The (Very White) White Mounth Munros (minus Lochnagar)

Route: White Mounth Munros, Glen Muick

Munros: Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch, Càrn a' Choire Bhòidheach, Càrn an t-Sagairt Mòr

Date walked: 20/11/2016

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 30km

Ascent: 1425m

I had high hopes for this particular mountain outing as I was determined to try to get some more Munros completed before the year was out, luckily the weather was forecast to be spectacular this weekend so it was game on, I was heading for the closest of the Cairngorms to me, those that are accessed from Loch Muick.

For those of you who don't know I am on a personal mission to summit 30 munros this year for my 30th birthday year, it's like a little challenge to myself to achieve something that I love doing and it also seemed like a manageable number! Having managed 23 in total so far I knew that the 7 I had left to do would likely be in snowy/wintry conditions but I was OK with that and I was excited to extend my winter mountain experience in Scotland.

So I packed my gear up on Saturday night and got it into the car ready to go early on Sunday. The alarm went off at 6am and I got ready to head off at 6:45am. An hour and a half drive and I arrived in the beautiful and frozen Spittal of Glenmuick car park around 8:15am to meet up with my friend Mike. It was cold, REALLY cold, the car thermometer said that the air temp was -10 deg C and it showed, everything around us was frozen up, even the little streams coming down the hillside were frozen solid.

ImageSunrise on Lochnagar by Tim Allen, on Flickr

The plan was to jump on the mountain bikes and cycle along to the other end of Loch Muick, dumping the bikes at a convenient point where we could collect them after we had descended on the return path down the mountain. I should explain at this point that as I had previously done Lochnagar on several occasions I didn't want to include it in this trip, not to mention that I figured given the wintry conditions that we were likely to need every minute of daylight available to us. So, the plan was to do 4 out of 5 of the White Mounth Munros on this outing.

ImageLoch Muick by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageLoch Muick by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageBroad Cairn from Loch Muick by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageThe Road Ahead by Tim Allen, on Flickr

From the word go you could tell it was going to be a stunning clear day, not a single cloud hung in the sky and as we set off on the bikes the first rays of sunlight were beginning to touch the tops of the hills across the valley from the car park. I don't think I had quite prepared myself for just how cold my hands were going to get though, despite having thick SealSkin gloves on the gentle breeze when we were cycling along was penetrating my gloves and freezing my hands into blocks of ice, or so it seemed. We had to have quite regular photo stops as the surroundings were absolutely stunning - the frozen fog lifting off Loch Muick, the orange sunlight touching the white tops of the hills in the distance and the geese taking off from the Loch to name but a few. The good thing about photo stops, apart from the photos obviously was the opportunity to allow our fingers to regain some feeling before we set off cycling again. Soon enough though we had reached the end of Loch Muick and we found a suitable place to dump the bikes before setting off up toward Dubh Loch on foot.

ImageSunrise on The White Mounth by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageBroad Cairn by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageSunrise by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageSnowy Cliffs by Tim Allen, on Flickr

Hiking up the trail was relatively straight forward but it did require a certain amount of awareness as in places parts of the path had turned from stream to sheet ice and meant being very careful so as to avoid falling flat on your backside - it would certainly be very easy to give yourself a serious injury on these polished ice surfaces! As we approached Dubh Loch we had an option, to continue on the main path past the Loch and up to the bealach, or, to break off to the north and hike up onto the ridge leading up to Eagles Rock. Feeling adventurous we took option B and made our way up the slopes onto the snowy ridge and turned NW to reach the summit of Eagles Rock at 1051m. For the first time in the day we were now above some of the surrounding plateau and we could see far and wide over the snow covered hills, what a sight it was to behold!

ImageThe Moon by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageDubh Loch by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageFrozen by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageAcross the Plateau by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageGlen Clova by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageWhite Cairngorms by Tim Allen, on Flickr

The next target for the day was Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach at 1110m so we headed off to the NW crossing the snowy Allt a' Choire Bhoidheach and stopping to get some pictures of the magnificent snow crystals which adorned every blade of grass and plant in the area. At this point, there was probably only a few inches of snow covering but in places it was quite a bit deeper and there were still some large patches of hard ice/snow that had to be crossed from time to time. Regardless, the hard ice/snow never became so regular that we felt the need to put on our spikes and we managed to continue walking the whole day without them.

