A solo walk and a frosty high camp, White Mounth Munros

Route: White Mounth Munros, Glen Muick

Munros: Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch, Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, Lochnagar

Date walked: 16/10/2020

Distance: 29km

I turned 42 on Wednesday. A birthday in lockdown is a dismal thing, especially the one where you're supposed to have figured out the answer to life, the universe and everything. I decided to do the adult thing and run away from my problems.

I chose the Glen Muick circuit to give myself a bit of a challenge, while the days were still long enough and the weather still warm enough for me to do it over two days with a summit camp in between. Spittal of Glenmuick car park was already busy by noon on a Friday. The weather was uninspiring -- solidly overcast with low cloud, contrary to the MWIS forecast for clear skies and excellent visibility (I've lived in Scotland for 2 years now, why do I continue to believe in weather forecasts???), but I shouldered my 48L pack and set off.

The path was so clear and tidy and the ascent so gradual I barely broke a sweat on my way up. However, the cloud swallowed me up shortly after Bob Stuart's memorial and eclipsed any views of the lochan or the corries from Meikle Pap.

At Cac Carn Mor the sun struggled out and the cloud around me turned golden. I stopped for a snack, heard a purring of wings and spied a pair of dotterels bathing in rainwater that had pooled in a shallow depression on the rock. I left some crumbs for them and carried on along the path, clearly visible on the ground but also marked by cairns for navigation in poor weather. Trudging for miles through a featureless landscape, surrounded by glowing mist, was a little like what I imagine the afterlife might be like for those who are neither good enough for heaven nor bad enough for hell.


Lochnagar (Munro #1): no views. The Stuic: no views. However, spirits high, and the path so clear on the ground it was impossible to go wrong. I had a cup of tea at Carn a'Choire Bhoidheach (Munro #2) (no views). By this time the sun had vanished again behind thick cloud and dusk was approaching, so I made camp in the bealach below Carn an t-Sagairt Mor. (I need to learn at least a smattering of Gaelic; I cannot begin to pronounce any of these places.)

The night was still, clear and unbelievably starry with no human lights visible -- the Milky Way stretched clear across the sky and Mars very close. The stillness was broken only by the bellowing of red deer in the glen below. I had brought my 3-season sleeping bag, but regretted my optimism as the temperature dropped. By sunrise a heavy frost had formed on my tent.



At breakfast I discovered the hard way that in temperatures close to freezing, it's best to keep your fuel canister in your sleeping bag overnight. However, I managed to get my stove going eventually, and with some hot tea and porridge inside me and a brisk walk up to the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor (Munro #3), I was soon snug and warm. Near the summit cairn I startled a mountain hare. The sun was well up by now, and mist and frost were flooded with light.


This is a hillwalk for walkers who hate hills. Once past Lochnagar there is really very little up and down, so you get 5 Munros for the price of 1. Cairn Bannoch (Munro #4) was next, crunching over frozen grass and icy puddles.



Approaching Broad Cairn (Munro #5), I saw another mountain hare, lolloping across the hill line in silhouette, as well as, a few minutes later, my first human of the day. From there, a long, easy descent to the beginning of the broader track, where for the first time in 24 hours I emerged from the cloud and a view finally opened up over Loch Muick.



The walk back down to the car park is a bit of a long slog, but rewarded by good views over the glen, with a gratifyingly autumnal waterfall towards the end. It also gives time for the awkward process of reacclimatising to the presence of other humans after a night out alone on the hills.


Cracking walk, already planning to return in spring for a second shot at the views.

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Comments: 3

Skye Trail, solo and with a sidekick

Attachment(s) Date walked: 22/08/2020
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Activity: Wanderer

Munros: 12
Corbetts: 2
Grahams: 3
Donalds: 4
Sub 2000: 7
Islands: 30
Long Distance routes: Skye Trail   

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Trips: 2
Distance: 29 km
Munros: 5

Joined: Jul 14, 2020
Last visited: Dec 13, 2020
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