must have looked like a tomato that had spent too long under the grill, so I was glad of the respite and the chance to gulp down some water.

Meikle Pap from the path to the south east

Looking back to Conachcraig

Rested and watered, we headed off again and soon reached the bealach where there were atmospheric views down into the loch and over to the brooding, shrouded cliffs above it. By this stage, we seemed to have shaken off most of the people around us and could enjoy some relative peace and quiet as we continued the ascent up onto the plateau.

At the bealach, approaching the edge of the coire

Meikle Pap from the bealach

Debbie and Lucy above the coire

By now I was fast losing any lingering notions of faith in Judith's forecast and was resigned to our fate - gathering around the view indicator at the summit to look at what it was that we were unable to see! Still, it was a fairly pleasant walk across the plateau skirting the cliff edge, although in a few places, Lucy got a little too close to the still scary looking cornices for comfort! :shock:

Onto the plateau

Approaching Cac Carn Mor

At the summit of Cac Carn Mor we were reunited with the masses, many of whom were hunkering down to have lunch, I'm quite certain in the belief that they were at the summit. We continued straight on to Cac Carn Beag, where we took a few shots , enjoyed the non-existent views and settled down to lunch in a little rock crevice.

Debbie at view indicator

Getting high at the trig point

From here we retraced our steps to Cac Carn Mor where I attempted to take a bearing for the path leading down to the waterfall and Loch Muick. My compass seemed to have other ideas however, and try as I might, I could not get it to settle down. It was just going haywire, no matter how I held it or where I pointed it. In the end, I gave up and decided to wing it, but we soon realised that we had gone wrong somewhere. To make matters worse, the weather was deteriorating fast, with needle sharp sleet-cum-hail now driving into our faces and visibility dropping by the minute. Damn you Judith, and may a plague be upon your house!

Debbie confessed to being a little bit concerned at this turn of events, so we decided to abort our plans to descend via Loch Muick and to retrace our ascent route instead. We continued back across the plateau to the top of the Ladder and down the stone staircase to the bealach, still being met by an oncoming stream of unsuitably clad walkers heading up the way.

Oh well, not exactly what had been planned, but a pleasant enough day out anyway, made all the more interesting by the detour to Conachcraig. Clearly not an ideal way to enjoy the summit views from Lochnagar, which just means I'll have no option but to include it in my planned future White Mounth circuit! :D

The return along the track was uneventful (other than a sighting of a mass river crossing by deer down on the flats) and quiet in comparison to the walk in and 6.5 hours after setting off, we were back at the car just in time for the sun to break through the clouds. Judith!!!!!!! :evil: :evil: :evil:

Nice way to end
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Graeme D
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Re: Lochnagar & Conachcraig come what May - damn you Judith!

Postby monty » Tue May 04, 2010 8:13 pm

Hi Graeme,
Me and Danrun done these two plus the round last week in the snow and clag. It proved to be hard going. I am surprised you choose to do it on Saturday because my reading of the weather was that Sunday was to be the best day and I had good weather fo my walk, however saying that Danrun was in the fog and clag for most of his on the Sunday too :lol:

I suppose you take your chances. Nice pictures.

Re: Lochnagar & Conachcraig come what May - damn you Judith!

Postby Graeme D » Tue May 04, 2010 9:25 pm

In the Scottish mountains, you do indeed Monty! :lol:

I was hinting in the report that maybe we didn't actually pay enough attention to the forecast so maybe we just heard it wrong. Serves us right for not double checking our facts! Anyway, it was still a good day, and like I said, I now have every excuse to rack it up again in better weather. :D
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Graeme D
Posts: 3613
Munros:225   Corbetts:107
Grahams:65   Donalds:22
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Location: Perth

Re: Lochnagar & Conachcraig come what May - damn you Judith!

Postby mountain coward » Wed May 05, 2010 12:44 am

That's just like me and Richard! I keep trotting off to do the surrounding 'tops', Corbetts and the like (or any other peak which takes my fancy in the vicinity) while Richard is only interested in the main event... the only difference is, I can never find him when I get back from my diversions! (Maybe he's trying to tell me something :lol: )

I'm surprised you got parked there on a Bank Holiday weekend! LOL to the poor guy who went for an impromptu swim :lol: How embarrassing! That was like when I got impatient with a huge group of 30 or so crossing the stepping stones at Rosthwaite in Borrowdale and taking an absolute age. They were literally stepping onto one stone with both feet, wavering around, then after a pause, moving onto the next stone. I was irate when they wouldn't break up their little group to let one person past (me) and when I caught up with the last guy dawdling across, I tried to pass him. Of course I ended up putting my foot on the mossy and slippery stone edge and that was me in the river in front of the whole group! I came out of the river drenched in blood and with a chipped elbow :( How embarrassing!

Haven't done Lochnagar yet (although I'm dying to) so those photos are pretty useful thanks...
mountain coward

Re: Lochnagar & Conachcraig come what May - damn you Judith!

Postby Milesy » Wed May 05, 2010 9:43 am

Nice shot of the Lochnagar coire. Plenty of snow in the blackspout gully.
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Re: Lochnagar & Conachcraig come what May - damn you Judith!

Postby kevsbald » Wed May 05, 2010 11:55 am

I won't have anyone slagging off that fine specimen of a woman. She makes my day in the morning, with her thrusting hips and isobars! :shock:
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