Munros: Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch, Carn a'Choire Bhoidheach, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, Lochnagar
Date walked: 14/04/2018
Time taken: 9.5 hours
After a damp and misty day on Braemar Crobetts yesterday, the forecast for the Saturday was quite positive. In summary: mist until just before midday, then clear for most of the afternoon, with a return to mist/rain/snow at the back end of the day. So I just had to decide which of the 2 possible routes I'd planned to go for: Lochnagar or Glen Clova/Corrie Fee. The spectacular scenery in both these places had been very evident from WHRs over the past couple of years...
EmmaKTunskeen https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=76993 (Report of month winner)
...and many others.
Once I looked at the map again to review the routes again, the choice rather made itself given the morning clag forecast and the longer drive to Glen Clova; so Lochnagar it would be.
And given the forecast of early mist, I don't set my alarm, and notwithstanding the energetic and noisy efforts of the gulls and blackbirds, I don't surface until 07.30. And even then I doze a while before opening the tent flap. But when I do I'm galvanized into action, for the mist is only just covering the summits of the highest hills. Frantic dressing, sandwich preparation, and packing sees me off pretty sharpish, and I manage to get to the car park at the Spittal of Glenmuick by about 9.40. First there's a frantic search in the car to try to find £4 worth of coins for the parking ticket - which I just manage to do following deep exploration underneath the car seats and along the seat slides . Then I get my kit together, change, and am off just before 10.00.
20180414_100004. As I walk across the flood plain north of the car park, a couple of golden plover land in the bog just to one side of me; and ahead there's a tantalizing glimpse of Lochnagar peeping from behind the foreground hills...
20180414_101658. Initially I follow the standard track, but after about 1.5km, I cut off right directly towards Conachcraig. There's no obvious path, but the going isn't too bad - the heather is generally quite short - and it's just a long but straightforward ascent to the summit.
20180414_105849. And once there, the views of the Lochnagar cliffs are quite breathtaking.
20180414_110441. Meikle Pap in the foreground, Lochnagar cliffs in the background...
20180414_110518. View looking back the way I've just come north towards Casteall na Cailich, which is just 3m lower than Conachcraig.
20180414_110528. ...while to the north the Cairngorms plateau is topped by the forecast clag.
20180414_111340. The descent to the bealach between Conachcraig and Meikle Pap is at first quite bouldery...
20180414_112428. ... but then gives way to a large extremely soft snowfield through which my legs keep plunging. So I resort to the time-honoured device of glissading down on my rear end.
20180414_113349. Ascending Meikle Pap, I'm quite surprised at how other mountain residents manage without a down jacket. In fact throughout the day I see many of these fellahs actively sorting themselves out for mating in ice-filled pools! Now that's what I call virile...!!!
Initially I follow the broad main track towards Lochnagar - much of it is completely covered in snow, but there are many footprints indicating the way - and then once I'm perpendicular to Meikle Pap, I head up directly to the summit. The going is quite easy.
This is the view looking back from the summit towards Conachcraig. For some reason the whole world seems to be tilting at this point in the day, but I didn't notice it at the time...
20180414_121054. ...while looking in the other direction is the wonderful, magnificent, description-defying Lochnagar. It really is one of those places that no picture can do adequate justice to: every bit as spectacular as I'd hoped, and much, much more. And notwithstanding the impossibility of capturing the essence of it digitally, in between wondering, stunned, staring, my camera is clicking more or less continuously for the next 20 minutes or so.
20180414_122712. In order to maintain the spectacle of the Lochnagar cliffs, I ascend the shoulder up to Cuidhe Crom as close to the west edge as I dare - I'm conscious that the west face gets progressively steeper with height, and there are clearly some very large cornices about (I'm very nervous about cornices ).
20180414_123222. The slope gets steeper, but the snow is soft enough not to necessitate crampons, and I make do quite satisfactorily with just the axe.
20180414_124232. There must be a lifetime of climbs in this corrie!
All of a sudden a haze starts to build over Lochnagar...
20180414_125727. .... and it's quite pronounced by the time I reach the cairn of Cuidhe Crom at 1082, as this view looking west illustrates.
I had intended to try to include all the tops along the route, but I can see that I'm likely to be a bit pressed for time, and anyway, viewed from Cuidhe Crom, Little Pap seems to have very little to recommend it. So I give it a miss, and this proves later to have been a good decision - most of the tops do not seem especially characterful.
But then the haze disappears just as rapidly as it has developed; and this is a pattern that's repeated for much of the afternoon, though with each reappearance it does become progressively more dense.
20180414_131058. ...can't stop snappin'....
20180414_132515. So onwards to Lochnagar. This is looking back south east towards Cuidhe Crom (the high point).
20180414_132807. The Lochnagar high point, Cac Carn Beag, just visible in the background, centre pic.
20180414_133638. Cac Carn Mor cairn. A wee cloud has arrived and envelopes it.
20180414_134758. Looking back south towards Cac Carn Mor on the ascent to Cac Carn Beag.