ImageCarn a' Choire Bhoidheach Summit by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageWhite Cairngorms II by Tim Allen, on Flickr

After touching the top of Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach we headed north to have a look over The Stuic and Loch nan Eun toward Lochnagar. Another great opportunity for a photo presented itself. We then returned to the main path and walked down a bit before crossing over the stream, or should I say stepping right through the ice-covered crust of the stream, and then making our way up onto the minor top of Carn an t-Sagairt Beag at 1044m. From here we took a straight line for the summit of Carn an Sagairt Mor and descended into the wee valley before snaking our way up the deepest snow of the day (around a foot deep) up the NE side of the second Munro. Having a short rest and a snack on this slope we were treated to a fantastic fog-bow, the first one I'd ever seen and an incredible sight to witness. We soon pressed on to the top and had a short stop to take some photos of the views all around. It was hard to stop taking photos to be honest, every direction presented a unique view in itself with snow covered mountains all around us. In several places fog patches clung to the tops of the hills and fantastic late afternoon colour was being cast over everything. At this point we met another walker, a lady who had come from Broad Cairn and Cairn Bannoch and was about to head back down the valley, amazingly, she was the only person we'd met on the tops all day!

ImageFog Bow by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageBraemar by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageFoggy Hills by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageCairn Bannoch by Tim Allen, on Flickr

We then trekked onward, as stopping and standing still for too long became very cold very quickly, not to mention that we were also under pressure of time. Approaching the top of Cairn Bannoch we realised the time was getting on for 2:30pm and we would need to get our skates on if we wanted to descend to Loch Muick before the light vanished for the day. It was entirely possible that the incredible scenery had encouraged us to spend a little too much time photographing it and not enough time hiking across it! But regardless, we were both prepared with head torches and navigation wasn't going to be an issue so we weren't too worried. I had personally learnt the head torch lesson the hard way. When hiking in Assynt, me and my wife had undertaken a round of two hills with a very long walk out and had run out of time and light and ended up finding our way back to the car by using the pitiful torches on our phones. From that point on, I've always carried a proper head torch and tried my hardest to get down off the hills before the last light disappears.

ImageCarn an t-Sagairt Mor by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageSunlit Boulders by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageCreag an Dubh-loch by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageBroad Cairn by Tim Allen, on Flickr

ImageBroad Cairn II by Tim Allen, on Flickr

So, for the final stretch we hit the accelerator pedal and powered across the frozen tundra-like landscape on our way to the top of Broad Cairn to tick off the final Munro top of the day at 998m. The views were spectacular and after a couple more photos we started picking our way down the nasty boulder field on the ESE side of the mountain. This had to be the trickiest part of the day, because the field was snow covered and the boulders were large it was particularly awkward to see where the deep gaping holes between the rocks were and it would have been all too easy to slip down one and break an ankle. At this point in the day though we did not fancy having to call out Mountain Rescue, so we carefully picked out a passage and made it down to the main path with no troubles.

ImageLoch Muick from Broad Cairn by Tim Allen, on Flickr

From this point on it was a straight forward walk, heading down the main path until we took the left turn at the junction and began the long descending path which heads down the south side of Corrie Chash to the head of Loch Muick. As the dying light faded we carefully sidestepped the polished ice patches on the path and made it back to our bikes which were covered in frost by this point. Head torches went on and feeling relieved to be on the bike home we cycled back along the Loch to the car park and returned to our cars.

ImageSunset colours over Loch Muick by Tim Allen, on Flickr

What a day! Another mountain day experience safely completed, 4 Munros done today, 27 out of my target 30 for the year so far and feeling tired but having loved every minute of it. The one thought I had in my mind at the end was that I hoped plenty other people across Scotland had got out to see the magnificent snow covered mountains this weekend!

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Comments: 6

Stob Ban & Mullach nan Coirean

Attachment(s) Munros: Mullach nan Coirean, Stob Bàn (Mamores)
Date walked: 12/11/2016
Comments: 5
Views: 5085

Bike Hiking from the Spittal of Glenshee

Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn Iutharn Mhòr, Càrn an Rìgh, Glas Tulaichean
Date walked: 10/09/2016
Distance: 32.5km
Ascent: 1337m
Comments: 7
Views: 3685


User avatar
Location: Inverurie, Scotland
Occupation: Design Engineer / Photographer
Interests: Mountains, hiking, scrambling, hill running, cycling (Road and MTB), tennis, photography, design, science and technology, journalism, music.
Activity: Mountain Walker
Mountain: Bla Bheinn
Place: Isle of Skye

Munros: 130
Corbetts: 15
Grahams: 8
Sub 2000: 12
Islands: 5

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Trips: 3
Distance: 62.5 km
Ascent: 2762m
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Joined: May 08, 2013
Last visited: Oct 23, 2021
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