20180414_135900. The 2 cairns on the summit of Lochnagar Cac Carn Beag.
20180414_140907. Now on to Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach.
20180414_140907 labelled. I can't identify the hill in the background left with any confidence - can anyone else?
It's mainly slushy snow on the plateau, so it's slower going, and quite tiring... Navigation is a bit more difficult too, because the clag continues to descend periodically.
20180414_145012. But eventually I get to the summit of Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach. I think it's not unreasonable to be somewhat underwhelmed...
20180414_150022. On the way the mist intermittently clears slightly to reveal Carn An t-Sagairt Beag (RHS) and Carn An t-Sagairt Mor.
20180414_151611. Carn An t-Sagairt Beag summit cairn. Cue: great excitement
20180414_152136. Looking towards Carn an t-Sagairt Mor from Carn an t-Sagairt Beag. Still lots of slushy snow.
It's hills like this that make one seriously wonder at the "logic" of Munro status, especially in the light of the contrast with the drama of Lochnagar. It would surely make more sense to have some kind of arbitrary but defined criterion, as there is for Corbetts - eg 500 feet or 150m of descent on all sides - and as it seems others have already proposed ...
Certainly I don't see any notable absences on this list of the 200 3000ft+ Munros that meet this criterion. Anyone have any thoughts on this...???
20180414_153701. En route to the summit I come across this plane wreckage. Looking it up later, it turns out to be the remains of a Canberra bomber that hit the deck in 1956, apparently on pretty clear night. The investigation was unable to determine the cause of the crash...
20180414_153946. At Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, looking back ENE towards Carn an t-Sagairt Beag. Thrilling....
20180414_154758. The view down the glen of Allt an Dubh-loch ain't half bad though: the almost sheer cliffs to the north east of Creag an Dubh-Loch (RHS of the glen) rival those of Lochnagar for drama. I'm now heading for Cairn Bannoch, which is the second summit in from the RHS of the picture.
20180414_160348. Looking back the way I've just come. How can this lot be considered to be Munros...??? Surely they're all just tops of Lochnagar...???
20180414_160613. Where I'm heading: Cairn Bannoch. Just a long slowish plod through slushy snow...
20180414_162252. Looking across towards White Mounth Eagles Rock from the summit of Cairn Bannoch. I'd originally planned to visit this en route, but the late start and the reduced pace in soft snow put paid to that idea. The views from the edge would no doubt be pretty fine.
20180414_162822. Ahead, the final summit of the day, Broad Cairn. To the right is the top of Fafernie, but it is so flat and unremarkable I'm glad I have a time pressure excuse not to bother visiting it.
20180414_163703. Looking back towards Cairn Bannoch, Plenty of snow, but still slushy and hard work over a longer stretch....
20180414_170236. Pano looking back north west from the summit of Broad Cairn...
20180414_170300. ...and looking east, Loch Muick, which has suddenly appeared...
20180414_173444. From here I just head down towards the head of Loch Muick more or less as the crow flies, with the intention of descending on the east side of Corrie Chash Burn so as to pick up the footbridge to avoid any awkward fording, since I plan to return on the path on the north side of Loch Muick. However, once on the steep part of the descent, I see that it makes more sense to use the path on the south side of the loch, and there is a very clear track for the descent, whereas the descent down Corrie Chash is awkward to say the least. So I contour round to hit the track - a slow business through deep heather with hidden boulders.
If I were to do this again, I'd simply follow the track, as shown below. This would probably afford great views of the Loch and surrounding hills also, judging by its profile.
Routes for descent from Broad Cairn.
20180414_181801. Looking along the descent path north east along Loch Muick. This is a good path, welcome if one is in a hurry (can't miss the quiz!!!!).
20180414_183240. Looking back along Loch Muick. Clag has descended again.
20180414_184057. Nice waterfall at 288822 (which, incidentally, is where the track marked with the dashed orange line on the map extract above joins the main path along the south side of Loch Muick).
20180414_184807. As I look back towards the hills I've just come from, I'm rewarded with a superb sunset...
I get back to the hostel at around 20.00, and it being an establishment of sufficient cultural, historical and architectural distinction, and having a bottle or two of vitamins in liquid form in the car, I don't feel the need to go anywhere else...
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- Activity: Scrambler
- Pub: The Bell, Trysull
- Mountain: Cuillin Ridge
- Place: Glen Brittle
- Gear: Compass
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- Ideal day out: Heavy ridge walk with plenty of scrambling and height gain - eg Welsh 3000ers, Wastwater Circuit, Cuillin Ridge
- Munro rounds: 50
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- Distance: 171.7 km
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- Hewitts: 77
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- Corbetts: 4
- Hewitts: 8
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- Ascent: 22109m
- Munros: 27
- Corbetts: 4
- Hewitts: 36
- Wainwrights 11
- Trips: 9
- Distance: 197.93 km
- Ascent: 20114m
- Munros: 27
- Corbetts: 2
- Hewitts: 10
- Wainwrights 7
- Trips: 1
- Distance: 18.9 km
- Ascent: 2772m
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